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Kabocha

Autumn Food, Blog

Live by the (Shun) 旬 The Philosophy of seasonal eating part 4 Autumn

When the cicadas can be heard no more, the leaves start to turn and the temperatures cool, we know Aki Kinu ( Autumn has arrived in Japan ! ) This is known as Kigo a word or phrase that is used in Japanese poetry to associate with Japanese seasons.

In Japan people are very much in touch with the changing of the seasons. Aki is the word for autumn/fall in Japan and after the hot humid heat of the Japanese summer, people look forward to the cooling breezes and clear blue skies that the new season brings.

During the heat of the summer people loose their appetites so when autumn comes people refer to it as   Shokuyoku no Aki ( Autumn the season of Appetites).

Autumn is the season of the rice harvest with  world sake day being held on October 1st at the start of sake production. 

There is an abundance of delicious produce to have at this time from, matsutake mushrooms, persimmons (kaki), chestnuts known as Kuri or marron when it is in a sweet or dessert, sweet potato and a variety of squash and pumpkins.



Even the Starbucks gets on board with seasonal flavours like sweet potato or chocolate marron flavour. This year japan will be finally getting a pumpkin spice latte after a long 15 year absence along with Starbucks Reserve serving up a warming autumn spice oat latte.

I decided to do my own version with powdered hojicha, spices and warm oat milk. I made some chocolate chip pumpkin spiced loaf cake  to go with it. It made the perfect tea time snack.

To make the pumpkin spice loaf cake :preheat your oven 180 degrees c

I used 1 cup of puréed pumpkin that I had steamed and scooped from the flesh. Combine that in a bowl  with 1/3 cup of coconut oil, 1 tea of brown rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon  of maple syrup. In another bowl add x2 cups of plain flour, 1/2 cup of coconut sugar and 1/2 a cup of caster sugar,1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda a pinch of salt and some pumpkin spice ( I will let you decide how much spice you want to put in, you can also add other spices like cinnamon or nutmeg ) Add the wet ingredients to the dry and give it a good mix. I then gradually started to add oat milk. You can use any plant based milk. Add a little at a time until you get a batter consistency. Throw in some chocolate chips or walnuts are also nice and give it one final mix but don’t mix too much.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and pour in the batter smoothing it out evenly. Bake for around 60 mins.
Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.
Japan sometimes refer to autumn also as Aki no Mikaku ( autumn the season of flavours ).

You may like to try making some simple rice dishes with mushrooms, chestnuts or sweet potato  that are popular at this time.

Another thing that people anticipate with the changing seasons is Momiji, this refers to the Japanese maple tree. As well as viewing the cherry blossoms in spring people in Japan are also excited about the turning of the maple leaves from green to bright vivid red and orange, this is known as kouyou or autumn colours.

There is a word in Japanese Fuubutsushi this refers to the little things that signal a change in the seasons, the feelings, scents, images and sounds that might evoke memories or anticipation of the coming season. I think when we become more aware of this it helps us to centre ourselves and celebrate the passing of time.

As well as viewing the beautiful leaves and partaking in eating delicious food. Japan has other sayings for autumn.

Dokusho no Aki ( Fall the season of reading ) with the nights drawing in people find it easier to sit and read.

Also Koraku no Aki ( Fall the season of athletics, or activities outdoors). I guess this is why on the second Monday in October Japan have a national holiday known as sports day. This year it was brought forward to coincide with the Olympics. 

Maybe it’s time to get out those winter blankets that you have put away over the summer, in Japan they have something called a kotatsu a table with a blanket and a heater underneath, doesn’t that sound cosy.

What ever way you choose to enjoy autumn I hope you are all stay safe and well. Why not take some inspiration from my autumn recipe food section and cook up something to celebrate the season with what ever seasonal produce you can find. Or go hunting for the changing leaves so you can admire them this is known as “Momiji -Gari” in Japan and is a very popular thing to do in Autumn. 

Blog, Summer Food

Live by the (Shun) 旬 The philosophy of seasonal eating part 3 Summer

Have you heard of the term Dog days of summer? A period in the farmers almanac from July 3rd- August 11th. This is a term used to describe the hottest sultry days. This is a time when the sun occupies the same region of sky as Sirius the brightest visible star in the night sky that’s rises and sets with the sun. Sirius also known as the Dog Star and is part of the constellation Canis Major. This star was connected with heat draught and sudden storms.
We seam to spend a lot of the summer looking up into the sky in Japan. Maybe to view the spectacular fireworks that explode in the summer sky or to witness the form of the fluffiest of summer cumulonimbus clouds that signify a down pour might be on its way. The clouds even even has a sub micro season named after them Taiu tokidoki furu ( Great rains sometimes fall). The whole micro season is called Taisho meaning Greater Heat and you can read more about this in my separate micro season posts. As the temperatures start to climb we are reminded once more by scents, feelings sounds and images that evoke memories of the changing  seasons. This is known in Japan as Fuubutsushi. What does summer in Japan mean to you? I think like every season we are aware of Mono no aware “the pathos of things” basically the awareness of impermanence. Every season you are made aware of the powerful emotions associated with the changing seasons. From the cherry blossoms of spring to the kouyou colours of autumn. It is the key part of helping us centre on the hear and now and celebrate each season with the passing of time. Summer in Japan brings with it  its own impermanence. The sounds of cicadas is a quintessential sound that signifies summer is here. Cicadas live for seven years underground before escaping to the surface only to live but a short seven days above ground. The Hasu or lotus flower pops open in the early morning dew like the fireworks that are over so quickly the blooms of the lotus last but four days. In Buddhism the impermanence of life states we should use this to let go of attachments. Maybe the way to appreciate life to its  fullest  means we concentrate on the hear and now allowing each day to be lived in the moment.

The cooling sounds of summer are felt by the tinkling of a fuurin “Japanese wind chime” when a sound is heard people know there is a light cool breeze. After the blistering heat of the day it is tradition in Japan to enjoy the cooler evenings maybe by taking a walk to watch fireflies in the early twilight or  watch the sunset with a glass of sake after a evening bath. This is a habit called Yusuzumi “enjoying coolness by looking at things”.

Uchimizu is another practice originating from the sado tea ceremony. It is the act of enjoying the sprinkle of water on a stoney path. The act causes vaporisation and decreases the ground temperature. You may in the summer see shop keepers also do this outside their businesses.

Summer brings a sense of nostalgia in Japan it is known as  Natsukashii. I remember long hot days that seamed to never end as a child, riding bikes, climbing trees, making dens, playing with newts in the pond, (I was a bit of a Tom boy ) but they were good memories and simple pleasures.

As the crops begin to turn golden and sunflowers (Himawari) dance their sunny heads in the fields  (another symbol of summer) the obon festival is almost upon us, a time to remember family and friends that have past over from this world. For a short time it is said they visit us again and join us in dance and song until it is time to say farewell for another year.


Summer brings many eagerly awaited produce at the markets and “Shun” refers to the time they are at peak season. Enjoy the bounty of nature that summer brings us edamame, suica, Goya,eggplant, cucumber, okra and sweet bell peppers are all perfect right now . When you see fresh corn at the market why not pick some up to make this summer rice dish.
Using corn on the cob with vegan butter to make a Japanese summer favourite sweetcorn rice bursts with the flavour of summer. The secret is to use fresh corn not the tinned variety. Rinse your rice like you would normally and add this to your rice cooker or pan. For one rice cooker cup add one rice cooker cup of water and two teaspoons of soy sauce or tamari. Leave to soak for a few hours. Cut off the corn from the cob and add this to the top of your rice but do not mix and place the cobs on top you may need to cut them in half to fit them in. Cook your rice and when done take out the cobs and add fresh ground pepper and vegan butter. Cover the lid and let the rice steam and butter melt. When ready to serve fluff up the rice mixing the rice and corn together. If you have made any furikake this is perfect to sprinkle on top.

I decided to grow some of my own vegetables this year and I have taken great pleasure in going out each morning checking up on the progress of growth each day.


I decided to grow Mizuna and Mibuna mustard greens, both considered Kyoyasai “green treasures of Kyoto “ there are 37 varieties documented as kyoyasai and have played a key role for centuries in the food culture of Kyoto. Mibuna a close sibling of mizuna received its name from the Mibu- dera temple. I grew mizuna for salads as it contains 10 times more vitamin C and 3 times more fibre than lettuce and Mibuna to use like spinach. I also grew Kabu and daikon radish. I think I’d like to go into more detail in another blog post about Kyoyasai at some point, but for now would love to share a simple recipe with you for daikon furikake.
Furikake is a Japanese condiment often sprinkled on top of cooked rice. Shop bought ones can often not be vegan as they may consist of dried fish. For the first time ever as I was growing my own daikon I had daikon leaves to enjoy as well. Daikon do not often come with leaves attached in the U.K. which is a real shame as the leaves are delicious blanched and eaten like spinach or are wonderful chopped up and just mixed into warm rice.
As I had an abundance of daikon leaves I picked them to make easy furikake.

Pick and wash the leaves, then blanch for a few minutes in boiling salted water.


Have a bowl of ice water ready and plunge the boiled leaves straight into the water to avoid any extra cooking.
Remove from the water and shake off excess then pat dry with some kitchen towel.

Bunch up the leaves and chop finely, then spread out onto some parchment paper on a baking sheet.


Place them in the oven and dry out on your ovens lowest setting until they become dry.


Remove from the oven and grind in a Japanese grinding bowl known as a suribachi. (More about this in a bit ).


I decided to add toasted white sesame seeds and goma shio black sesame seeds and salt to mine, I then put them in a jar to use on top of rice.

Now the suribachi bowl and surikogi wood pestle is the Japanese equivalent of a mortar and pestle and is used in Japan to crush and grind ingredients like toasted sesame seeds for instance. The bowl is glazed on the outside and has a rough pattern on the inside called Kushi-no-me. You could use this for making a sesame dressing for spinach called goma-ae or a mashed tofu dish called shira-ae both of these can be found on my recipe pages.


I had received from nama yasai farm some kinome the leaves from the Japanese sansho and decided to use my suribachi to crush the leaves to make a pesto.
All I did was add the sansho leaves to the bowl and added some other leaves like basil and peppery nasturtium and started to crush them.

Then add some oily nuts this could be in the form of walnuts or pine nuts and again start to grind them add a little olive oil and a pinch of salt as it all starts to combine.


If you like you can add more ingredients like maple syrup or sesame paste maybe some soy sauce. Even some Yuzu juice would be nice. Experiment to see what you like and add this to pasta or a potato salad. Another similar thing you can do is grind toasted walnuts and then mix in some sun dried tomatoes with some of the oil they come with for another kind of pesto.
As well as the mizuna Mibuna Kabu and daikon I am growing two kinds of pumpkin Kuri and Kabocha. Did you know that everything is edible from the flesh and seeds to the flowers and leaves. I decided to use some of the pumpkin leaves as wraps.


Steaming the leaves then adding some of the pesto I had made with tofu and finally wrapping the tofu up with the leaf.

One of the things being a new vegetable grower I didn’t realise about pumpkins is they have male and female flowers and rely on bee pollination for you to get pumpkins . If the female which looks like this

isn’t pollinated the small pumpkins will not grow and will just wither and die. You can help this along by using a soft brush and collect pollen from the male and brush it onto the female.

I actually found this out quite late but luckily I have a few starting to grow.


It’s all nature but sometimes it helps to give it a helping hand.

The last thing I have been growing is shiso a healthy Japanese herb, be it red or green they both have health benefits. The green leaves are often used with sushi as they have antibacterial qualities and are also good to help stomach upsets. Shiso also has a high iron and calcium content. Good for the respiratory tract and immunity I think that shiso is definitely something people should be using more of especially with things as they are at the moment. Related to the mint family shiso is also known as perilla. So what can you do with it ? How about steeping a few leaves in boiling water to make a relaxing tea. You can even make a pesto like the ones I mentioned above just use 1 cup of shiso leaves and grind with lemon a pinch of salt olive oil and nuts ( pine or walnuts) . I decided to make a red shiso syrup, I had been seeing it a lot served in the summer mixed with ice and soda as a cooling summer drink in Japan and wanted to give this a try.
Depending on how big your red shiso plant is you might be able to make more. I used 24grm of washed shiso leaves.

Add these to a pan with 300ml of water and bring to the boil. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and boil until the sugar dissolves and the leaves turn green and your water purple.


Then add two tablespoons of lemon juice this will make the colour really pop. Drain and leave to cool . It’s as simple as that. Add a little to a glass with ice and soda or use as a topping drizzled over ice cream or kakigori. My only regret is not growing more as this tastes amazing . Next year for sure !

What are the things you remember most about summers in Japan? We know they are notoriously hot and humid and there are many things people do to help overcome the heat, like eating kakigori shaved ice, using a Uchiwa paddle fan or wearing a light cotton  yukata. All of these along with the summer firework festivals make summer just that little bit more bearable.
As the nights are noticeably getting shorter we can grasp on to the final rays of sun until the cicadas sing their final song and we say good bye to the swallows until next year and hello to autumn.

 

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.


 

 

Blog, Winter Food

Hachinohe Senbei-Jiru & Suiton

As we dive deeper into colder days the winter micro season on the 7th of December with Sora samuku fuyu to naru meaning “cold sets in winter begins” starts. This is a time to start thinking of cosy home cooked meals with seasonal ingredients to feed the soul and warm the body.
Have you heard of a dish called Senbei-Jiru? It’s a country-style rice cracker stew sometimes known as wafer soup, from the northern prefecture of Aomori in the city of Hachinohe.

This dish dating back to the Edo period uses something called Nambu-senbei crackers. They are made from wheat and salt and are formed  into thin round shapes before toasting.

They can be eaten on their own or as a snack or in this case they are dropped into a soup before serving. The soup varies but always has seasonal vegetables and mushrooms in either a soy sauce or miso broth. The wafers absorb the flavour and when In the soup take on a dumpling like texture. This is how the soup known as “Suiton” evolved from this to Senbei-Jiru, as the crackers can be stored dry for a long time.  Suiton is a soup commonly known as Hitsumi is an earthy vegetable soup with dumplings made from rice or wheat flour sometimes known as Hatto-Jiru or Dango-Jiru.

I decided to make one base miso vegetable soup and try it three ways.

The soup can be any seasonal vegetables with a kombu dashi, like potato, daikon,carrot and kabocha then mushrooms I used shiitake. The soup normally has some meat so I used strips of aburaage instead ( deep fried tofu ) I love this in broth as it soaks up all the lovely flavours. I then added some miso. I used a combination of organic Japanese brown rice miso and white miso paste by Clearspring.
For the Suiton you need dumplings 1/2 cup of all purpose flour mixed with 1/4 cup of water and a little salt. Mix into a dough and form into balls. Drop the balls into the cooked soup when they float to the top they are ready. Serve with some chopped green onions or chopped greens like komatsuna.

I was lucky enough to be sent some nambu-senbei from Japan so in my second dish I added these just before serving.

However like many of you who can’t get the authentic thing why not just try using wheat crackers the type you would use for cheese. I tried these ones.

The second part of the winter micro season starts on the 12th of December and is Kuma ana ni komoru meaning bears start hibernating in their dens.  Maybe that’s something we also do in away. We stay inside on cold dark days. It’s a time to cosy up under a blanket or in Japan something called a kotatsu which is a low level table draped with a thick blanket with a heater underneath. The perfect place to eat your nourishing soup which ever way you choose to prepare it.

Autumn Food

Kabocha & Chestnut Cookies

I have been loving using Kabocha pumpkin in sweet recipes, it has a lovely nutty flavour and a great consistency that yields well to baked goods. When I saw this chestnut flour I knew I wanted to try it to make cookies. If you can’t get hold of this other flours will be fine to use like oat or rice.


First steam 1/2 a Kabocha pumpkin and let it cool. Scoop out the flesh, you need enough for 1 cup of pumpkin. Add this into a food processor and add to it 1/3 cup of maple syrup, one teaspoon of almond essence or you could use vanilla essence and two tablespoons of melted coconut butter.
Add to a bowl 1 cup of chestnut flour and 1/2 cup almond flour to that add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, add to this either pumpkin spice powder or a mix of cinnamon and nutmeg. Give this a mix and then add your wet ingredients to your dry. Cream it together to form a dough add a little water a few teaspoons a little at a time if your dough is too dry but do not make it too wet.

Form a ball and place it in the fridge to chill for around 30 mins.


Take out your dough and roll it on some parchment paper, use a cookie cutter to cut out any shapes you like. If you have a pumpkin cookie cutter I think this would be a great time to use it. As I didn’t I just cut mine into rounds. I then placed each cookie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and added a few pumpkin seeds for decoration.
Bake in a moderate oven, these cookies are quite soft not crispy.



They would also work well crumbled onto porridge or use as I did as a crust for pumpkin pie using mini tartlet cases.


Just grease the cases before adding your biscuit base and bake. After you can add your pie filling. I love the pumpkin custard pie filling from the vegan pudding company. Originally from Japan they are now based in Canada but they ship world wide. Or just use my tofu pumpkin pie recipe. This company do three filling favours the vanilla is the pumpkin but they also do a chocolate and a matcha.

Happy Halloween Happy Fall

Autumn Food, Blog

Basque Style Cheese Cake

A dessert that’s very trendy in Japan at the moment is the basque style cheese cake. A crust less cheese cake with almost a burnt surface and a golden centre using eggs, milk and cream cheese. This is my vegan version. It tastes a cross between a cheese cake and an egg custard but no eggs or dairy !
What is my egg replacement ? Many people thought it was tofu but the wait is over I can reveal its Kabocha pumpkin !
There is a variation on the basque cheese cake called a Far Breton, many have prunes or raisins at the bottom so you could add this too to the recipe if you like. They are both perfect served warm with some soy cream. I have recipe tested this many times with different variations and I have found it best made in a lined loaf tin .
So for all of you that were waiting for this recipe here you are and I would love to see any of you that recreate this on Instagram. Remember to tag me in and I will repost.
You will need:

x1 carton or soft vegan cream cheese

this is the one I used.


200 ml of soy milk I recommend BonSoy as it’s nice and creamy

x1 and 1/2 heaped tablespoon of steamed and mashed Kabocha pumpkin

1/2 cup of granulated unrefined sugar

x3 tablespoons of plain flour

a tablespoon of maple syrup and a teaspoon of vanilla essence

And that’s it !

Slightly soften your cream cheese ( I added mine to the microwave for 30 sec) then add this to a food processor

Process everything together cream cheese, sugar, maple syrup, soy milk, vanilla, and pumpkin then add your flour last.  Then pour into a lined loaf pan.

Bake on a high preheated oven around 200 degrees for a fan oven  for 30-40 mins and then chill over night in the fridge before removing and cutting.

 

Blog

Moon viewing and celebrating autumn

As the shades of autumn are becoming even more apparent now with fields turning as golden as the evening light. It is an important time in Japan for the rice harvest. The first of October is known as world sake day “Nihonshu no Hi” and is the New Year’s Day of  Sake. It marks the first day of the sake making season as it is a time when the rice is gathered from the fields to start the production into sake.
The morning sky is laced with the fish scale cirrocumulus clouds and I can understand why the Japanese call them Uroko gumo (uroko meaning scale)

There is a bountiful harvest of foods the most popular in Japan at this time being sweet potato, chestnut, mushrooms, pumpkin and edamame. Mixing some of these with rice is one way to enjoy both at the same time, also using seasonings like soy sauce and mirin.

As the evenings darken we draw our attention to the moon. One such event in Japan is known as Tsukimi or Jugoya  which is a moon viewing festival that dates back over a thousand years.

This year it falls on October 1st to coincide with the sake new year. It is custom to drink sake at tsukimi and eat the foods of the season. Another food that is popular to eat is Dango. Round rice dumplings in the shape of the full moon. Piled into a pyramid shape they are made as offerings at this time.

People may decorate their houses with susuki ススキ (pampas grass) . Pampas grass symbolises the coming of autumn and was once used to thatch roofs and feed animals.

Near the well known Heian shrine in Kyoto tucked away is the Shinto shrine Okazaki, dedicated to childbirth and conceiving, the symbol of the shrine is a rabbit and you will find many statues and images of rabbits there.

Another symbol of Tuskimi is the rabbit, this is because unlike some people who see a face in the moon the Japanese see an image of a rabbit in the moon pounding Mochi with a huge mallet.

You can find more information on previous posts I have made  by searching Otsukimi or microseason posts 15 or why not take a look at my autumn recipe section there you will find takikomi gohan a mixed rice dish, or lots of ways to enjoy Kabocha.

With many festivities cancelled this year this is one that you can definitely enjoy either on your own or with family.
Happy moon viewing.

Blog, Winter Food

Japanese Micro Season Part 22 Touji Winter Solstice

At this time of year everything is in hibernation waiting to emerge again in the spring. This is the time of the  shortest day the Winter Solstice known in the Japanese micro season as Touji ( Toji ) (冬至).

Touji has subdivisions

22nd December-26th self heal sprouts

乃東生 Natsukarekusa shōzu

27th December-31st Dears shed antlers

麋角解 Sawashika no tsuno otsuru

1st-4th January Wheat sprouts under snow

雪下出麦 Yuki watarite mugi nobiru

The 22nd of December is the winter solstice and in Japan it is custom to eat pumpkin and have a bath with Yuzu.

Japanese people celebrate the solstice as they welcome the return of longer days, they pray for good health and eat auspicious food. Japanese people like a hot bath or onsen and a bath with Yuzu at this time is called yuzu-yu and is perfect for relaxing and warming the body. I have some Yuzu bath salts from Japan that I will be using.

Yuzu is a winter citrus fruit and is known for its cleansing properties, it is said the strong smell of Yuzu will drive away evil spirits.
I also decided to make the perfect healthy and simple Japanese meal called  yudofu ( hot water tofu  ) with some lovely hot pot tofu from Hokkaidō.


The broth was kombu, tamari, mirin and Yuzu peel, and I served it with Yuzu ponzu, grated daikon radish and green onion. This meal is full of protein and minerals from the kombu.

I find that the peel freezes well and so can be dropped into a hot broth to give flavour at any time of year weather it’s in season or not. Yuzu is not a fruit that can be easily obtained in the UK and can be expensive but you can find Asian super markets selling Yuzu juice if you can’t get a fresh fruit. The Yuzu juice also makes nice tofu desserts and I have lots of Yuzu recipes on this website ( just do a search for Yuzu ).
Kabocha pumpkin is customarily eaten at the solstice, it is referred to as a good luck food which also fills the body with nourishment and vitamins. I have also lots of kabocha recipes on this website so just do a search if you would like to make something with kabocha pumpkin.


Itokoni  a Shojin ryori dish of simmered kabocha, konnyaku,root vegetables, fried tofu and azuki beans is a popular meal. It is a regional Buddhist cuisine from Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures.


Others auspices foods are daikon radish, carrot, lotus root  and ginnan, enjoy these to bring good health.

Over the new year there are many foods that are eaten for this reason. Why not check out some of my new year blog posts to find out how to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Oh-misoka) and New Year’s Day (Oshogatsu) Japan style.
I will of course be making my usual foods Toshikoshi soba, Ozoni and Osechi Ryori and you can find ideas and recipes for any of these by just either searching New Year or the separate items.
I hope everyone has a healthy winter solstice and a prosperous New Year.

 

 

Blog

Kabocha Chocolate Truffles

I decided to make a treat for Halloween . These pumpkin truffles are so easy to make with just a few simple ingredients.

All you will need is half a small kabocha pumpkin, 100g of almond flour, one tablespoon of maple syrup and one large bar of vegan chocolate.
Steam your pumpkin and when it’s done scoop out the flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork and leave to cool. Break up your chocolate into a bowl and melt under hot simmering water.
Empty the almond flour into the bowl with the cooled pumpkin and add maple syrup. Cream this all together, you could also add orange essence or vanilla for extra flavouring if you wish.
Place some parchment paper onto a tray. Take large tablespoons of your pumpkin mix and roll it into a ball. I pushed a hazel nut inside each one, you can do this if you wish. Then dip each ball in melted chocolate and place on the tray. Keep doing this until everything is used up. I then added a sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts on top. You could do this or add another topping of your choice, maybe coconut.

Chill to set in the fridge. Happy Halloween.

Autumn Food, Blog

Ginkgo Festival Tokyo

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Tofu & kabocha Pie

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

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

Then add your cooled pumpkin and blend until smooth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn Food, Blog

Kabocha Yaki Onigiri

This is a delicious onigiri and super easy to make .

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

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

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

 

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Japanese Micro Seasons Part 14 処暑 Shosho (Manageable heat)

処暑 Shosho (Manageable heat)
August 23–27 綿柎開 Wata no hana shibe hiraku Cotton flowers bloom

August 28–September 1 天地始粛 Tenchi hajimete samushi Heat starts to die down

September 2–7 禾乃登 Kokumono sunawachi minoru Rice ripens

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

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

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

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