Autumn Food, Blog

菊の節句 Chrysanthemum Day


Chrysanthemum Day 
菊の節句 Kiku no Sekku also known as Chōyō no sekku (重陽の節句is the last of the five ancient sacred festivals of Japan (Gosekku 五節句).

The 9th of the 9th is said to be very auspicious in Japanese culture . It coincides with the blooming of the chrysanthemum and is a time when festivals took place at the Japanese imperial court.

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.

Chrysanthemum Day is observed by drinking chrysanthemum sake sprinkled with chrysanthemum petals. This is known as Kikuzake. These flowers were said to bring longevity, so drinking the sake was a symbol of a long and happy life. I have served the sake here with some chestnut wagashi ( recipe for this can be found on my autumn recipe pages.

Other things  for this day we’re bathing with chrysanthemum flowers much like the bathing with Yuzu for the winter solstice  A practice of covering the flowers over with a cloth over night outside and wiping your face with the dewy cloth in the morning for young looking skin was also observed.

On this day it is tradition for people to eat chestnut rice “Kurigohan”. In order to celebrate the harvest, people will cook the kuri (chestnut) and Japanese rice with dashi, and then enjoy such kurigohan as a traditional food, other foods eaten today could be eggplant and In some regions, soba and amazake are also enjoyed.

I thought it would be nice to make Gomoku Gohan a five ingredient rice which included chestnuts to celebrate the last of the five seasonal festivals. There are also recipes for this and takikomi Gohan (mixed rice ) on my recipe pages. For this I added chestnuts, aburaage,carrots, kiriboshi daikon and shimeji mushrooms. I soaked the rice in a kombu shiitake dashi including some of the water from reconstituting the dried daikon adding tamari and mirin to the soaking water. Just add the ingredients on top of the rice but do not mix. Cook the rice and when done gently fold in the ingredients then put the lid on to steam for a further ten minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Another food to eat on the auspicious day is eggplant so to go with the rice I simply steamed a whole peeled eggplant and made a delicious sesame miso dressing for it. Served as a Teishoku set meal on a tray with chilled tofu and a simple broth with vegetables, pickles, chilled tofu and for dessert the September seasonal  star figs with a sweet miso glaze.



As they are such auspicious flowers, chrysanthemums often appear as a motif on pottery So why not use this pottery today to serve your food. 

I have spoken before in previous posts about the Japanese word Fu-bu-tsu-shi the little things that signal the changing seasons. The key part of focusing on the here and now and celebrating the passing of time. I think this micro season is one of my favourites, already there is a mist across the fields in the early morning the name of this micro season (Hakuro meaning white dew breaks).  The sky is dappled with altocumulus clouds ( also known as mackerel sky) they are a sign of changing weather.

With the arrival of the autumn equinox and the moon viewing festival Tsukimi, it will be time to make Ohagi and Dango once again. So much to enjoy this month. Celebrating the abundance of nature’s harvest with late summer early autumn vegetables and fruit. In Japan the rice fields will begin to turn gold and the spider lilies will bloom once more.

Blog, Summer Food

Purin プリン A taste of nostalgia with Japanese summer desserts


Easy to make vegan Purin is the perfect comforting  teatime snack that’s loved by both adults and children. Silky, creamy and smooth this chilled dessert is normally made with eggs, milk and sugar and the no bake style like this one is set with gelatine. Today I will show you how to make this delicious vegan pudding with just a few simple ingredients.

( I used a filter on some of the photos to give them a retro vibe )


The quantities makes one pudding : double up as needed.

x1 cup of good quality soymilk (add to a pan) with x2 tablespoons of maple syrup, x1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, x1 teaspoon of coconut palm sugar and a pinch of turmeric for colour. (Mix to combine). Then sprinkle over x1 teaspoon per cup of liquid of agar agar powder. Mix and turn on the heat. Heat up stirring occasionally until you see bubbles forming at the edges ( you don’t want to boil the soy-milk ). Take off the heat and let cool a little then pour into your mould. Leave in the fridge to set. To make your caramel sauce you can use coconut palm sugar with a little water and heat until the sugar thickens. I used some lovely Okinawan sugar which is a brown sugar with a mild sweetness and salty bitter acid favours of liquorice and molasses ( molasses is something you could also use. ) You can buy this from the Wasabi Company.  Heat around 5-6 cubes of the sugar with water until bubbling then stir in a knob of vegan butter (this gives the caramel that real creamy caramel flavour) .

Leave to cool and add a little hot water if to thick. If you don’t want to do this you can just pour over simply some maple syrup to serve.
Take your purin out the fridge, turn it upside down onto your chosen plate or dish and gently squeeze it out your mould. Pour over your caramel sauce and top with some vegan whipped / aerosol cream and a cherry on top if you like .
Slip back in time with Japanese coffee shop summer desserts. Known as Kissaten, these retro cafes started around the Showa period (1926-1989) and are still around today with their retro vibe. Serving up Japanese comfort food like spaghetti, toast and sandwiches. In the summer you may see melon soda floats or coffee jelly with cream.

You can find my coffee jelly recipe on the recipe pages.

As we say a final farewell to summer here in the U.K. a cool wind is blowing today and although it stays a lot hotter later in Japan we can both feel the changing seasons. As I miss Japan so much at the moment not being able to travel I like to make comforting nostalgic Japanese meals. Why not put on some Lo-fi and let the music and food drift your mind off to a Kissaten in Japan.

 

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Shiozuke (pickled preserved Sakura cherry blossoms)

A cherry blossom post in August ? Well while most of us are getting ready for falling leaves and pumpkins, for some Spring is just around the corner. I had this post ready for Spring but after seeing some Sakura posts on Instagram today I decided it would be nice to post this just for all our friends down under or where ever you are that spring is showing it’s on its way.
The unique flavour and aroma of salted pickled cherry blossom is very distinct and if you are a Japan lover you will know this smell automatically. In Japan the Sakura bloom for a very short time the fleeting essence of nature is celebrated by all things Sakura themed in Spring. You may have seen me in the past use shop bought salted pickled cherry blossoms in some of my recipes. They are used around Sakura season in Japan to decorate cakes, cookies and desserts and can also be used chopped in onigiri. One of the most popular is a wagashi called Sakura Mochi .

I decided to make my own Sakura shiozuke as they are preserved you can use them any time to make my Sakura cookie recipe or other recipes that call for salted Sakura.

Why not give making salted pickled Sakura blossoms a try. You will need to pick the pink Pom Pom looking double flowers known as Yaezakura.

Pick the blossom and put them in a bowl I used around 100g of blossom . Gently wash them.


Then add salt make sure it’s well mixed in . I added quite a bit about 20g. Then cover with cling film  and put a plate on top and weigh it down further with smaller plates then  leave them over night .



The next day take off your plates. I bought  ume su ( by clear spring ) and added to the blossom about 1/4 of the bottle.



Put the plastic wrap over and put the plates back on . Then leave that for three days . After this time pick out the blossom and put them on a wire rack with kitchen town in a warm place for 2 days .



Then peel them off the kitchen towel ( they are nearly dried but not quite at this point) put them on a bamboo tray you could use a few rolling matts or something like that and leave again to dry for a few more days .


At this point they should be dry and you can store them in a jar adding a bit more salt and save them til next year or use them straight away!

Happy Sakura Season !

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food, Winter Food

Hojicha soy milk jelly


Hojicha soy milk vegan jelly

ビーガンほうじ茶豆乳ゼリー

Hojicha Powder has s fragrant aroma and nutty, roasted taste.
The easiest way to make a latte is by using superfine Hojicha Powder which you can easily turn into a delicious jelly with agar agar . (Adding a little sweetener to taste if you wish )

Like many other green teas, hojicha provides a sense of relaxation and I think has a calming comforting effect.
I often cosy up with a hojicha latte in the winter time.
There maybe something behind this due to the presence of L-Theanine that contributes to hojicha’s relaxing effects. L-Theanine is an amino acid present in green tea that can ease symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.

Hojicha roasted green tea also contains vitamins (Vitamin A, C, and E) that are known to fight against the common cold and help regulate the immune system.

So easy to make all you need is

x1 heaped teaspoon of hojicha powder sifted into a pan, add to this a little hot water about a tablespoon and mix into a paste then add to this x2 cups of cold good quality soy milk ( I like Bonsoy ). Give it a mix (you can add a little sweetener if you like I added a teaspoon of maple syrup ) Then sprinkle on top x2 teaspoons of agar agar powder. As a rule x1 teaspoon of powder to x1 cup of liquid ( you can also use this method with matcha powder also to make a matcha soy milk jelly. Start to heat up the milk gently you don’t want to burn it and stir in the agar agar. When you see bubbles start to appear take it off the heat before it boils as you don’t want to boil the soy milk. Let it cool a little and then pour it into your chosen mould. I like to use little glass cups which you can either eat from straight out the cup or tip out onto a plate.


After you have filled your mould leave it in the fridge to set . Top with a little soy cream and a cherry on top for decoration if you wish.


This vegan jelly is a delicious light dessert that might be good for the mind and the body. Not many desserts can say that.

Blog, Summer Food

Yama no Hi

Yama no Hi ( mountain day ) is japans newest public holiday, only starting in 2016. Much like marine day another public holiday is for taking the opportunity to appreciate the ocean this holiday is to honour the Japanese landscape with its many mountains and volcanoes. Mountain day normally falls on August 11th the reason this day was chosen is that the kanji for the eighth month looks like a mountain 八 and the number 11 signifies two trees. If this day falls on a Sunday the following Monday is observed. This year the date has been changed to coincide with the closing of the 2021 Olympics. With over 73% of Japan being mountainous if you have ever been to Japan I’m sure you have either visited, hiked or at least seen one mountain when you have been there. Mt Takao is one of the easiest mountains to visit from Tokyo and is the most visited mountain in the world with around 2.6 million every year, Mt Fuji is the most climbed in the world with 300,000 people climbing the sacred mountain each year in the short period between July and August. I have visited Mt Fuji a few times on my trips to Japan and finally on my last trip back in December  2018 was actually able to see it with out clouds covering it.


I also went to Mt Kurama by taking the Eizan Kurama line from Denmachi-Yanagi station which takes around an hour to reach Kuruma a rural town in the northern mountains of Kyoto city. Kurama-dera temple is a Buddhist temple located on the steep wooded mountainside, it takes about 45 minutes to climb up the mountain to the temple, there is also a cable car going up ( one way ) to part of the way there if you wish to take it.


Known for its spirituality and breathtaking natural beauty, it is the birthplace of the holistic healing art of Reiki and is said to be the home of Sojobo king of tengu. Tengu are long nosed legendary creatures found in Japanese folk stories that represent the mysterious power of the mountains and are believed to be the mountains guardians. You will find a large Tengu statue at Kurama station.


The temple is also associated with the annual fire festival which takes place in October. As you climb up the mountain you will come across Yuki Shrine which has a 800 year old towering cedar tree, it is believed if you pray to this tree with all your heart your wish will come true.


I visited this temple on a very cold December day, as we climbed  flurries of snow started to fall and a temple gong could be heard. I can’t explain the feeling this temple gave me it was such a profound feeling of spirituality. I do not have any reiki training but if anyone is sick I often try to think of this temple and the healing energies I felt and try and send it to that person.


From Kurama-dera temple you can normally take a hiking trail which continues on through the forest for about one hour which leads to Kifune shrine. However there had been particularly bad typhoons and the path had been closed so I went back down the mountain and followed the river up passing places which are popular to stop at in the summer to enjoy the natural beauty and escape from the heat with a cold drink.


As it was winter all these places were closed and I carried on until I reached the well worn flight of stone steps lined with red wooden lanterns which lead up to Kifune-jinja (also known as Kibune). This shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain the source of life energy.


Another mountain I have visited is Mt Rokko accessed by the Shin Kobe ropeway which offers panoramic views of the city as you climb up the mountain. When you reach the top there is japans largest herb garden with around 75,000 herbs and flowers plus spectacular views out to Kobe.



Did you know that the popular Japanese snack onigiri which can be round, barrel or triangle shaped, when shaped into a triangle represents a mountain ? It is said when you eat it you are taking on the power of the mountain?
I found this out watching the NHK anime series Kiyo in Kyoto about two friends in a maiko house and the food that is prepared.

They actually discussed another onigiri from Yamaguchi prefecture which is coated in kinako soy bean flour and another similar one which had azuki beans then rolled in kinako originating from Kyoto. These onigiri are very similar to the Japanese wagashi ohagi.
With that in mind I decided to make a special mountain day Ohagi onigiri to represent Mt Fuji.

I used a mix of sweet Mochi rice and Japanese rice but I didn’t pound it sticky I just kept the rice grains intact. Inside each I put some sweet red beans and then rolled the onigiri in black sesame and kinako.


Maybe you could make onigiri to take on a walk or hike for mountain day to enjoy at the summit, or just relax with a tea at home.

Here are some more onigiri ideas to inspire you or just search onigiri and find more on my recipe pages.


Blog, Summer Food

Live by the (Shun) 旬 The philosophy of seasonal eating part 3 Summer

Have you heard of the term Dog days of summer? A period in the farmers almanac from July 3rd- August 11th. This is a term used to describe the hottest sultry days. This is a time when the sun occupies the same region of sky as Sirius the brightest visible star in the night sky that’s rises and sets with the sun. Sirius also known as the Dog Star and is part of the constellation Canis Major. This star was connected with heat draught and sudden storms.
We seam to spend a lot of the summer looking up into the sky in Japan. Maybe to view the spectacular fireworks that explode in the summer sky or to witness the form of the fluffiest of summer cumulonimbus clouds that signify a down pour might be on its way. The clouds even even has a sub micro season named after them Taiu tokidoki furu ( Great rains sometimes fall). The whole micro season is called Taisho meaning Greater Heat and you can read more about this in my separate micro season posts. As the temperatures start to climb we are reminded once more by scents, feelings sounds and images that evoke memories of the changing  seasons. This is known in Japan as Fuubutsushi. What does summer in Japan mean to you? I think like every season we are aware of Mono no aware “the pathos of things” basically the awareness of impermanence. Every season you are made aware of the powerful emotions associated with the changing seasons. From the cherry blossoms of spring to the kouyou colours of autumn. It is the key part of helping us centre on the hear and now and celebrate each season with the passing of time. Summer in Japan brings with it  its own impermanence. The sounds of cicadas is a quintessential sound that signifies summer is here. Cicadas live for seven years underground before escaping to the surface only to live but a short seven days above ground. The Hasu or lotus flower pops open in the early morning dew like the fireworks that are over so quickly the blooms of the lotus last but four days. In Buddhism the impermanence of life states we should use this to let go of attachments. Maybe the way to appreciate life to its  fullest  means we concentrate on the hear and now allowing each day to be lived in the moment.

The cooling sounds of summer are felt by the tinkling of a fuurin “Japanese wind chime” when a sound is heard people know there is a light cool breeze. After the blistering heat of the day it is tradition in Japan to enjoy the cooler evenings maybe by taking a walk to watch fireflies in the early twilight or  watch the sunset with a glass of sake after a evening bath. This is a habit called Yusuzumi “enjoying coolness by looking at things”.

Uchimizu is another practice originating from the sado tea ceremony. It is the act of enjoying the sprinkle of water on a stoney path. The act causes vaporisation and decreases the ground temperature. You may in the summer see shop keepers also do this outside their businesses.

Summer brings a sense of nostalgia in Japan it is known as  Natsukashii. I remember long hot days that seamed to never end as a child, riding bikes, climbing trees, making dens, playing with newts in the pond, (I was a bit of a Tom boy ) but they were good memories and simple pleasures.

As the crops begin to turn golden and sunflowers (Himawari) dance their sunny heads in the fields  (another symbol of summer) the obon festival is almost upon us, a time to remember family and friends that have past over from this world. For a short time it is said they visit us again and join us in dance and song until it is time to say farewell for another year.


Summer brings many eagerly awaited produce at the markets and “Shun” refers to the time they are at peak season. Enjoy the bounty of nature that summer brings us edamame, suica, Goya,eggplant, cucumber, okra and sweet bell peppers are all perfect right now . When you see fresh corn at the market why not pick some up to make this summer rice dish.
Using corn on the cob with vegan butter to make a Japanese summer favourite sweetcorn rice bursts with the flavour of summer. The secret is to use fresh corn not the tinned variety. Rinse your rice like you would normally and add this to your rice cooker or pan. For one rice cooker cup add one rice cooker cup of water and two teaspoons of soy sauce or tamari. Leave to soak for a few hours. Cut off the corn from the cob and add this to the top of your rice but do not mix and place the cobs on top you may need to cut them in half to fit them in. Cook your rice and when done take out the cobs and add fresh ground pepper and vegan butter. Cover the lid and let the rice steam and butter melt. When ready to serve fluff up the rice mixing the rice and corn together. If you have made any furikake this is perfect to sprinkle on top.

I decided to grow some of my own vegetables this year and I have taken great pleasure in going out each morning checking up on the progress of growth each day.


I decided to grow Mizuna and Mibuna mustard greens, both considered Kyoyasai “green treasures of Kyoto “ there are 37 varieties documented as kyoyasai and have played a key role for centuries in the food culture of Kyoto. Mibuna a close sibling of mizuna received its name from the Mibu- dera temple. I grew mizuna for salads as it contains 10 times more vitamin C and 3 times more fibre than lettuce and Mibuna to use like spinach. I also grew Kabu and daikon radish. I think I’d like to go into more detail in another blog post about Kyoyasai at some point, but for now would love to share a simple recipe with you for daikon furikake.
Furikake is a Japanese condiment often sprinkled on top of cooked rice. Shop bought ones can often not be vegan as they may consist of dried fish. For the first time ever as I was growing my own daikon I had daikon leaves to enjoy as well. Daikon do not often come with leaves attached in the U.K. which is a real shame as the leaves are delicious blanched and eaten like spinach or are wonderful chopped up and just mixed into warm rice.
As I had an abundance of daikon leaves I picked them to make easy furikake.

Pick and wash the leaves, then blanch for a few minutes in boiling salted water.


Have a bowl of ice water ready and plunge the boiled leaves straight into the water to avoid any extra cooking.
Remove from the water and shake off excess then pat dry with some kitchen towel.

Bunch up the leaves and chop finely, then spread out onto some parchment paper on a baking sheet.


Place them in the oven and dry out on your ovens lowest setting until they become dry.


Remove from the oven and grind in a Japanese grinding bowl known as a suribachi. (More about this in a bit ).


I decided to add toasted white sesame seeds and goma shio black sesame seeds and salt to mine, I then put them in a jar to use on top of rice.

Now the suribachi bowl and surikogi wood pestle is the Japanese equivalent of a mortar and pestle and is used in Japan to crush and grind ingredients like toasted sesame seeds for instance. The bowl is glazed on the outside and has a rough pattern on the inside called Kushi-no-me. You could use this for making a sesame dressing for spinach called goma-ae or a mashed tofu dish called shira-ae both of these can be found on my recipe pages.


I had received from nama yasai farm some kinome the leaves from the Japanese sansho and decided to use my suribachi to crush the leaves to make a pesto.
All I did was add the sansho leaves to the bowl and added some other leaves like basil and peppery nasturtium and started to crush them.

Then add some oily nuts this could be in the form of walnuts or pine nuts and again start to grind them add a little olive oil and a pinch of salt as it all starts to combine.


If you like you can add more ingredients like maple syrup or sesame paste maybe some soy sauce. Even some Yuzu juice would be nice. Experiment to see what you like and add this to pasta or a potato salad. Another similar thing you can do is grind toasted walnuts and then mix in some sun dried tomatoes with some of the oil they come with for another kind of pesto.
As well as the mizuna Mibuna Kabu and daikon I am growing two kinds of pumpkin Kuri and Kabocha. Did you know that everything is edible from the flesh and seeds to the flowers and leaves. I decided to use some of the pumpkin leaves as wraps.


Steaming the leaves then adding some of the pesto I had made with tofu and finally wrapping the tofu up with the leaf.

One of the things being a new vegetable grower I didn’t realise about pumpkins is they have male and female flowers and rely on bee pollination for you to get pumpkins . If the female which looks like this

isn’t pollinated the small pumpkins will not grow and will just wither and die. You can help this along by using a soft brush and collect pollen from the male and brush it onto the female.

I actually found this out quite late but luckily I have a few starting to grow.


It’s all nature but sometimes it helps to give it a helping hand.

The last thing I have been growing is shiso a healthy Japanese herb, be it red or green they both have health benefits. The green leaves are often used with sushi as they have antibacterial qualities and are also good to help stomach upsets. Shiso also has a high iron and calcium content. Good for the respiratory tract and immunity I think that shiso is definitely something people should be using more of especially with things as they are at the moment. Related to the mint family shiso is also known as perilla. So what can you do with it ? How about steeping a few leaves in boiling water to make a relaxing tea. You can even make a pesto like the ones I mentioned above just use 1 cup of shiso leaves and grind with lemon a pinch of salt olive oil and nuts ( pine or walnuts) . I decided to make a red shiso syrup, I had been seeing it a lot served in the summer mixed with ice and soda as a cooling summer drink in Japan and wanted to give this a try.
Depending on how big your red shiso plant is you might be able to make more. I used 24grm of washed shiso leaves.

Add these to a pan with 300ml of water and bring to the boil. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and boil until the sugar dissolves and the leaves turn green and your water purple.


Then add two tablespoons of lemon juice this will make the colour really pop. Drain and leave to cool . It’s as simple as that. Add a little to a glass with ice and soda or use as a topping drizzled over ice cream or kakigori. My only regret is not growing more as this tastes amazing . Next year for sure !

What are the things you remember most about summers in Japan? We know they are notoriously hot and humid and there are many things people do to help overcome the heat, like eating kakigori shaved ice, using a Uchiwa paddle fan or wearing a light cotton  yukata. All of these along with the summer firework festivals make summer just that little bit more bearable.
As the nights are noticeably getting shorter we can grasp on to the final rays of sun until the cicadas sing their final song and we say good bye to the swallows until next year and hello to autumn.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Mizu Yokan 水ようかん

Mizu Yokan (水ようかん)

As the name suggests this red bean jelly yokan is a Japanese summer wagashi that has a higher water (mizu) content than the regular Yokan you may have tried. Serve chilled its sweet, light and perfect for summertime with a sencha tea.

To make this I used a smooth bean paste called Koshian こしあん.

Last year I decided to buy a Japanese stainless steel mold with a removable inner tray called Nagashikan (流し缶). Perfect for making  Kanten Jelly or Yokan I bought it from my favourite place to buy Japanese kitchen utensils global-kitchen they are great for all your kitchen items and most are made in japan . Like this stainless steel mold made by the Shimotori Corporation which was founded in 1955 in Tsubame, Niigata, the center of cutlery and steel manufacturing.

Every time I have ordered from them the items arrive so quick direct from japan . You can check them out on Instagram and they have a link on there direct to their website. I have not been sponsored by this company. 

I have also seen these yokan poured into bamboo cups served at tea houses in Kyoto. It’s so easy to make with just a few ingredients. 

All you need is one cup of cold water added to a pan then add one teaspoon of agar agar powder whisk and bring the water to a boil simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the agar agar then turn off the heat. Spoon in 200g of smooth bean paste and keep stirring until the bean paste has dissolved add a pinch of salt mix in and your done ! Then pour into your Nagashikan if you don’t have one you could use a plastic container. However I decided last summer to invest in one as it makes making things like my coffee jelly so much easier. Leave it to cool then put in the fridge to set.

The Nagashikan will slice it for you into individual pieces.

I served mine with a dusting of soy bean powder ( kinako ) matcha is  nice also.

As this wagashi is so sweet it best served with a green tea to balance out the flavours. Delicious for a Japanese summer tea time.


Why not take it one step further and cut your yokan into smaller pieces, It’s delicious served up with soy cream.

Or try it with soft Shiratama dango and kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) made from Okinawan sugar .

Just two tablespoons of powdered sugar combined with two teaspoons of water. Heat in the microwave for one minute or in a pan, then leave to cool. If you can’t get the okinawan sugar you can use molasses thinned with a little water.

 

 

 

 

Summer Food

Vegan Unadon (Eel Rice) 鰻丼

Doyo-no-Ushi-no-Hi 土用の丑の日 falls this year in Japan on the 28th of July. This is a day when it is tradition to eat unagi (freshwater eel) starting in the Edo period. Apparently this is said to help give relief from the fatigue of intense summer heat and humidity  during the Japanese summer. Unaju is one of the most traditional popular ways to eat it. Grilled eel served with a sweet sticky soy sauce glaze and sansho pepper placed on top of steamed rice  and served in a lacquerware box called Jubako.

Also called Unadon when placed in a bowl of rice short for unagi donburi.

The over consumption of eel has made it endangered but illegal fishing still goes on. So why not make a vegan version instead. Over the years I’ve made vegan versions using eggplant and tempeh, this year I made a vegan eel using tofu and taro potato.

First make your sauce add to a pan two tablespoons of mirin, one tablespoon of sugar and one table of sake and heat gently to dissolve the sugar then add two tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce. Simmer on a low heat to reduce and set aside.

You will need to use firm tofu for this. Drain a pack of tofu from its liquid wrap in a paper towel or muslin cloth and microwave for one minute, this will help to dry out the tofu without pressing. Mash the tofu then tip it into the middle of a cotton cloth so you can use to it to squeeze out the liquid, a nut milking bag is especially good for this.

Squeeze out as much liquid as possible then tip the tofu into a bowl and set aside.

I used three peeled and grated taro potato as a binder. It has a sticky texture when grated. I used a Japanese Kyocera ceramic grater to grate it fine, they are also perfect for grating ginger and daikon so definitely well worth adding to your Japanese kitchen utensils.


Add this to your tofu along with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of kombu dashi powder or grated kombu. I used a Japanese Oroshigane wasabi stainless steel grater to do this. If you do not have either grater try to use a fine grater setting. Mix to combine. Finally add a tablespoon of Japanese potato starch and mix together.


Then cut two pieces of nori and place shiny side down. Spread the tofu taro mixture over the nori, I pushed a chopstick into the middle to make it look more authentic but you don’t have to do this. Add a shallow layer of oil to a frying pan and cook tofu side down until golden.

If you like make your nori crispy by flipping it over.
Place your warm cooked vegan eel on to steamed rice and drizzle over your sweet soy sauce glaze . Finally finish with a sprinkle of sansho pepper.  Serve if you like with miso soup and simple pickles.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Marine Day Poke Bowl

Marine Day (海の日) (Umi no Hi) also known as Ocean Day or Sea Day it is a Japanese national holiday normally celebrated on the third Monday in July. The purpose of this day is to give thanks to the ocean and consider its importance. Many people on this day may take advantage of it being a public holiday and go to the coast. I myself did just that and have spoken about my trip in previous posts to Enoshima island that I made on this day on one of my visits to Japan.

This year the date has been moved to Thursday 22nd July to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics which makes it a long holiday with Sports day normally in October being moved to Friday the 23rd for the opening of the games.
How about making one of my recipes that do not contain fish and leave the marine wildlife where it belongs in the ocean. You could make my tofu fish and chips for instance or my crab cakes, tuna mayo donburi or takoyaki.
This year I made a special poke bowl.

I started first with the rice, making a vegan Kani Gohan (crab rice ).


I often use jackfruit as a crab substitute you could also check out my vegan crab sushi salad.
For one person:
First wash one rice cooker cup of rice and add it to your rice cooker with one cup of kombu dashi, one tablespoon of sake and one tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari. Let this soak for half an hour. While the rice is soaking drain a can of jackfruit and shred the jackfruit pieces taking out the seeds and set aside. I also had some maitake mushrooms or you could use shimeji. After soaking the rice add the jackfruit and mushrooms and cook with the specified rice cooker setting for your cooker.
While that’s cooking prepare your poke bowl toppings. A poke bowl is normally raw sashimi with other vegetables. This time for the sashimi I steamed sliced red bell pepper until tender then poured  over some soy sauce to marinade with a squeeze of lime. You could also use one of my favourite marinades from the wasabi company ( sudachi ponzu ) in the past I’ve also used marinated tomato or even watermelon for my sashimi substitute.
Then prepare any other toppings, you can use anything you like from tomato, avocado, edamame, sliced green onions to cucumber, sweetcorn, carrot, even some fruit thrown in like melon or mango.
Spoon your finished vegan Kani  Gohan into a bowl and add your toppings. Finish with vegan mayonnaise a sprinkle of furikake and sesame seeds. Finally pour over the marinade from the peppers.

I hope that even if you cannot visit the seaside today that you will start to think about the impact we have on our marine life and oceans. Happy Marine Day.

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

Kabocha Aburaage Crispy Fried Pockets

I started making these after using aburaage pockets to make my Tofish recipe. These Kabocha stuffed pockets are dipped in a Yuzu batter then rolled in a senbei crumb. Senbei are Japanese rice crackers, you don’t have to use senbei you can use Panko or just normal bread crumbs if you can’t get Japanese senbei.

First you will need your stuffing. You can use Kabocha Japanese pumpkin or butternut squash or similar. Cut your pumpkin in half I normally just use half a pumpkin to make two portions. Scoop out the seeds then steam your pumpkin and when it’s tender scoop out the flesh from the skin. Let it cool and mash it.
You will need one large  slice of deep fried tofu (aburaage) Cut in half.

Stuff the pockets with the pumpkin then seal the ends by just pinching together, the pumpkin will help it stick but the batter and senbei will also help to seal it.
If your using senbei for your crispy crumb coating put around three in a airtight sealed bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are crumbs then tip them out onto a shallow bowl or plate.
Next make a batter with two heaped tablespoons of plain all purpose flour. Add a tablespoon of Yuzu juice ( lemon as an alternative) then keep adding a small amount of water until you get a thick batter smooth batter.

Heat up some neutral oil in a non stick pan ( I use Tiana coconut butter) you could use Sunflower oil or rapeseed oil maybe. Add enough to make a shallow layer in the pan, you don’t need to deep fry them only shallow fry. By all means if you do have a deep fat fryer you can drop them in that.
Dip the aburaage in the batter then coat the whole pocket in senbei crumbs.


Drop gently into your oil and cook on both sides until golden.

Remove from the oil and place on a piece of paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

I like to slice mine crossways into triangles.

These are delicious served hot or cold with a dip like vegan mayonnaise, and are perfect for bento.
They go really well with a nice salad for a main meal.


 

 

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

Simple Meals Inspired By Shinya Shokudo

“When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”.Tonjiru is all I have on my menu. But I make whatever customers request as long as I have the ingredients for it. That’s my policy. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect.”

If you follow my Instagram you will know I’m a real big fan of Midnight Diner & Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories. Last year I did some recipes inspired by the Netflix series. Although numbered series 1+2 in fact these are the last in the series as they started back in 2009 with MBS called just Midnight Diner. There are three seasons in this plus two films before Netflix took them over. If you don’t know Midnight Diner or “Shinya Shokudo” is a tv series about ordinary people who eat at a diner based around the Golden Gai district in Shinjuku.


The small restaurant opens from 12 midnight until 7am. The only thing on the menu is tonjiru but customers may ask the chef known as “master” for what they want and as long as he has the ingredients he will make it for them. It shows the relationship of the characters with the food they order. The dishes are normally simple Japanese home cooked style meals which may envoke a memory for the customer. This  is a lovely heart warming series and if you love Japan as much as I do it doesn’t matter that most of the food cooked isn’t vegan. This is why I decided to take the first three seasons and choose some of the simple meals you can make plant based.

Season 1 Episode 3 Ochazuke

Three women Miki, Rumi and Kana often frequent the diner and always order Ochazuke with different toppings.
Ochazuke is one of the most simple traditional Japanese meals often eaten to settle your stomach or a quick snack with left over rice.
A one-bowl meal  of steamed rice with green tea poured over (sometimes dashi broth) and an assortment of toppings. Ocha refers to green tea, and zuke means “submerged”. You can use various kinds of green tea such as Genmaicha, Sencha or  Hojicha. Spoon some fresh warm rice into a bowl and add your toppings. I added chopped red shiso leaves, umeboshi plum shredded nori (kizami), a sprinkle of daikon furikake and toasted brown rice. Finishing off with a garnish of a few mizuna leaves . Brew your tea and pour over the rice. Eat straight away so the rice doesn’t go soggy.

Season 1 Episode 4 Potato Salad

I do already have a potato salad recipe on my recipe pages in fact it was probably one of my very first. The Japanese version is a little different to the normal potato salad you might be used to. It’s a kind of mashed potato salad rather than potato chunks. Creamy Japanese mayonnaise is used plus vegetables like carrot and cucumber. In the midnight diner episode “Master” recommends you boil the potato with skin on and peel when they are done this apparently keeps in the flavour. He then mashes the potato with a fork adds slices of cucumber julienned carrot and diced ham (you can use vegan ham if you like). Mix the carrot and cucumber in while the potato is still warm this will help to soften them. Add kewpie mayonnaise ( there is a vegan version it just depends if you can get it where you are) or you could either make my recipe for kewpie which is on the other potato salad recipe or just use vegan mayonnaise.

Season 1 Episode 5 Butter Rice ( An arrogant food critic comes to the midnight diner to find something as simple as butter rice to win his heart and resurrect memories )

I must admit I had never tried this and if you haven’t either I seriously urge you to do so. Use good quality Japanese rice when it’s freshly cooked spoon it into a bowl and top with vegan butter. I use the one by Naturli. When the butter has melted a little adds dash of soy sauce or tamari and that’s it. Simple but so so delicious!

Season 2 Episode 5 Tuna Mayo Rice Bowl or Tuna Salad

This is another donburi (rice bowl) meal. In some of my previous recipes like crab cakes and sushi salad I have used jackfruit. It doesn’t taste of fish but gives you that shredded crabmeat tinned tuna type texture. For this tuna salad I did the same. Just simmer a tin of drained jackfruit in water for about 20 minutes then drain and pull the pieces apart and place in a bowl. Add to this mayonnaise a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1/2 a finely diced white onion and a teaspoon of sweet white miso. Mix all together and top on to freshly made rice. I also added a little sliced pickled myoga ginger on top for colour and extra flavour. You could add some diced green onion if you like. This works just as well as a sandwich filling or on a warm jack potato.

Season 2 Episode 7 Hakusaizuke (pickled napa cabbage) or Asazuke

I always make sure I have some kind of tsukemono (Japanese pickles) with my meals . This one is so easy using just salt and no vinegar. I thought it would taste salty but it didn’t it was super sweet. Slice a napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage ) in half length ways and then do the same again so you get four slices. Wash and leave to dry. Add your slices to a bowl and add salt. Rub the salt into the cabbage. You can also add some shredded kombu kelp slices of red chilli pepper and some lemon zest if you fancy. Place a plate over the bowl so it sits just inside, then pile on more plates for a weight or what ever you want to use. Leave in a cool dark place. Then next day give them a massage and cover again. After three days they should be ready. Slice and serve. The rest will keep a few days in a container in the fridge.

Season 3 Episode 5 Harusame Salad

Harusame are dried Hokkaido potato starch noodles which were originally made from mung beans.

Harusame kanji characters are 春spring and 雨 rain. I thought being the rainy season at the moment in japan it was a nice one to make . This simple recipe has a few ingredients julienned cucumbers and carrots (which are first salted left for ten minutes after rubbing in the salt then rinsed ) wakame seaweed that’s been soaked in warm water then sliced and vegan ham with a awase-zu dressing. In midnight diner master adds shredded omelette so for colour I just added some sliced yellow bell pepper. It’s a perfect salad for summer. The noodles take only a few minutes to cook (see packets or cooking instructions) drain and rinse in cold water to remove the starch. Add to a bowl with your other ingredients then pour over your Awase-zu Kyoto style dressing 3 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, 2 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of mirin, pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of Yuzu juice if you like. I like to add the Yuzu it gives the dressing a lovely citrus flavour that’s great for a summer salad.  You can also use this as a vinaigrette if you just add some olive oil instead of sesame oil with salt and pepper.


I hope this will inspire you to make some of these simple home cooked style meals for yourself, you may also like my post on Natsukashii & Ofukuro no aji ( a taste of home ). If you haven’t already watched Midnight Diner & Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories I can definitely recommend it.

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

Japanese Bread recipe for Vegan Shokupan, Anpan & Melonpan

Japanese bread is known for its light and fluffy texture, this is because the ingredients used are slightly different to that of bread you might be used to.
While I’ve been in Japan I have never tried the bread as unless you find a vegan bakery the bread will probably not be vegan. Over the last few years ( whilst most of us have been unable to travel ) some new vegan bakeries have been popping up in Tokyo which I can’t wait to try when we can safely travel again.
I decided I wanted to try making Japanese milk bread for myself at home and yes it does take a bit of effort but the rewards are great. This recipe  has produced the milkiest buttery soft bread. I have used the same bread recipe in all three breads, adding anko inside the anpan and adding a cookie layer to the melon pan.

There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread but this Japanese Shokupan I made filled the kitchen with a sweet buttery smell. Shokupan 食パン Japanese milk bread is  sometimes called Hokkaido milk bread.

This bread is so soft and fluffy and has a mochi-like texture this is due to using something called the Yudane method which originated in Japan. This is done by mixing bread flour and hot boiling water. Also I used heated bonsoy milk and vegan butter from Naturli.

Lets make Japanese milk bread !

Gather your ingredients:

400grm bread flour ( this is better for a high protein to develop  the gluten) you can try using Gluten free flour but I am unsure how your bread will turn out. I used doves farm organic bread flour. You will also need another 4 tablespoons later on when making the bread, so put this in a separate bowl with a tablespoon to hand for later.

Pour into a measuring jug 200ml of Bonsoy ( I recommend this soymilk as it has a higher soybean content ) Japanese soy milk is normally better quality but try to get the best soy milk you can.

Then take out x3 tablespoons of the soymilk and put this in a bowl for later to use as a  glaze, you will also need to add x1 teaspoon of maple syrup to the x3 tablespoon soy milk mix to combine and set aside.

Now heat up the remaining  milk in the microwave for 45 seconds, then add the yeast to activate, mix and leave for ten minutes.

60grm of Vegan butter ( I used Naturli )    Room temperature
1/2 a teaspoon of salt ( I used Himalayan pink salt)
3 tablespoons of granulated unrefined sugar.
2 teaspoons of instant yeast (I used doves farm)
You will need two mixing bowls a loaf tin and wire rack

When you have your dry ingredients ready empty  400grms of flour into one of the mixing bowls. Add to this your salt and sugar. Mix to combine.
Boil a kettle of water and start to add 8 tablespoons of boiling water to your flour mixture using a cutting method this should make what’s called a shaggy dough.


Now that your yeast has been activated ( it should float to the top of the milk like this if not it’s old yeast.)

Give the milk and yeast a stir and start to combine it into your shaggy dough. Start to combine it to form a sticky dough ball.
At this point take one of the extra tablespoons of flour and put this in your second clean bowl. Put your dough into the bowl and start to knead until it comes together if it’s still a little wet add a little more flour. Take out the dough and put it on a work surface and flatten it out, slice up your butter and put in the middle of your dough and fold the dough over the butter.



Now have your 3 tablespoons of flour to hand with a spoon next to your bowl.
Transfer the dough back into your bowl and start to knead it. THIS IS MESSY for a short while. As you start to knead and the butter starts to ooze out gradually add your flour as you knead. I’ve found from making this bread that this really helps. When your bread starts to come together into a lovely soft dough, take it out the bowl and start to vigorously knead it on a surface for at least ten minutes ( this will give you a work out lol ).
When your dough is nice and elastic form it into a ball and pop it in a clean bowl covered with a clean tea towel and place somewhere warm for at least an hour for the dough to double in size but this will depend on how warm the place is.



The best place I’ve found was a nice sunny windowsill under a radiator with the heating on. You could use a warm airing cupboard or place your bowl on the oven door with the oven on if you haven’t got anywhere else.
It’s at this point if your making melon pan you can make your cookie topping see melon pan recipe further down the page.

When your dough is ready remove it from the bowl and give it another knead for five minutes. Then form into a ball and cut in two.

(if making anpan or melon pan follow those recipes from now on)

Flatten each section out into a rectangle and fold the sides in on itself then flatten out with a rolling pin to a long shape and roll it up ( see pictures below ).

Melt a little coconut  oil or neutral oil and brush generously the inside of your loaf pan. Place each roll either side like this.

Then again cover with a tea towel and put back in your warm place until they have puffed up . Around half – one hour.


Preheat your oven moderate temperature around 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F .

When this is ready give your bowl of milk and maple syrup a mix and brush it over the top of your bread dough.

This will give the dough a lovely glaze and slightly crusty texture on the top. Place in the  oven and bake for around 30-35 minutes I normally check in on it around 25 minutes to see how it looks. Take it out the oven and allow to cool a little before tipping it out on a wire rack to cool.

As a tip I often make this bread late afternoon and allow it to cool over night completely covering it over before I go to bed. It’s much easier to cut and you have a fresh slice of shokupan for breakfast the next day.


Shokupan is also a great sandwich bread often used for classic Japanese sandwiches like fruit sando
フルーツサンド katsu sando カツサンド and Tamago Sando たまごサンド (egg sandwich).

Also delicious toasted with vegan butter and fresh jam or why not try one of my favourites Ogura Toast 小倉トースト toast with red bean jam a cafe specialty of Nagoya.

The perfect start to the day.

Anpan

If you would like to make anpan which is bread filled with anko ( red bean paste. You can buy either chunky bean paste (tsubuan) or smooth   (Koshian) from Asian grocery stores. I sometimes easily make my own ahead of time the day before by using my quick method. Just use one drained and rinsed tin of azuki beans added to a pan with water and 200grm of granulated sugar. I just let them boil down and mash them.

Afterwards transfer to a container and chill in the fridge to harden.


Make the bread as above but instead of cutting the dough into two cut it into 6-8 pieces depending on how big you want your rolls. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten out. Put a small ball of anko inside and fold the dough back over.


Place the rolls on a baking sheet with parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and proof your dough  so they have puffed up in size then glaze the tops with your soy milk/maple glaze before popping them in the oven. Rolls take a little less time around 20-25 minutes.

Melon Pan

A classic Japanese Soft, fluffy sweet bread covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie crust.

There are many theories why this bread is called Melon Pan . Maybe it’s because it looks like a cut cantaloupe melon but traditionally there is no melon inside.

Nowadays some bakeries have started to put melon purée in side or chocolate chips. Some even use matcha to give you that melon appearance.

Again make your bread as above like you would make shokupan  anpan. Then while the rolls are proofing for the first time  make your cookie crust.

Ingredients :

one tin of chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas and keep the liquid ( you can use the chickpeas for another meal ) you will need x3 tablespoons of chick pea liquid known as aquafaba. This will be your egg replacement. I like to use this over say flax seeds, fruit purée or banana as it has little taste.

60grm of vegan butter
8 tablespoons of unrefined granulated sugar  plus  another tablespoon in a separate bowl to dip the dough balls in.
150grm of plain all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Cream together the sugar and butter then mix in the x3 tablespoons of chick pea water. Sift in your flour and baking powder and mix into a dough. Roll into a ball.  Place in the fridge for 30 mins so it’s easier to roll. When your bread has proofed for the first time and you have kneaded it again make it into rolls by cutting a ball of dough into 6-8 pieces. I sometimes weigh the balls to make sure they are even sizes. Roll the pieces into balls and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut your cookie dough into equal portions for your bread rolls. Roll into balls and flatten out. Take each flattened cookie portion in your hand and put a dough ball inside.

Fold the cookie over the dough ball, dip the cookie portion into granulated sugar.

Then with a knife make a criss cross pattern in the dough, do this with all the remaining dough balls.


Then proof your cookie dough balls for your second proof so they puff up in size. Bake in your preheated moderate oven like the anpan.
Cool on a wire rack.

I know that making any of these breads can take a bit of time to do. I would recommend that you fit in making them while your doing other things at home, because you have to leave the breads a few times to proof for a few hours this gives you time to get on with other jobs around the house.
Hope you try making these delicious breads for yourself for a little taste of Japan at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Midnight Diner Hakusaizuke

I have already posted a few recipes with inspiration taken from the Netflix series of “Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories” .  A Japanese drama series, set in the Golden Gai district of Tokyo at a small diner called “Meshiya”. There are actually three seasons prior to the Netflix seasons known just as Midnight Diner 深夜食堂, Shinya shokudō by MBS and also a film. Making the run in total from 2009-2019  with 50 episodes to date.
The stories always start with : When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”. 
That’s all I have on my menu  (then shows what is on the menu which is Shochu, Sake, Beer and a Pork miso soup combo. But I make whatever customers request as long as I have the ingredients for it. That’s my policy. (shows his policy only three drinks per customer and three tooth picks and all arguments to be taken outside) Do I even have customers? More than you would expect……

The show has a nostalgic feel and for anyone who loves Japan it’s a must to watch. I enjoy the show not only because of my love for Japan but my interest in Japanese cuisine. The show tells of ordinary people and their simple connections with each other based on what they ask Master ( the owner) to cook for them. Master refuses to cook complicated dishes and this I think is reflected in what the characters ask him to cook. The meals  always seam to be something that means a lot to them maybe from childhood or a memory from their past.
Each episode focus on a particular dish and how it relates to a characters story. At the end of the episode we are shown a brief demonstration on how the meal from that episode is prepared. I have been so inspired by the episodes and even if they are not vegan you can change some to suit a vegan diet with ingredients changes.
In season 2 episode 7 we see Master prepare a simple salted cabbage Hakusaizuke this pickle is known as “shiozuke” or salt pickle.  Japanese pickles or Tsukemono which means pickled things  are a must for any traditional Japanese meal (washoku) and can be done in many different ways from using salt or vinegar to rice bran or koji . I particularly wanted to try this as it seamed so simple and without using any vinegar. I wondered what it would taste like using only salt and a few other simple ingredients.
Normally they would be made in a special pickling container press known as tsukemonoki. However don’t worry if you don’t have one like me you can make this with just a plastic container and a stack of dishes for a weight. This type of shallow quick pickling is known as “asazuke”.
First you need a Chinese cabbage or hakusai as they are known in Japan . Cut the cabbage into four pieces length ways down the cabbage then gently rinse under water and allow to dry.
Then lay your cabbages slices sliced side down in a container and sprinkle over some salt, as a rule it’s normally 1 teaspoon to every 5 grams of vegetable. Then add some slices of kombu kelp and some chopped red chilli. You can also add some lemon zest if you wish. Rub the salt into the cabbage then cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper then add a large plate on top the size of your container and then stack some plates on top for a weight. Leave in a cool dark place for one day then turn over your cabbage rub the salt in again that’s already in the container cover and leave for a further three days. At this time you can transfer the cabbage to a container and put in the fridge.


To serve lightly squeeze out any excess liquid and arrange on a plate. I was so surprised with this pickle I expected it to be salty but it wasn’t at all and was so deliciously sweet. Serve midnight diner style with a glass of your favourite beverage or with a Japanese set meal.

I hope you will enjoy watching Midnight Diner and gain as much inspiration from it as I do.