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Rice

Blog, Spring Food

Japanese Micro Season Part 11 大寒 Daikan Greater cold

January 20–24  冬華   Fuki no hana saku  Butterburs bud

January 25-29 水沢腹堅  Kiwamizu kōri tsumeru Ice thickens on streams

January 30- February 3 鶏始乳 Niwatori hajimete toya ni tusku hens start laying eggs

I actually want to talk a bit about what happens right at the end of this micro season on February 3rd. This day is regarded as particularly important as it is the transition from winter to spring. The day before the first day of spring on February 3rd is called Setsubun. On this day there are a few customs in Japan one of them is to eat an uncut makizushi called (eho-maki ) while you sit in silence facing the years lucky direction, 2020 being west south west and make a wish for the rest of the coming year. The eho-maki must have seven ingredients, these relate to the seven lucky gods Shichifukujin.

Another Setsubun custom is for the male person of the house to wear a demon mask called ( oni ) and then throw roasted soy beans at other family members and out of the door while shouting “ Oniwa soto Futuwa uchi ! ” meaning demons out luck in. This ritual is called Mamemaki or bean scattering and as well as doing it at home shrines and temples hold this ritual also and many people go to partake in the Oni oi-Shiki ceremony. Women may sometimes wear the otafuku mask which is Lady Luck.


As well as the roasted soybean scattering it is custom to eat as many soybeans as your age plus one for the year to come to insure a year of good health.
Why not try making a long sushi roll for yourself this year. Fillings can be anything you like . Try asparagus, cucumber, tofu, kanpyo, shiitake, carrot or a vegan style cutlet.
I always like to celebrate Setsubun to welcome in the new spring season, although spring still feels a very long way off at the moment but the small signs are there if care to take a look.

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 10 (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 !

Autumn Food, Blog, Winter Food

Shiitake & Miso Risotto

I had lots of shiitake mushrooms that needed using up, so I decided to create this creamy comforting risotto.
Use one rice cooker measuring cup of Japanese sushi rice, wash well and leave to soak for a few hours then use your rice cooker measuring cup to measure out x4 cups of hot water ( around 500ml ) add this to a jug with half a vegetable stock cube and one tablespoon of sweet white miso and dissolve. Add your soaked rice to a rice cooker or pan and add half your stock, put your rice cooker on cook or cook your rice in a pan.
Slice what ever mushrooms you like a mix of shiitake, maitake and oyster is nice. Melt some vegan butter and sautéed until the mushrooms are cooked.
When the rice cooker clicks over add the sautéed mushrooms and the remaining stock and put it back on cook. Keep stirring a few times. When it’s done a second time stir in some soy cream and add salt and pepper to taste. Also nice with some chopped parsley and vegan Parmesan. I made my own by pulsing hemp hearts and nutritional yeast. Serve with some nice warm crusty or sourdough bread.

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

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.

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Season Part 3 Autumn Equinox & Making Ohagi


We are now heading in to the shorter days of Autumn. Monday 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

Creation In The Kitchen

There is nothing I enjoy more that creating Japanese inspired food, as I’ve often said somehow it helps me feel more connected to Japan. Even when I cannot be in Japan, using Japanese ingredients to make my food and using the preparation as almost a meditation soothes my soul.

Like most people meals I might start with a list, maybe you have a recipe to follow and you need to get the ingredients. I often plan out what I am going to make and gather the items I need . However when I have a little more time I let the ingredients do the talking. Blindly like an artist might use a blank canvas and paints I look what ingredients I have to hand starting with the fresh produce, then I start to think about what I can make with them using my cupboard stables. I always make sure I have different kinds of miso in the fridge, all my different bottles from mirin,tamari,brown rice vinegar to toasted sesame oil. Sesame seeds, seaweeds,noodles,rice,are all there in my culinary palette. I start to chop and sauté, mix this with that, until I end up with my finished meal. The seasons in Japan play a big part in Japanese life and it definitely reflects in their cuisine, so I like to do the same.

Choosing as much as I can organic and in season and using the least amount of plastic packaging possible, I often pick from seasonal products from a company that offer veg boxes delivered to your door.

This time I used eggplant to make nasu dengaku ( recipe on this website) served with some lovely organic salad. A tofu grain burger and purple sweet potato salad ( potato salad recipe on this website I just used purple potato instead.) Some left over tomato and basil soup from making tsukemen ( see previous blog post ),sauerkraut and an onigiri rolled in furikake with an umeboshi pickled plum. For the salad  I made a sesame dressing and for dessert a single apple crumble using some gifted apples and a slice of fig served with soy cream.

Why don’t you look through the seasonal recipes on this website and maybe make a few things and put them together in a Japanese inspired meal. If you do please share them on Instagram and tag me so I can see them. I’m looking forward to seeing what works of art you can produce in your kitchen.

Autumn Food, Blog

Japanese Micro Seasons Part 1

As the air turns cooler in the evening and in the mornings I can feel a shift in the seasons. The trees are starting to turn and the fields are golden. It’s getting towards the end of summer and the start of Autumn. In Japan they call this a micro season and there are actually 24  seasonal divisions in the calendar that break down further to 72. Autumn breaks down into six changing every few weeks. We are nearing the end of Risshu which is the first of the autumn micro seasons which is broken down into 3 . August 8-12 Suzukaze Itaru (cool winds blow ) August 13-17 Higurashi naku ( evening cicadas sing) and August 18-22 Kiri mato ( thick fog descends ).

We then move on to the next Shosho (which is manageable heat) August 23-27 Wata no hana shibe hiraku ( cotton flowers bloom )

August 28th-September 1st  Tenchi hajimete samushi ( heat starts to die down ) September 2-7 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.

I will be doing more posts on the next micro seasons so please subscribe so you do not miss them.

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

Kyuri Itame

Cucumber is an ingredient that everyone uses in their salad making. It’s cooling in the summer and has a high water content so is hydrating. In Japan they even serve it at summer festivals resting on ice they are chilled on a stick . However in Japan they also cook cucumber and this was something I was intrigued to try out. We cook zucchini which is similar so let’s try cucumber.

This dish is so easy but so flavourful that after I made it I thought I really wanted to share it with you. Just simply serve on rice maybe with a miso soup and you have a wonderful meal.

I like to use a peeler and peel the skin into stripes it makes the dish more appealing but you don’t have to do that . I used ridge cucumber but you can use any cucumber you like. Depending on how many people your making this for I used half a large cucumber per person.

Cut the cumber at an angle into thick slices and then half the slices.

Put your slices into a pan. Mix together equal parts of  mirin,tamari or soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, a little salt and sesame paste . I use Japanese sesame paste if you can’t get it then use tahini. If you live in the UK you can buy it mail order from sous chef the link to their website is either at the bottom or at the side of the page depending on your browser.

Mix together adding a little water. I used one tablespoon of each for each half a cucumber also add a teaspoon of grated peeled ginger.

You could also add a little miso as an alternative to the sesame paste for a different flavour .

Heat your pan and pour in the mixture and sprinkle in some sesame seeds. I also added some radish for colour. Stir fry until browned slightly and the sauce has thickened. Spoon out onto warm freshly cooked rice.

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, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Japanese Style Breakfast Iridofu

A Japanese style breakfast 

和風の朝食

Iri-dofu 炒り豆腐,ごはん, みそ汁

Iri  means stir fry and Dofu is tofu . It’s more like a scramble than a fry with minimal oil. Also the tofu pieces are kept a little larger. It’s a delicious healthy meal full of protein and a great meal for breakfast.

Soak two-three dried shiitake over night ( this will also become stock to use in the cooking process ) 

Blanch a block of tofu for a few mins in boiling water then drain and pat dry with a clean towel. Break up your tofu into different size pieces.

Squeeze out the water in your shiitake and slice. Slice thinly carrot and snow peas . Add a little toasted sesame oil to a pan and add your veg and tofu . In a pan add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari,the same in mirin and two tablespoons of mushroom stock and warm through add 1 tsp of sugar and dissolve . Pour this over your tofu and veg and sauté

Serve with miso soup and rice with pickles for a traditional style vegan Japanese breakfast . 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Spring Equinox Botamochi

Happy spring equinox !

幸せな春分

The bi-annual days of the vernal equinox (spring equinox) are  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 Botamochi but this year instead of the traditional confectionery made of sweet mochi rice pounded and shaped with a red bean centre . I made them with pounded millet. I noticed that when I made my awa-zenzai (see my awa-zenzai post ) that the millet served its self well to making Ohagi. 

I rolled them in kinako and ground black sesame. 

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.

See some of my other  posts of Ohagi or botamochi for the recipe. 

I also made the more traditional sweet . Which you can get tye recipe for by searching Ohagi or Botamochi.  If you want to make around 6 sweets just half my recipe.