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Mochi

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Japanese Micro Season 7立夏 Rikka (Beginning of summer)

立夏 Rikka (Beginning of summer)
May 5–9 蛙始鳴 Kawazu hajimete naku Frogs start singing

May 10–14 蚯蚓出 Mimizu izuru Worms surface

May 15–20 竹笋生 Takenoko shōzu Bamboo shoots sprout

The 5th of May is Children’s day or Boys Day in Japan and is part of the golden week celebrations. Hinamatsuri on March 3rd is set aside for girls day. Children’s day / boys day is celebrates the happiness of children. At this time you may say koi shaped streamers or wind socks flying in the breeze. These are known as koinobori.  Normally a large black koi represents the father of the family a red one for the mother and a blue one for the son of the family. Other colours could be green or orange for additional children. This year I had planned to be in Japan at this time but because of the events happening beyond my control I had to cancel. This is a decoration in my home with a koi streamer cloth on the tea table and koi wind sock hanging from the cherry blossom.

Hopefully I will get the chance to see them for real next year, as I had never visited Japan in May before.

Families May also display the military helmet known as Kabuto which symbolises strength.

On this day a wagashi ( Japanese sweet ) is eaten known as Kashiwa Mochi . A Mochi rice cake wrapped in an oak leaf, again a symbol of strength. You can find out more about this and a recipe on my kashiwa Mochi or children’s day previous posts.

Takenoko or bamboo child are the first shoots of the new bamboo growth and sum up the perfect spring Japanese dish. Takenoko Gohan is a simple recipe you could make using bamboo shoots and rice. You can find this in the spring recipe section of this website.

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: Tokyo 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  ! )

Blog, Winter Food

Japanese Micro Season Part 23 (Lesser cold) 小寒 Shōkan

(Lesser cold) 小寒 Shōkan

January 5–9  芹乃栄 Seri sunawachi sakau  ( Parsley flourishes )

January 10–14  水泉動 Shimizu atataka o fukumu  ( Springs thaw )

January 15–19 雉始 Kiji hajimete naku ( Pheasants start to call )

Nanakusa-Gayu

nana (): seven

kusa (): lit. grass (herb)

(o)kayu (): rice porridge

On the 7th of January in japan (jinjitsu) marks the end of the Oshougatsu (Japanese New Years) . This day is known as nanakusa no sekku (七草の節句), or the Festival of the Seven Weeds . It is custom to make a seven herb rice porridge Nanakusa Gayu 七草粥 to help heal the stomach after the New Year festivities. It is quite common in japan if you have an unwell stomach to eat Okayu rice porridge. The 7th of January is one of the 5 seasonal festivals the porridge is said to prevent illness for the coming year.

The herbs used in japan are waterdrop wort,shepherds purse,cudweed,chickweed,nipplewort,turnip and daikon radish.

As I live in the UK I have had to substitute the Japanese herbs for ones I could find.

I used watercress,rocket,mizuna,chive,basil and parsley a mixture of these with daikon radish.

You can a make this with  kombu dashi ( just soak kombu in water over night ) and Japanese rice with a 1-5 ratio one Japanese rice cooker cup rice to five water. Simmer for around 30 mins adding more dashi if needed, then mix in your herbs and steam for 10 minutes. You could finish by garnishing with some sautéed daikon radish chopped green onion and sesame seeds.

You can cook your rice in dashi or vegetable broth and make  a pesto with the herbs. Just blend a mix of the herbs with olive oil and sesame paste. Then add a spoon of pesto on top with maybe some sautéed daikon and some extra blanched herbs.

It is also nice to add a toasted Mochi rice cake if you like.

If you have left over porridge how about stirring in some creamy white miso for a delicious lunch.

However you cook it it’s a lovely filling meal.

Here’s to good health in 2020 !

Blog, Winter Food

My Osechi Ryori for 2020

Happy New Year Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu 明けましておめでとうございます!

Did you make toshikoshi soba last night to bring in the new year and cut ties with the old ?  2020 is not only the start of a new decade but its the year that Japan will be hosting the summer Olympics and I will be visiting Japan again myself at the end of April ! I’m so excited to be back.

I make Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理 every year for New Year’s Day ( Ganjitsu 元日). Even though I am not in Japan I can bring Japan closer with my food.

New year is a very important time and food has a lot of special meaning. I have made a few posts on Osechi over the years  and this year also my last blog post is on other new year symbolism in Japan.

Osechi Ryori are traditional foods normally packed in a tiered bento box known as ojubuko 重箱 enjoyed at New Year’s Day in Japan. I have made a vegan selection of these dishes. There are other popular dishes but they are not vegan.

Ozoni 関西風お雑煮( Kansai – style ) new year soup This style of soup from Kyoto region is made with miso and toasted Mochi. I added daikon,carrot, komatsuna and Yuzu peel.

Candied chestnut and sweet potato ( Kuri Kinton )  栗きんとん .This golden mash symbolises wealth and fortune.

Kinpira Renkon (Japanese Lotus Root Stir Fry) きんぴら蓮根

Sweet black soy beans (Kuro-mame) 黒豆 Symbolises good health.

Daikon & carrot salad (Namasu ) 紅白なます.These are colours of celebration. I served it inside a Yuzu skin.

Nishime 煮しめ simmered vegetables is a must for a New Years meal and the lotus root is a symbol of an unobstructed view to the future. I used carrot, taro potato, Kouya dofu, lotus root, kabocha,shiitake,konnyaku and snow peas all simmered in a kombu shiitake stock with tamari, mirin and Yuzu. 

I also made some inari sushi いなり寿司 ( because I like them ) and Furofuki daikon 風呂吹き大根  simmered daikon with miso and a tofu, kabocha and Yuzu mousse topped with sweet red beans.

Mitarashi dango みたらし団子 chewy soft warm dumplings with a with a sweet soy sauce glaze.

Amazake 甘酒 is also popular at new year along with sake. Many Shinto shrines sell or provide amazake on New Year’s Eve. There is also a herb sake called O-toso drunk at new year. Drinking O-toso is said to ward off infectious diseases like colds for the year.

Dried persimmon hoshigaki (干し柿).These ones are pretty special they are stuffed with sweet white bean paste and are a wagashi called Suikanshuku (粋甘粛) . It is traditional to eat dried persimmon over the new year as the wrinkled skin is said to be associated with longevity. The Japanese word for persimmon (not dried is kaki ) which means luck. 


What ever your plans for 2020 I hope it brings health, happiness and everything you could possibly wish for. The new year and new decade is full of possibilities.

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Mochi

Sakura Mochi a traditional spring wagashi made  for Hinamatsuri and also to celebrate spring and the coming Sakura season.

There are three colours associated with the girls day festival .  White is for purification, green for health and pink for luck. I made Sakura Mochi in the three colours. Sakura Mochi is Mochi  rice cake with a sweet red bean paste filling and wrapped in a salted pickled Sakura leaf and topped with a salted Sakura flower. They are a nice combination of sweet and salty. Perfect with a green tea.

The recipe is basically the same as my ohagi recipe. If you live outside of japan you may not be able to get the leaves and blossom so easily although you maybe able to order them online from www.souschef.co.uk

I used matcha to colour the rice green and beetroot juice for the pink.

Why not try making Sakura Mochi to celebrate spring.

Blog

Kagami Biraki Zenzai 2019

On the 11th of January in Japan is kagami biraki. Which is the breaking of the Mochi of the Kagami mochi, which literally means “mirror mochi rice cake,”. Kagami mochi is two round mochi, the smaller placed atop the larger, and a daidai Japanese orange with an attached leaf on top. You can buy plastic ones like this in many convenience stores leading up to New Years in Japan and inside you will find the Mochi rice cake. 

Today it is tradition to eat your rice cake often in a dish called Zenzai ぜんざい or Oshiruko お汁粉 a sweet azuki bean soup . Zenzai is a traditional Japanese dessert.  It’s a thick sweet soup consisting
of boiled azuki beans and often served with mochi (rice cake) or shiratama dango (  I had a delicious Zenzai in Kyoto on my last visit so this meal really takes my thoughts back there. Oshiruko is more watery in consistency.

This is a comforting dessert in Japan sold hot in winter and in the summer you can see similar desserts with sweet beans dango and agar jelly called anmitsu . See a previous post . Also I have a previous Zenzai post from 2017 but thought you might like to see this years .

I used sweet red bean paste in a pan simmered in some  water and added grilled Mochi and a sweet chestnut often used in Osechi which I had a few left over from.

Blog, Winter Food

Japanese Year Of The Boar Osechi

Happy New year . It’s 2019 and the year of the boar ( inoshishi) the final animal in the zodiac cycle. The boar is honest and helpful,they are affectionate and kind to loved ones.

It is traditional in Japan to make a special meal for New Year called Osechi . I have covered this is previous posts and the symbolism behind it but thought it would be nice to just share a few of the recipes with you.

Below is my Osechi,which consisted of Onishime,kuro-mame,Kuri-Kinton,Namasu,shojin steak and simmered kabocha. Also served with Ozoni and some yatsuhashi I brought back from Kyoto on my last trip to Japan.  If you would like to make simmered kabocha you can find this in a previous recipe.

Kuromame are Japanese black beans cooked in sweet syrup and are traditionally eaten at this time.

Kuromame (黒豆) which literally translates to black bean are black soy beans cooked in a sweet syrup.

First wash your black soy beans you will need around 100g then soak them in water over night. The next day add them to a pot with water and add 80g of organic granulated sugar with a tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then gently simmer for around three hours. Let them cool in there own juice and then refrigerate.

Eating kuromame also is considered good for your health for the new year.  

Onishime or simmered vegetables

Another traditional meal . First you will need to prepare a dashi stock, I leave a piece of kombu and a dried shiitake in water overnight then put this in a pan and simmer,then remove the kombu and discard,remove the shiitake to use in your meal. Then add mirin around 3 tablespoons to three cups of dashi and 3 tablespoons of tamari and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Prepare all your vegetables. shiitake,,bamboo shoots,taro,carrot,shiitake,daikon,freeze dried tofu ( Kouya Dofu ) and lotus root. The lotus root is very significant as it represents a happy future with out obstacles. Add the vegetables to your dashi except the snow peas and carrots ( I like to blanch these and add them at the end) . Cover with a drop lid ( or otoshibuta )

Simmer until your vegetables are tender. This dish is often served in a new year bento box called Jubako.

It is custom to make Ozoni for breakfast on New Year’s Day. This year I made it with a citrus twist and added Yuzu peel in my dashi when I made the miso broth. If you would like to know more about this dish see previous post Ozoni .

I will be updating my travel section this year with places that I visited on my last trip to Japan.  Places of interest, and restaurant reviews. If you are planning a trip to Japan why not take a look at my travel section for some ideas of things to do .

I also have lots of new ideas for dishes so why not subscribe so you never miss a post this year. Thankyou to you all for all your support both on my website and on Instagram. I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2019!

Blog, Spring Food

Kashiwa Mochi

Happy Children’s day Japan?
To day May 5th in Japan is known as ( Kodomo no hi ) ( こどもの日)
It is part of the string of national holidays over the Golden Week period .
This day is in fact for the boys as girls day Hina Matsuri was in March . However a lot of people celebrate this day now as children’s day.
It is traditional to eat these mochi wagashi called Kashiwa mochi to day . They symbolise a child’s growth as an oak leaf is used to wrap the mochi ( not edible ). The reason an oak leaf is used is because oak trees do not shed their leaves until the new ones start to grow so thus are seen as a symbol of harmonious flow from one generation to the next. They are also a symbol of growth,strength and prosperity. These mochi are made from pounded sweet joshinko rice flour and filled with bean paste . Other mochi can be filled with white sweet bean and miso paste known as misoan. How would you know if a mochi is filled with bean paste or miso paste ? Well look at the leaves the mochi is wrapped in. If the veins are on the outside there is bean paste inside.

I was lucky enough to be sent some of the preserved oak leaves from japan so I set out to make Kashiwa Mochi . I’m really hoping next year I am in japan eating an authentic Japanese one and visiting the wisteria park and seeing the azalea.

To make 5 Kashiwa Mochi

( they do not keep well so only make what you plan to eat on the day or at the very latest the next day)

x5 preserved oak leaves ( not edible)

125g of Koshi-an ( smooth bean paste)

100g of Joshinko flour

x1 tablespoon of organic granulated sugar

130 mil of water

you will need a sharp knife,some paper towel, a microwaveable bowl,something to pound the Mochi like a rolling pin or pestle and plastic wrap and a spoon ( also have to hand a bowl of water and a damp cloth.

First rinse and pat dry with some paper towel your oak leaves and set aside.

Then make five balls of sweet bean paste and set aside

Add joshinko flour and sugar to a bowl and mix then add your water and mix. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 4 mins.

When done remove from the microwave and use a wet spoon to loosen the edges. Start to pound your Mochi with your pestle or rolling pin.

When it is smooth and elastic take out of the bowl and place on a damp surface, dampen your hands and knead the Mochi.

When nice and stretchy form into a log shape and cut into five pieces with a damp sharp knife. Cover with a damp cloth,while you make each mochi. Keep your hands and surfaces damp to avoid sticking.

Flatten each piece out into an egg shape then place a ball of sweet bean paste in the centre and fold over your Mochi to cover it and then pinch the ends together. Wrap with an oak leaf and you are done.

They are best eaten straight away they are so chewy and soft. If you need to store them wrap them in plastic wrap and put in an airtight container. I did have one the next day and although still nice they were no where near as nice as eating straight away.

I hope what ever you do you all have a wonderful Golden week in Japan and happy children’s day !

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri is a festival in Japan celebrated on March 3rd.
Sometimes also known as girls day or dolls day. On this day parents celebrate their daughters happiness and good health.

It is tradition to display ceremonial dolls,sometimes past down from many generations. There are lots of special foods associated with this day. You will find three colours of significance often displayed in a layered mochi rice cake known as hishi mochi. I made a coconut ice in these three colours and also a tofu mousse dessert.

White is for purification, green for health and pink for luck.

Another sweet eaten is Sakura Mochi. Mochi rice cake with a sweet red bean paste filling and wrapped in a salted pickled Sakura leaf and topped with a salted Sakura flower. They are a nice combination of sweet and salty.

A drink called Umeshu or plum wine goes down well for Hinamatsuri. Have it chilled on its own or with soda or even a splash in green tea for a hot drink. Plum blossom is very significant at this time as it is the start of the Hanami or flower viewing festivals and marks the beginning of spring.

Temari sushi is one of the traditional meals you can have. These decorated sushi balls take their name from Temari balls which children used to play with. Temari means hand ball. They are beautiful embroidered balls that to day are mainly used for decoration.

Another food also associated with Hinamatsuri is chirashi sushi you can find a recipe for this in one of my other posts. Which is a simple scattered sushi dish.

For to day I also made Inari sushi for my final meal served with three colour coconut ice and a nice glass of Umeshu.

Happy Hinamatsuri 幸せなひな祭り

Blog

New Year Traditions

2018 is the animal year of the dog. Each year is related to 12 animals if you were born in 1934,1946,1958,1970,1982,1994,2006 and 2018 you are a dog.
I was born in 1970 so my animal is the dog. It is said not to be a lucky year when it is your animal year and to ward off bad luck it is said you should wear red. Lucky numbers are 3,4,9 or a combination like 39 or 49. Lucky flowers are rose and orchid.

A popular thing to do for New Year is to get a daruma doll. The doll comes with no eyes and you paint on one eye with your goal or intention for the year. Back in 2012 I set a goal ( I have yet to paint in the other eye ) My goal was to work in a career with something that had a connection to japan in some way. I hope I get to paint in the other eye.

Kagami mochi is a traditional Japanese decoration consisting of two round mochi .
This one is store bought and has mochi inside. On the 11th of January it is known as Kagami Biraki ( the breaking of the new year mochi ) so I opened mine and this year I made grilled mochi rice cake with thick matcha tea with sweet red beans. 美味しい!
This was a bit different to the zenzai I normally have.

I hope that 2018 isn’t too unlucky for me and that anyone else born in the year of the dog has luck and health ( just remember to wear that red ! )

Autumn Food, Blog

Ohagi

The Autumn equinox is nearly upon us. In Japan it is a Buddhist festival known as higan. In the spring it is known as haru no higan . To celebrate I made Ohagi. This is a traditional confectionery made of sweet mochi rice pounded and shaped with a red bean centre . It is traditional to take these with flowers and incense to the graves of ancestors at this time. In the spring the sweets are called Botamochi named after the tree peony botan . In the fall the same sweets are called ohagi named after the clover bush hagi. I covered mine with kinako and black sesame .

Served with a nice green tea they make a wonderful treat .

This is how to make your very own ( it takes a little time but is well worth the effort !)
1 cup of Japanese rice
1 cup of mochi rice
plastic wrap
tsubu-an ( bean paste )
toppings  matcha powder,kinako ground black sesame powder
first wash your rice together really well changing the water a few times
place in your rice cooker with four cups of water and cook until done,
then pound your rice I use the end of a rolling pin until some it’s mashed but still has some grain don’t over pound or it will be to sticky mix it as your pounding in between with your rice paddle so it’s even.
take about 70g of rice if your having rice on the outside and make balls of these in plastic wrap . Flatten each one spreading it out. Measure out balls of bean paste 30g and place in the middle of each flattened out ball ( mould  the rice around the bean paste .
If you want to do a reverse 40g rice and 60g red bean paste .
when they are all done roll them in your chosen topping .
I like to then wrap each one in plastic wrap and freeze them and defrost over night ( great for a bento dessert ) .