Tag

Kabocha

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.

 

Blog

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.

 

 

 

Blog

Teru Teru Bozu & Tsuyu

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

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

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

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

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

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Houtou (Hōtō) ほうとう

It has been a typical autumn day today. The wind has nearly blown all the leaves off the cherry tree. The seasons go by so fast. No sooner am I enjoying the beautiful Sakura blossom than it quickly falls to make way for bright green summer leaves which then turn all to soon yellow and orange. Today they have nearly all dropped to reveal the dark naked branches.

I wanted to make a cosy autumn dish so I chose Hōtō . A comforting miso noodle soup originating from Yamanashi in Japan. This is normally made with large flat udon style noodles but without making some or having any in my store cupboard I decided to use a gluten-free alternative made by Clearspring, brown rice wide noodles. They worked a treat.

I first simmered a selection of winter vegetables daikon,carrot,parsnip,brussels sprouts,napa cabbage,kabocha,maitake and kale,with enough water to cover and a drop lid or otoshibuta. Add leafy greens at the end of simmering the vegetables.

When the vegetables are tender and you have added your greens mix one tablespoon each of Hatcho miso and white miso paste in a bowl with a little cooking liquid to dissolve,then add to your pot . The hatcho miso gives the soup a nice earthy rich flavour .

Soak your rice noodles for 10 mins in a bowl of hot water to soften and then add them to the gently simmering pot for a further 10 mins.

Or if you are using fresh udon add them directly to the pot.

Now cosy up on a dark autumn evening and enjoy.

Autumn Food, Blog

Simmered Kabocha (Kabocha no Nimono)

This meal was so flavourful and it made me feel like autumn had truly arrived . Using Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) this is a typical simple seasonal dish in Japan.

Make some kombu dashi by soaking a piece of kombu in water over night. Then the  next day discard the kombu.

First cut a large wedge ( around a quarter of a large pumpkin ) and take out the seeds,place on a plate in the microwave for a few minutes to soften (this will make it easier to cut and also cut down your cooking time). Take out your pumpkin from the microwave and cut into equal wedges and lie skin side down in a pan. Add enough kombu dashi to cover along with 1 teaspoon of sugar,1 teaspoon of mirin and 1 teaspoon of tamari or soy sauce. Give the pan a swirl and cover with a low drop lid or otoshibuta if you have one. Simmer the pumpkin until tender. Place a few pieces of pumpkin in a dish and ladle over your sweet dashi broth.

I served this with Nasu Dengaku. I cut a whole eggplant in half length ways and then scored a deep grid pattern into the flesh. Get a pan with hot oil and pan sear on both sides. I mixed two miso pastes together a sweet white miso and a more rustic brown rice miso with a little mirin. Then I added this to the top of the eggplant and placed it in the oven. It turned out so delicious. The flesh was so tender but the miso was slightly crispy .

It made for a perfect Teishoku meal with miso soup,yaki onigiri and a persimmon tofu mousse for dessert.