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Spring Food

Blog, Spring Food

Mother’s Day in Japan Haha no Hi 母の日


How do Japanese people celebrate Mother’s Day ?

Mother’s Day was once combined with the celebration of the Empress’ Kojun birthday who was the mother of Akihito (Japan’s emperor at the time). Her birthday was celebrated on the 6th March 1931. It wasn’t until 1949 that the Japanese decided to align the holiday to be on the same date as other countries being on the second Sunday of May, which means this year, it will fall on Sunday 8th May. Unlike the U.K. which has their Mother’s Day back in March.

In Japan, mother’s day is called ‘Haha no hi’; the word ‘haha’ is the informal term for your own mother – much like we use the word ‘mum’! The formal term for mother in Japanese is ‘Okaasan’.

Japanese children use this day to show their love and appreciation, and to give presents to their mothers. It has now become one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants and shops.

The most common gift on Japanese Mother’s Day are carnations especially the red or pink variety. In Japan it is a symbol of a mother’s purity, sweetness and endurance.

Throughout Japan, businesses and well-known department stores decorate their window displays with carnations although the carnations is not native to Japan, their symbolism has become a popular choice for Mother’s Day.

Other gifts given on Mother’s Day could be carefully drawn kanji calligraphy, personalised arts and crafts, clothing or Lacquerware jewellery boxes.

This Fukunishi Sobe Chrysanthemum Aizu Lacquer Two Tiers Jubako Bento Box from musubikiln, could easily be used to store treasured items .

Mothers are celebrated for their home cooking in Japan. The memory and uniqueness of one’s own mother’s food is encapsulated in the term ‘ofukuro-no-aji’ or ‘that unforgettable taste of one’s own mother’s cooking.’ I have talked about this in another of my blog posts, “Natsukashii & Ofukuro no aji” A taste of home. 

On Mother’s Day children often rise early to greet their mothers with flowers and breakfast. Mother’s Day in Japan is symbolically associated with eggs, so whipping up an egg-based Japanese dish is a way  to celebrate! Some egg dishes include Oyakodon A chicken and egg rice dish which literally translates as ‘parent-and-child-donburi’. Chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard) Tamagoyaki (Japanese egg omelet or Omurice ( omelette over rice)

However if your vegan you could easily make something similar by substituting the eggs for tofu. There are now quite a few egg replacements on the market but I still like to use tofu and I think  it also makes it a little more authentic for a Japanese meal. 

How about making a tofu scramble to surprise your mother for a special breakfast. 

or my omurice recipe for a delicious lunch you could even make a special afternoon tea with vegan egg shokupan sandwiches. 

A special meal could be something like chirashi sushi a scattered vegetable sushi that you could make pretty by using flower shaped vegetable cutters and adding vegan scrambled eggs. 

If you are in the U.K. you could surprise your mother with a Japanese Mother’s Day for an extra special gift. If you are celebrating this day on the same day as japan why not include some carnations in your gift or make a Japanese themed meal.

Greet her in the morning with

Ohayōgozaimasu Happī haha no hi

Good morning happy Mother’s Day.

Haha itsumo arigatou – Mum, thank you for everything.

How to make tofu vegan omurice オムライス

A classic Japanese comforting home cooked dish, popular among children and adults-alike.

Add to cooked rice some sautéed chopped vegetables of choice like bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, sweetcorn etc then place back in your rice cooker on warm.

Then make your omelette batter.

Half a block of silken tofu, 2/3 cup of plant based milk,2 table spoons of nutritional yeast,1/2 teaspoon of turmeric,1 tablespoon of potato starch, salt and pepper and a teaspoon of ground Kala namak also known as Himalayan black salt this will give your omelette a slightly eggy flavour. Blend all this together in a food processor .

Spoon the mixture on to some parchment paper that’s been cut to fit your frying pan ( skillet) and spread it out. This is my non stick no oil tried and tested way to make my tofu omelette.  I find it easier to cook on one side, adding a lid over it while it cooks, then to turn it top the mixture with another sheet of parchment paper slide it from the skillet and on to a plate and then flip it over back onto your skillet.

Spoon your vegetable rice onto a plate and top with your omelette .

In Japan you often see this dish topped with tomato ketchup.

Alternatively you can leave the omelette in the pan and spoon the rice onto half the omelette then fold over the rice with the other half and slide off the parchment paper onto a plate .

 

Blog, Spring Food

okoshi おこし


At Easter time as a child I would often make simple treats made from either puffed rice or cornflakes coated in chocolate and allowed to set.

There is a tradional  puffed rice confectionery  in Japanese cuisine  known as okoshi and this simple wagashi reminded me of these crispy Easter treats I used to make.

The main ingredient in okoshi is expanded rice, created by roasting rice grains until they pop. A mix of sugar and butter or  syrup is used to hold the rice together, and after the additional ingredients have been added, the mixture is formed or pressed in trays, left to dry, then cut into squares.

This crispy Japanese treat first appeared during the mid-Edo period in Japan and was primarily sold by street vendors in the vicinity of Buddhist temples in Asakusa, one of the districts in Tokyo. This was because around 1800, the thunder gate was burned down by  fire. When reconstructing the gate, street vendors of Asakusa began selling rice crackers as a lucky charm for avoiding the strike of a thunderbolt, and the confection was named “Kaminari Okoshi (雷おこし)”. In its name, “Okoshi (おこし)” has a meaning of “rebuilding” in Japanese, while the former word “Kaminari ()” stands for Kaminarimon, so Kaminari Okoshi literally meant rebuilding the gate. Okoshi is still the most famous souvenir of the Asakusa area today. In the Asakusa area, there are still traditional street vendors who prepare this brittle snack and demonstrate the entire procedure. Okoshi is often given as a popular gift as people think it can bring good fortune so is often bought as omiyage (Japanese souvenirs given to friends or coworkers after returning home from a trip).

The traditional wagashi can sometimes be made with puffed rice and millet and contain peanuts or sesame seeds. They can also come in flavours like green tea, so it’s a great way of experimenting with different flavours to see which you like best. This however is the  difference between those and the rice crispy treats you may know of that contain marshmallow and chocolate.

I made mine with organic puffed rice, mixed into melted vegan butter with organic caster sugar. I decided to use cherry syrup as a flavour and decorated them with salted preserved Sakura flowers.
You need to be able to press them into a tin which you can line with parchment paper and when they are set you can cut them into square’s, ( do not put in the fridge but leave in an airtight container ).

I actually decided to use my Nagashikan, stainless steel jelly mould with a removable inner container. It also cuts into sections. I’ve found this so useful and can definitely recommend getting one for making yokan or jelly in the summer. You can purchase them from Global Kitchen on line in Japan.

These treats are super sweet so need to be paired with something like a green tea. As I added a preserved Sakura flower it added a little saltiness which I liked.

Happy Easter.

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Vegan Sakura Daifuku Butter Mochi


To celebrate the coming Sakura season and the launch of my spring recipe card. I have taken a wagashi which is a speciality of Akita prefecture called Butter Mochi and made it vegan.

The Mochi uses glutinous rice flour, vegan butter and soy milk to make a wagashi that it not only soft and chewy with a delicious creamy taste, but will last covered in the fridge for a few days.
I made these seasonal using Sakura flowers but you can just as easily omit them and add maybe matcha or Yomogi powder instead. They are perfect to make for hanami season. You could try making these and enjoy eating them under a cherry blossom tree for that Japanese feeling that we all are missing right now.
First you need (if using ) to prepare one tablespoon of Sakura flowers in advance around (five flowers). Wash off the salt and blot them between paper towel and dry them out. When they are dry grind them into a powder using a suribachi (pestle and mortar) or a coffee grinder if you have one. (Don’t worry you can omit this part if you wish and just use Sakura flowers for decoration for which you will need to wash and blot dry on kitchen towel nine Sakura flowers)

Line a small container around 4-5 inch square with parchment paper. I used a sandwich box.

You will then need :

100grms of glutinous rice flour ( the kind for making Dango like Shiratamako or Mochiko )

90grms of unrefined caster sugar

1 cup of soy milk

45grms of room temperature vegan butter cut into squares (I used Naturli Vegan Block)

1 teaspoon of natural pink food colouring . I used beetroot juice. Plus an optional dash of flavouring of umesu plum vinegar.

Red bean paste of choice tsubuan or koshian

Potato starch for dusting

Method:

Add your glutinous rice flour to a microwaveable bowl, add to this your sugar and mix, then add your soy milk mixing until smooth.  Add your colouring and Sakura powder if using and mix. Place in a microwave for 2 minutes. My microwave is 800watts so if yours is less add more time. Take the bowl out of the microwave and add your butter, stirring  until it has all melted. Place your bowl back in the microwave and cook again for 3 minutes. Remove and beat the Mochi with a wooden spoon or spatula until it becomes sticky and translucent. Wait for it to cool a little and tip it into your parchment prepared container. Add your Sakura flowers if using pressed into the mochi, then place in the fridge for an hour to firm up a little. Take the container out the fridge and lift the Mochi out of the container using the parchment paper.

Dust a knife with potato starch and cut into equal squares.

Roll nine small balls of bean paste then take each square with potato starch dusted hands and tip upside down placing a ball in the middle.

Fold the edges round over the bean paste and place on a plate.

Carry on doing this with the rest of the cut mochi.
If you want to make Matcha or Yomogi Daifuku instead add a tablespoon of this to your flour at the beginning.
Keep in the fridge in a container they will be good for a few days, if they last that long.
If you would like to purchase salted pickled Sakura flowers I have limited quantities with my Hanami recipe card this month.
Let’s enjoy the taste of Japanese spring time.

Happy Springtime Happy Hanami !

 

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Shiozuke (pickled preserved Sakura cherry blossoms)

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 !

Blog, Spring Food

Setsubun 節分 2022 恵方巻 Eho-maki and other traditions

Setsubun 節分, is a seasonal indicator that marks the day before the beginning of Spring in the old calendar. Before 1873 the Japanese followed the lunar calendar marking the new year in February but when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in the Meiji period the new year shifted to January. Typically held on February 3rd around the time of the lunar new year it is now celebrated as a spring festival “Haru Matsuri” the day before we start again through the journey of the 24 micro season or sekki of Japan the first called Risshun. I have a totally separate section in my menu to follow these if you would like to follow along each month.
Even though it still doesn’t feel much like spring in Japan the first of the seasonal flowers of great importance start to bloom. The plum blossom. This is the month when the snow starts to melt and people may go out to parks to view the first of the spring blooms. Look closely and you may see a little green bird amongst the blooms called Uguisu a Japanese nightingale.
Why not celebrate Setsubun this year. Even now it looks very unlikely that we will be visiting Japan again this year so I think we still need those traditions to keep Japan alive in our hearts. It was believed that this time of year the spirit world and our world combined making it easy for evil spirits  to bring illness into our homes. I guess during the cold winter months it is easier to get sick and it was believed that this was caused by such demons or “oni” as they are known. At this time it is custom to repel these demons from our homes. One such way to do this is mamemaki the throwing of roasted soy beans . It is custom to fill a Japanese wooden cup called a masu with such beans and throw them out the entrance to your home or maybe at a family member dressed as a demon. As you do this you shout “Oni wa soto ! Fuku wa uchi”鬼は外! 福は内! meaning Demons out good fortune in.

Traditionally another  thing to do with these beans is to eat as many of these beans as your age. This is done for good luck and good health.
Another tradition to ward of the evil spirit is to hang holly at your door with wait for it a smelly sardine head stuck on top. This talisman is called Hiragi iwashi. The evil spirits are apparently repelled by the strong smell and thorns of the holly leaves. Needless to say I just hung holly at my door.
The last custom you might already know as I made this the inspiration for my second recipe card, is to make a Eho-maki 恵方巻 lucky sushi roll.


The long fat sushi roll must contain seven ingredients, representing the seven lucky gods Shichifukujin. It doesn’t really matter what you put in your sushi roll it’s what ever you like. I used my delicious nori that came with this months recipe card and filled it with seasoned mixed grain sushi rice, on top of which I placed shiso leaves, umeboshi paste,red pickled cabbage,aburaage rolled Japanese  cucumber, kikurage also known as wood ear mushrooms and kiriboshi daikon which I soaked in Umesu.
You must eat this sushi roll holding it in both hands while  in silence thinking about what you might want to achieve this year while you face the years lucky direction. This year is NNW.
Many temples and shrines in Japan normally hold events on this day, sadly I think again most are cancelled. I’m definitely going to be holding my eho-maki this year and wishing  for things to get back to normal soon so we can all enjoy travelling once more.

What will you wish for ? A healthy new year ahead, a new job maybe ? It is custom to leave your worries behind and have a fresh start . So don’t worry if you haven’t put things into motion yet now is the time to start on those new year plans. What ever you wish for “Happy Lunar New Year and welcome in Spring !

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.

 

 

 

 

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

Vegan Karaage 唐揚げ

When I did my children’s day post I mentioned that karaage ( fried chicken) was one of the dishes most favoured by children. It is a very popular dish loved by both children and adults from an izakaya snack, bento meal or a quick convenience food pick up. Traditionally karaage is a classic fried chicken dish where the chicken comes in bite sized pieces, coated in flour and deep fried. However it can also be fish or vegetables. There is a similar dish called Tatsutaage where the chicken is marinated in soy sauce and mirin then coated in potato starch and fried. Nowadays there seams to be a blend of the two to simply be still called karaage marinated or not. With this in mind I decided to make my own vegan version. I have often seen dried soy protein chunks used for this, but in my recipe I went for fu. Fu is a dried wheat gluten often used in Shojin Ryori temple style cuisine as a meat alternative. Fu soaks up cooking liquid really well so is great to use with a marinade or in soups. I used a particular kind called kuruma fu, kuruma is the name for car or wheel in Japanese and these fu are so called because of their shape, but you could use any fu you can find.
First you need to rehydrate the fu, by soaking it for around 15 minutes in hot water until they have expanded. While that is happening make your marinade.
Mix 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari,1 tablespoon sake,1 tablespoon mirin, 1 teaspoon of finely grated fresh ginger and  1/2 teaspoons of sugar.

When your fu is rehydrated squeeze out the water and slice into chunks. Combine the chunks with the marinade by massaging it in with your hands. Leave this for around 30 minutes.
Prepare your coating, 1/4 cup of potato starch with a little salt and pepper.
I like to use Japanese potato starch because of its light and fluffy texture and it makes the karaage nice and crispy. However you can use cornstarch if you can’t get potato starch but I would recommend you trying to get the potato starch, normally you will find it in an Asian grocery store.

Heat up some neutral oil and prepare a plate with some kitchen towel to place your cooked fu on when it’s done. Toss the fu in the potato starch and fry until golden brown turning to cook evenly.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon and some vegan mayonnaise for dipping izakaya style or part of a bento or Teishoku set meal.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Vegan Ramen Egg

Ramen ラーメン, nearly every region in Japan seams to have their own version. From different broths like shio (salt ramen) shoyu (soy sauce), miso, milk or Kare . Then there are straight or curly noodles of all different thickness. When visiting Japan be careful if your thinking of eating ramen in a ramen shop as not only are the the noodles made with egg but the broth will definitely have a animal based broth. There are some great vegan ramen places however so that won’t stop you from enjoying a tasty slurpy bowl of ramen goodness when your in Japan. One of my favourites is definitely T’s Tan Tan who have a restaurant in Jiyugaoka and ramen shops at Tokyo Station, Ikebukuro, and Narita airport.

There are also more places offering vegan ramen now so your sure to find something when your there.

You can also pick up vegan instant ramen which are the types I normally use either a brand called samurai or ohsawa. They do come with broth sachets but you can either use this or make your own. The ohsawa is hard to find outside of Japan but I have managed to find samurai at the Japan centre in London. Check out your own Asian grocery store.
Ramen hot or ramen cold ( hiyashichuka). However you like your ramen there are an abundance of toppings you can add which are great for vegans. From chopped green onion, sweetcorn, tofu, fu, kimchi, mushrooms,pakchoi, bamboo shoot and seaweed.
One popular topping is Ajitsuke tamago or seasoned egg. Why not make your ramen look even more authentic and make a vegan version.

You will need a silicone egg mould


To make the egg white.

1 and a half cups of cashew milk

3 tsp agar agar powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground or finely crushed kala namak ( Himalayan black salt ) this is what’s going to give your egg an egg flavour. This salt actually has many important minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium.

Pour the cashew milk into a blender, add black salt and agar agar and blend to combine. Pour into a pan and heat stirring continuously until it almost comes to a boil. Take off the heat and pour into your mould. Place this in the fridge to set. Wash out your blender.

Yolk

Emty a can of chickpeas but retain the water that’s  inside.

Add to your blender

1/2 cup of canned chick peas that have been warmed slightly so they are soft.
1/4 cup of aquafaba (the water in the check peas)

1/4 teaspoon of normal salt.
1/2 teaspoons of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast

Blend and pour into a bowl add 2 tablespoons of melted coconut butter like no odour tiana or a no odour oil like rapeseed. Mix

Take out your eggs from the fridge and gently pop them out of the mould. With a melon baller scoop out some of the white and spoon in some of the yolk mixture. I like to sprinkle a little powdered black salt on the top before serving. You can store the eggs in an air tight container in the fridge and they also freeze so you can put them in the freezer and take them out to thaw on the day you need them.

Making these are just a bit of fun and are more for aesthetics than the taste of a real egg. I also tried putting them in the microwave and they warm up great and makes the egg yolk runny. Have fun.

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Kodomo no hi

Children’s day as it’s now known is part of the Golden week celebrations in Japan. Formally known as Boys Day due to Girls day being in March. However Girls day is not a public holiday so Boys day now refers to all children, and this day is now set aside to celebrate children’s health and happiness. That said the symbolism still remains very male for this day. The Kabuto warrior helmet and samurai armour being a symbol of strength maybe displayed today. This is the third of the five seasonal festivals Go-Sekku, this one being Tango no Sekku it is also known as Ayame no hi or iris festival.  You may see houses decorated with iris flowers which are blooming now. The name for iris in Japan is Shobu ( meaning battle), the leaf is shaped like a sword and were considered auspicious by samurai warriors. Much like the Yuzu baths on winter solstice it is custom to take a bath with iris at this time.

You will see koi streamer  like wind socks flying all over Japan over Golden week known as koinobori , the koi again symbolises strength and as they blow in the wind look like they are swimming. Normally households will have colours to symbolise the family black for the father, red or pink for the mother then the children are symbolised with blue green or orange.


Like for Hinamatsuri (girls day) there are foods that are traditional at this time to celebrate children’s health and happiness. I have a few previous posts about this which maybe you would like to read also.
A traditional wagashi (Japanese sweet) is Kashiwa Mochi wrapped in an oak leaf (not edible)  this Mochi symbolises a child’s growth to be strong like the oak tree. If you would like to make these I have a recipe for Kashiwa Mochi plus more information about them.


Other traditional foods eaten today would be Nishime simmered vegetables often also eaten at new year but adding seasonal bamboo to symbolise growth. Sekihan azuki bean rice which is often eaten at times of celebration and  Chirashi sushi (scattered sushi).

However as this is a time for children what do children like to eat in Japan ? According to a survey with parents the top ten foods that children like to eat now are:

1: curry rice as the favourite 2: sushi 3:chicken karaage 4: hamburger steak 5: ramen 6: yaki niku 7: potato fries 8: Omurice 9:pizza 10:sashimi. When asking the parents what they enjoyed as a child things were pretty similar but in a different order but curry rice remained triumphant. A few replacements were korokke instead of yaki niku and omurice was at the number 2 slot with sukiyaki being at number 8 . There was no pizza or potato fries.
How about making some meals with Japanese children’s favourite foods for children’s day and celebrate with these with your family ?

Vegan hamburger steak

vegan Omurice

If you want to make curry rice you can just follow the curry recipe for my curry ramen and have it with rice for that traditional Japanese parent and child favourite meal.


Happy Golden Week !

 

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

Burdock Root (Gobo) Kinpira きんぴら

Burdock root or Goboごぼうas it’s known in Japan is a woody looking stick often seen with soil still on it. It is a root from the chrysanthemum family and is cultivated in Japan as a vegetable, being planted and harvest twice a year. It is rich in fibre and is often used in Japanese home cooked meals. One of the most popular in Kinpiraきんぴらmeaning sauté and simmer. Kinpira makes a perfect side dish or an addition to a bento meal. It is made by shredding the gobo and sautéing in sesame oil with other root vegetables often carrot or maybe adding lotus root. It is then simmered in a sweet soy sauce.

The seasoning is made with 1 tablespoon each of sugar, sake and mirin add to this 2 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce. Set this aside.

Use one root of  Gobo, if it still comes with soil on it clean it gently under running water with a bristle brush. Gobo discolours quickly and the best thing to do is to just scrape the outer layer of the root lightly with a knife . I always do this under running water. Have a bowl of vinegar  water to hand and using a potato peeler peel off long strips of the root and put them straight in the vinegar water. Keep doing this until you have the amount you want and leave to soak for 15 minutes.

While it’s soaking peel strips of carrot the same and peel and slice lotus root if using.
Then take you peeled strips of gobo and carrot and cut them into long thin slices and put them in a pan.

Sauté the gobo, carrot and lotus root with sesame oil. Then add your seasoning cook until all the liquid has almost gone.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve if you like with chilli threads known as Ito Togarashi. These can be bought in the U.K. from Souschef. Link at the bottom or side of your page ( depending on your browser)