Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Seasons Part 5 Soko ( Frost Falls )

October 23rd-27th first frost (Shimo hajimete furu ) As the weather starts to get colder we might wake up to frost covered mornings.

At this time I always think a warming breakfast to keep you going through the cold mornings are very comforting. Why not try to make a hot bowl of oats with pumpkin it’s great if you have some steamed pumpkin left over from a meal. Just use one cup of oats mixed with half water and half soy milk, add a few tablespoons of steamed pumpkin and mix in to your oats then add some sweetener like maple syrup and some spice like cinnamon or pumpkin spice. Cook your pumpkin on a low heat. Spoon into a bowl and add some toppings like sliced persimmon, flakes of almonds, pumpkin seeds etc. Maybe a dusting of nutmeg to finish. Sit and enjoy before you start your day.

October 28th-November 1st Light rains sometimes fall (Kosama tokidoki furu )

I Remember fondly walking through Kyoto in the rain in Autumn, the sound of rain on the temple gardens gave the ground a beautiful fresh smell and the stone shines like glass. There is something quite magical about temples and shrines in the rain.


November 2nd-6th Maple leaves and ivy turn yellow (Momiji tsuta kibamu)

The maples turn the most vibrant colours in autumn in Japan . The way the light shines through the leaves no wonder it’s celebrated just a much as the cherry blossoms in the Spring.

I have been to Japan a few times in Autumn . I love all the autumn foods and the way all the shops decorate their shop windows with seasonal displays. The changing seasons in Japan are so important and is so much more beautiful than the tacky plastic Halloween displays in the UK.

Autumn Food, Blog

Kabocha & Kaki Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Who doesn’t love a sweet and fudgy brownie ? Autumn is the season for my favourite fruit persimmon, known as kaki in Japan . There are two types one is called Fuyu  this one is the one I love it has a squat like shape and is so sweet and jewel like inside . It can be eaten like an apple . The other is Hachiya which has a longer shape with a little point at the bottom ( almost heart shaped ) this one is so nasty if you don’t wait for it to be over ripe so much so that I just avoid them altogether. The perfect Fuyu just yields slightly to the touch .

It’s also the season for lots of different types of pumpkins and squashes, in Japan the one you see most often at the farmers market is kabocha, a winter squash and this is what I will be using for my brownies along with kaki.

First  half a medium size kabocha, scoop out the seeds and steam until the skin is falling away from the flesh. This should yield about 1 cup of kabocha when you scoop it away from the green flesh. Leave to cool.

Then add this to a food processor with x1 over ripe kaki ( persimmon ) also in the UK known as Sharon fruit ) you will need to cut it in half and scoop out the sweet flesh ( do not put the outer skin in ).

Then add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of almond butter, 1 teaspoons of vanilla essence/extract, 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil/butter and the water from a can of chick peas. Blend this together until smooth. Then add 200g of almond flour ( if you have a nut allergy use oat flour ) 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda, a pinch of salt and 4 tablespoons of raw cacao powder. Then blend again until mixed. Then fold in if you like some chocolate chips or walnuts ( I actually added both ). Spoon out into a brownie pan lined with parchment paper and evenly spread out. I added a few more walnuts to the top. Bake in a moderate oven until the brownie is crispy on the top. Take out the oven and allow to cool before cutting into squares.

This brownie I think is best served warm with soy cream or ice cream and makes a lovely dessert.

Autumn Food, Blog

Tofu & kabocha Pie

I’ve  wanted to make a pumpkin pie for a while now but instead of using canned pumpkin purée I steamed a whole small kabocha and used that  to make this pie. It’s full of sweetness and spice just like a pumpkin pie should be.

Cut your kabocha into quarters and steam until soft and the rind is basically falling off the flesh. While the kabocha is steaming, in a food processor add one drained block of silken tofu ( I used clear spring ) but any is fine as long as it’s the silken kind. Blend until smooth with two tablespoons of pure maple syrup , two tablespoons of coconut palm sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Add what ever spice you like nutmeg, cinnamon, or pumpkin spice,I added a tablespoon of pumpkin spice to mine.

Then add your cooled pumpkin and blend until smooth.

In a bowl add one tablespoon of kuzu with a little water to make a paste then add 1/2 cup of water and mix .

Emty your kabocha mix into a pan and heat gently then add the kuzu and mix until the consistency is thicker and smooth.

Then to what ever pastry case you choose either a raw nut base or a store bought pastry case or home made pastry that has been already baked, tip out your filling and smooth the top. You can then decorate if you like with pumpkin seeds or maybe pecan nuts.

Chill in the freezer and thaw out 1/2 an hour before serving

I actually froze mine and half way I cut it into pieces so you can take it out a slice at a time .

Serve with soy whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg. Maybe even some sweet red beans on the side in a true Japanese dessert style.

If you have any filling left over they make great little cup desserts or just use this if you don’t have a pastry case you could  add some crushed biscuits for a base if you like. And  just chill in the fridge.

Autumn Food, Blog

Kabocha Yaki Onigiri

This is a delicious onigiri and super easy to make .

Steam some kabocha until tender and scoop out the flesh from the rind and mash the flesh . Mix in some white miso and put aside .

Cook your Japanese rice and make your rice balls, then take your kabocha mixture and smooth some on top of your onigiri. Sprinkle a few sesame on the top and put them under a hot grill until the kabocha goes slight crispy on top.

Eaten warm they are comforting and filling, making a nice lunch with a miso soup or part of a teishoku meal.

 

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Japanese Micro Season Part 4 Kanro Cold Dew

As explained in my further posts the Japanese have 24 major divisions for the seasons which are then broken down further into 72 micro seasons . Seasons are changing weekly so the Japanese believe you cannot break seasons down just in to four .

We are entering Kanro or cold dew. I can definitely feel the colder air now as the cold dew sits on the leaves in the mornings .

The sub divisions for this division are

Oct 8th-12th Kogan Kitaru wild geese return. With the swallows departing we are now saying hello to the wild geese letting go of the swallows of summer and embracing the new season.

Oct 13th-17th Kiku no hana hiraku Chrysanthemums bloom. At this time of year in Japan you may find chrysanthemum petals in your food or simmered or pickled forms . The chrysanthemum is the symbol of the emperor of Japan and is the official flower of Japan.. You will see it on the imperial seal, you will find it on the Japanese passport, the 50 yen coin, and you may see the emblem at shrines like the one on the gates at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo. Chrysanthemum growing is a much practiced hobby with people entering contests for the best blooms. It takes lots of love and care to grow the perfect flower. It reminds me of my childhood where my grandfather would win big silver cup prizes for best in show on his chrysanthemums. Often he would cut them for my mother to take home on our regular Sunday afternoon visits .

There are chrysanthemum displays and festivals going on at this time of year like at Meiji shrine and the Yanaka Kiku Matsuri . Kiku is the Japanese name for Chrysanthemum. And you can often see their blooms used in Ikebana at this time.

The flower is full of symbolism being the symbol of the sun and longevity. Colours have symbols also so be careful as white chrysanthemum are displayed at funerals and graves.

These are some beautiful  chrysanthemums I took photos of at the Shinjuku Garden in Tokyo.

The final sub division is Oct 18th-22nd Kirigirisu to ni ari  Crickets chirp around the door. Apparently this was a time when people used to mend their clothes ready for winter and the crickets chirping were said to keep the rhythm going while people stitched. I guess this is the concept of Wabi Sabi . Enjoying the simple things in life and finding the beauty in that old top you forgot you had but needs a bit of tlc. I think for me one of the reasons I love Japan so much is their love for the changing seasons, this is why I like to make seasonal recipes relating to Japanese culture. I hope you can maybe take a look at my recipe section and try a seasonal recipe for yourself.

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Season Part 3 Autumn Equinox & Making Ohagi


We are now heading in to the shorter days of Autumn. Monday the 23rd is the Autumn Equinox. In Japanese micro season it is known as Shūbun. This season is broken into three parts.

September the 23rd-27th Kaminari sunawachi  koe o osamu ( thunder ceases )

September the 28th- October 2nd Mushi Kakurete to o fusagu ( insects hole up underground )

October 3rd-7th Mizu hajimete karuru. ( farmers drain the fields )

The equinoxes are a special time for Buddhists they believe that this is when the worlds between the living and dead are at their thinnest, thus at this time people pay respects to the deceased .

This is also part of the silver week holiday in Japan starting with Respect the aged day  and finishing on equinox day.

Buddhists call Autumn Equinox O-Higan or Aki no Higan, and it is tradition to make ohagi at the time a type of Japanese wagashi (sweet) Ohagi おはぎ is named after the Japanese clover bush and these sweets are sometimes also taken to ancestors graves at this time as offerings. They are really delicious and so easy and fun to make.

To celebrate why don’t you try to make them. They are made with sweet half pounded ( hangoroshi ) Mochi rice with an anko filling and rolled in various toppings like kinako and ground sesame. You can also do a reverse one where the rice is the filling and the anko is on the outside. You can either buy chunky bean paste called Tsubuan in packets at Asian grocery store or make your own.

The above shows Mochi rice and bought and homemade tsubuan.

You will need 1 rice cooker cup of sushi rice and 1 cup Mochi rice (Mochimai). First give the rice a good rinse changing the water until in runs clean. Soak your rice in four cups of water over night and then cook in your rice cooker or pan. This does make a lot of ohagi so you can either freeze them or just use half the amounts 1/2 cup sushi rice 1/2 cup Mochi rice and two cups of water. Through experience if your rolling your ohagi in toppings do this after you have defrosted them.

When the rice is done mash your rice but not fully so you still have some grain and leave to cool covered with a cloth so it doesn’t dry out. Divide into balls and flatten out. It is advisable to use plastic wrap but if you don’t want to just have damp hands and a wet clean cloth to hand. In the middle of each flattened ball add a ball of anko and then fold the rice over the anko to make a sealed ball. Carry on making until all are done.

If you want to make inverted ohagi make small balls of rice and add this to the middle of larger flattened balls of tsubuan.

Now choose what you would like to roll your ohagi in . Powdered black sesame ( kurogoma ), kinako ( soybean flour ), sesame seeds mixed with sugar or maybe matcha.

How about making Kurumi which is powdered walnuts with sugar. The balls of sticky rice become easier to mould into balls after they have been rolled in the topping.

They make lovely gifts and are perfect with a green tea.

I know I will be making them to enjoy with a tea while looking out onto my already changing colours of maples in my garden. In Japan they won’t be changing just yet people in Japan will have to wait until late October, November to do what’s called momijigari or autumn leaf hunting which is as much a custom as hanami flower viewing in the spring.

Kyoto

Inokashira park Tokyo

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Japanese Micro Season Part 2 Hakuro

In the next part of Japanese micro seasons we talk about the next set of micro seasons Hakuro meaning white dew breaks down into three parts 8-12 of September Kusa no tsuyu shiroshi ( dew glistens white on grass. 13-17 of September Sekireinaku ( wagtails sing  ) and 18-22 September Tsubame saru ( swallows leave ).

The last one for me is very significant, I always feel the arrival of the swallows marks the start of summer and the swallows leaving definitely means autumn has arrived.

Also during this micro season is the moon viewing festival in Japan called Tsukimi or Otsukimi, it can also be known by the name Jugoya.

It is a time when the Japanese honour the autumn moon and give gratitude for a good harvest. Traditionally offerings are made of seasonal produce like chestnuts, persimmon and kabocha. Rice dumplings ( dango balls ) are made representing the full moon. Eating these are considered auspicious and are said to bring health and happiness . Display 12 one for each month. Pampas grass ( Susuki ) is also displayed at this time. Another symbol of Tsukimi is the rabbit. Japanese people say they see the shape of a rabbit pounding Mochi with a mallet in the moon, unlike others that may see a face in the moon often referred to as the man in the moon.

There is a little pottery store in Kyoto down Pontocho Alley in Kyoto. I’m not sure of the name of the store but the store sells nothing but rabbit items . Maybe it is called simply Usagi ( meaning rabbit in Japanese.) I picked up this rabbit dish last time I was there.

The word Tsukimi is also referred to for dishes that have a raw egg yolk in them like Tsukimi soba. This one is my vegan version using grated daikon and kabocha.

Many places in Japan 2019 will be holding special moon viewing events this year. Himeji castle Sept 13th, Tokyo Sky Tree will be holding events through Sept and Oct. Sankein garden in Yokohama will be holding events between the 12th and 16th of Sept and Ise shrine will be holding an event on the 13th sept.

Will you be attending any moon viewing events or maybe you could quietly do something at home. Weather your in Japan or not why not pay homage to the harvest full moon and welcome autumn with the changing seasons.

Lovely Seasonal Continue reading…

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Kitsune Soba

I’m really missing Japan . So much so that my heart aches for the place. I do not feel like I fit it to my life in the UK but I always feel I belong when I’m in Japan. It’s like feeling seriously home sick for a place that isn’t your home. I’m hoping this will help. Kitsune soba.

So simple but the secret behind the perfect kitsune soba starts with the  broth. Full of umami flavour,start with kombu kelp,and dried shiitake. Soak over night and then simmer for 10 mins and then discard the kombu . Take out the shiitake and squeeze the water out into the kombu water and put aside. When you heat your dashi add tamari and mirin. Kitsune soba or udon is named kitsune meaning fox after the deep fried fox fur colour of the tofu, others say that the foxes favourite food is aburaage . You may know the shrines inari and inari sushi comes to mind. Foxes are the spirt guardians or ( okami ) of these shrines and you may often see shops selling fried tofu near the shrines.

You can use soba noodles or udon just cook the soba noodles and rinse and put into the hot dashi broth when ready to serve. Also served with chopped green onions and the shiitake which has been sautéed in toasted sesame oil. Just add aburaage and some grated daikon if you like. For extra comfort food I made a yaki onigiri.

( as an extra umami flavour I like to add a slice of Yuzu peel when I’m heating up my broth ) I just sliced the peel off a Yuzu fruit and froze it and anytime I want to add Yuzu peel to a broth I just drop a slice  in. These kind of meals really take me back in spirit . 

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Creation In The Kitchen

There is nothing I enjoy more that creating Japanese inspired food, as I’ve often said somehow it helps me feel more connected to Japan. Even when I cannot be in Japan, using Japanese ingredients to make my food and using the preparation as almost a meditation soothes my soul.

Like most people meals I might start with a list, maybe you have a recipe to follow and you need to get the ingredients. I often plan out what I am going to make and gather the items I need . However when I have a little more time I let the ingredients do the talking. Blindly like an artist might use a blank canvas and paints I look what ingredients I have to hand starting with the fresh produce, then I start to think about what I can make with them using my cupboard stables. I always make sure I have different kinds of miso in the fridge, all my different bottles from mirin,tamari,brown rice vinegar to toasted sesame oil. Sesame seeds, seaweeds,noodles,rice,are all there in my culinary palette. I start to chop and sauté, mix this with that, until I end up with my finished meal. The seasons in Japan play a big part in Japanese life and it definitely reflects in their cuisine, so I like to do the same.

Choosing as much as I can organic and in season and using the least amount of plastic packaging possible, I often pick from seasonal products from a company that offer veg boxes delivered to your door.

This time I used eggplant to make nasu dengaku ( recipe on this website) served with some lovely organic salad. A tofu grain burger and purple sweet potato salad ( potato salad recipe on this website I just used purple potato instead.) Some left over tomato and basil soup from making tsukemen ( see previous blog post ),sauerkraut and an onigiri rolled in furikake with an umeboshi pickled plum. For the salad  I made a sesame dressing and for dessert a single apple crumble using some gifted apples and a slice of fig served with soy cream.

Why don’t you look through the seasonal recipes on this website and maybe make a few things and put them together in a Japanese inspired meal. If you do please share them on Instagram and tag me so I can see them. I’m looking forward to seeing what works of art you can produce in your kitchen.

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food

Tsukemen ( dipping ramen )

Do you know Tsukemen?

つけ麺 /dipping ramen

This is a popular summer dish in Japan when the weather gets hot and humid. As it’s turning cooler in the UK now I thought it might be nice to make this dish as one final farewell summer Japanese meal.

Cold ramen noodles are served separately with a hot dipping soup. Pick up a few noodles and dip into the soup. 

I had a can of organic tomato and basil soup which I used as one dipping broth adding some chilli oil for extra spice and then some left over Kuri pumpkin soup and I used @ohsawa_japan_group ramen. 

Served with some roasted vegetables ( purple sweet potato,daikon,carrot,lotus root and eggplant. Also a shaved fennel salad with salad leaves.  For the salad I made a sesame/miso dressing. 

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Seasons Part 1

As the air turns cooler in the evening and in the mornings I can feel a shift in the seasons. The trees are starting to turn and the fields are golden. It’s getting towards the end of summer and the start of Autumn. In Japan they call this a micro season and there are actually 24  seasonal divisions in the calendar that break down further to 72. Autumn breaks down into six changing every few weeks. We are nearing the end of Risshu which is the first of the autumn micro seasons which is broken down into 3 . August 8-12 Suzukaze Itaru (cool winds blow ) August 13-17 Higurashi naku ( evening cicadas sing) and August 18-22 Kiri mato ( thick fog descends ).

We then move on to the next Shosho (which is manageable heat) August 23-27 Wata no hana shibe hiraku ( cotton flowers bloom )

August 28th-September 1st  Tenchi hajimete samushi ( heat starts to die down ) September 2-7 Kokumono sunawachi minoru ( rice ripens)

I think we can see our own micro seasons no matter if we live in Japan or not. Today a cool wind is blowing and I am starting to think about the new vegetables that will be coming into season soon. For now I am using late summer ingredients to make a soup curry with kuruma fu and lovely brown rice. Kuruma means wheel in Japanese. I also made dango. This is one you could think about making later in September for the moon viewing festival Otsukimi ( search for this for more information )

Why not start to think about your own seasons where you live. Notice the changes in nature. I think when we feel more connected to the earth we can start to use this in our cooking. Making everything more mindful from the choosing of ingredients to the preparation down to the eating of a meal.

This is the reason I like to make Japanese vegan food. It helps me feel more connected to a country I love deeply.

I used S&B curry spice with water and thickened the soup with kuzu. The kuruma fu were first soaked in a mix of water mirin and tamari then after squeezing out the liquid I dipped them in okara you could also use potato starch. Then I shallow fried them to make them lovely and crispy on the outside. The kind of remind me of an English Yorkshire pudding in texture and flavour. The vegetables I used were some lovely zucchini and potatoes  a work colleagues mother had grown on her allotment some summer kabocha which is lighter in flavour and some lovely crisp  biodynamic salad leaves that were locally grown. I had got some organic ridge cucumber in my vegetable box delivery this week so I pickled them  in ume vinegar.

I will be doing more posts on the next micro seasons so please subscribe so you do not miss them.

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

Kyuri Itame

Cucumber is an ingredient that everyone uses in their salad making. It’s cooling in the summer and has a high water content so is hydrating. In Japan they even serve it at summer festivals resting on ice they are chilled on a stick . However in Japan they also cook cucumber and this was something I was intrigued to try out. We cook zucchini which is similar so let’s try cucumber.

This dish is so easy but so flavourful that after I made it I thought I really wanted to share it with you. Just simply serve on rice maybe with a miso soup and you have a wonderful meal.

I like to use a peeler and peel the skin into stripes it makes the dish more appealing but you don’t have to do that . I used ridge cucumber but you can use any cucumber you like. Depending on how many people your making this for I used half a large cucumber per person.

Cut the cumber at an angle into thick slices and then half the slices.

Put your slices into a pan. Mix together equal parts of  mirin,tamari or soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, a little salt and sesame paste . I use Japanese sesame paste if you can’t get it then use tahini. If you live in the UK you can buy it mail order from sous chef the link to their website is either at the bottom or at the side of the page depending on your browser.

Mix together adding a little water. I used one tablespoon of each for each half a cucumber also add a teaspoon of grated peeled ginger.

You could also add a little miso as an alternative to the sesame paste for a different flavour .

Heat your pan and pour in the mixture and sprinkle in some sesame seeds. I also added some radish for colour. Stir fry until browned slightly and the sauce has thickened. Spoon out onto warm freshly cooked rice.

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Bubuzuke

Do you know the Kyoto breakfast bubuzuke ? Also known as ochazuke or just chazuke. The meal is rice with hot tea poured over and often eaten with pickles. This staple food reflects Kyoto life from over a 1000 years to the Heian period. In Kyoto merchant houses this meal was eaten when the left over rice from the day before had gone slightly hard and cold. So as not to waste a single grain it was eaten for breakfast. A word for breakfast in Japanese is asagohan or morning rice. You can make ochazuke and try out using different tea.

Eat a steaming bowl of brown rice with a roasted hojicha or genmaicha.

Or why not try a summer ochazuke with chilled sencha or Gyokuro. Eaten with cucumber,myoga and a sprinkle of Yuzu pepper.

A one bowl meal makes a filling Japanese equivalent to fast food. Eat with myoga,umeboshi,shibazuke ( pickled eggplant with shiso and ginger) or maybe try making my sweet and spicy daikon pickle (daikon tsukemono ).