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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

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food

Tsukemen ( dipping ramen )

Do you know Tsukemen?

つけ麺 /dipping ramen

This is a popular summer dish in Japan when the weather gets hot and humid. As it’s turning cooler in the UK now I thought it might be nice to make this dish as one final farewell summer Japanese meal.

Cold ramen noodles are served separately with a hot dipping soup. Pick up a few noodles and dip into the soup. 

I had a can of organic tomato and basil soup which I used as one dipping broth adding some chilli oil for extra spice and then some left over Kuri pumpkin soup and I used @ohsawa_japan_group ramen. 

Served with some roasted vegetables ( purple sweet potato,daikon,carrot,lotus root and eggplant. Also a shaved fennel salad with salad leaves.  For the salad I made a sesame/miso dressing. 

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, 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

Spring Vegetables Shira-ae

Shira-ae is a traditional recipe from the Shojin ryori Zen Buddhist cuisine. The tofu is mashed into a paste with different vegetables and sesame . Which I guess is a slightly different way of having tofu rather than cutting it into squares etc. The tofu turns creamy and makes a wonderful starter or dish in your Teishoku ( set meal ) . See more inspiration for a Japanese style set meal by just searching Teishoku.

I also think this would make a great filling for wraps or sandwiches or even on a jacket potato . However this time I am staying traditional.

As we are hopefully turning our way into spring now I decided to use spring vegetables for this dish but you can use other things like green beans,shimeji mushrooms,spinach,Konnyaku and even sometimes in the autumn persimmon.

First prepare your tofu by draining and pressing out any liquid . I cut half the block of tofu and saved the other for another dish. Put your tofu in a bowl . You will need to toast and grind 1/2 a tablespoon of white sesame seeds or you can buy them already ground. Add this to your bowl with 1 teaspoon of white sesame paste or tahini if you can’t get Japanese sesame paste,1/2 teaspoon of sugar,1 teaspoon of white miso paste and a pinch of salt. Mash all this up together creaming the tofu. The process of doing this and also grinding your own sesame seeds in a suribachi has a meditative quality. Put this to one side. Now blanch your vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes. I chose asparagus,broccoli,finely chopped carrot and curly kale. In Japan in the spring this dish is often made with nanohana or edible rape seed flowers. It is not something we find available in the UK in markets or stores. Now plunge your blanched vegetables in cold water to prevent them from cooking further and to keep their colour. Chop them up and mix them into your tofu. I garnished mine with a few sesame seeds and rocket leaves on a bed of rocket and spinach.

I hope you will try this simple Shojin ryori cuisine at home.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Soba Noodle Salad With Dressing

When the weather starts to warm up salads are always a good choice. This is a cold soba noodle salad and is a great way of using up veg in the fridge.

First prep what vegetables you would like to use. I used sweet corn,radish,cucumber,edamame,green onion,red cabbage,mizuna,steamed broccoli and baby corn and grated daikon. For a topping I also diced some silken tofu and minced an Umeboshi.

Then make your dressing one tablespoon each of sweet white miso,mirin,brown rice vinegar,sesame oil and yuzu juice. Also some grated fresh ginger. Add this to a jar pop on the lid and give it a good shake. If it’s still to thick add a little water or more vinegar.

Finally cook your soba noodles . I like to use the fresh kind if you can get them that literally take minutes to cook. I used green tea soba noodles but normal soba noodles are just fine. Cook your noodles and as soon as they are al dente drain and wash in cold running water.

Place your noodles in a bowl and toss in a little sesame oil now add your prepared vegetables and mix them in. Top with your toppings,daikon,Umeboshi,sesame seeds maybe some shredded nori if you like. Drizzle around the outside your dressing and your done.

A pefect summer salad with a Japanese twist.

 

Blog, Summer Food

Sweet Potato,Ginger & Tofu Patties

These patties are so simple to make and with only a few ingredients.They are perfect as an accompaniment to any meal and are great for bento too!

Start by peeling one small sweet potato and chopping it into large chunks, steam the chunks until tender and then leave to cool.

Mash 1/2 a block of firm tofu and mix in a tablespoon of ginger juice. I get the juice by grating ginger very finely with a Japanese grater and squeezing out the juice. Be sure to use fresh ginger.

Add a little salt and pepper to your tofu and then add your sweet potato and mash this into the tofu try to leave some bigger chunks of tofu.

Then add 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs and mix in. Let this sit for a while so the panko breadcrumbs absorb moisture.

Scoop a few tablespoons of mixture into some plastic wrap and mould into patty shapes and remove from the wrap.

In a shallow bowl add toasted black and white sesame seeds and roll your patties into the seeds and make sure they are well coated.

Heat up some coconut butter in a skillet and shallow fry the patties until golden.

 

Blog, Spring Food

Teriyaki Shiitake Sushi Burgers

I decided to make these delicious sushi burgers I made them quite small so they were almost like sliders. The difference between these and my rice burgers is that you use seasoned sushi rice and do not cook the rice on top in a pan.

First make your sushi rice and season the rice ( I like to use the Clearspring brand sushi seasoning it makes things really easy.)

Then decide how big you want to make them and choose a small bowl and place clingfilm wrap inside. Then put some rice into the bowl and press down making burger buns.

Then make your teriyaki shiitake. Slice up some shiitake mushrooms and sauté in a little toasted sesame oil. Make your teriyaki sauce I used tamari,mirin and maple syrup. Add this to your mushrooms and reduce down.

After you have made all your tops and bottoms you can fill your sushi burgers. I first spread some vegan kewpie mayo on the bottom of the rice then added sliced cucumber then lettuce,red pickled cabbage,sliced avocado and a square of toasted nori, then I added the teriyaki shiitake mushrooms. Topping it with another burger rice bun a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and some dried kombu. I served these with soy sauce,pickled ginger and wasabi.

Perfect for a Hanami picnic or for entertaining guests.

Continue reading…

Summer Food

Gomadofu & Nut Butter Dofu

Gomadofu or sesame tofu is in fact not tofu at all. Often served in Shōjin Ryori cuisine it is made from kuzu powder .

Kuzu root is a gluten free thickening starch made from the Japanese vine. It has been used as an ancient health food remedy for over 2,000 years. The root can be used to help the digestion and calm the nerves,relieving muscular tension and migraine. Studies have shown it helps to reduce high blood pressure and regulate blood sugar.

I recall having gomadofu as an appetiser at Brown Rice Cafe in Tokyo and I actually thought it was a form of tofu.

There are a few different ingredients you can use the traditional one is sesame paste. To make this easy you can use Japanese sesame paste or tahini,you can also like the one I made use smooth peanut butter or you can make it with almond or cashew butter.

You can also use plain water to make this or kombu steeped water with a little mirin or sake.

To make these chilled squares all you need to do is as follows:

You will need 25grm of kuzu starch

250ml of plain water or kombu water

35g of nut butter of choice

First add a little of the water to the kuzu starch to make a paste then add the rest of the water and mix well.

Add this to a pan and add your nut butter then give it a whisk to combine.

Start to heat this gently and continue stirring. Turn up the heat a little and keep stirring until the mixture thickens until it looks like a thick pudding a bit like custard .

Wet the inside of a plastic container and pour in the mixture. Give the container a tap down on the work surface to eliminate any bubbles and leave to cool.

Then place in the fridge to harden and chill.

Turn out and cut into four equal portions. As my container gave my dofu slightly rounded edges I sliced these off.

As for your serving condiments here are a few ideas of what you could use. Yuzu Kosho,wasabi,soy sauce or ponzu,green onion,sesame seeds,sliced cucumber,grated ginger or maybe evenchilli oil.

I decided this would also make a nice dessert so I topped mine with sweet red beans and a dusting of kinako.

美味しい!

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Okayu Japanese Rice Porridge

This comforting healing dish is easy to digest,simple and filling. In Japan it is often made if you are recovering from an illness or not feeling well.

I have made two types of Okayu one for breakfast and one a little more savoury which you could have for dinner.

Both use a 1-5 ratio using one rice measuring cup of rice to five cups water or liquid.

There are lots of toppings you can use like Umeboshi,sweet potato,chopped green onion and nori.

I used my rice cooker to make these but you can just as easily use a pan if you don’t have a rice cooker.

Breakfast Okayu

Wash one rice measuring cup of rice and place this in your rice cooker or pan with five cups of water . Then add about one tablespoon of ginger juice . I use a Japanese ginger grater to finely grate the ginger and then squeeze out the juice. Let this sit to soak for about 30 mins.

Add a little salt and start to cook your rice it normally takes about 30mins.

I topped mine with grated ginger, rice malt syrup and some sesame seeds. I also added a splash of soy milk for extra creaminess.

Savoury Okayu

Wash the rice and then add 5 cups of hot water ( not boiling) to a jug with one tablespoon of white miso paste and dissolve. ( if you like instead of miso you can use vegetable stock ). Pour this onto the rice in your pan or rice cooker and let sit for 30 mins. After this time start to cook your rice.

While your rice is cooking prepare your toppings . I pan seared some maitake mushrooms  roasted some Hokkaido pumpkin and chopped some green onion.

When your rice is done spoon into a bowl and add your toppings and maybe a sprinkle of schichimi and sesame seeds.

There is also a special Okayu that people have in Japan on the 7th of January for health for the coming year ( see my winter post Nanakusa-Gayu ( seven herb soup).

Blog, Summer Food

Vegan Kabayaki Bowl (mock eel)

Around this time of year in July there is a tradition in  Japan called Doyo-no-Ushi-no-hi. It falls this year on the 25th of July 2017. This is a day when some people eat eel . (Unagi) It is said that eel helps with the summer heat. Well I don’t know about that but I thought I would make a vegan version of this dish using eggplant . This mock eel dish doesn’t look particularly pretty but then neither does a dead eel and I’d much rather eat an eggplant .

First of all prick your eggplant with a toothpick to stop it exploding in the oven when baking and score around the top of the egg plant this will help when peeling off the skin.

Bake in the oven until tender. Take out the oven and when it’s cool enough to handles strip off the skin. Cut down the eggplant but leave a little bit attached at the top so it fans out into two halves.

Then make your kabayaki sauce using two tablespoons of  tamari or soy sauce two tablespoons of mirin  and a teaspoon of unrefined sugar.

Add this to a pan and put the egg plant into the pan cook and then flip over to coat both sides and let the eggplant soak up the sauce. Then cut some nori and add this to one side of your egg plant and place under the grill to make a crispy skin.

Serve this on rice mixed with gomashio ( a dry condiment like furikake made of sesame seeds and salt) topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds,sansho pepper and chopped onion or chives.

I think you will agree it may not be eel but a lot more ethically friendly.

Blog, Summer Food

Vegan Tekka Don (tuna bowl)

Tekka don is a rice bowl dish topped with raw marinated tuna sashimi.

I wanted to make a refreshing but vegan friendly version of this dish and this is what I came up with.

You will need three large firm tomatoes cut a small cross section on the bottom of each tomato and drop into a pan of boiling water. To cook the tomato doesn’t take long you will know they are done when the skin starts to peel. Plunge the tomato into cold water to cool and then peel off the skin from the cross section you cut into the tomato.

When the tomatoes are peeled cut them into quarters discarding the seed part.

Make a marinade of tamari,lime juice and mirin ( around two tablespoons of each ) you can add some shichimi spice pepper if you like. Coat the tomatoes in the marinade and chill in the fridge

when you want to serve your Tekka Don wash and cook some sushi rice in your rice cooker and when your rice is done place into the bottom of a bowl.

Top the warm rice with the marinated tomato chopped green onion a sprinkle of sesame seeds sliced lettuce  kizaminori ( shredded nori) and angel hair chilli threads if you can get them they are called Ito togarashi if you live in the U.K. You can get them from www.souschef.co.uk

Blog

Sakura soba noodles

I wanted to use the last of my Sakura soba noodles as it’s cherry blossom season .
I chose to make a simple kitsune soba.
Kitsune means fox in Japanese and it is said that the fox spirits are very fond of fried tofu so hence the name kitsune soba as I added aburaage to my soba noodles. The broth was just a simple tamari and mirin.
I added a few toppings of carrot flowers,furikake,sesame seeds,diced green onion and komatsuna.
It makes a really satisfying meal so quick and easy .
Now I’m off to watch ghost in the shell.
狐そば
さくらおはぎ