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Otsukimi ( moon viewing festival )

Tsukimi or otsukimi お月見 is the Japanese autumn moon viewing festival . The moons round shape is the symbol for fertility and at this time people pray for a good harvest. The date varies each year 2018  will be on September 24th. Japanese people display pampas grass known as susuki in their homes as a symbol of good luck and  make Tsukimi dango, rice-flour dumplings, because it looks similar to a full moon. After offering them to the moon, Japanese people eat the Tsukimi dango in order to obtain good health and happiness. Other foods which are associated with Tsukimi include chestnuts, known as “kuri” in Japanese, and taro, known as “sato imo”, in Japanese, as well as kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and persimmons ( kaki ).

You will often see the rabbit depicted at this time as Japanese people see a rabbit in the moon pounding Mochi rice not a man in the moon. 

Why not celebrate the autumn moon festival and make some dango search mitarashi dango. 

 

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Ohagi

Sunday the 23rd of September this year is the Autumn Equinox marking the first day of Autumn. In Buddhist tradition it is known as O-higan,in the spring it is known as haru no higan. This is an autumn wagashi known as Ohagi  おはぎ named after the Japanese clover bush. In the spring the same sweets are called Botamochi named after the tree peony botan. It is traditional to take these with flowers and incense to the graves of ancestors at this time. Why not try to make these yummy sweets for yourself they are made with sweet mochi rice and are filled with  tsubuan a chunky bean paste or you can use koshian a smooth bean paste . They are rolled in kinako and ground black sesame or matcha .

Just search botamochi or Ohagi for the recipe . They do not keep well so need to be eaten on the day so either half the ingredients or you can freeze them and thaw out as needed. Enjoy with a nice green tea.

Autumn Food, Blog

Chestnut Autumn Wagashi

This is a simple wagashi for autumn made of only three ingredients,chestnuts,sugar and koshian a smooth sweet bean paste.

First either roast and shell your chestnuts or like I did you can buy them already done in packets like this.

You will need around 15 whole chestnuts,add these to a bowl and start to mash them if you have a suribachi ( mortar and pestle ) use that. I used the flat end of a rolling pin to mash my chestnuts. Add to this two tablespoons of organic unrefined cane sugar and cream the sugar into the chestnut mash. Then divide your mash into three and put in separate plastic wrap roll into a ball and flatten out. Undo your wrap and in the middle of each place a ball of your bean paste. Gather up the sides of your flattened chestnut and make sure you cover the bean paste roll up in plastic wrap again to shape. I dipped mine in some sesame seeds for extra flavour and to make them look pretty but you don’t have to do this.

Lovely served with green tea as they are very sweet.

Autumn Food, Blog

Tofu & Matcha Mushi-Pan

These steamed cakes are made with silken tofu instead of egg and are made with simple ingredients.

First in a food processor add 1/3 block of silken tofu and two tablespoons of sweetener ( I used maple syrup but rice syrup works just as well ) to this add two tablespoons of plant based milk ( I used soy but almond should work too) add one heaped teaspoon of sifted matcha and one tablespoon of melted coconut butter and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Process until smooth. In a bowl add 1/2 cup of sifted oat flour and add your wet mixture to this to make your batter.

Spoon the mixture into some silicone cup cake molds. This recipe makes 3 mushi pan . Add these to a steamer under boiling water and put on the lid . Add a towel under the lid to catch condensation. I actually used my rice cooker as I have a steamer but a normal pan with a steamer on top works fine. Steam for about 20 mins. Take them out and allow to cool. Turn out onto a plate and serve with some bean paste.

Delicious with an afternoon green tea .

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Takikomi Gohan

It’s starting to feel like a touch of autumn here in the UK. Berries on the trees are already ripe and the birds are loving it. Everything is starting to turn a gold hue and the mornings are a little cooler.

With that said I know Japan is still very hot but I wanted to make a traditional autumn dish called takikomi gohan as I had a lovely mixed punnet of Japanese mushrooms I wanted to use up. The rice dish is about the seasoning in the rice. You can use what ever you like in this dish traditionally it would be meat or fish but I am obviously making this vegan. If you use five ingredients in this dish it would be known as Gomoku Gohan. A similar dish called Maze Gohan does not have the vegetables cooked with the rice they are simply mixed in after the rice is cooked. This mixed rice recipe starts with making the dashi stock. I soaked two dried shiitake and some kombu in water over night. Then took out the mushrooms and sliced them to add to the rice ingredients. I washed one cup of Japanese rice and put this in my rice cooker. (when I say one cup it is the cup that comes with your rice cooker)To this I added 1 1/2 cups of dashi and 1/2 cup water. Then I added 11/2 tablespoons of Mirin and the same in tamari. Tamari is gluten free but you can add soy sauce if you wish. I also added about 1 inch of grated ginger. Also I like to use the small packets of mixed grains you can buy they have a mixture of brown,red,green and black rice,millet and Job’s tears. Add this if you have some .

I let the rice soak while I prepared my mushrooms. I used a mixture of shiitake,shimeji,enoki,maitake and eryngii. I also sliced thinly some carrot and aburaage. Gobo ( burdock root ) sliced thinly is also a traditional ingredient in this dish. Now place your ingredients on top of the rice but do not mix in. Now put your rice on cook.

When it is done mix the vegetables and rice together and serve. It makes a lovely dish just on its own or it can accompany any meal.

Cooking the rice and vegetables together gives the rice a lovely rich flavour. If you want something more delicate then remember to add vegetables that have been cooked separate to the rice and mix them after.

 

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

Raw Chocolate & Yuzu Brownie Bombs

These raw brownie balls can be made with what ever nuts you may have in your cupboard and you can make them as small or as large as you wish. These ones I made extra large so they were more like a dessert than a snack and are perfect with ice cream.

First in a food processor add 3/4 cup of cashews,1/2 cup hazel nuts,1/2 cup pecan and a few walnuts. I didn’t add many walnuts as they can be a little bitter but you could maybe use almonds,pistachio or Brazil nuts. Then add 1 cup of gluten free oats and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt with 1/4 cup of raw cacao powder. Blitz together to form a flour. Then chop up some candied Yuzu peel I used about 1 heap tablespoon add this to your flour mix. I also added two tablespoons of Yuzu juice. Start your food processor and start to add large squishy medjool dates. I used 12. If they are hard they do not work so well and I didn’t want to soak these as it can make the mixture sticky. Keep dropping them in ( remember to take the stones out folks ) until the mixture starts to come together to form a dough.

Then take the mixture and form into balls.

Melt some vegan chocolate in a bowl over some hot water  ( I used a large raw vegan ombar) and add another 1/2 tablespoon of Yuzu juice,then roll around each brownie in the chocolate and place on some parchment paper on a baking sheet. When they are all done I topped them with a few pieces of chopped candied Yuzu peel. Place them in the freezer to set. They are best kept in the freezer until you want one and just take them out 15 mins before serving.

Yuzu juice can be found in bottles and the candied peel in packets at a Asian grocery store. I normally get mine from the Japan Centre in London but my friend sent me some lovely Yuzu peel from Japan this time so I used that instead.

If you do not want to use Yuzu juice or peel you do not have to. Why not try adding dried goji berries or cacao nibs instead and coating your bombs in maybe coconut if you do not want to roll them in chocolate. You can also use this recipe to flatten the dough mixture out on a baking sheet and then cut into slices for more of a brownie shape.

 

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

Amazake ( not just for winter )

Amazake or sweet sake is a fermented rice drink made from koji (kome koji). The koji mold or Aspergillus Oryzae is used in the making of miso,soy sauce,sake and Mirin. The mold causes the rice enzymes to break down and ferment into unrefined sugars. The sugar makes a sweet drink or can be used in desserts,smoothies or dressing.

Amazake is a popular winter drink and is often had at New year. You may find it served by street vendors or at shrines and tea houses,but did you know Amazake was not always a winter drink and was actually consumed in the Edo Period in the summer to battle against the hot Japanese summers and reduce fatigue. Amazake is made up of B vitamins, and all the vitamins and mineral components found in an IV drip . It has high levels of glucose so is perfect to have in the morning for breakfast or if your feeling tired. As it is high in protein and vitamins it helps to boost the metabolism and is good for the digestion as it is has probiotics due to the fermentation.

I had bought some organic brown Rice Koji from the macrobiotic shop ( link to their website is down the side of the page) I decided to give making amazake a try.

First you need to make Okayu a rice porridge. Use one cup of Japanese rice and wash well as if you were making sushi then add this with 5 cups of water to your rice cooker and cook. When it is done mix in 200g of Rice Koji and 200ml of water. Set your rice cooker to warm and place over the top a towel. The day I made it was a very warm day so I just used a clean jay cloth and then put the lid on a jar. You need to keep the temperature between 50-60 degrees Celsius so many people check the temperature with a thermometer. I didn’t have one so I actually winged it. If the temperature is too warm the amazake will not ferment sweet and too cool it may turn sour. I was very lucky it turned out so sweet and delicious . You need to keep the amazake on this setting for 10 hours stirring a few times in between.

You can then store your amazake in the fridge for up to 10 days ( I don’t think it’s going to last that long ) or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

Now you can use your amazake to make delicious drinks and desserts.

The most simple way to have your amazake is to gently warm it 1-1 with water adding a little grated ginger.

You could also use soy milk. Do not over heat your amazake as it will kill the enzymes.

How about trying the above chilled with a little Yuzu juice for a refreshing summer drink.

You could also use it to make sweet chai tea. Steep one 1/2 cup of hot water with black tea with spices like cardomom and star aniseed,cinnamon bark and clove. I actually have a premade chai tea blend and used about a tablespoon . Strain then add this to a pan with 1/2 cup soy milk and one tablespoon of amazake and gently heat. This will add a lovely sweetness to your chai tea.

You can make a delicious smoothie or shake by adding to a blender two tablespoons of amazake,one cup of soy milk and one to two bananas depending on how thick you want it. Blend and chill for a delicious breakfast with fruit and maybe some granola.

Why not add it to porridge to make it extra sweet and creamy just add it to your porridge after cooking up the porridge so it doesn’t kill the enzymes.

I even made a chia pudding with it. Just add two tablespoons of amazake with two tablespoons of chia seeds and 1/2 cup of soy milk. Mix well and leave in the fridge to set. Perfect when topped with yogurt and fruit.

 

If you do not want to make amazake for yourself you can buy it . Clear spring do a lovely range or if you can get it you can buy Japanese amazake drinks from an Asian supermarket .

Amazake can be enjoyed at anytime of year.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Poached tomato

These Japan inspired poached tomato make a refreshing side dish to a summer meal. First score a cross shape in the bottom of a large not too over ripe tomato.

Then add into boiling water until you can see the skin start to come away .

Then drop your tomato into iced water,take out of the water and peel away the skin.

Place your tomato in a shallow small dish . Make a dressing of x1 teaspoon of tamari,Mirin,Yuzu juice . Grate some daikon radish with a Japanese ceramic ginger grater ( this is called a Kyocera ) the juice will collect around the grated daikon pour this into your dressing.

Pour your dressing over the tomato and top with the grated daikon,a few sesame seeds and chopped green onion and chill well in the fridge.

Perfect to add to your teishoku set meal .

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food

Lotus Root & Tofu Mushimanju

These little dumpling or steamed buns are inspired by Shojin Ryori or Buddhist cuisine. I actually added onion to mine which in typical Shojin Ryori they would not do, as they do not use onion or garlic in their cooking.

First start by peeling then finely grating a piece of fresh lotus root around 6 inches in length. Put the grated lotus root in a sieve and push out all the liquid until you are left with a pulp. To this add 3/4 of a block of drained silken tofu. I then added some black salt and chopped green onion for extra flavour, you could leave them plain if you wish or even add more veg like finely chopped carrot or sweetcorn.

Mix the tofu and lotus root pulp together. Then cut three squares of muslin cloth and in the middle of each add some mixture. Gather the ends and squeeze any liquid out through the cloth,then tie each one with string and steam for ten mins.

Take each bun out of the cloth and now you can use them as dumplings for soup if you wish.

This one is with a sweet sesame miso sauce,just white miso paste and sesame paste with Mirin.

Again could be a perfect dish as part of a Teishoku set meal.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Kinako & Yuzu Oaty TrayBake With Blueberries

These blueberry tray bake slices are so delicious and using the nutty kinako and citrus yuzu gives them a wonderful flavour. So tasty warm or cold with vegan cream or ice cream. They make a great dessert or a quick snack. 

Line a square pan with parchment paper and set aside. In one bowl add 1 cup of oats ( I use gluten-free ) 1/4 cup of kinako soy bean flour,1/4 cup of almond flour,a pinch of salt,1/4 teaspoon of baking powder,1/3 cup of coconut palm sugar,1/3 cup of coconut butter ( melted ) mix together. In a separate bowl add a cup of fresh blueberries,1 tablespoon of maple syrup or (rice syrup),1 tablespoon of potato starch ( I use Japanese potato starch from Hokkaido but you can also use cornstarch) and one tablespoon of yuzu juice. Mix together . 

Tip the oat mixture into the pan and press firmly ( I often cover with plastic wrap and give it a good press down then top the oats with the blueberry mixture and make in a moderate oven for around 30 mins. Remove and let it completely cool before cutting. It may help to put it in the fridge to cook faster. 

Cut into bars and enjoy . 

I switched things up a bit and added some strawberries and sprinkled on some coconut.

Why not try some spiced peach or banana .?

Blog, Summer Food

Marine Day Vegan Crab Cakes

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. I thought it would be nice to make an ocean inspired meal and decided to make crab cakes . Now if you see my recipe for crab salad you will see I used jackfruit so I decided to do the same for the crab cakes .

Cook and shred your jackfruit like in the crab salad recipe.

Then mash 1/2 block of firm tofu in a bowl,add a splash of brown rice vinegar,a teaspoon of fresh chopped red chilli,1/2 teaspoon of onion granules,1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast,one chopped green onion,1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard,1 tablespoon of vegan mayonnaise,1 tablespoon of ao-nori,the juice of 1/4 lemon,salt and pepper to taste and a tablespoon of chopped pickled gherkin. Stir this altogether and then add to your prepared jackfruit. Now you have your mixture,create your cakes by putting an amount of mixture into some plastic wrap depending on how large you want your crab cakes. Press and form into balls and then flatten slightly. Do this until you have no mixture left. Then take a shallow dish and coat the bottom with panko breadcrumbs.

Press your cakes lightly into the crumbs. At this point you can either bake your crab cakes or add them to a slightly oiled skillet pan . Cook until warm and golden. Top with tartar sauce, chopped chives and a sprinkle of Japanese shichimi pepper.

Makes a great alternative to fish and chips .

Happy marine Day . We do not need to eat the living creatures of the ocean.

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Tanabata Summer Somen

Chilled Somen noodles with a dipping sauce is one of the most enjoyed foods on the Japanese holiday of Tanabata,which is on the 7th day of the 7th month. Tanabata is the star festival reuniting of the lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi or the stars Vega and Altair. Separated by the Milky Way all but for one night each year.

The Somen noodles are supposed to signify the Milky Way. On this day people write wishes on coloured strips of paper known as tanzaku and hang them on bamboo. See my  other Tanabata post on the blog for more pictures.

Somen noodles are made from wheat flour,salt and water and are very fine and delicate . Mostly white but you can get ones in green tea,Ume plum and egg variety. I have even been lucky to have yuzu ones before also. The coloured ones are said to represent the threads from which Orihime weaved her cloth as she was a weaver.

These noodles are normally served chilled sometimes with ice to keep them super cold,served hot in winter they are called new men. Because they are so fine and delicate they are normally sold in dried bundles but only take a few minutes to cook. Plunge straight away in cold water to avoid over cooking. Serve with condiments like chopped green onion,sesame seeds,ginger and grated daikon.

Or why not make a refreshing Somen salad like the one in my previous Tanabata post with cut cucumber stars .

What will you be wishing for this Tanabata?

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

Kinako Latte

Kinako (黄粉) Japanese roasted soybean flour. You will probably know it from being dusted over wagashi like Mochi . Did you know it also makes a delicious and nutritious drink? Kinako is a Japanese superfood being packed full of protein,and rich in dietary fibre,calcium,potassium,vitamin B1 and A.

That sweet nutty flavour makes a comforting alternative to tea or coffee or have it cold with ice in the summer.

Just add two heaped teaspoons of sifted Kinako to a pan with a teaspoon of sweetener. I like to use coconut palm sugar. Add a cup of your favourite plant based milk. Soy or almond work well. Heat gently whisking well . If you have an electric frother use this to create a nice foam for the top that you can dust with more Kinako before serving. If you want this cold just chill for a few hours mix and add ice before serving. Why not add Kinako to your favourite smoothies it works well with banana. Or add to ice cream for a nutty flavour topping. Sprinkle onto cereal or granola. This stuff is not just for Japanese sweets .