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Rice

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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.

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.

Autumn Food, Blog

Tonyu & Miso Nabe

Tonyu means soy milk in Japanese and nabe is a kind of one pot dish.

This thick and creamy nabe is full of vegetables and tofu it is comforting and filling but also healthy.

Its so quick to make all you need to do is prepare what vegetables you want to use.

I used napa cabbage,kale,leek,broccoli,carrot,pumpkin,tofu and a selection of Japanese mushrooms.

Start by steaming the vegetables first that take the longest so the carrot and the pumpkin and leave things like the kale and broccoli until the last minute.

In a pan add two cups of kombu dashi (leave a piece of kombu submerged in water over night or simmer for 15 mins) and two cups of soy milk,add one tablespoon of mirin and bring to a gentle simmer. Add your miso about two tablespoons and gently stir in.

Pour your broth into a large pot and add your vegetables and tofu. Serve with rice. (If you have a donabe pot like this one you can cook them all together in the same pot, just add your broth and vegetables pop on the lid and simmer )

A perfect meal for a cold day but so easy to make.

Autumn Food, Blog

Takikomi Gohan

It’s starting to feel like a touch of autumn here in the UK. Berries on the trees are already ripe and the birds are loving it. Everything is starting to turn a gold hue and the mornings are a little cooler.

With that said I know Japan is still very hot but I wanted to make a traditional autumn dish called takikomi gohan as I had a lovely mixed punnet of Japanese mushrooms I wanted to use up. The rice dish is about the seasoning in the rice. You can use what ever you like in this dish traditionally it would be meat or fish but I am obviously making this vegan. If you use five ingredients in this dish it would be known as Gomoku Gohan. A similar dish called Maze Gohan does not have the vegetables cooked with the rice they are simply mixed in after the rice is cooked. This mixed rice recipe starts with making the dashi stock. I soaked two dried shiitake and some kombu in water over night. Then took out the mushrooms and sliced them to add to the rice ingredients. I washed one cup of Japanese rice and put this in my rice cooker. (when I say one cup it is the cup that comes with your rice cooker)To this I added 1 1/2 cups of dashi and 1/2 cup water. Then I added 11/2 tablespoons of Mirin and the same in tamari. Tamari is gluten free but you can add soy sauce if you wish. I also added about 1 inch of grated ginger. Also I like to use the small packets of mixed grains you can buy they have a mixture of brown,red,green and black rice,millet and Job’s tears. Add this if you have some .

I let the rice soak while I prepared my mushrooms. I used a mixture of shiitake,shimeji,enoki,maitake and eryngii. I also sliced thinly some carrot and aburaage. Gobo ( burdock root ) sliced thinly is also a traditional ingredient in this dish. Now place your ingredients on top of the rice but do not mix in. Now put your rice on cook.

When it is done mix the vegetables and rice together and serve. It makes a lovely dish just on its own or it can accompany any meal.

Cooking the rice and vegetables together gives the rice a lovely rich flavour. If you want something more delicate then remember to add vegetables that have been cooked separate to the rice and mix them after.

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Amazake ( not just for winter )

Amazake or sweet sake is a fermented rice drink made from koji (kome koji). The koji mold or Aspergillus Oryzae is used in the making of miso,soy sauce,sake and Mirin. The mold causes the rice enzymes to break down and ferment into unrefined sugars. The sugar makes a sweet drink or can be used in desserts,smoothies or dressing.

Amazake is a popular winter drink and is often had at New year. You may find it served by street vendors or at shrines and tea houses,but did you know Amazake was not always a winter drink and was actually consumed in the Edo Period in the summer to battle against the hot Japanese summers and reduce fatigue. Amazake is made up of B vitamins, and all the vitamins and mineral components found in an IV drip . It has high levels of glucose so is perfect to have in the morning for breakfast or if your feeling tired. As it is high in protein and vitamins it helps to boost the metabolism and is good for the digestion as it is has probiotics due to the fermentation.

I had bought some organic brown Rice Koji from the macrobiotic shop ( link to their website is down the side of the page) I decided to give making amazake a try.

First you need to make Okayu a rice porridge. Use one cup of Japanese rice and wash well as if you were making sushi then add this with 5 cups of water to your rice cooker and cook. When it is done mix in 200g of Rice Koji and 200ml of water. Set your rice cooker to warm and place over the top a towel. The day I made it was a very warm day so I just used a clean jay cloth and then put the lid on a jar. You need to keep the temperature between 50-60 degrees Celsius so many people check the temperature with a thermometer. I didn’t have one so I actually winged it. If the temperature is too warm the amazake will not ferment sweet and too cool it may turn sour. I was very lucky it turned out so sweet and delicious . You need to keep the amazake on this setting for 10 hours stirring a few times in between.

You can then store your amazake in the fridge for up to 10 days ( I don’t think it’s going to last that long ) or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

Now you can use your amazake to make delicious drinks and desserts.

The most simple way to have your amazake is to gently warm it 1-1 with water adding a little grated ginger.

You could also use soy milk. Do not over heat your amazake as it will kill the enzymes.

How about trying the above chilled with a little Yuzu juice for a refreshing summer drink.

You could also use it to make sweet chai tea. Steep one 1/2 cup of hot water with black tea with spices like cardomom and star aniseed,cinnamon bark and clove. I actually have a premade chai tea blend and used about a tablespoon . Strain then add this to a pan with 1/2 cup soy milk and one tablespoon of amazake and gently heat. This will add a lovely sweetness to your chai tea.

You can make a delicious smoothie or shake by adding to a blender two tablespoons of amazake,one cup of soy milk and one to two bananas depending on how thick you want it. Blend and chill for a delicious breakfast with fruit and maybe some granola.

Why not add it to porridge to make it extra sweet and creamy just add it to your porridge after cooking up the porridge so it doesn’t kill the enzymes.

I even made a chia pudding with it. Just add two tablespoons of amazake with two tablespoons of chia seeds and 1/2 cup of soy milk. Mix well and leave in the fridge to set. Perfect when topped with yogurt and fruit.

 

If you do not want to make amazake for yourself you can buy it . Clear spring do a lovely range or if you can get it you can buy Japanese amazake drinks from an Asian supermarket .

Amazake can be enjoyed at anytime of year.

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Tofu Dengaku (In A Miso Umeboshi Glaze)

Dengaku, a miso glaze traditionally used on tofu,daikon or eggplant ( see Nasu Dengaku for a further recipe.) This one has lots of umami flavour as I used Umeboshi plum giving it that sweet,salty and sour taste. To make the glaze mash one tablespoon of Umeboshi plum with one tablespoon of white miso paste or any other miso you prefer like red or hatcho. Add one teaspoon of maple syrup or malted brown rice syrup,a teaspoon of mirin and a teaspoon of brown rice vinegar and mix together. Now you can use this to glaze your tofu. Cut your tofu into cube or steaks if you like and spread on the glaze. Bake in the oven until the tofu is golden. Top onto warm rice to make Tofu Dengaku Donburi. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds and chopped green onion.

You can use the glaze for eggplant either cut into rounds or lengthways and score a cross hatch pattern into the flesh. This is called kakushi-bocho,this will help the eggplant absorb the flavours while baking. Bake in the oven until tender,again adding some sesame seeds and green onion before serving.

Finally Daikon Dengaku this one is particularly nice in winter. Peel and cut your daikon into at least one inch rounds and simmer until tender in some kombu dashi,do not throw away the water after as it makes nice broth for miso soup. When tender you can serve your daikon as is with some of your miso paste on top .

or why not pan sear first to give your daikon a crispy outer coating. I also like to add a little dashi broth with a dash of tamari when serving my daikon in the bottom of the bowl. Makes for a comforting dish. In this particular paste I added a splash of yuzu citrus ,if you have any paste left over just add it to a jar with a little water put on the lid and give it a little shake for the perfect salad dressing.

Blog, Summer Food

Vegan Crab Sushi Salad

I have been seeing people use artichoke or hearts of palm for a fake crab meat but I have decided to use jackfruit. It makes a great filling for sushi rolls or like I have done here an open sushi salad.

First you need to drain a tin of jackfruit make sure you use the young green kind in water and not the one in syrup.

Emty in a pan of boiling water and simmer until the pieces push apart between your thumb and finger when pressed. This normally takes about 20 mins. Then drain your jackfruit. This part is a little time consuming but it’s very worth the effort. Take each piece of jackfruit and squeeze between your thumb and finger,discarding any seeds that may pop out. The jackfruit breaks up into shreds. Place in a bowl until you have done them all. That was the hard part. Now mix in two tablespoons of brown rice vinegar,the juice of half a lime,some salt and pepper to taste,some chopped coriander and finely diced red chilli. I like to also add a tablespoon of aonori. Aonori as it’s known in japan is green laver,a type of edible seaweed. Rich in minerals it is used dried in many dishes like Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki . If you would like to make these non vegan dishes I have made them vegan for you so just search for them and the recipe is there.

Mix everything together. And chill in the fridge.Place some crispy toasted nori in a bowl I actually like to use the sea crispies by Clearspring but any nori will do. Then spoon on top some cooled sushi rice with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds,and then add your fake crabmeat add on some chopped chives if you wish to garnish.

A healthy vegan dish without costing the life of a sea creature . What could be better than that.

Blog, Summer Food

Bite Size Temari Sushi

These perfect bite size sushi balls are so fun and easy to make all you need is an ice tray, I managed to find one that made ball shape ice cubes so that was even better but they work just as well with a normal ice cube tray. You can use a variety of toppings for your sushi from fish if you are not vegan to different vegetables and pickles , just choose lots of colour.

First make your sushi rice either with a rice cooker or pan,then for ease I use the Clearspring sushi seasoning which you just sprinkle on top of your cooked rice and mix in. It is tradition to cool your rice as your mixing with a fan . Just let your rice cool down.

Now decide on your toppings and prepare them ready. Lay over some plastic wrap on your ice cube tray and push it into the cube sections. Then add to each bottom your toppings as when the ice cube tray is flipped over this is what will be on the top of your sushi balls.

I used things like avocado,pickled sushi ginger,cooked shiitake,radish and cucumber,carrot,water cress,sesame seeds broccoli and lotus root.

Add the rice pressing in to each hole

Flip the whole thing over and peel off your plastic wrap

Gently pull apart your sushi balls just arranging the bottoms slightly to neaten them.

Now you have delicious Temari sushi ready in no time !