Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Crispy Aburaage Tofu Spring Rolls

These are my crispy aburaage fried tofu spring rolls, they are super delicious straight out of the oven but just as perfect for a bento . Why not try to make them for yourself.


First you will need to make your filling I used a mixture of julienned carrots finely sliced, finely sliced spring onion, red pepper,  hakusai ( Chinese cabbage ) and bean sprouts to that mix in some schichimi pepper and a dash of tamari or soy sauce and a little finely grated ginger. Sauté this in a pan in a little sesame oil until tender then  put aside.
Now prepare your aburaage, I used the kind you can find already made  frozen like these ones, defrost them and do not wash off the oil that they were fried in.

Take your aburaage and cut off three sides leaving one of the longer sides.
Then carefully pull apart to make a square sheet and tip sideways to make a diamond shape.

Get your Prepared filling and put a line of filling across your aburaage then fold in the sides and the bottom like an envelope and then roll.

After you have finished all three you can either put them in a pan with no oil ( there is enough oil already on the aburaage when it was fried this is why we didn’t wash it off )

Or what I like to do is put them in the oven until they are nice and crispy on the outside ( around 15-20 minutes)

Take out the oven and serve with something like a chilli dip or soy sauce.

Blog

How to season a new Donabe pot


I just recently bought a new Donabe pot. They are one of Japanese oldest cooking vessel’s. An earthenware pot glazed on the outside, and looks a bit like a casserole dish you would put in the oven. However the Japanese cook with them on a stove top. They are used for making many popular one pot dishes, or nabemono as they are known. Many regions in Japan have their own speciality nabe dish featuring their own regional ingredients from tofu to noodles and various meat and fish dishes. Hokkaido being known for its fish nabe, Akita prefecture for a rice dish called kiritanpo, Kyoto for yudofu,tofu simmered in a kombu dashi. You can find some recipes using Donabe on my recipe pages, like Tonyu & Miso nabe, Fermented cabbage nabe, Domako ( rice ball hot pot), and my winter favourite Oden.
Oden is a popular winter comforting meal which you will often see in convenience stores in Japan like Family Mart or 7-Eleven, simmering away, people choose what they want and make up their own meal to take home.  As a Japanese home cooked meal it’s various items that you simmer in a soy sauce dashi broth from an assortment of vegetables, tofu, konnyaku and non vegan items like fish cakes,hard boiled eggs. I definitely recommend trying to make this in the winter months and is even more delicious the next day.

The earthenware clay from Iga is porous, because of this when you first buy a new pot you must season it first, this process is called Medome. There are a few ways you can do this but the simplest way I’ve found is to simmer with rice water.

The first water that you wash your rice with is the one you use. Just wash your rice as you normally would, but do not throw away the water, just tip it 3/4 full into your pot and heat on a low heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let the water then cool to cold and then tip out the water. Rinse with clean water and air dry.

You are now ready to start cooking delicious one pot meals.

How to care for you new Donabe pot.

1: Make sure the bottom of your pot is dry before you start cooking.    2: Do not high heat when you first start to cook, gradually turn up the heat through the cooking process.
3: Do not heat when empty.
4: Do not wash or scrub your pot with soap only warm water and air dry if you need to get off anything stuck soak the pot.
5: If you see a small crack,season your pot again.

I’m really looking forward to cooking with my new pot and the day after I seasoned it I  made a delicious nabe served with rice, and as the weather had turned colder it was greatly received.

 

 

 

Summer Food

Hiyajiru ( cold summer soup ) & Kohaku-Kan ( Brown Sugar kanten jelly )

Even though there is still ranging heat in Japan I am beginning to see a shift in the seasons here in the UK. The nights are getting shorter and the weather cooler. The swallows are getting ready to migrate and the fields are being harvested. With that said I wanted to make one final summer Japanese dish before I start to think about heading over to making autumn meals.
This is something I have tried making in the past but it didn’t turn out to my liking but when I saw an NHK programme dining with the chef I knew I could try to make a vegan version.

Hiyajiru is a Japanese cold summer soup with rice. Traditionally with flaked mackerel and miso. Instead of the mackerel I decided to use flakes of jackfruit with aonori seaweed mixed in.

First you need to make a dashi, soak a small piece of kombu kelp for a few hours in 150ml of cold water, after bring the water to a simmer over a medium heat for ten minutes ( do not boil) then remove the kombu.

Add to the water, 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce or tamari and mirin then chill in the fridge.

Make some Japanese rice in advance and tip out into a bowl and allow to cool. I used 1 rice cooker cup – 2 rice cooker cups of water.

Emty the contents out of a tin of jackfruit rinse and drain, you will only need to use half a tin so transfer the other half to a container to use in something else ( you could try one of my other recipes like vegan crab sushi). To the other half of the drained jackfruit add a teaspoon of aonori.

Finely grate a 1 inch piece of peeled ginger.
Slice in half a bulb of myoga ginger and finely slice.                            Slice into rounds a two inch piece of Japanese cucumber, or similar.  Half a lemon length ways and remove the skin and any seeds and dice into small cubes.
Chop half a green onion.

You will also need miso around one tablespoon, about a heaped teaspoon of vegan butter and a tablespoon of ground sesame.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the grated ginger and green onion and sauté, then add the jackfruit and miso keep stirring as it burns easily, add the ground sesame and stir in. Sauté for a few minutes then transfer to a dish, add your cubes of lemon and put in the fridge to cool.

Make a ball with your rice ( to fit in the middle of your bowl ) press the rice so it doesn’t fall apart. Pour around the rice your chilled dashi and then add around your rice slices of cucumber and myoga ginger. Finally top the rice with your jackfruit miso mixture, and maybe some sliced shiso leaves. Then add any remaining dashi over the rice. Eat by taking a little rice, mixture and dashi in each spoonful.


Hiyajiru is the signature dish from Miyazaki in southern Japan and  has been selected as one of the top 100 countryside recipes making it the perfect summer meal as temperatures rise.

For dessert why not make Kohaku-kan brown sugar jelly.

Kohaku-kan mean amber relating to the colour of the jelly.

For the jelly we use Kanten which is made from seaweed and traditionally you would use raw cane sugar but I am using coconut palm sugar. This dessert is so easy and quick to make.

Depending on how many people you are making it for just double the recipe. This makes two servings if you decide to put the jelly with other things like sweet red beans and fruit.

For the jelly
125ml cold water

1.5 gram of powdered kanten

30 grams of coconut palm sugar
Plus a small container to pour the jelly into around 3×3 inch

You will also need to make kuromitsu which is a brown sugar syrup, simply made with brown sugar and a little water heated in a pan until it thickens and if you wish some sweet azuki beans to add over your jelly plus any fruit of choice. I added a few pomegranate seeds.

Add kanten to a pan with the cold water and stir to dissolve. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil then turn the heat to a simmer until the liquid looks clearer, then add your sugar and mix in. Turn up the heat and wait until your mixture starts to bubble then turn off the heat.

To a large bowl add some iced water then fit a small bowl inside. Pour your sugar jelly Into the empty bowl this will help to cool it down. Keep stirring this will stop the sugar sinking, when it starts to set at the edges pour into your mould. Allow to cool at room temperature then set in the fridge for a few hours.

Loosen the edges and tip out onto a plate and cut into squares.

Serve in a glass dish or bowl, with sweet azuki beans and pour over kuromitsu.

There you have it Hiyajiru cold summer soup and Kohaku-kan sugar jelly dessert

Let’s say goodbye to the summer and welcome in the new season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog

ichiju-sansai 一汁三菜 Japanese Healthy Meal

Why not experience a Washoku 和食 ( Japanese cuisine ) dining tradition in your own home?

Using Teishoku 定食 a set meal on a tray with the ichiju-sansai 一汁三菜 method of construction.

Ichiju-sansai is a Japanese balanced meal. Ichi meaning one ju meaning soup san meaning three and sai meaning dish. Put together to make a one soup and three dish meal. This set way allows for a healthy balanced way to create something delicious while regulating portion size. Rice a stable food and a big part of the Japanese diet is not counted neither are pickles used for digestion these are the foundations of the meal. Then comes the soup traditionally miso which is a fermented food but could also be any soup of choice. With the rice you get your carbohydrates plus hydration from the soup. Then the main meal portion known as Okazu could be a protein of some kind, with your two sides probably vegetables containing vitamins and minerals.

Japan has four very distinct seasons with this in mind choosing fresh flavourful seasonal ingredients in your creations is key using this home cooking style. Making these meals also helps you to become more mindful in your eating approach. If you follow this basic principle you can make a healthy homely meal.

Ichiju-Sansai 一汁三菜

A bowl of soup (shiru   which could be Miso or other soup of choice

A bowl of rice ( Gohanご飯 )

Pickles (tsukemono 漬物 ) or also known Kouno mono(香の物)

x3 dishes ( okazu おかず sometimes called sozai ) x1 main and x2 smaller side dishes

If you want to simplify this even further you can make Ichiju-Issai 一汁一菜 sometimes called Soshoku. Basically omitting the two side dishes and often eaten in zen temples.

It is a good idea to use different cooking methods in your preparations. Consider sautéing, steaming, baking. Make different sauces or marinades to enhance the flavour.

Another method of making meals is doing it in advance which is perfect not only for Ichiju-sansai but for preparing bento and is called tsukurioki.

Tsukurioki means pre-made or put aside. In old Japan it would refer to making preserved foods maybe by fermentation or pickling, something you would not be eating straight away. However now it refers more to people batch cooking and people leading a busy life who make food in advance to see them through a few days. Making a batch of different foods that can be stored in the fridge and combined to make bento lunches or put together with rice and soup to make a meal, is a perfect way to use tsukurioki.

Why not forward plan and try out this method. Set aside time to prepare food and this will free up time and help simplify your life later on.

Like with many Japanese meals, I start with planning what I’m going to make and how I’m going to combine them.

Think do you you have all the necessary ingredients or do you have to go and buy some fresh vegetables? Then when you have gathered together what you need set aside time to make your meals. When you are not rushed you can put love and care into mindfully preparing your food. Store in containers and bowls in the fridge. Then maybe you could plan your meal combinations so you get a variety of different meals with what you have created. When you show care in making a meal you can mindfully appreciate the food when you are eating it.

Here is a list of recipes on this website you could use to combine. I hope you can use them to create some peaceful meals at home.

Mains:

Yuzu & Blackpepper Tofu, Tofu Dengaku, Vegan Crabcakes, Umeboshi Sweet & Sour Tofu, Sweet Potato & Ginger Tofu Patties, Shiitake Brown Rice Miso Burgers, Baked Tomato’s With Spicy Soy Mince, Yuzu Battered Tofu, Agedashi Tofu, Chard Rolls, Tofu Baked With Kabocha & Miso, Kabocha & Chestnut Loaf, Lotusroot & Tofu Mushimanju.

Sides:

Kyuri Itame, Shiraae, Daikon Dengaku, Nasu Dengaku, Eggplant Agebitashi, Poached Tomato, Goma Dofu, Tofu Caprese Salad, Cauliflower Grilled Mochi Cheese, Potato Salad, Hiyayakko, Gomaae, Kabocha no Nimono, Chawanmushi.

Soups:

Spring Greens Soup,Broadbean Soup, Tsuyu Soup,Pumpkin & Chestnut Soup.

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Hambāgu Steki ハンバーグステーキ

I first came across Hambagu Steki at a vegan cafe in Tokyo, the steak came out sizzling on a platter served with potatoes and vegetables in a rich Demi glacé. Sadly the cafe is no longer trading, but I always wanted to try making it and when I saw some pea and rice plant based mince in my local super market I just knew I wanted to try and make them.


Hambagu Steki is normally made of ground meat, with some kind of sauce. With this one I decided to make a Mikan sauce with some delicious shiso delight juice I had got from the wasabi company ( link at the side of the page) the juice is made from mikan, shiso and ume plum. If you can’t get this I suggest maybe making a ponzu style sauce with Yuzu juice and tamari or soy sauce. You will need to make 1/2 cup a blend of tamari or soy sauce, juice and water.


Dice finely 1/2 an onion and sauté in a little oil in a pan until soft.

Then to a bowl add 1/4 cup of either Panko or like I did gluten free breadcrumbs. Add to the breadcrumbs x4 tablespoons of soy milk and mix together.
To a large bowl add the mince, sautéed onions and bread crumbs. Knead all together with clean hands. Flatten at the bottom of the bowl and divide into four equal portions. Take each portion and mould into thick oval ball shaped patties.

Add some oil to a pan and fry the patties on both sides until golden. Then add your ponzu sauce. Put on a lid and reduce for a few minutes.

Serve with a topping of grated daikon radish and chopped shiso leaves.



To grate the daikon finely use a Japanese style grater suitable for wasabi, like a ceramic Kyocera or Oroshigane  metal grater.

Blog

Japanese Micro Season 13 立秋 Risshū (Beginning of autumn)

立秋 Risshū (Beginning of autumn)
August 8–12 涼風至 Suzukaze itaru Cool winds blow

August 13–17 寒蝉鳴 Higurashi naku Evening cicadas sing

August 18–22 蒙霧升降 Fukaki kiri matō Thick fog descends

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.

Even though there is still blazing heat in Japan at the moment, a cool wind blows for the first time bringing with it fog in the mornings. The cicadas sing the last  songs of summer as their life span draws to a close.

On the 13th-15th of August is Obon, a Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of ones ancestors. It is a time of celebration as people feel they are reunited once more with loved ones who have passed away. People return to family homes to show respect by maybe visiting an ancestral grave and being with family.
Spirits are said to revisit their families being guided by lanterns out side their homes. When it is time to leave floating lanterns are sent off down rivers to guide the spirts back.

It is often a time when local communities may have a festival with music and dancing called Bon Odori, people may wear light cotton yukata to keep cool in the heat.

Have you heard of Shouryouma ? They are spirit horses that guide the spirts. They are made from cucumbers and eggplants with skewers added for legs to make them look like animals . Cucumbers are transformed into horses and eggplants into cows. They are said to be the vehicles on which ancestors return and leave our world. The horse is said to ward off evil and serve as fast travel to earth where as the cow is slower to travel back. These can be placed on family door steps maybe with some incense or on an altar with decorated offerings. On the last day of Obon the cow and horse will be left by the river bank. I first saw this on an NHK programme a few years back and thought I would share this incase you didn’t know of it.
In the UK we do not have such a tradition but I thought it might be nice to make Shouryouma and light some incense to remember my father who has passed away  and place them on my tokonoma, in my tearoom at home.

Blog

Micro Seasons Number 12 大暑 Taisho (Greater heat)

大暑 Taisho (Greater heat)
July 23–28 桐始結花 Kiri hajimete hana o musubu Paulownia trees produce seeds ( the blue flowers are the crest of the Japanese government)

July 29–August 2 土潤溽暑 Tsuchi uruōte mushi atsushi Earth is damp, air is humid ( you may see water scattered on stone paths in gardens or outside shops, to aid a cooling effect )

August 3–7 大雨時行 Taiu tokidoki furu Great rains sometimes fall (watch out for those sudden down pours ! )

We are now in the last micro season of summer. Schools out and temperatures start to rise. Teisho meaning great heat in itself tells you about this micro season. It is the season of edamame and watery tomato and melon to quench your thirst from the humidity.
Normally in Japan at this time there would be summer festivals and fireworks. As well as the huge explosions in the sky one  such fire work that is popular is called Senko hanabi, Senko meaning incense stick and hanabi meaning firework they are a sparkler that lights up the summer nights. They represent flowers and plants  of Japan peony, pine, willow and chrysanthemum that is said to evoke a flash of sadness when reminded on how brief life and beauty is. This is something much appreciated in Japan from the cherry blossoms in spring to the flowering lotus, and is called  mono no aware in Japanese.

Have you heard of Shochu-Mimai ?
You probably know how people in Japan send greetings cards at New Years but did you know there is a tradition of sending summer cards after the rainy season has finished.
People send cards with summer images depicting hanabi, summer flowers like morning glory, melon or fish, to family and friends. It is custom to enquire about the recipients health and add a personal update. I think more than any year this would be a lovely thing to do right now.
Japan make the most beautiful and elaborate cards. Here is one such Shochu-Mimai that I received some years ago from a friend in Japan, depicting a traditional Japanese house and garden on a hot summer evening . It even comes with lights and sounds when you press the button on the card, how wonderful!


It’s something I have kept for many years. Why not send a special summer greetings card to a friend to surprise and delight them. Even if your not in Japan I’m sure you could find a suitable card.

Blog

Micro Season 11 小暑 Shōsho (Lesser heat)

小暑 Shōsho (Lesser heat)
July 7–11 温風至 Atsukaze itaru Warm winds blow

July 12–16 蓮始開 Hasu hajimete hiraku First lotus blossoms

July 17–22 鷹乃学習 Taka sunawachi waza o narau Hawks learn to fly

Tanabata is the 7th day of the 7th month and is called the star festival . It is the reuniting of lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi or the stars Vega and Altair separated all but for one night a year by the Milky Way.
It is also custom to write wishes on coloured strips of paper called Tanzaku and hang them on bamboo, as the warm winds blow the Tanabata decorations flutter in the breeze.

It is also custom to eat somen noodles on this day as they are said to represent the Milky Way. Maybe this year you could write messages of health for family and friends. You could also make a simple somen dish like the one on my Tanabata summer recipes, on there you will find more information about Tanabata.

Marine Day ,Umi no Hi also known as Sea day or Ocean day. A Japanese national holiday which is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in July. I was lucky enough to visit Enoshima island for Marine day one year ( see travel posts Enoshima & Kamakura) . This day is to give thanks for the ocean . Many people flock to the beaches on this day. On my summer recipes I have created some no fish meals for you to enjoy.

This is how crowded the beaches get on Marine day. This was taken opposite Enoshima island.

Have you ever visited Japan in the summer? If you have or you live there you know how hot and humid it can be. I have visited Japan once around this time to experience the Summer fireworks and marine day at the beach. I also feel lucky to have seen the vast lotus flower ponds.


Every season in Japan is an important part of Japanese culture, summer is no exception. The winds blow in the smell of the Katori-Senko a mosquito repellent incense that you may well see burning inside a pottery pig with a big snout called Kayari-buta ( buta means pig in Japanese) it is a common site in the Japanese summer. The tinkling sound of wind bells or fuurin as they are known may be heard. Again giving a feeling of a cool breeze blowing . People may wear yukata and it is a popular time to dress in them for a Japanese summer festival or hanabi ( firework display ).

Remember to bring your Uchiwa a fan made of bamboo and paper it looks like a paddle it doesn’t fold.

The lotus only bloom for four days in the hot summer heat again like the cherry blossoms in spring showing that life is fleeting. I have fond memories of watching the dragonflies dance around the giant leaves and blooms both at the Hachiman-gu shrine in kamakura  and the giant Shinobazu pond at Ueno.

The root of the lotus ( Renkon) have a significant meaning often used in New Years meals as it represents a clear view through the year. Lotus root is super tasty and can be used in hot pots, curry’s and stirfrys  it is also nice as a pickle. Why not try making a meal with lotus root.
As I hear the cry’s of the hawks that fly above my house I’m missing Japan more and more and the thought of not being able to visit at this time is tough. I take solace in making food inspired by Japan, using Japanese ingredients I manage to find from Asian grocery stores. I try to see little bits of Japan in my every day life ( just the noise of a crow, smell of incense or the refreshment of Japanese tea). I like to celebrate and follow the seasonal traditions and customs when I can. Like making my Tanabata decorations. All these things help keep me close to Japan when I can’t be there in person. What do you do to feel close to Japan if you can’t be there ?

This years Tanabata decoration the Tanzaku this year have many wishes for health for the family. I wish you all good health.

 

 

 

 

Summer Food

Eggplant Agebitashi 茄子の揚げ浸し

Agebitashi means fried then soaked and that is basically what we are doing with this classic Japanese seasonal Summer vegetable dish. This recipe uses eggplant or nasu as it’s known in Japan but you could use a variety of colourful vegetables from green beans, okra, Shiitake mushrooms and zucchini to vibrant red, green and yellow bell peppers.

First you will need a kombu dashi, you can either just leave a piece of kombu over night in some water or place a piece of kombu in some water and let it simmer not boil for ten minutes. I recommend doing the latter for this as you are making a warm broth anyway to pour over the eggplant. If you do just remove the kombu before adding the rest of your broth ingredients.
It doesn’t matter what kind of eggplant you have but the long Asian variety are nice for colour and are not too fat, like the English variety.

The eggplant absorbs the flavours of the broth due to the special technique of cuts you make into the skin. This is called kakushibocho it also makes the eggplant more decorative.
First slice your eggplant in half long ways and then place each half cut side down on a cutting board. Start to make diagonal cuts across the skin of the the eggplant but do not go all the way through, make these cuts quite close together, you can even do them in a crisscrossed pattern if you wish.
Heat up some oil in a pan and fry your eggplant if they are to big you can cut them in half . You can use any neutral oil or sesame for extra flavour. Fry your eggplant for a few minutes and then transfer to a deep dish that will hold your broth. You can do the same with any other vegetables you want to use.
You will need about one cup of kombu dashi in a pan then  to that add three tablespoons each of mirin, tamari or soy sauce and sushi vinegar. Turn on the heat and add one tablespoon of sugar, heat the broth to dissolve the sugar, then pour over your vegetables or just eggplant on its own what ever you have fried.

This dish is better when left for at least a few hours to absorb the flavours or in the fridge over night. If I’m wanting this as an evening meal just make in the morning and leave in the fridge all day until you want to serve it. It’s nice warm or cold .

Transfer your vegetables to a dish and pour over some broth, to serve add some refreshing grated daikon and chopped green onion.

This meal is also nice with cold noodles with the broth poured over and the vegetables on top.

Summer Food

Warabi Mochi わらび餅

I first tried warabi Mochi when I visited Osaka castle. There was a food stall in the grounds selling matcha warabi mochi and it was displayed in a mountain with so much matcha I could smell it well away from the stall. ( if you have ever visited Uji you will know what I’m talking about).


When I managed to find some Mochi-Ko warabi Mochi powder in a store in London ( natural natural ) I knew I had to get it and try making it. It turned out just how I remembered it being in Japan ! This chewy jelly like Japanese dessert is a firm summer favourite, popular in the Kansai region and in Okinawa. It took me straight back to summer time in Japan. It’s funny how food, smells and sounds can take you back to a memory. I decided to make it the traditional way using kinako soybean flour and a kuromitsu (sugar syrup) to pour over.
Warabi Mochi is made from bracken starch. The Mochi-Ko I bought was a mixture of this and potato starch. All you need is the Mochi-ko, kinako, sugar, water and some kind of sugar syrup to drizzle over. I made mine from okinawan sugar and water but you could use molasses or brown sugar with water heated to thicken.

First gather your ingredients

3/4 cup of Mochi-Ko

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

250ml of water

and kinako soybean flour

You will need molasses or dark brown sugar to make a kuromitsu for pouring ( I suggest making this first so you can chill it in the fridge. Just add sugar and water to a pan heat until it thickens  and chill.

Dust a baking sheet with kinako , I also find that it’s a good idea to grind the warabi-ko into a finer powder.
Add the warabi-ko to a pan and add the sugar and water and give it a stir to combine. Turn up the heat and keep stirring until it starts to turn thicker and then turn down the heat a little. Keep stirring quite vigorously almost beating it until the mixture becomes more translucent. Keep doing this for at least five minutes then turn it out onto your kinako flour and dust more flour on the top. Place this in the fridge for ten minutes but do not leave it in there.

Take your Mochi out of the fridge and cut into squares

You can serve it straight away or you can keep it for up to two days in a sealed container at room temperature. When you want to serve you can chill it for ten minutes if you wish.
Serve with kuromitsu.

 

Blog

Japanese Micro Season 10 夏至 Geshi (Summer solstice)

夏至 Geshi (Summer solstice)

Summer solstice, the sun rises behind Mt Fuji and travels across the sky taking its longest path. This is the day with the most amount of daylight. Even though this marks the beginning of summer, now the days will slowly start to shorten . This time seams to occur between the planting and harvesting of crops.

June 21–26 乃東枯 Natsukarekusa karuru Self-heal withers

June 27–July 1 菖蒲華 Ayame hana saku Irises bloom

July 2–6 半夏生 Hange shōzu Crow-dipper sprouts

This is the time in Japan of hot humid rainy days, a time when people might not feel like preparing food so cooling food that’s easy to prepare would be eaten. Things like watery  fruits and vegetables cucumber and tomato to be eaten simply with cold noodles and a chilled broth. You could try zaru soba, cold soba noodles with a chilled dipping sauce. The name zaru refers to the sieve or strainer the cold noodles sit on. Often served with condiments like grated daikon, chopped green onion and sesame.

You could also try making a cold soba salad with a simple dressing and lots of watery vegetables.
Another meal that is popular in Hiyashi Chuka or cold ramen you can find the recipe for this on my summer recipes or just search Hiyashi Chuka.

People in Japan also like watery fruits in the summer. Large peaches are in season, melon is also very popular and is the quintessential hydrating summer dessert.  Maybe you could try my thirst quenching recipe for a melon drink on the summer recipes.

All across Japan at the moment the iris and the ajisai (hydrangea) are blooming. In the U.K. the hydrangea doesn’t bloom until later in the summer, but I did find some lovely iris on one of my evening walks and there were lots of small blue dragonflies darting around them.


The micro season calendar mentions the self heal or prunella a low growing creeping plant with clusters of violet coloured flowers. In Japan this plant blooms in the winter and withers in summer. Another plant mentioned is the crow dipper which is a thin green grass and they turn white in the summer.

At the end of June people in Japan like to eat a seasonal sweet called Minazuki. Made from kuzu starch and rice flour it is cut into a triangle shape and is said to resemble ice. It is topped with sweet red beans, the sweet is said to ward off evil and disease. You can find out more on my minazuki posts and also the recipe.

Summer Food

Minazuki Wagashi ( the Japanese sweet to eat in June)

I have talked a little about minazuki in a previous post but I thought you might like to try making this Japanese wagashi for yourself. It’s really easy to make with a few ingredients. This wagashi is traditionally eaten on June 30th to ward of evil, ill health and bad luck for the second part of the year. The colour of minazuki is said to resemble ice to cool you from the hot summer heat.
This makes x4 triangle pieces.

You will need a square container around 4×4 inches and something to steam the wagashi in (I used a bamboo steamer)
You will also need:

15g of kuzu root ( if it is not in a powder and more in chunks crush into a powder)

15g of  glutinous rice flour ( the kind for making dango )

30g of sifted plain white flour

30g of unrefined caster sugar

100ml of water

x1 can of sweet red beans

Combine the kuzu powder and dango flour then add a little of the water to make a paste, then add the rest and mix together. Then add in your flour and sugar and mix to combine.
Fill your container with water and tip it out ( this will just stop your wagashi from sticking ) then fill your container with your mixture, keeping a few tablespoons for later.

Place your container in a steamer and steamer over simmering water for about 20 minutes.

After this time take out your container from the steamer and add around 3/4 of the can of your sweet red beans to the top, spreading them out. Add the few spoonfuls of remains mixture you saved over the beans and pop back in the steamer for a further 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool in the fridge. I then cut the wagashi while it was still in the container into x4 triangles and eased out the first piece, once you have one out the others are easily removed. I wouldn’t recommend tipping it upside down as you may spoil the look of your minazuki.
There you have it. They are nice enjoyed with a matcha tea you could even dust the top with matcha or kinako if you like.

Blog

Japanese Micro Season 9 芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds)

芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds)
June 6–10 蟷螂生 Kamakiri shōzu Praying mantises hatch

June 11–15 腐草為螢 Kusaretaru kusa hotaru to naru Rotten grass becomes fireflies

June 16–20 梅子黄 Ume no mi kibamu Plums turn yellow

Midway through the summer micro seasons the rice is planted in the wet paddy fields of Japan, their little stalks looking almost like the praying mantis. Fire flies start to dart around in the  early evening, a truly magical event. Japan’s rainy season will soon arrive . The rainy season is called Tsuyu meaning plum rain, the rain that falls when the plums are ripe for the picking. It is an important part of Japanese culture, harvesting the plums to be made into liquor or preserved in salt to make umeboshi. I have a few recipes on my recipe pages using umeboshi why not give them a try over this time. The sweet and sour tofu is a particular favourite, as is umeboshi onigiri.


In Japan over the rainy season you may see ghost like pieces of cloth hanging at windows these are called Teru Teru Bozu, they depict a weather monk and are said to be used to pray for a sunny day. Often children might hang them the day before an event or by farmers.
Rainy season is celebrated in Japan like any other and it is at this time the ajisai  (hydrangeas) bloom and many people go to the gardens to see them. If you would like to make my soup for the rainy you can also find that in my recipe section, a bright green soup to represent the lush vegetation at this time, you can also read more about places to see Ajisai on this post.


I am also thinking it might be a good time to set goals for the rest of the year. Planting that rice paddy and letting it grow ( metaphorically speaking ) . As many of us have been slowing down over the last few months let’s not be too eager to rush back into our old hectic lives. I know many of you like myself have been getting out  and enjoying nature more. I speak personally when I say it does indeed have a calming effect. Many people especially in the countryside of Japan enjoy the changing seasons and cook seasonal foods. Doing this can help us feel more connected to the earth. This is why many of my recipes are seasonal either enjoying produce of the time or relating to some Japanese custom of the year.  I think many of us tend to get lost in our everyday lives and I think as we start to move forward from this trying time of 2020 it would be nice to keep some of the slowness that we may have found. I hope that you might try making some Japanese food for yourself. Try to find some local seasonal produce, maybe choose a recipe you could use them in and set aside time to cook it. Do it in a peaceful environment. While your preparing the food think about who you are making the food for sending love and good energies into the food. This is a nice meditation that you can use while doing everyday tasks.