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Japanese Micro Season Part 2 Hakuro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lovely Seasonal Continue reading…

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Kitsune Soba

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

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

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

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

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Creation In The Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food

Tsukemen ( dipping ramen )

Do you know Tsukemen?

つけ麺 /dipping ramen

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

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

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

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

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Seasons Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

Kyuri Itame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bubuzuke

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

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

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

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

Blog, Summer Food

A Japanese Summer Favourite Coffee Jelly コーヒーゼリー

Perfect for a hot summer day and a bit of Japanese summer nostalgia is chilled coffee jelly with cream. People in Japan like this dessert in the summer. Made with kanten 寒天

Which is a transparent vegan gelatinous algae.

The recipe is super easy so why not try and make this your self by following the simple recipe.

This is what you will need

x3 0.27oz of strong filter coffee I used my coffee scoop if you have one it’s x3 of those . The coffee I used was number 5 strength. You can also use a cafetière if you don’t have a filter. I really wouldn’t use instant coffee.

2 cups of hot water

2 tablespoons of kanten

4 tablespoon of unrefined sugar

You will also need square container ( like a lunch box )

Filter your coffee using the two cup of hot water.

Add the coffee to a pan and add the sugar stir to dissolve.

Then sprinkle the kanten on top of the liquid and turn on the heat without stirring until it begins to boil . After the liquid comes to a boil turn down to a simmer and simmer for a few minutes stirring occasionally until the kanten has dissolved.

Pour the liquid into your mould, you can either make  cubes by pouring into a container and turning out and cutting when set or pouring in to individual glass bowls.

Leave to cool and place in the fridge to set.

I served mine with almond cream.

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Teru Teru Bozu & Tsuyu

The rain is pretty much set to be tipping down all week and I feel like we are experiencing something like the Japanese rainy season at the moment . Japanese rainy season is called Tsuyu and I actually created a special soup a while back inspired by it. Just search Tsuyu to find more information.

Have you heard of Teru Teru Bozu ? It’s a traditional handmade doll which looks like a ghost. Actually it’s a good weather monk, and is hung out side to pray for good weather the next day. Often by children or farmers.

Even though it was rainy I decided to take my umbrella and go out for a walk. There was something quite calming about the sound of the rain hitting my umbrella ( which I had bought in Kyoto a few years ago ). The rain is making all the plants so lush and green . I found some beautiful poppies on my walk but sadly our hydrangea which comes out at this time in Japan do not bloom in the UK until late summer.

Rainy season in Japan is celebrated like most other seasons. You can expect to see big blooms of hydrangea and iris at this time of year. If your in Tokyo around early June why not take a trip to the Horikiri iris garden.

I came home and decided to have some fun with my curry rice and shape the rice into a Teru Teru  Bozu. Served with steamed and roast vegetables it definitely helped to brighten up this rainy day.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Spicy Fried Koya-Dofu

At one glance this may look like taco rice but the meat alternative was actually fried marinated koya – dofu  高野豆腐 frozen tofu . 

First I cut a block of tofu and placed it in water in the freezer . Then after defrosting the tofu I squeezed out the water . When tofu is frozen it takes on a sponge like texture this is koya dofu. It’s great for soups or simmered dishes as it soaks up all the liquid . This time I broke the tofu into chunks and left it to marinade in tamari after I coated the tofu pieces in Hokkaido potato starch and fried them in coconut oil. After draining the pieces of any excess oil with a paper towel I dusted them in paprika and cayenne pepper to give them a spicy flavour 

The meal was made similar to a taco rice so mixed leaves and warm Japanese rice . I scattered over chopped tomato, sweetcorn and diced red and green bell pepper before adding the fried koya-dofu  guacamole and some tortilla chips . 

The koya-dofu pieces were really tasty 

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 !

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Article about me in Neo Magazine

This month I have a feature in Neo Magazine . A magazine in the UK for all things Japanese . You can buy it in the UK at WH Smith’s or a digital copy can be purchased on line from www. pocket mags.com . I was interviewed by Emily Lovell and she asked me questions about how I developed my passion for Japanese food and recommendations for places to eat vegan food in Japan .

I hope you will find the article interesting. Thanks again to the editor Gemma and Emily for the feature.