Category

Autumn Food

Autumn Food, Blog

Vegan Nikujaga ( meat & potatoes )

Niku Jaga, is a home style cooked dish made from beef and potatoes. Niku is meat in Japanese and Jaga is short for jagaimo which means potato. The meat and potatoes are stewed in a soy sauce broth with mirin and sugar with onion, carrot and green beans or snow peas. Konnyaku ( konjac ) noodles known as Shirataki  which means white waterfall and refers to how the noodles look are also added as part of this meal. They are thin translucent noodles made from the konjac yam and have almost zero calories made up of water and fiber. Don’t be put off by the smell when you open them just drain the liquid and wash the noodles well under cold water then blanch for a few minutes in boiling water this will get rid of the fishy smell. Drain and leave while you prepare the rest of the items you need.

You will need dashi not the kind made from bonito flakes but a vegan dashi made with a piece of kombu soaked in water over night. Around 2-3 cups.

For the meat substitute I have chosen gorgeous maitake mushrooms. They have a meaty texture and  give the soup the most amazing flavour .

Then you will need potato ( I used taro and normal potato ) peel and cut into large wedges use what is called the mentori technique by rounding off any sharp corners. This will stop the potatoes from bumping into each other and breaking up. Put the potatoes in some cold water to remove the starch while you peel and chop one large carrot into rolling wedges. Cut one small white onion into large wedges. Then heat some toasted sesame oil in a large pan and add your onions and maitake, if your maitake come in large clusters just break them up into smaller pieces. Sauté the onion and maitake until the onion is tender then place on top ( do not mix in ) your potato, carrot and Shirataki group them together so all the carrots together all the potato together etc and make sure they are flat Then mix into your dashi 4 tsps of mirin 4 tbsps tamari or soy sauce and 1 tbsp of sugar . Pour this over your vegetables until they are covered. Place a otoshibuta on top this can be in the form of a smaller lid that sits inside your pan or you can use foil with a hole. This will stop the vegetables moving while they simmer but help the flavour . Simmer until tender then leave to stand so the flavours really soak in. Heat to serve adding your snow peas or green beans. I can’t tell you how delicious this was and I can recommend having a chunk of nice rustic bread with it to soak up that lovely broth. Perfect for a cold day it’s hearty, comforting and filling and the maitake are rich in vitamin D which is great for the winter months .

Autumn Food, Blog

Ginkgo Festival Tokyo

Last year I was in Tokyo late November to mid December. One of the festivals at that time is the Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Festival. Starting this year 2019  November 15th and running until December 1st. The famous 300 meter long avenue lined with 146 Gingko trees turn a spectacular golden . The day I visited the sky was pure blue and was a gorgeous backdrop for the golden leaves.


It reminded me very much as I walked through the crowds of people of cherry blossom viewing in the spring. People would stop and take selfies or pictures with their loved ones with the leaves.

People would gather leaves and throw them into the air to capture that special shot, or even take pictures of their beloved pets against the carpet of already fallen leaves.

Did you also know that the Gingko tree produces edible nuts called (ginnan)?

They are shelled, skinned and boiled and are a popular snack at autumn time or can be used in dishes like chawan mushi a savoury egg custard for which I have a vegan recipe for on my autumn recipe section or cooked with rice to make takikomi Gohan. They are very nutritious and high in vitamin C, iron,copper, manganese,potassium,calcium, zinc and selenium. They are some times salted and had with beer as maybe an izakaya snack. However these nuts should only be eaten in limited quantities no more than 8 a day to enjoy them safely as they can be toxic in larger amounts.
I made a meal using some of the ginnan in an obanzai style like the ones at VegOut Cafe in Kyoto. Seasonal ingredients are used and have a small selection of different dishes on one plate.
Kabocha loaf ( recipe on my autumn section )
Kabocha salad
Avocado & Potato salad
Simmered eggplant with miso
Salad & Pickles
Vegetable Soup with ginnan
Rice with ginnan and cut out carrot ginkgo leaf shapes
As a dessert I made a tofu persimmon mousse with candied chestnuts.

Why not try to make seasonal meals for yourself , check out my seasonal recipe section for ideas.


  1. The lovely Gingko tenugui cloth is from www.nugoo.jp
Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Seasons Part 5 Soko ( Frost Falls )

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Autumn Food, Blog

Kabocha & Kaki Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn Food, Blog

Tofu & kabocha Pie

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

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

Then add your cooled pumpkin and blend until smooth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn Food, Blog

Kabocha Yaki Onigiri

This is a delicious onigiri and super easy to make .

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

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

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

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Season Part 3 Autumn Equinox & Making Ohagi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The above shows Mochi rice and bought and homemade tsubuan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyoto

Inokashira park Tokyo

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food

Tsukemen ( dipping ramen )

Do you know Tsukemen?

つけ麺 /dipping ramen

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

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

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

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

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Seasons Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

Kyuri Itame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hojicha Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are made with hojicha a Japanese tea. The green tea is roasted so it has a slightly earthy aroma so goes well with spices in this cookie recipe.

Put on your oven to warm ( moderate temperature)

Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet you may need two if your baking sheets are small.

First use one heaped teaspoon of hojicha tea and steep in one cup of hot water for a few minutes and then drain off the tea leaves so you are left with the liquid. You will need 1/3 of a cup to start and then you will need to add the rest as needed .

In a bowl add 2 cups of chickpea flour ( if you cannot use chickpea flour for health reasons then try soybean flour or buckwheat however this may give the cookies a different flavour )

Then to the flour add 2 teaspoons of baking powder,and two teaspoons of cinnamon and a little Himalayan pink salt .

In another bowl add 1 cup of coconut palm sugar,1/2 cup of coconut oil and the 1/3 cup of hojicha tea.

Mix the wet mixture into the dry half way through mixing add 1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips .

Carry on mixing and start to add gradually the remaining tea until you get a nice dough but not too wet. Form into a ball and place in the freezer for about 5 mins so it’s easy to work with.

Take your dough out of the freezer and scoop heaped tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls . Place the balls on your baking sheet give them some space between and flatten each one with the palm of your hand ( don’t flatten to thin as you want a nice fudge type cookie ).

Do this until all your dough has been used up and place in the oven for 15-20 min.

Leave your cookies to cool. They last well in an airtight container for up to a week or you can freeze some of them.

They are a soft type cookie and are not all that crunchy but are also perfect for making ice cream cookie sandwiches.

If you want why not try chai tea or rooibos tea as an alternative to the hojicha. You could add nuts like pecan instead of chocolate chips.

Enjoy maybe with a nice coffee as a snack .

 

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

Yuzu Citrus Granola Energy Balls

I love whipping up a batch of these energy balls for a healthy snack I can grab on the go or just sit and chill with one with a tea.

I like to add Japanese Yuzu citrus to these it gives them a refreshing flavour. I finished them off by rolling them in granola for extra crunch but you could just as easily roll them in chopped nuts or coconut or rolled in matcha or kinako giving them even more of a Japanese taste .

You will need a food processor add to this 100g of ground almond flour + two more tablespoons , to this add a pinch of Himalayan pink salt and a cup of raw cacao powder, give it a pulse to blend then add two tablespoons of Yuzu citrus and set your blender working and start to drop in pitted medjool  dates . I normally get organic ones in a 200g box. The dates are your sweetener. Keep blending until all your dates are in . Your dough should press together . If it’s too dry add a little more Yuzu juice to wet add a little more almond flour. Pick up heaped tablespoons of the mixture and roll them in your hands into a ball . Then roll them in your chosen topping. Store in the fridge for up to a week in a sealed container. Enjoy !

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

Japanese Style Breakfast Iridofu

A Japanese style breakfast 

和風の朝食

Iri-dofu 炒り豆腐,ごはん, みそ汁

Iri  means stir fry and Dofu is tofu . It’s more like a scramble than a fry with minimal oil. Also the tofu pieces are kept a little larger. It’s a delicious healthy meal full of protein and a great meal for breakfast.

Soak two-three dried shiitake over night ( this will also become stock to use in the cooking process ) 

Blanch a block of tofu for a few mins in boiling water then drain and pat dry with a clean towel. Break up your tofu into different size pieces.

Squeeze out the water in your shiitake and slice. Slice thinly carrot and snow peas . Add a little toasted sesame oil to a pan and add your veg and tofu . In a pan add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari,the same in mirin and two tablespoons of mushroom stock and warm through add 1 tsp of sugar and dissolve . Pour this over your tofu and veg and sauté

Serve with miso soup and rice with pickles for a traditional style vegan Japanese breakfast .