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Autumn Food, Blog

Inoko Mochi 亥の子餅 (Baby Boar Cake A Seasonal Delight)


From late October to November you may see this confectionery in wagashi stores throughout Japan. It is custom to eat this Japanese sesame delight on “inoko no hi” 亥の子の日 Baby Boar Day . The wagashi is normally eaten on the day of the boar ( this year 2022 being Sunday the 6th of November) for a prayer for good health. These wagashi are served at this time as part of a Japanese tea ceremony known as “Robiraki” 炉開き which is when the brazier set in the tatami mat is opened for the winter season. This is because the wild boar is believed to be a messenger of the Buddhist god of war and fire. It is also custom at this time to start using heating devices like the kotatsu 炬燵. The winter hearth is opened on the first wild boar day and tea is served with inoko mochi.

I decided to make inoko mochi wagashi 亥の子餅 baby boar cake. After the Halloween festivities it’s something that little bit different and still keeping in with the Japanese seasons. Black sesame is used to look like the spots on a wild boar piglet. The mochi is also seared with markings on the surface.

This is how I made Baby Boar Piglet Mochi ( Inoko Mochi )

Mix 30grm Shiratama flour with 4 and 1/2 tablespoons of water add 30grms of Joshinko flour and 50grms of sugar and mix again. Then mix in 30grms of mashed bean paste and 8grms of black sesame seeds.


Place a metal pancake ring inside a steamer and cover with a muslin cloth. Spoon the mixture inside the ring and steam for 15mins.

Meanwhile make x8 balls of bean paste ( 160grms = 20grms each ball)

Tip the steamed Mochi out into a bowl and mash, then tip out onto a surface with potato starch.  Divide the Mochi into 8 pieces. Flatten each piece and place a ball of bean paste inside and fold the mochi over. Roll and shape into a piglet.

Heat a metal rod and sear each Mochi with three stripes. Enjoy with matcha or your favourite Japanese tea to celebrate the changing seasons. The searing of the mochi gives it a lovely toasted sesame flavour.

I served mine with a hojicha latte and sprinkled  it with powdered ginger to make it extra warming.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Wagashi no hi

Wagashi no hi (the Day of Japanese Confectionery)

(和菓子の日)

Starting in the Heian period, the Emperor Ninmyo prayed to the gods with an offering of 16 wagashi on June 16th to pray for his people to live healthy and happy lives when a plague spread throughout Japan.

With the popularity of tea and sugar during the Edo period ( 1603-1867) due to sugar being more widely available the development of stores selling sweets to be eaten with tea flourished. Before this tea was introduced in the Kamakura period ( 1185-1333) and zen monks partook in drinking tea with a small snack.

With demand, different wagashi stores introduced their own styles of sweets. Kyoto style wagashi were beautiful edible pieces of art to be eaten with a tea ceremony where as Tokyo style wagashi were more simple in design.

Wagashi comes in so many shapes and is a wide term for many varieties of Japanese desserts and confectionery as well as sweets  eaten with green tea. Wagashi plays an important role in representing the seasons and you may find  motifs used in the confectionery each month  bringing a celebration of nature from the cherry blossoms of early spring with the wagashi known as Sakura Mochi to traditional sweets eaten at the equinoxes and offered to ancestors known an Ohagi .


In the autumn you may see wagashi shaped like maple leaves, chestnuts or persimmon. Summer wagashi maybe in the form of a cooling jelly or kuzu kiri, where as winter wagashi could be a zenzai

( warm red beans with Dango or Mochi )

Wagashi are normally consumed with green tea, the bitter taste of matcha is complimented by eating a sweet before hand never together.

The word wagashi is made up of two characters wa ( Japanese) and kashi/gashi (菓子 sweets). There are different forms of wagashi : Namagashi or fresh which are normally kept refrigerated and eaten on the same day, Mushi which  are steamed like manju or uirou ,  Mochi the ones we all know so well like Dango, Nagagashi which contain a coagulation ingredient like kanten or agar agar which we normally see in the form of summer jellies or yokan.

Yaki gashi are confections that are cooked think something like dorayaki or Taiyaki.

Nerikiri are the wagashi you normally find at Japanese tea ceremonies they consist of bean paste normally in a variety of colours that has been mixed with a binder like rice flour and come in a variety of shapes ( normally depicting a flower or something of the season). Higashi is a dry confection and can come in the form of a hard candy or wasanbon made from fine grained sugar. The most common being rakugan which come in a variety of shapes. Beika refer to snacks made from rice like senbei.

Agegashi refer to deep fried snacks like karinto.
Have you tried any of these types of wagashi yourself? You may have visited a Japanese tea shop or visited a family run wagashi store or maybe been bought them as a gift which is a very popular thing to do in Japan.

If you would like to purchase some beautiful wagashi yourself and your not in Japan the online store Minamoto Kichoan have a wonderful selection. They also have their own stores around the world and their flagship store in Ginza Tokyo selling their tradition confectionery made in Japan, many are seasonal with summer confections of jelly like this Kingyo jelly or ones containing fruits.

Autumn ones may contain things like nuts like their Gozenguri

or my favourite one the Suikanshuku which has a whole dried persimmon filled with white bean paste.


Just check the ingredients if you are wanting vegan ones as some contain egg.

I have some recipes for you to try making your own at home from Dango to yokan, Sakura Mochi and daifuku why not give it a try. You could make them for a special occasion or to honour an event. Why not try making Ohagi at the equinox or minazuki at the end of June.

A pyramid stack of Dango are offered to the moon for the moon viewing festival Tsukimi around September-October. 

or maybe you could make hanami Dango (three colour Dango balls for Hinamatsuri).

I hope you can try making some wagashi for yourself they also make nice gifts or enjoy them with friends for tea time.

In the summer when the weather heats up you could try making a refreshing jelly wagashi. I recently purchased some 100% Mikan juice made in Wakayama from the wasabi company.

Mikan is one of the most popular citrus fruits in Japan it’s sweet and refreshing and can be used to make salad dressings, or cocktails. It’s nice as a thirst quenching drink mixed with sparkling water or frozen for an ice lolly.

For wagashi day I decided to make a simple , very easy to make jelly.  To make it more appealing I served it as orange segments.

All you need is one orange cut in half and scoop out the fruit.
Add to a pan one cup of Mikan juice and sprinkle over one teaspoon of powdered agar agar. Gently heat up the Mikan juice and take off the heat before it boils. Allow to cool slightly and put it in the fridge for 5 mins to slightly thicken. Remove from the fridge and pour the Mikan juice into your orange halves. Allowing it to thicken will stop any leaks.

Place your orange halves in the fridge to set. When ready to serve slice a half into a further half to serve as an orange segment. Delicious on a hot day with an ice cold matcha.


Wagashi no hi’  was established by ‘Zenkoku Wagashi Kyokai’ (Japan Wagashi Association) in 1979. It is now observed every year on June 16. I’m not sure I want to eat 16 wagashi but it’s nice to have one with a green tea and wish for health and happiness.

Seasonal shop window  wagashi displays in Kyoto

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

Tokyo Pony Recipe Card 3 Hinamatsuri 雛祭り

 


RECIPE CARD NUMBER
3️⃣

🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

March “Hinamatsuri “

雛祭り桜餅

The third  in the series of Tokyo Pony monthly recipe cards following the seasons and traditions of Japanese vegan food.

My third recipe card marks the second in the five main seasonal festivals of japan “Hinamatsuri”. There are many traditional foods eaten on this day one of them being the spring seasonal wagashi ( Japanese sweet ) “Sakura Mochi “ 桜餅.

You can now experience the taste of cherry blossom season in Japan by making these sweet, chewy  Sakura Mochi at home with this months recipe card.

The sweets are made with an edible salted pickled Sakura leaf which are difficult to find outside of japan. Each recipe card comes with one pack of 10 salted pickled Sakura leaves to make the perfect combination of salty and sweet wagashi.

These sweets can be eaten for Hinamatsuri on March 3rd and also  enjoyed throughout the spring season.

Hurry there are limited quantity of these so get in quick !

Enjoy the recipe!

To purchase :

click the “SHOP” link in the menu

Thank you so much for your orders 🙏🏻

And all your continued support . I hope you will enjoy making Japanese seasonal food along with me.

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, Summer Food

Yama no Hi

Yama no Hi ( mountain day ) is japans newest public holiday, only starting in 2016. Much like marine day another public holiday is for taking the opportunity to appreciate the ocean this holiday is to honour the Japanese landscape with its many mountains and volcanoes. Mountain day normally falls on August 11th the reason this day was chosen is that the kanji for the eighth month looks like a mountain 八 and the number 11 signifies two trees. If this day falls on a Sunday the following Monday is observed. With over 73% of Japan being mountainous if you have ever been to Japan I’m sure you have either visited, hiked or at least seen one mountain when you have been there. Mt Takao is one of the easiest mountains to visit from Tokyo and is the most visited mountain in the world with around 2.6 million every year, Mt Fuji is the most climbed in the world with 300,000 people climbing the sacred mountain each year in the short period between July and August. I have visited Mt Fuji a few times on my trips to Japan and finally on my last trip back in December  2018 was actually able to see it with out clouds covering it.


I also went to Mt Kurama by taking the Eizan Kurama line from Denmachi-Yanagi station which takes around an hour to reach Kuruma a rural town in the northern mountains of Kyoto city. Kurama-dera temple is a Buddhist temple located on the steep wooded mountainside, it takes about 45 minutes to climb up the mountain to the temple, there is also a cable car going up ( one way ) to part of the way there if you wish to take it.


Known for its spirituality and breathtaking natural beauty, it is the birthplace of the holistic healing art of Reiki and is said to be the home of Sojobo king of tengu. Tengu are long nosed legendary creatures found in Japanese folk stories that represent the mysterious power of the mountains and are believed to be the mountains guardians. You will find a large Tengu statue at Kurama station.


The temple is also associated with the annual fire festival which takes place in October. As you climb up the mountain you will come across Yuki Shrine which has a 800 year old towering cedar tree, it is believed if you pray to this tree with all your heart your wish will come true.


I visited this temple on a very cold December day, as we climbed  flurries of snow started to fall and a temple gong could be heard. I can’t explain the feeling this temple gave me it was such a profound feeling of spirituality. I do not have any reiki training but if anyone is sick I often try to think of this temple and the healing energies I felt and try and send it to that person.


From Kurama-dera temple you can normally take a hiking trail which continues on through the forest for about one hour which leads to Kifune shrine. However there had been particularly bad typhoons and the path had been closed so I went back down the mountain and followed the river up passing places which are popular to stop at in the summer to enjoy the natural beauty and escape from the heat with a cold drink.


As it was winter all these places were closed and I carried on until I reached the well worn flight of stone steps lined with red wooden lanterns which lead up to Kifune-jinja (also known as Kibune). This shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain the source of life energy.


Another mountain I have visited is Mt Rokko accessed by the Shin Kobe ropeway which offers panoramic views of the city as you climb up the mountain. When you reach the top there is japans largest herb garden with around 75,000 herbs and flowers plus spectacular views out to Kobe.



Did you know that the popular Japanese snack onigiri which can be round, barrel or triangle shaped, when shaped into a triangle represents a mountain ? It is said when you eat it you are taking on the power of the mountain?
I found this out watching the NHK anime series Kiyo in Kyoto about two friends in a maiko house and the food that is prepared.

They actually discussed another onigiri from Yamaguchi prefecture which is coated in kinako soy bean flour and another similar one which had azuki beans then rolled in kinako originating from Kyoto. These onigiri are very similar to the Japanese wagashi ohagi.
With that in mind I decided to make a special mountain day Ohagi onigiri to represent Mt Fuji.

I used a mix of sweet Mochi rice and Japanese rice but I didn’t pound it sticky I just kept the rice grains intact. Inside each I put some sweet red beans and then rolled the onigiri in black sesame and kinako.


Maybe you could make onigiri to take on a walk or hike for mountain day to enjoy at the summit, or just relax with a tea at home.

Here are some more onigiri ideas to inspire you or just search onigiri and find more on my recipe pages.


Blog, Summer Food

Mizu Yokan 水ようかん

Mizu Yokan (水ようかん)

As the name suggests this red bean jelly yokan is a Japanese summer wagashi that has a higher water (mizu) content than the regular Yokan you may have tried. Serve chilled its sweet, light and perfect for summertime with a sencha tea.

To make this I used a smooth bean paste called Koshian こしあん.

Last year I decided to buy a Japanese stainless steel mold with a removable inner tray called Nagashikan (流し缶). Perfect for making  Kanten Jelly or Yokan I bought it from my favourite place to buy Japanese kitchen utensils global-kitchen they are great for all your kitchen items and most are made in japan . Like this stainless steel mold made by the Shimotori Corporation which was founded in 1955 in Tsubame, Niigata, the center of cutlery and steel manufacturing.

Every time I have ordered from them the items arrive so quick direct from japan . You can check them out on Instagram and they have a link on there direct to their website. I have not been sponsored by this company. 

I have also seen these yokan poured into bamboo cups served at tea houses in Kyoto. It’s so easy to make with just a few ingredients. 

All you need is one cup of cold water added to a pan then add one teaspoon of agar agar powder whisk and bring the water to a boil simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the agar agar then turn off the heat. Spoon in 200g of smooth bean paste and keep stirring until the bean paste has dissolved add a pinch of salt mix in and your done ! Then pour into your Nagashikan if you don’t have one you could use a plastic container. However I decided last summer to invest in one as it makes making things like my coffee jelly so much easier. Leave it to cool then put in the fridge to set.

The Nagashikan will slice it for you into individual pieces.

I served mine with a dusting of soy bean powder ( kinako ) matcha is  nice also.

As this wagashi is so sweet it best served with a green tea to balance out the flavours. Delicious for a Japanese summer tea time.


Why not take it one step further and cut your yokan into smaller pieces, It’s delicious served up with soy cream.

Or try it with soft Shiratama dango and kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) made from Okinawan sugar .

Just two tablespoons of powdered sugar combined with two teaspoons of water. Heat in the microwave for one minute or in a pan, then leave to cool. If you can’t get the okinawan sugar you can use molasses thinned with a little water.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Micro Season Part 4 春分 Shunbun (Spring equinox)

春分 Shunbun (Spring equinox)
March 21-25 雀始巣 Suzume hajimete sukū Sparrows start to nest 

March 26-30 櫻始開 Sakura hajimete saku First cherry blossom

March 31-April 4 雷乃発声 Kaminari sunawachi koe o hassu distant thunder.

Nature waits for no one, the seasons keep on turning no matter what else is going on in the world. I have been watching a pair of robins in my garden for the last few weeks hastily gathering to make a nest. The buds on my Sakura tree are about to burst open into bloom but the world at the moment is in so much distress.
Even though the micro season date for cherry blossom blooming is the 26th they have already started in Tokyo. Cherry blossom season in Tokyo is governed by one tree in the Yasukuni shrine. It is called the Metropolitan Index tree. Last week saw the first flower bud open.


Soon all the Sakura will be open in Japan .

Depending on where in Japan they are it can be now or a bit later in May for places like Hokkaido.
Many people’s trips and celebrations will be cancelled this year including my own trip which was supposed to be in May. The wisteria and the Sakura will flower and drop anyway and so it goes on.
I remember my trip to Japan in cherry blossom season, I think it was one of the most memorable times of my life. I was so over come with how beautiful the trees were and when the warm breeze blew the petals off the trees they would flutter to the ground like snow.

The spring Equinox in Japan is known as Higan or in the spring Haru no Higan. It is a Buddhist festival, and a traditional confection is made for the equinox, in the spring it is called Botamochi and in the autumn it is called ohagi. Botamochi is named after the tree peony Botan. In the autumn ohagi is named after the clover bush hagi.

I always make this wagashi every year this year I made Botamochi in the three spring colours and displayed them like a dango. They are made with pounded sweet Mochi rice with a red bean filling . If you would like to make them yourself you can find the recipe in the Spring recipe section.

I hope if your plans for hanami celebrations or your trips to Japan are cancelled that maybe you can like me make some Japanese food to help you feel closer to Japan.

When things are finally balanced again in the world I will see Japan again.

Blog, Spring Food

Micro Season Part 1 立春 Risshun (Beginning of spring)

I actually started writing about micro seasons half way through the 24 seasonal divisions back at the beginning of autumn Risshu. Now we are entering Risshun the beginning of Spring. Did you celebrate Setsubun yesterday? I talked about this in my last micro season post.
This micro season is broken down into three subdivisions.

February 4–8 東風解凍 Harukaze kōri o toku East wind melts the ice
February 9–13 黄鶯睍睆 Kōō kenkan su Bush warblers start singing in the mountains
February 14–18 魚上氷 Uo kōri o izuru Fish emerge from the ice

This is an important time for farmers in Japan especially tea farmers, because it is the first of the 24 divisions in the solar calendar it is considered the start of life and from this day 88 days are counted until the first tea picking, so Risshun is used as a reference point.
With the term Risshun comes Haru Matsuri or spring festival, and it’s definitely a positive sign. Bulbs and flowers are starting to push through the frosty earth and the birds are getting busy looking for potential nest sites.
You can feel a glimpse of spring now.
In Japan you might start to see plum blossoms blooming or hear the call of the male (uguisu) bush warbler (Japanese nightingale).

The bush warbler or Uguisu is a little green bird and at this time wagashi shops start to sell Uguisu Mochi . A chubby cake similar to the shape of the bird. It is a Mochi rice cake filled with red bean paste and dusted in green kinako made from the freshest soy beans.
I decided to make this as I had some Uguisu kinako which is the name given to the green soy bean flour.


I made it with Shiratama rice flour and inside was home made bean paste.


I feel like a little bit of Japanese springtime has arrived in my home.

Blog, Winter Food

Kuromame Daifuku Mochi

I went to a new year mochi pounding this January which was then made into Mochi with sweet red bean paste and was served to the spectators.


Mochi is often eaten as a symbol of long life in Japan and the breaking and eating of the Kagami Mochi ( known as Kagami Biraki ) see other posts for more information on this, is a ritual celebrating the transition to a new stage in life.
The 13th of January this year in Japan is coming of age day Seijin Shiki 成人式. It is held on the second Monday in January and is the day when people in Japan that turned 20 the previous year are now welcomed into society as an adult. It may be common to see people in elaborate costumes visiting shrines to pray for health and success.

Inspired by seeing the Mochi pounding I decided to try making my own Mochi which is the symbol of longevity as it’s so stretchy  and make kuromame Daifuku. Daifuku translates to great luck and the sweet black soy beans are a symbol of good health and are eaten as part of new year food (osechi).

Daifuku is a Japanese wagashi ( sweet ) consisting of a small round glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly anko sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans.

These are the ingredients I used which I bought easily from the Japan centre Asian food super market in London, they also sell on line.

 

Top row: Potato starch powder 150g, Hashimoto Tsubuan chunky red bean paste 350g ( both originating from Hokkaidō ).
Bottom row : Hakubai sweet Mochi rice 2.27 Kg  ( this is a big bag but is perfect for making ohagi / Botamochi for spring / autumn equinox for which I have recipes. Finally Shiga Shoten Tambaguro kuromame simmered black soy beans 150g

First wash and soak over night one rice cooker cup of sweet Mochi rice. In the morning cook the rice in your rice cooker or pan with two rice cooker cups of water. A rice cooker cup is what comes with a rice cooker if you do not have one 1 rice cooker cup equates to 3/4 of a normal measuring cup or 180ml .
After your rice is cooked keep the lid on and steam for a further ten minutes. Transfer the cooked rice into a bowl or Suribachi ( grinding bowl) and start pounding your rice with something like a rolling pin or something like a surikogi which is the mortar part of a pestle and mortar. Keep wetting the end as it will start to get very sticky indeed !
When its all smooth and stretchy dust a work surface or board with potato starch and tip the Mochi out. Dust your hand with potato starch as this will stop your hands sticking to the mochi  then knead the mochi in the potato starch and pull off pieces about the size of a heaped tablespoon. Flatten it out and add your sweet black soy beans and a ball of anko in the middle.

Fold the mochi with the circle of soy beans over the anko to make a ball. Shape and it’s done.


This was the first time I have ever made these and the more you do the better at it you become. I was really pleased how they turned out. Serve with a matcha tea to celebrate a long and healthy life

( no matter if your celebrating coming of age day, life is a celebration  ! )

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Season Part 16 Autumn Equinox & Making Ohagi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The above shows Mochi rice and bought and homemade tsubuan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyoto

Inokashira park Tokyo

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Season Dango

One of the best memories I have in my life is visiting Japan at Sakura season.

If  you have never been lucky enough to witness it,seeing the blossom and the way people in Japan celebrate Hanami is just breathtaking.

I think I miss Japan the most at this time of year.  I always like to celebrate Japanese customs and traditions it helps me feel close to Japan  when I cannot be there.

How about making some tofu dango and sit with these and a bento under the blossoms and if like me you cannot be there just dream you are.

To make these three colour dango which signify purification,health and luck you will need shiratama flour and a carton of silken tofu, I used Clearspring organic tofu.  First drain you tofu and section into three equal pieces and divide into three bowls. Next add colouring to two bowls I used matcha for green and natural beetroot juice for pink. Cream the tofu in each bowl then to each one start to add your shiratama flour. Keep adding until it is a stiff dough ( people say to think of what an ear lope feels like and this is what dango should feel like when you press it ) Heat up a pan of boiling water and drop in your dango balls when they float to the top they are done,scoop them out and drop into iced water. Pat them dry and slide them onto skewers. These are delicious dipped into kinako (soy bean flour ) I actually had green kinako which symbolises the spring green bush warbler bird (uguisu).

Enjoy with a Sakura tea.

Happy Hanami