Category

Winter Food

Blog, Winter Food

Valentines Day Matcha Chocolate Hearts

 


Happy Valentine’s Day

ハッピーバレンタインデー ❤️

Did you know on Valentine’s Day in japan only the guys get the gifts?

Girls have to wait until March on the same day known as white day, when they can return any gifts given to them.

And it’s not only one person you buy a gift for it could be teachers work colleagues and male friends.

That’s a lot of chocolate! and some people make their own.

These easy chocolate hearts have a raw matcha and almond centre and are perfect for making for that special someone.

All you will need is:

100g of almond flour (ground almonds)

1 teaspoon of matcha ( sifted)

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1 tablespoon of melted coconut butter

1 tablespoon of cashew butter

1 and a half bars of vegan milk alternative chocolate ( and half a bar of dark chocolate for drizzling over if you wish)

Decoration ( I used freeze dried strawberries ) be careful using sprinkles as a lot of the red colour ones are not vegan so check first.

Method:

Mix the almond flour and sifted matcha in a food processor then add your maple syrup, cashew butter and melted coconut butter. Process until you get a dough. Tip the dough out of your food processor, roll into a ball and chill in the fridge for half an hour. This will make it easier to roll.
Meanwhile add your vegan milk chocolate alternative to a bowl and melt over a pan of hot water. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then get two further sheets to roll out your dough.

Take the dough from the fridge and roll out your dough between two sheets of parchment paper to what ever thickness you would like your chocolates to be. Cut out your dough into heart shapes and transfer to your baking tray. Keep cutting until all your dough has gone.
Dip each heart  fully in melted chocolate don’t worry about being perfect as we will be cutting the sides later.

Place your chocolate in the freezer to set the chocolate for 15 mins. While it’s setting melt your dark chocolate.
Take out your chocolates from the freezer and with each one press your heart cutter back over the chocolate to reveal the matcha sides. This also makes the edges more presentable.
Place your chocolates back on the tray and drizzle with dark chocolate and decorate as you wish. Place back in the freezer again to set and your done.

These chocolates can then be transferred to a box and kept in the fridge.

Blog, Winter Food

Comforting Winter Stew Donburi With Tofu & Miso


Everything goes better with rice right ?
Well this Lima bean and tofu sausage Nabe definitely does, but equally comforting spooned on top of mashed potato or served with warm crusty bread. However you decide to have this delicious winter stew it’s sure to warm and nourish you.
Start with some tofu sausages I used some organic ones made by Taifun. I brushed them lightly with toasted sesame oil then rolled them in some sage, thyme and rosemary and set them under the grill to cook.

When they are done slice them into chunks and set aside.
In your donabe pot or other cooking pot, sauté  half a diced onion, one diced carrot and  one of each diced red and green bell pepper in a little sesame oil or olive oil. Add your sausages and then add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato purée  one tin or carton of Lima beans (butter beans), two cups of vegetable stock and a dash of red wine if you have it and a dash of tamari or soy sauce. Then add a dash of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle of fennel, mustard and coriander seeds and some salt and pepper. Put the lid on your pot and let it simmer until every thing is tender.  While it’s cooking cook your rice if your having it with rice.
When your stew is done mix in a heaped teaspoon of brown rice miso  this will give it lots of depth of flavours, add some chopped fresh parsley and a squeeze of citrus.


I managed to get some fragrant bergamot lemons which just add a lovely freshness to the sauce.
Spoon over warm rice or dunk right in there with that crusty bread.

Perfect for a cold day to warm you up.

Blog, Winter Food

Koshögatsu Little New Year 小正月

You may have thought all the New year celebrations were over in japan but there is one more that you may not of heard about.

Until 1873 the Japanese calendar was closely linked to the moon and before japan adopted the Gregorian calendar Koshogatsu 小正月 or “Little New Year” was always celebrated with the first full moon of the New Year.

Koshogatsu is celebrated on the 15th of  January and was historically a day to pray for a bountiful harvest. As the moon still plays an important role in Japanese culture it is still traditional to celebrate it. At this time people may pray for personal fortune and happiness.
Over the New year families  may decorate their homes with shimekazari “purifying rice straw” or kagamimochi. It is believed that the Shinto Kami Toshigami visits over new year and these decorations are placed in honour.

On the morning of Koshogatsu it is custom to eat azukigayu 小豆粥 a rice porridge with azuki beans it is also known as mochi gayu or full moon porridge.

Traditionally azuki gayu was used in temples and shrines as a divination ritual called Kayu ura (粥占) or Mi kayu ura (神粥占) This was done by placing bamboo in the porridge over night. In the morning the more rice that had stuck to the bamboo the better the harvest that year would be.

Today many families still eat azuki gayu on the 15th of January and some temples and shrines still perform the divination ritual, keeping alive old customs passed down for generations.

It is also today that you will take down your New Years decorations and in some cases they may be burned on special bonfires at temples and shrines in japan.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy year ahead .

Blog, Winter Food

Shiroan 白あん Zenzai

Kagami Biraki  鏡開き

Breaking the new year mochi rice cake 鏡餅

Celebrated on January the 11th as odd numbers are considered auspicious in Japan. There maybe slight differences according to region’s in japan.

Kagami mochi is placed in the home as an offering to the deity of the New Year to bring good luck. It is said the mochi contains Toshigami 年神 (Great-Year God”) is a Kami of the Shinto religion in Japan, a spirit that visits during this time to bring good blessings. Eating the mochi signifies a prayer for health and good fortune for the year ahead. This is a store bought ornament that contains the Mochi inside.

Traditionally the Kirimochi  which is rectangular can be grilled and eaten with a red bean soup called zenzai ぜんざい 善哉 or Oshiruko お汁粉 which is more of a watery version.

Normally I make zenzai with sweet red beans however you can enjoy making zenzai with shiroan.
Shiroan is white bean paste, often used in Japanese wagashi. I made this white bean paste from  Lima ( butter beans ) and because I used non refined sugar which had more of a golden colour the bean paste is not as pale as the Japanese variety. There are two different types of red bean paste smooth koshian and chunky tsubuan but with white bean bean paste this is only made smooth.
This Shiroan is super simple to make and can be used for wagashi filling as well as a delicious zenzai with either Mochi or Shiratama Dango.

I used two cartons of organic already cooked  butter beans in water. Each carton was 380g  yielding 230g of beans when drained.
Tip your drained beans into a saucepan then add 250g of unrefined natural caster sugar and add enough water to cover the beans. Simmer with the lid on until the water has almost gone drain the rest of the water. Then transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Tip this out into a bowl and put in the fridge over night to set.
To make Shiroan zenzai add one heaped tablespoon of white bean paste to a pan with a cup of water and simmer until the bean paste has dissolved. If you like your soup a little thicker you can add some kuzu root powered. Just crush one teaspoon in a bowl with a little cold water and mix into your hot soup to thicken if you wish.
Serve piping hot with toasted Mochi .

Blog, Winter Food

Year of the Tiger Tora 虎 2022


明けましておめでとうございます!

Happy New Year to you all ! This year is the year of the Tiger. 

Years of the Tiger include 2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938.….

The zodiac sign Tiger is a symbol of strength, exorcising evils, and braveness.

People born in a year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, and confident. They are very charming and well-liked.

Tigers usually enjoy good health. Colds coughs, and fever, are rarely experienced by Tigers. Let’s hope that’s a good omen for 2022

The Tiger ranks third among the animals of the 12 zodiac animals

in order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each year is related to an animal sign according to a 12-year-cycle.

Tigers in temples

I have talked about Kurama-dera (鞍馬寺), before In a previous post “Yama no Hi “.

On visiting the main hall you see some very unusual guardians . Tigers protecting the main temple .

Why unusual? Usually, two koma-inu, or sacred dogs, protect the entrance of temples. However Tigers are considered to be messengers of the Buddhist divinity Bishamonten, one of the Four Heavenly Kings and the protector of northern Kyoto. According to legend, Bishamonten came to Kurama with a tiger in the Hour of the Tiger, on the Day of the Tiger, within the Month of the Tiger according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Called “the tigers of A-Un”, the concept of A-Un is one that encapsulates all of life from its beginning to its end. 

The two tigers sit facing each other, one with an open mouth representing the beginning and the other with a closed mouth representing the end. These two tigers are a metaphor of the universe.

New year Osechi-ryōri (御節料理, お節料理 or おせち) are traditional Japanese New Year foods.

I make Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理 every year for New Year’s Day ( Ganjitsu 元日). Even though I am not in Japan I feel making it can bring Japan closer to me with  with my food. And hopefully closer for you also.

New year is a very important time and food has a lot of special meaning. I have done a few posts on new year foods over the years on my website why not check them out.

Osechi Ryori are traditional foods normally packed in a tiered bento box known as ojubuko 重箱 enjoyed at New Year’s Day in Japan.

These boxes can contain small appetizers to go with drinks,  grilled and vinegared dishes, and simmered dishes. All dishes are eaten  at room temperature,  like a bento box. If the dish contains countable food like Inari for instance then serve in auspicious numbers 3, 5, 7, or 9 pieces. To make your box look pleasing to the eye Coordinate your colours. I also like to use small bowls and dishes These small bowls are called Kobachi 小鉢 and it’s nice to use ones with bright colours and pretty patterns. Try looking at Musubikiln which have a lovely selection of such bowls to purchase on their website.

I have made a vegan selection of traditional dishes.

Nishime 煮しめ (圧力鍋)

one-pot colorful stew of root vegetables, shiitake and koyadofu, simmered in dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. These simmered dishes are called nimono (煮物).

Carrot – Welcome spring by shaping carrot into plum or cherry blossom shapes.

Lotus root – The holes of lotus root presents a clear and unobstructed future

Taro – Taro symbolizes fertility or descendants’ cut into hexagon that resembles a turtle shape represents longevity

Sekihan (Red Bean glutinous Rice) 赤飯 traditional rice dish served on happy occasions which I stuffed some into inari いなり寿司. The other  Inari was  komatsuna Yuzu citrus vinegared rice.

Namasu (なます) or also known as Kohaku Namasu (red and white)(紅白なます) Red and white are considered celebratory colours in Japan. Julienned daikon and carrot pickled in a sweet vinegar with a hint of citrus.

Kuromame (Sweet Black Soybeans) 黒豆 served on New Year’s Day as a part of Osechi Ryori (traditional New Year’s meal). Eating kuromame is considered good for your health for the new year.

This year I was lucky to be given by a friend in Japan some very special  Hanamame which are from Gunma .

Pickled Lotus Root (Su Renkon) 酢れんこん Lotus root has been considered an auspicious food for the Japanese New Year because lotus root with its many holes is a symbol of an unobstructed view of the future.

Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes) 栗きんとんchestnut gold mash. This dish symbolises fortune and wealth for a prosperous year ahead. Japanese sweet potatoes with chestnuts in syrup called kuri kanroni (栗甘露煮.)

aburaage rolls with daikon and carrot 油揚げロールズ tied with kanpyo. Black sesame Gomadofu, Ginnan, simmered Kabocha and Yuzu tofu mousse served in a Yuzu fruit.

ピーチビーガンゼリー Peach vegan jelly


Start  the New Year’s Day with a traditional Japanese breakfast.

This breakfast soup, said to be the most auspicious new year food is part of Osechi Ryori. (Good luck food) Depending on the region in Japan the broth can either be clear or with miso .

Ozoni お雑煮 Enjoyed on the morning of New Year’s Day in Japan.

(Japanese New Year Mochi Soup – Kansai Style) This style of soup from Kyoto region is made with Saikyo Miso (white miso from kyoto) and a round toasted Mochi. It is even more auspicious to add 5 ingredients I added daikon,carrot, komatsuna and Silken tofu with the mochi as the 5th ingredient.


関東風书雜煮 Kanto style Ozoni

(more popular in Tokyo and eastern Japan ). This is a clear kombu dashi, with mirin and tamari known as Osumashi.

I like to add a dried shiitake when soaking the kombu to add to the umami. The flavours are very delicate which is typical of Shojin Ryori . Ozoni means mixed boil which relates to the mixed ingredients you can use. This soup was believed to bring good luck to samurai warriors and was served on New Year’s Day. Mochi is served to represent long life because it stretches. This time it is traditional to use a rectangular or square mochi for Kansai style.

As we head into a new year I wish all of you a healthy and happy one. And for those of you who are missing Japan because you cannot travel let’s make Japanese food together to help us feel closer to the place we love and miss so much.

Blog, Winter Food

Touji ( Toji ) (冬至) Two recipes to celebrate the winter solstice


This is the time of the  shortest day the Winter Solstice, known in the Japanese micro season as Touji ( Toji ) (
冬至).

Japanese people celebrate the solstice as they welcome the return of longer days, they pray for good health and eat auspicious food. You can read more on my winter solstice micro seasonal post or Toji how to celebrate the winter Solstice.

Yuzu is a winter citrus fruit having a rich source of vitamin C which is good for the immunity. It is known for its cleansing properties and its fragrance lowers tension and helps fatigue. This is why it is also popular to visit an onsen and bathe with Yuzu fruit called Yuzuyu. The essential oils from the fruit help soothe the skin and mind.
In Japan it is also said that the strong smell of Yuzu will drive away evil spirits. Yuzu is used in everything from  skin care products to delicious broths for a hot pot. It also makes wonderful  desserts so this year I decided I wanted to make a seasonal Yuzu wagashi (Japanese sweet).

To make these you will need to add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric with 3 teaspoons of vegan honey or maple syrup give it a mix. 

1 cup of almond meal (flour) (ground almonds) what ever you like to call them

Add the almond flour to a food processor to that add 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and give it a mix. Then add your sweetener and 1 tablespoon of Yuzu juice, which you can buy in bottles. Give this a mix in your food processor it will look a bit like bread crumbs but when pressed will stick together to form a dough.

Press your dough together into a ball then roll into a log to cut five equal pieces. Set aside


To make your filling you will need red bean paste called anko either smooth (koshian) or chunky (Tusbuan) it doesn’t matter which. You will need a ball sized piece  just a bit smaller than your almond dough was. Take around two tablespoons of mixed nuts and fruit (cashews,almonds,walnuts,Brazil’s, pistachio raisins and cranberries) that kind of thing and roughly chop. Mix these in to your anko with 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, the oil adds a lovely rich flavour so try not to miss it out.

Take each piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten it out. Then take a smaller piece of anko roll that into a ball and place in the centre of your dough. Fold the dough around the anko and smooth back into a ball. Do the same with the other dough pieces.


When your done prick the dough with a tooth pick to make it look more like Yuzu skin. Add a leaf to decorate and your done. This special wagashi can be enjoyed on the winter solstice or Christmas with a Japanese green tea.

Yuzu fruit is not common in the U.K. but I was lucky enough to get some from the wasabi company. I decided I wanted to use one to make Yuzu infused vegan honey ( just add sliced skin to vegan honey which you can then add to hot drinks as an immunity booster or help soothe a sore throat ).


The other I used to make Yuzu kosho. Tubes of this condiment can be found in most Japanese kitchens. The green variety is made from the unripe Yuzu fruits, green chilli peppers and salt. The red with ripe Yuzu red chilli peppers and salt. Served primarily instead of wasabi with soba noodles, tofu or as a seasoning it can be added to soy sauce for a dip for sushi.

As I only had one Yuzu this only makes a small amount of paste

1 fresh Yuzu seeds and white pith removed and put aside then cut the skin into pieces.

3 red chilli peppers seeds removed and cut into pieces.

1-2 teaspoons of salt ( I used a very special salt from Okinawa )

Add these to a suribachi Japanese mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one you can use a food processor which is obviously quicker and less effort but I wanted to do it a more traditional way.


Squeeze the juice through your hands from the Yuzu fruit you cut out. You really don’t get much.

Then just grind it all down to make a paste. It takes a while but the salt helps to break it down.

Add to a jar. Use a little of this hot fragrant paste in maybe a bowl of rice or add it to ramen or make a flavoursome miso broth, like I did here. Just simple cabbage tofu rolls in hot sweet white miso with a half a teaspoon of Yuzu kosho.


This delicious condiment can make grilled veggies taste amazing or make a citrus dressing to pour over tofu.


However you celebrate the winter solstice I feel the sunny yellow colour of the Yuzu reminds us that springs warmth will return once again.

Blog, Winter Food

Christmas food in Japan & Vegan KFC


Christmas in Japan seams to arrive over night. No sooner has the last pumpkin lantern been put away than you wake up the next day and Christmas has arrived. In every store the Christmas music is playing and everywhere is decked in the most beautiful Christmas lights.

Christmas in Japan is not a religious holiday but more a time for couples to enjoy a romantic walk and take pictures together under  twinkling lights.

Other things enjoyed are German style Christmas markets  or having a romantic meal in a restaurant.
The gift giving is again more about couples than family which is saved in Japan for new year.
Think Christmas food and to many “vegan” it might be a nut roast with lots of veggies and Christmas pudding but in Japan there are two very prominent foods.
The first is Christmas Cake or “Kurisumasu Keki” They are not the rich fruit cake and marzipan style cakes we know in the U.K. but are made of a light sponge with a cream filling. They are round and topped with the fruit of the season in Japan Strawberries! The red and white symbolises the flag of Japan and this colour combination known as Kouhaku are the colours of good fortune in Japan where as in the U.K. those colours are not lucky.  There is even an emoji for it on your smart phone. 🍰

The next is the biggest Christmas meal with 3.6 million families sharing a KFC Christmas Bucket. After World War II the Japanese economy started to take off and there was a huge interest in western style food. Over seas food chains started to open like Baskin Robins and Mister Donut with the first KFC opening in Nagoya in 1970, by 1981 there were over 300 stores . After a very successful launch of a marketing campaign in 1974 “Kentucky for Christmas” the popularity of having KFC for a Christmas meal began. It is now so popular you either have to order six weeks in advance or wait in long queues for hours to get it. You will often find a life sized Colonel Sanders waiting for you dressed up like Santa who has a striking resemblance to the man him self.


Maybe the reason KFC is so popular is because it is not unlike karaage another fried chicken meal coated in panko breadcrumbs which is also a favourite food of Japan and is also a meal you can share with family or friends.  The meal pulls in 6.9 million yen in Japan but many chicken lives are lost. So being vegan I decided this year I was going to make my own KFT Christmas bucket “Kentucky Fried Tofu

You can easily find a seasoning recipe on the internet but i didn’t  want the expense of buying lots of spices so I went for a Cajun spice in my local supermarket.
You will need to freeze two 300g blocks of firm tofu and then defrost it then freeze and defrost again. After this time take it out of its packaging and press out the liquid under a weight soaking up any remaining with a paper towel. Break up the tofu into large chunk pieces.
You will then need two cup of vegetable stock . Place your broken pieces of tofu in a dish and pour over the stock and let it marinade. While your tofu is marinading add to a bowl 1 1/2 cups of soy milk  and 2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, this makes the soy milk thicker (set this aside). In another bowl add 1 1/2 cups of plain flour and three tablespoons of your Cajun spice. I also added a few teaspoons of mixed herbs and some ground black pepper. Now you will need a cup of some kind of corn flakes. I decided to use gluten free Mesa Sunrise which has a combination of corn and quinoa flakes along with buckwheat amaranth and flaxseed. However you can just use run of the mill cornflakes. Crush up the cornflakes and mix them into the  Cajun flour.
Take your marinated tofu and squeeze out the liquid then take each piece and submerge it in the soy milk then roll it in the Cajun spice flour. Coat each piece then palace on a plate.
Heat up some cooking oil ( I used sunflower ) around two -three cups in a pan. Add some kitchen towel to a plate and fry your tofu in hot oil until golden brown for around 5 mins . Fry a few at a time and place on your plate.
I decided to equal out the fried food with a delicious healthy salad . I also recommend the vegan mayonnaise by the wasabi company which comes in three flavour Yuzu, wasabi and miso  ( perfect for dipping).

As this year again draws to a close it is another year of uncertainty and we still don’t know if travelling to Japan will resume next year. With that in mind for many of us we are missing Japan more and more. I find making food connected to Japan helps me feel closer some how. Why not give making some Japanese food a try or start planning making an Osechi for new year. You can find lots of inspiration on my web pages. Just search “New Year” .
Merry Christmas “ メリークリスマス

Blog, Winter Food

Yaki Imo Baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes 焼き芋


When winter arrives the melancholy music from the yaki-imo  truck rings through the streets and people hear the  long drawn-out song “yaki-imo, ishi-yaki-imo” ~ from their speakers. “Hot fresh sweet potato, sweet potato, sweet potato! Freshly baked and tastes great!”

The sound of yaki-imo trucks brings a nostalgic feeling for  japan, this feeling is known as Natsukashii evoking a memory which brings emotions of yearning, impermanence and wistfulness. Yaki-imo are traditionally sold out of special trucks that drive around the town think like a winter version of an ice cream van.

With no added salt or butter it’s hard to believe that it’s just a humble slowly baked satsumaimo さつまいも . They have a red toned purple skin with a pale cream interior that becomes a yellow colour after cooking. They are creamy Soft, sweet, light and fluffy when cooked and taste more like a dessert due to being baked at a low temperature which allows the enzyme amylase to break down more starches into sugars resulting in a sweet tasting potato. The added bonus is they are incredibly nutritious, healthy and satisfying. Being high in dietary fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals vitamins C, vitamin A  and vitamin B6.

I had recently bought some from a Japanese grocery store and stored them in a cool dark place for a few weeks to ripen.

Gently Wash the sweet potato skin and pat dry.

For a softer skin wrap In foil then place on a baking tray and put the tray into the cold oven. Leaving the foil will result in a more crispier skin

Bake sweet potatoes at (150C) for for 90 minutes push a tooth pick in to check.

Turn off the oven, then leave the sweet potatoes inside with the door closed for one hour.

Remove from the oven and and savour the flavour of winter street food in japan the ultimate comfort food which takes me back.

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food, Winter Food

Hojicha soy milk jelly


Hojicha soy milk vegan jelly

ビーガンほうじ茶豆乳ゼリー

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

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

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

So easy to make all you need is

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


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


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

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.