Winter Food

Karaimo Netabo (Satsumaimo & Brown Rice Mochi)

Coming of Age Day
成人の日
Seijin no Hi
Karaimo Netabo for Seijin no Hi
Monday January the 8th this year in Japan is coming of age day Seijin no hi 成人の日.
Seijin no Hi is a Japanese holiday held on the 2nd Monday in January and marks one’s coming of age (age of maturity). In Japan people turned or will turn 20 between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current one may attend coming of age ceremonies (成人式 seijin-shiki). Ceremonial dress for women is furisode, a style of kimono with long sleeves and sandals, the kimono is often worn with a furry collar.
For men traditional dress is dark kimono with hakama (a kind of  a loose fitting trouser ). It may be common to see people in these elaborate costumes visiting shrines to pray for health and success.
Afterwards they may gather in groups and go to parties.
“Karaimo Netabo” からいもねったぼ
Mochi is often eaten in japan as a symbol of good fortune and a long life as it’s so stretchy. It is customary to make and eat “Karaimo Netabo” when pounding rice cakes during the year-end and New Year’s holidays at a ceremony called mochitsuki 餅つき. Karaimo Netabo, is a local specialty of Kagoshima Prefecture. Kagoshima was historically known as the “Satsuma” thus a Kagoshima grown sweet potato was named Satsumaimo.
Sweet potatoes were traditionally grown in Kagoshima and then spread to the rest of Japan. Today, Kagoshima ranks number one as a sweet potato producer in Japan.
Karaimo Netabo is also said to be called kneaded botamochi. It is also eaten as a snack during other occasions besides New Year’s so I thought it would be a nice to make this to celebrate Seijin no Hi, no matter what your age to celebrate good fortune and health for the year.
Using “Satsuma imo” Japanese Sweet potato with brown rice mochi then rolling in kinako (soy bean flour) gives this wagashi a delicious sweet nutty flavour.  It’s so easy to make with just a few ingredients.
You will need:

One large Japanese sweet potato. Give the potato a clean but do not peel.

Brown rice mochi (i used the one by Clearspring)

A pinch of salt

Kinako (roasted soy bean flour to roll the mochi in)

Method:

Slice the potato into thick rounds and steam in a steamer until soft.

Break each mochi in half and place on-top of each slice of potato and steam again together for a few more minutes.

Once steamed, mash the sweet potato with the brown rice mochi and a pinch of salt.

Add some kinako to a bowl

Spoon a ball of the mixture and drop it into the kinako then roll the mochi mixture in the kinako this will make it less sticky and easier to handle. You can then shape the mochi and place on a plate.

If you have a Kagami mochi to open for kagami biraki (鏡開き) on the 11th of January you could maybe consider making this with the mochi that is inside.

Here’s to a healthy year ahead.

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

Shinnenkai 新年会 Japanese New Year Gatherings & Vegan Yakitori


You may have heard of bonenkai 忘年会 literally meaning a “forget the year party” a time of  letting loose a little after a year of hard work, but have you heard of Shinnenkai 新年会 (New Year gathering?)
Like bonenkai the majority of Shinnenkai are held by companies and businesses generally held among co-workers or friends in January.
Japanese culture and business culture is renowned for its emphasis on working together. The year end and New Year gatherings are a time to get together in a social setting to eat, drink, exchange New Year’s greetings and share their aspirations. it is an opportunity for a new and fresh start into a successful new year.
This tradition started in the 15th century for a time to express one’s thanks for each other. At that time, the party was known as nōkai (great achievement gathering).
The atmosphere is a little more official in comparison to the drunken affair of  bonenkai.
These gatherings are usually a more formal event, with senior members of the company maybe making speeches and setting out goals to focus on for the year ahead.
However that’s not to say people do not have fun as this helps see the year off to a good start. It is a time to make promises to each other to do their best for the year while wishing each other good luck and fortune. Some times there may be an event called mochitsuki, the pounding of rice to make mochi, or kagami- wari which is the breaking open of sake barrels to drink together which are both said to bring good fortune in the year ahead.
Shinnenkai are usually held in an izakaya a type of informal Japanese bar that serves alcohol and snacks Izakaya are casual places for after-work drinking, similar to a pub.
As well as drinking sake and eating mochi other traditional izakaya foods might be eaten like yakitori (焼き鳥) (literally meaning ‘grilled bird). Its preparation involves skewering the meat with a type of skewer typically made of steel or bamboo. Afterwards, it is grilled over a charcoal fire. During or after cooking, the meat is typically seasoned with something called a tare sauce. The sauce is best described as a sweetened, thickened soy sauce.
As it’s the New Year and a lot of people are choosing a vegan diet for January and hopefully carrying that forward for the rest of the year I wanted to see if I could come up with a Shinnenkai Yakitori using frozen tofu like I had previously done before with my vegan Christmas Karaage recipe. I decided to use firm Shizenno Megumi Tofu.  “Shizenno Megumi” means natures best, the brand was started to follow the traditional style of tofu making in Japan. You can read all about their story in a previous blog post . Because of how this tofu is produced it is always my tofu of choice when making my recipes.

I’m going to be using  shimi-dofu to make the mock chicken. Shimi-dofu 凍み豆腐 is tofu that has been frozen then thawed and pressed. The result is a completely different tofu which becomes more meaty in texture.

To make Shimi-dofu place a pack of tofu still in its original water in the freezer and freeze until completely hard.

Then remove from the freezer and leave to defrost (I normally do this over night). When the tofu is completely defrosted take it out of its container I then like to wrap the tofu in a cloth and press out as much liquid as i can. Wrap again in a clean dry cloth and leave to dry out for a few hours.

Soak some bamboo skewers in water the empty container from the tofu is perfect to use (this will stop them burning when you place them under the grill)

Then make your tare sauce, this will be used to marinade the tofu.

For the tare sauce add to a pan:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or gluten free tamari 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of vegan honey or similar sweetener 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon tablespoon brown rice vinegar
Whisk over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat to high and bring to a simmer.
Add one tablespoon of potato starch to two tablespoons of cold water stir to dissolve then add this to the soy sauce mixture. Quickly stir to thicken it will turn fast then take off the heat. If the mixture is too thick add a little hot water.
Tear chunks off the tofu block and push onto the skewers. Do this until all the tofu has been used. Brush each tofu loaded skewers with an odourless oil.
Turn on your grill. (You can also make this on a bbq)
Place a wire rack with a tray underneath and brush with oil then add your skewers and season with salt and pepper.
Put the tofu skewers under the grill turning a few minutes on each side. I often just cover the ends of the bamboo skewers with little pieces of silver foil to stop further burning, which can be removed later.
Then brush or spoon over  the tofu with the tare sauce, grill for a few minutes then turn and cover  again with tare sauce and grill that side.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and maybe some chopped green onion to serve.
The yakitori are delicious to serve on rice with pickles or another favourite izakaya snack edamame beans.
Don’t forget a sprinkle of Shichi-mi tōgarashi, also known as nana-iro tōgarashi or simply shichimi, it is a common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients.
Why not have it Japanese style with a sake or ice cold beer to celebrate the New Year.
Let’s all focus on the year ahead and ganbarou 頑張ろう!
Let’s do our best!
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Osechi Ryori The symbolic meaning behind Japanese New Year Good Luck Food

Happy New Year Akemashite omedetou 
 明けましておめでとうございます!
 
Many of the items served to celebrate New Year’s in Japan have symbolic meaning. It’s starts the night before on New Year’s Eve (oh-misoka ). At this time some Japanese people like to eat Toshikoshi Soba 年越しそば. Toshikoshi means end the old year and enter the new year. A hot bowl of buckwheat noodles eaten to symbolise good luck for the new year a head and it is also said to let go of hardships from the  previous year.  This simple meal of buckwheat soba noodles is served in a hot dashi broth which is full of umami flavour and garnished with chopped green onions. I like to add aburaage to mine instead of the traditional Kamaboko fish cake to make it vegan. For the dashi I use a kombu shiitake dashi then mirin,tamari and yuzu rind. This year I brought back from my trip to Japan some special inaka soba noodles from Shirakawa-go. These noodles are darker in colour and have a much stronger buckwheat flavour. They are made by grinding unhulled buckwheat seeds into a course flour. The result is a thicker noodle without the need for adding a thickening agent called tsunagi.


Start New Year’s Day with a traditional Japanese breakfast. 
This breakfast soup said to be the most auspicious new year food and is part of Osechi Ryori. (Good luck food). Depending on the region in Japan the broth can either be clear or with miso .

Ozoni お雑煮 Enjoyed on the morning of New Year’s Day in Japan.

(Japanese New Year Mochi Soup – Kansai Style) . This style of soup from Kyoto region is made with Saikyo Miso (white miso from kyoto) and a round toasted Mochi. It is even more auspicious to add 5 ingredients.


Kanto style Ozoni (more popular in Tokyo and eastern Japan) which is a clear based soup known as Osumashi made with kombu dashi, mirin and tamari. I like to add a dried shiitake when soaking the kombu to add to the umami. The flavours are very delicate which is typical of Shojin Ryori . Ozoni お雑煮 means mixed boil which relates to the mixed ingredients you can use. This soup was believed to bring good luck to samurai warriors and was served on New Year’s Day. Mochi is served to represent long life because it stretches. Soak the kombu and shiitake over night. Simmer the dashi with carrot and daikon. Add some chopped komatsuna and a slice of Yuzu peel maybe . Toast your Mochi and put it all together. Serve on its own or with some simple rice and pickles, which makes a nice breakfast to start the day.

I make Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理 every year for New Year’s Day ( Ganjitsu 元日). Osechi Ryori are traditional foods normally packed in a tiered bento box known as ojubuko 重箱 enjoyed on New Year’s Day in Japan. I like to make what significant food I can with vegan ingredients. This year this is what I made. The majority of the food symbolism comes from Shintō and some of the meanings are a play on words.

Nishime 煮しめ (圧力鍋)

one-pot colorful stew of root vegetables, shiitake and koyadofu, simmered in dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. These simmered dishes are called nimono (煮物). The various ingredients cooked together symbolise family unity.

  • Carrot – Welcome spring by shaping carrot into plum or cherry blossom shapes.
  • Lotus root – The holes of lotus root presents a clear and unobstructed future. 
  • Taro – Taro symbolizes fertility or descendants’ cut into hexagon that resembles a turtle shape represents longevity.
  • konnyaku made into a knot shape signifies good relationships and a harmonious family.

Namasu (なます) or also known as Kohaku Namasu (red and white)

(紅白なます) Red and white are considered celebratory colors in Japan and resemble celebratory wrapping strings used on joyous occasions. Julienned daikon and carrot pickled in a sweet vinegar with a hint of citrus. These vegetables symbolise a strong family foundation.

Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes) 栗きんとんchestnut gold mash. This dish symbolises fortune and wealth for a prosperous year ahead. Japanese sweet potatoes with chestnuts in syrup called kuri kanroni (栗甘露煮.) The kanji for kinto turns into kindan (gold and silver treasures) evoking wealth.

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. 

Kuromame 黒豆 are Japanese black beans cooked in sweet syrup and are traditionally eaten at this time eating kuromame is considered good for your health for the new year.

Kuro means black but when the final vowel is extended it can mean hard work. Also mame means bean however again can mean sincere.

So it is said that eating kuromame in syrup for new years translates to those who are sincere and  work hard will have a good new year.

On my trip to Japan this year I stumbled across a store in Hase (kamakura) 2 minutes walk from Enoden “Hase” station, that  Specialize in Kanbutsu 乾物 dried foods ; seaweeds, mushroom shiitake and dried beans They sold a variety of dried foods, including local Shonan specialty hijiki and natural seaweed, as well as carefully selected beans from all over the country.

Ishiwata Genzaburo Shoten 石渡源三郎商店

 www.yamagen-mame.co.jp

Unchanged since its founding in the early Meiji era I spotted some hana mame beans (plateau flower beans). The beans from Gunma Prefecture are very large and have a very rich flavour. I had been given a precooked canned variety of these beans cooked in syrup a few years ago so I decided to buy some to make my beans in a sweet syrup this year.

You can use this recipe to make your own kuromame using other black dried beans.

Purple flower beans from Gunma Prefecture

~Delicious way to enjoy~

Rinse the beans in cold water.

Soak one cup of the beans the beans in three cups of cold water and one teaspoon of baking soda over night the day before cooking.

As the beans soak, they will swell

Change the water then boil in plenty of water over low heat until it boils. Once it boils change the water. Repeat this process  3 or 4 times. Then simmer them until they become soft. Whilst they are simmering skim off any scum and keep topping up the water so that the beans are submerged in at least 1 inch of water at all times. Check your beans are soft by pinching one of the beans they should yeild without squashing. This can take up to two hours.

Finally make your sugar syrup seasoning.

Add 2 cups of sugar to 1 and 1/2 cups of water to a pan and simmer to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a syrup to about one cup.

Add the syrup to the beans and simmer.

Let the beans cool completely before storing them in an airtight container in the fridge.

shinodamaki 信太巻き
In the Kansai region, a dish using abura-age is often called shinoda (written as 信太 or 信田).

This originates from the legend of foxes living in the forest of Shinoda, and abura-age, which is believed to be their favorite food. I made shinoda with carrot and daikon tied with gourd known as kanpyo. I also made inari sushi.

Datemaki (伊達巻き) is a rolled sweet omelette. They symbolize a wish for many auspicious days. It resembles a scroll so also symbolises academic success. This year I tried to make a vegan version. I think it came out quite well.

I blended a vegan liquid egg replacer with half a block of silken tofu along with 2 tablespoons of mirin, 1 tablespoon of sake, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce  and 1 teaspoon of vegan honey.
Pour the mixture into a square pan 8×8 inches lined with parchment paper and place it in a preheated oven 180 degrees C  for 25- 30 mins.

It’s done when the top is nice and golden. Lift the cooked mixture out of the pan using the parchment paper. Lay a sushi rolling mat on top of the cooked mixture with the smooth side facing up, flip it over and peel off the parchment paper.

Make slight scores with a knife the same direction as the slats on the bamboo mat be careful not to cut all the way through, this will help it roll. Now roll your datemaki and secure either end with a rubber band. Wrap the hole thing in film and leave over night in the fridge.

Unroll your datemaki and slice.


2024 is the year of the dragon, why not read my next post about what’s in store for us as we head in to the year of the mythical beast.
良いお年を!( Have a great New Year ! )

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Year Of The Dragon

After the big house clean known as O-Souji has been done in preparation for the New year and the Bonenkai (forget the year parties) are a blurred memory, it’s time to welcome in the New Year.

My new year preparations always start a few days before New Years Eve with packing away all the Christmas decorations and putting out my display of New Year good luck items. Always avoid putting out decorations on the 29th as the word is reminiscent of the word suffering. Also the 31st is said to be too last minute and disrespectful to the kami.
It’s popular to display Kadomatsu, a traditional decoration made from bamboo and pine. It is usually a set of two put in front of the home to welcome ancestral spirits or kami.

Something else you might display may be a Kagami Mochi consisting of two round mochi on top of each other and an orange on the top called a daidai. This one I brought back from my recent trip to Japan and is a ceramic one that you place your own Mochi inside each year. I thought it was more ethical than the plastic ones you can buy. It is supposed to ward off fires from the house for the following year. It is normally placed in the household altar or in front of the entrance to the home. It is believed that when the New Year begins a god called Toshigami 年神 (Great-Year God”) will visit and offering them kagami Mochi will bring good luck. The Kirimochi Mochi which is rectangular is traditionally eaten in a ritual called Kagami biraki on the second Saturday or Sunday in January and can be grilled and eaten with a red bean soup called zenzai ぜんざい

Shimekazari is an ornament that represents a new start can may be hung on the house entrance. It is believed to bring luck and prevent bad spirits entering the house.

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 when your wish comes true you paint in the other eye.

The cycle of the animal zodiac signs rotates once more and as we head into 2024 we are entering the fifth animal of the 12 animal symbols. 2024 is the year of the dragon the only mythical creature in the zodiac dozen.

Horoscopes predicts that the Year of the Dragon in 2024 will bring luck, wealth, and power, with strong leadership skills and attractive personalities, making it a great time for new starts and long-term success for all 12  zodiac signs.
Your sign is a dragon if you were born in 2024, 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952…
Those who were born in the year of the dragon always aim for success in all they do. It is regarded as the  sign with the greatest strength and promise. They exhibit great leadership qualities and are driven and ambitious.
Their lucky colour, gold, is associated with wealth and extravagance and draws happiness and positivity.
The year 2024 is a Wood dragon, one of the five elements ( Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal ,and Water) is connected to each zodiac sign. Which means that a Wood Dragon, for example, comes once in a 60-year cycle. The element of Wood is known to be the element of growth and success
Meaning the  2024 Dragon indicates a time for new starts, great beginnings, hard work, growth and prosperity.

Japanese dragons are very different from their western winged fire-breathing earthly counterparts, they are wingless (but sky dwelling) water spirits with a long serpentine body and short legs.  Its appearance resembles a crossbreeding of several animals, with a reptile body, tiger paws, eagle talons, a hairy camel’s head, ox ears and deer horns. Unlike its Chinese relative, the Japanese dragon only has three claws instead of five.
The dragon is highly respected and honoured in Japanese society. In the Japanese language there are two main words for dragon tatsu 辰 (from the old Japanese ta-tu) and ryū 竜. As Japanese dragons are closely linked with water, they were originally considered water gods and you will find Japanese dragon symbolism in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, all over Japan especially those located near bodies of water.

Like the two-headed Blue Dragon statue located at the base of the stairs leading up to the Kiyomizu-dera temple’s West Gate. Kiyomizu means pure water and was  built next to the Otowa waterfalls. The waterfall at the base of Kiyomizudera’s main hall is divided into three streams. Each has a different benefit, longevity, success at school or a fortunate love life. According to legend, every night the dragon comes flying to drink from the water of the Otowa waterfall.

There are four mythological creatures that guard the four cardinal directions. They are the Blue Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Tortoise of the North. In Japan these creatures are considered the guardian spirits of cities. So the Blue Dragon (seiryū, 青龍) protects the city of Kyoto on the east and Kiyomizu-dera is dedicated to it.
The blue-green dragon often referred to as either Blue or Azure, represents the East and the Spring season. The blue dragon is known as the goddess of compassion and the protector of the weak and young. There are special festivals in March, April, and September at the temple to honour the guardian, at this time a large 18 metre long dragon is paraded through the streets
The sculpture is relatively new and was unveiled in December 2015 on the 30th Anniversary of the Kiyomizudera Seiryu Festival by the Blue Dragon Society.
In Shinto, dragons are worshipped as the guardian of water, or dragon kami known as Ryujin 龍神 and are connected with agricultural rituals, prayers for rain, and the success of fisherman. Because dragons are associated with rainfall, and have control over a good harvest they represent wealth, and abundance.
A strong connection between dragons and water in Shinto is also observed at the water basins (chozubachi) used for purification before entering Shrine grounds.
You may often see water flowing from the mouths of dragon sculptures at temizuya (or chōzuya), where visitors to Shintō shrines purify themselves by washing their hands. By purifying the water through the mouth of a dragon, it is believed that it would get rid of evil.
There are many temples with artistic depictions of dragons in Japan. Dragons are recognized to be the protectors of Buddhist teachings, therefore drawings of dragons are often found in Zen temples. One such well known depiction is the vast painting of Twin Dragons that covers the entire ceiling of the Hattou (dharma hall) of Kennin-Ji 建仁寺 the oldest temple in Kyoto and the first Zen temple of its kind in Kyoto.
This 11.4m by 15.7m work of art is a painting that commemorates the 800 year anniversary of Kennin-ji’s founding. Done by Koizumi Junsaku (1924 – 2012), this painting took about two years to complete and was created in the gymnasium of an elementary school in Hokkaidō before being moved to the temple. The image features two dragons who appear to be chasing a pearl. One dragon clasps the pearl in its talons the other looks longingly at it.

I hope the year of the dragon brings good fortune, happiness, strength and courage to our lives in 2024.

 
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Yuzu koshō 柚子胡椒

Winter solstice Touji ( Toji ) (冬至)
Friday the 22nd is the time of the  shortest day the Winter Solstice known in the Japanese micro season as Touji (Toji) (冬至). If you have been following my Japanese micro seasonal blog posts you will know by now that Japanese people like to mark the changing of the seasons. Japanese people celebrate the solstice as they welcome the return of longer days, they pray for good health and eat auspicious food. You can find more about this and other recipes on previous winter solstice posts.
I always like to make food with yuzu at this time of year . This year my recipe is how to make Easy Yuzu koshō (柚子胡椒) using fresh yuzu.
Yuzu koshō (柚子胡椒, also known as yuzu goshō) is a type of Japanese seasoning. It is a paste made from chilli peppers, yuzu peel and salt.
Originally yuzu koshō was made by families in Kyushu southern Japan. It grew in popularity after being offered as a souvenir in the hot spring town of Yufuin Onsen.
First used in nabemono (hot pot) but now also found as a condiment for tempura, sashimi and yakitori adding to soy sauce for dipping.

It is also delicious mixed with mayonnaise or yogurt for a salad dressing or with miso as a miso dip or marinade.
Making your own from fresh yuzu has a completely different taste from store bought it has a delicious citrus flavour with a hit of chilli and it’s so simple to make why not give it a try.
You will need for each yuzu fruit three green or red chilli depending on which one you want to make and two teaspoons of flaky salt. I recommend using Japanese salt if you can get it. I think three yuzu makes a good quantity of yuzu koshō which will keep in your fridge to use for months.
First half your yuzu and squeeze out the juice. Yuzu doesn’t produce much juice so you can see why fresh juice is so expensive to buy.
Then remove all the seeds (there are a lot of seeds) and slice into to more manageable pieces. Take a spoon and scrap away all the white pith and slice into smaller pieces.
Add this to a blender along with two teaspoons of salt per yuzu fruit. Slice in half and remove the seeds from the chilli chop into smaller pieces and add to the blender. Add the squeezed juice from the yuzu.

Blend until all the yuzu and chilli are made into a paste.
Spoon into a sterilised jar adding a piece of parchment paper to the top before closing the lid.
Keep in the fridge. A little goes a long way. Add just 1/2 a  teaspoon to broth for a nabemono or spice up an udon or ramen.
Why not even add it to your soba at the end of the year. If you don’t know about the tradition of eating soba noodles on New Years Eve known as “Toshikoshi Soba” why not read more on my blog post on how to celebrate the new year the Japanese way in my New Year posts.
Happy Winter Solstice.
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Matcha & Yuzu Boule De Neige

Boule De Neige

Matcha & Yuzu snow ball cookies

 抹茶と柚子の

雪の玉クッキー

As the end of the year approaches and the evenings grow dark earlier, we prepare for the winter solstice known as tōji (冬至 ) in Japan .
I decided to give this French crumbly confectionery a make over after being inspired by the ones I saw in Muji Japan. Made with almonds and rolled in powdered sugar boule de neige means “snow ball”.
My very simple vegan recipe has a Japanese winter seasonal twist by using matcha tea powder and yuzu candied fruit peel coated in sugar (a wagashi from K. Minamoto .)
These small snow ball cookies make the perfect little tea time treat. Crispy crumbly cookie with a hint of matcha and almonds and subtle yuzu flavour. They also make a perfect home made gift.
I wanted to use Yuzu in this cookie for the winter solstice as Yuzu is often a symbol of this time. Please check out my previous posts on the winter solstice with more yuzu recipes .
To make Matcha & Yuzu Boule De Neige you will need:
90 grams of plain flour
40 grams of ground almonds
25 grams of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of sifted matcha powder
6 tablespoons of melted odourless oil I used Tiana coconut butter
10 grams each of finely chopped blanched almonds and candied yuzu peel
Powdered sugar (icing sugar ) for decorating
Place all dry ingredients in a bowl except the icing sugar for decorating. Mix and then start to add the oil a little at a time mixing as you go. Finish by forming the mixture with your hands into a dough.
Either roll out flat or into a log so you can cut relatively equal pieces and roll each into a ball.
Place each ball on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper .
Bake for 15 mins in a preheated moderate oven.
Allow to cool completely then roll each ball in the powdered sugar.
Enjoy with your favourite tea or coffee.
Autumn Food, Blog

Halloween Tofu Dessert


This is how you can make a delicious pumpkin spiced dessert using Japanese authentically made soft Shizenno Megumi tofu by Dragonfly Foods, www.dragonflyfoods.com

If you haven’t already read the story behind this tofu why not check out my blog post Introducing Shizenno Megumi Tofu.

Have you ever used tofu to make desserts? The soft variety of the Shizenno Megumi tofu is perfect for whipping up desserts mousses and smoothies in no time and gives them a wonderful creamy texture.

I decided to use this tofu to make a seasonal Halloween themed pumpkin spice  Kabocha mousse with some Shiratama tofu dango ghosties.

Makes x2 large desserts or x4 small

For the Kabocha pumpkin spice mousse you will need:

x1  block of soft Shizenno Megumi Tofu

tofu drained and dried with kitchen towel then cut in half. Use one half for the dessert.

x1 half of a  Kabocha squash with seeds scooped out.

x1 tablespoon of maple syrup

x1 tablespoon of melted coconut butter

(I always use the odourless coconut butter by Tiana).

x1-2 teaspoons of Pumpkin spice or your own spice blend try nutmeg cinnamon ginger clove allspice etc

For the ghosties:

Shiratamsko

1/4 of the tofu

Also black sesame paste, soy yogurt and pomegranate seeds to decorate.

( Shiratamako 白玉粉 ) is glutinous rice flour made from mochigome, Japanese short-grain glutinous rice. The Shiratamako comes in coarse granules and I find it’s better to grind this into a finer powder using a motor and pestle or Japanese suribachi. It is the main ingredient in many Japanese wagashi (Japanese confectionery).

Method:

Steam the Kabocha and leave to cool

Drain the tofu and wrap in kitchen towel, cut in half then half the other half into 1/4

Scoop the flesh out the Kabocha leaving the flesh and add this to a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 the tofu and maple syrup coconut butter and spices. Blend until creamy and smooth and tip out into your chosen bowls and pop them into the fridge while you make your ghosties.

Add about 2-3 tablespoons of ground Shiratamako to a bowl and add a 1/4 piece of tofu. Cream the tofu and shiratamako together it needs to be the consistency of an ear lobe. Add more shiratamako and tofu if needed to get the desired dough.

Knead the dough and then form into a log shape

Cut into pieces and form each piece into a ball and then pinch to make a tail.

Boil a pan of water and drop the ghosties into the boiling water wait until they float then leave a further 1-2 mins. Scoop them out and drop them into ice water to cool.

Take the tofu pumpkin spice Kabocha mousse from the fridge and drop a few ghosties ontop.

Decorate with black sesame paste soy yogurt and pomegranate seeds if you wish.

Happy Halloween 👻 Continue reading…

Autumn Food, Blog

Mushroom & Shimi-dofu Dobin Mushi (steamed in a teapot)

Flavours of Fall

Fall /Autumn is the season of the rice harvest in Japan and of seasonal produce like sweet potatoes, chestnuts, persimmons and mushrooms.

In Japan Matsutake mushrooms which grow under pine trees are especially prized. Matsu= pine Take= mushroom. They have a pungent earthy aroma with a meaty texture, however they are extremely expensive with some going for ¥14,000.00 around £70-£80 just for one single mushroom making them one of the most expensive ingredients in the world.


One of the ways that Matsutake is enjoyed is by gently steaming in a Dobin teapot 土瓶. The idea is to appreciate the intensely flavourful broth in which the mushrooms are cooked by tipping out the cooking liquid first into a small sipping choko cup 猪口.

There are four parts to a Dobin teapot the pot itself where the food is placed which comes with a detachable handle, a saucer on which the teapot sits, and a choko cup.
As Matsutake are so expensive and also not available to me I decided to show you how to savour the flavours of fall by making this umami rich seasonal dish.
Dobin= teapot and Mushi= steamed so this is how we make Dobin Mushi (steamed in a teapot) 土瓶蒸し.

First I want to talk about ingredients I will be using with my mushrooms. You do not want to add anything that will take away from the aroma of the mushrooms you are using so do not use strong flavoured vegetables like onions, you can add if you like some ginkgo nuts to add extra colour and finish with some green vegetables like watercress or mitsuba. For the broth a good quality kombu kelp is needed along with salt and some sake.


To make the meal more filling I’m going to be adding shimi-dofu. Shimi-dofu 凍み豆腐 is tofu that has been frozen then thawed and pressed. The result is a completely different texture of the tofu which becomes more like a sponge and is perfect for soaking up the aromatic broth.

To make Shimi-dofu place a pack of tofu still in its original water in the freezer and freeze until completely hard.


Then remove from the freezer and leave to defrost (I normally do this over night, along with making a kombu dashi). When the tofu is completely defrosted take it out of its container and slice into pieces. I then like to wrap the tofu in a cloth and press out as much liquid as i can. Wrap again in a clean dry cloth and leave to dry out for a few hours. The tofu I used was the Shizenno Megumi tofu by dragonfly foods which I have spoken about in a previous post.

The kombu I used was rausu kombu from Hokkaido which creates a flavourful dashi that is rich in minerals and will enhance the umami of the meal. You will need to use one piece of kombu soaked in as pure water as you can over night like filtered water. Rausu normally comes in a roll so I cut off a piece about two-three inches.
You have your tofu and your dashi now you need your mushrooms. You can use what ever mushrooms you like but try to use ones that have a good earthy flavour like shiitake and maitake mushrooms. I’m lucky that I can visit a Japanese grocery store that imports Japanese grown mushrooms so I chose to use organic shiitake, maitake and shimeji mushrooms.

Place your mushrooms on a plate and sprinkle with salt and sake and gently rub it into the mushrooms. Cut a few small squares of kombu and place these in the bottom of your Dobin or teapot. To steam the teapot the Dobin has a removable handle so if you are using a normal teapot make sure it can fit in a steamer with the lid on. Add a splash of sake and a few slithers of citrus rind.

Place a piece of tofu in the Dobin and stuff as many mushrooms inside as you can. I added some ginkgo nuts as well.

Pour boiling water into a pan and place the steamer basket onto the top of the pan. Place your dobin into the steamer basket and pour the kombu dashi into the dobin until it’s full and place the lid on the dobin and then the lid on the steamer. Steam for ten minutes.


While it’s steaming cut a lime or citrus in half and gather a little greens to wilt in the dobin when it’s cooked. Just before serving lift the lid slightly and poke in your greens close the lid on the dobin to steam a few more minutes.
Put the detachable handle on the dobin and lift out of the steamer onto the dish.

Enjoy straight away, by first pouring some of the dashi into the choko cup and enjoying a few cups of broth.


Then open the lid smell the aroma of the steam from the fragrance of the mushrooms. Add a squeeze of citrus sudachi, yuzu or lime and using chop sticks pick up the morsels of mushrooms. To stop any drips from the food use the choko cup in your other hand.



I think this is a perfect way to welcome the changing seasons. No wonder the Japanese call autumn “Shokuyoku no Aki” Autumn the season of appetites.

Autumn Food, Blog

Otsukimi (お月見) & Moon Cakes 月餅

Tsukimi (月見) or Otsukimi (お月見), meaning, “moon-viewing”, also known as Jugoya (十五夜), is a Japanese festival honoring the autumn moon and the seasonal harvest. People often accompany moon viewing with tea ceremonies and eat seasonal produce, like chestnuts, kabocha, taro potato and  edamame. Often Tsukimi Dango is eaten to represent the full moon, which you can read about on some of my previous blog posts for this time.

Another traditional sweet to represent the full moon are moon cakes. In China this festival is called “The Mid-Autumn Festival” and these cakes are offered at family gatherings at this time. Even though moon cakes are popular in China they are also eaten in Japan and are known as geppei 月餅 and are slightly different to their Chinese counterparts. The main difference between Japanese and Chinese moon cakes is the crust. Chinese moon cakes have a thin, flaky crust made from glutinous rice flour, while Japanese moon cakes have a thicker crust made from regular wheat flour. Also the fillings are different instead of sweet lotus seed paste, Japanese moon cakes are often  filled with azuki bean paste and nuts such as chestnuts.

These delicious pastries are perfect for celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival and can be enjoyed with a green tea to balance out the sweetness. They also make pretty seasonal gifts for family and friends.

Mooncakes how ever are not normally vegan but now you can try my simple vegan recipe for yourself that I have been making every year. All you will need to do is order yourself a moon cake press from somewhere like Amazon or EBay.
Once you have your press gather together the rest of your ingredients.

200g of plain white flour

120g of brown rice syrup (over the years I have also used maple syrup and even date syrup)

x4 teaspoons of odourless oil like coconut butter

2-3 tablespoon of soy milk

Potato starch for dusting

Extra soy milk to glaze and maple syrup to glaze after cooking.

Filling:

Red bean tsubuan paste.

Whole roasted chestnuts (I used the precooked ones you get in a packet)

Chopped mixed nuts and fruit (a variety like cashew, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, raisins, cranberries.)

A few drops of toasted sesame oil.

You will also need some weighing scales and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Method:

Put your flour into a bowl.

In a separate bowl add your oil and syrup and mix.

Add the syrup and oil mixture to your flour and combine then add a tablespoon at a time of your soy milk until you form a dough.

Wrap your dough in film and place in the freezer to firm while you chop your nuts and fruit.
To make two kinds of moon cakes one with sweet bean paste and chopped fruit and nuts and one with bean paste and a whole chestnut.

Chop a selection of nuts and fruit and mix with sweet bean paste you will need about 150g of bean paste and a few tablespoons of fruit and nut. Mix together and add a few drops of toasted sesame oil and mix in. Roll into 30g balls.

For your chestnut filling take a 20g ball of bean paste and roll into a ball flatten the ball and place a chestnut in the middle then fold the bean paste over the chestnut.

Remove the dough from the freezer tear off chunks of dough and weigh them to make 30g balls.

Dust your surface with potato starch and flatten the balls, then  place a bean paste ball in the middle. Fold over the dough and make in to a ball.


Roll the ball in potato starch and dust your press with potato starch also so nothing sticks. Place the ball inside and turn the press down on to your surface. Press down gently then lift the press to reveal your mooncake. Don’t worry you make get a few not so pretty ones to start with until you get the hang of it. Place each moon cake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

I made four chopped nuts and five chestnut filling ones as I had a few that didn’t quite work at the beginning.

Brush each cake with soy milk and bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Take out the oven and allow to cool fully, then brush the tops with maple syrup. You can store them in an airtight container for a few days.

When you would like to eat them I recommend placing them in a microwave for 10-20 seconds to slightly warm and soften the cake. It makes them even more delicious as otherwise the pastry is more like a biscuit.

Enjoy and Happy Moon viewing.

Autumn Food, Blog

Autumn Equinox Taro Mochi Ohagi

The Autumn Equinox 秋分 is the 16th micro season in the 24 micro seasonal calendar marking the first day of Autumn and is known as Shūbun. Buddhists call the Autumn Equinox O-Higan or Aki no Higan. Higan translates to “other shore” meaning land of the dead. Higan is a special time for Buddhists in Japan as 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. In Japan people are very much in touch with the changing of the seasons. Aki is the word for autumn/fall in Japan and after the hot humid heat of the Japanese summer, people look forward to the cooling breezes and clear blue skies that the new season brings.

During the heat of the summer people loose their appetites so when autumn comes people refer to it as  Shokuyoku no Aki (Autumn the season of Appetites).

There is a word in Japanese “Fuubutsushi” this refers to the little things that signal a change in the seasons, the feelings, scents, images and sounds that might evoke memories or anticipation of the coming season. I think when we become more aware of this it helps us to centre ourselves and celebrate the passing of time.

Every year I always like to make Ohagi a traditional type of Japanese wagashi (sweet) made from 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. Ohagi おはぎ is named after the Japanese clover bush in the autumn, in the spring the same sweets are called Botamochi named after the tree peony botan.

In Japan  it is traditional to take Ohagi along with flowers and incense to the graves of ancestors at this time as offerings. It is also said that Botamochi in the spring were made as a prayer for fertility and a successful growing season and Ohagi in the autumn was to give thanks to the harvest .
This year I decided to make my Ohagi with something a little different. Ohagi actually started as a sweet called “Kaimochi” which was first mentioned in the 13th century. This sweet is made by pounding both glutinous rice and satoimo “taro root” and covering with a layer of tsubuan bean paste. Satoimo are a starchy crop with a slightly nutty flavour and a creamy white sticky flesh. They look a bit like a cross between a kiwi and a coconut and are harvested in the autumn time around the same time as newly harvested rice. So I thought it would be perfect to make kaimochi for the autumn equinox.


To make x6 large or x12 smaller Kaimochi Ohagi you will need:

75g of glutinous mochi rice and 75g of Japanese rice (this equates to about half and half of a sushi rice cup used in your rice cooker).

You will also need x1 medium peeled taro root chopped into chunks, half a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. Along with your tsubuan sweet bean paste. Ohagi in the autumn normally has tsubuan a chunky bean paste and the Botamochi in the spring uses the smoother koshian.

Method:
1: Wash and rinse your rice together until the water runs clear then tip this into a sieve and leave to air for ten minutes.

3: Put your rice in your rice cooker with 1 1/2 rice cooker cups of water ( this is about 200ml).  Add the sugar and leave for at least two hours to soak.

4: Peel one medium taro potato and chop into small chunks, wash the starch off the taro in water.

5: Add the taro to the top of the rice and cook on a white short  grain rice setting until it’s done if you have a rice cooker.

5. When the rice is cooked add a pinch of salt and while hot mash the rice and taro potato together I like to use a surikogi to do this that comes with a suribachi grinding bowl. Make sure to leave a little grain in the rice, the taro will make the mochi rice even more sticky.


6. Have a bowl of water to hand and divide the rice into six equal pieces. When the rice is easy to hold dampen your hands and roll each section into a ball then flatten in to an oval shape. Do this with all the rice. Alternatively divide the balls again to make twelve if you want smaller Ohagi .


7. Then cover each rice ball in your bean paste. I do this by rolling the bean paste into a ball then flattening it out and places the rice ball on the top then moulding the bean paste all the way around the rice ball.

If you wanted to make smaller Ohagi and divided each rice ball further into another six to make 12 rice balls, you can also make Ohagi with bean paste in the middle and rice on the outside. Then you can roll it in ground black sesame seeds or kinako (soy bean flour). You can view this further on previous posts just search Ohagi.


Red azuki beans are often used as an auspicious colour. The deep red was believed to console ancestral spirits and offer protection. The use of red and white in Japanese cuisine is also used for times of celebration like Sekihan glutinous rice cooked with azuki beans eaten for birthdays, graduations, weddings, and new year.

As the leaves change colours and the air turns crisp, the comforting palette of Japanese tableware becomes the perfect backdrop for the hearty and flavoursome dishes of the season. This is why I chose to serve my wagashi on this Hozan Kiln Botamochi Bizen Ware Half-Round Plate. Especially as the name of the plate is Botamochi .

Bizen ware is a traditional stoneware produced in the Ibe area of Okayama Prefecture. It is one of the oldest ceramics in Japan, and is made using the “Yakishime” technique, in which pieces are fired at high temperatures without glaze to make them durable and water-resistant.

Bizen ware is called “the art of clay and fire” for the exquisite colors and patterns produced by the kiln’s flames, and is characterized by its minimalist, “Wabi-sabi” design. You can read more about how this earthy rustic stoneware is made on the Musubi kiln website where this plate is from www.musubikiln.com

Why not try making Ohagi to welcome in the autumn season and give thanks to the harvest. I have never tried using taro root in Ohagi before and I found it made the rice so creamy and delicious I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.

You can normally find taro root in Asian grocery stores. Ohagi is best eaten on the day of making and leaving no longer than two days in an airtight container.

Blog, Summer Food

Obon & How you can celebrate even if you are not in Japan.

The 13th-15th of August marks a period in japan known as Obon お盆. A Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of ones ancestors. The Buddhist festival has been celebrated for more than 500 years. It is a time of celebration as people feel they are reunited once more with loved ones who have passed away. It is a time for sato-gaeri, or “returning home” not only for departed friends and family but for living people in rural areas that may have moved to cities for work or education that return home to visit family.

Obon starts with welcoming fires (mukaebi 迎え火) lanterns known as chochin may also be lit outside people’s houses to guide the spirits home.

Food offerings (osonae/ozen お供え/御膳)  are made maybe on a family alter or tokonoma. It could be the person favourite food or seasonal produce. As well as food offering mukaé bi (welcoming) rituals  are practiced and you may see cucumbers and eggplants made into animals by giving them legs made of tooth picks. These are called Shouryouma 精霊馬 and are said to depict horses and ox that spirits travel on two and from our world. The horse is said to ward off evil and serve as fast travel to earth where as the cow is slower to travel back when the spirits depart. On the last day of Obon the cow and horse will be left by the river bank. Why eggplants and cucumbers? I think it is because these vegetables reach their peak season  during the summer around the time of obon. This is known as shun ( peak seasonal produce).

As well as making cucumbers and eggplants in to spirit vehicles I thought it might be nice to share with you an easy recipe you maybe might like to make over obon to utilise these abundant veggies which can be used in a multitude of ways.
山形だし Yamagata Dashi
This is very different to the dashi you might be aware of that’s made as a soup stock from things like shiitake and kombu. This dish is an iconic specialty from Yamagata prefecture mainly eaten in the Murayama region, which is surrounded by mountains and has extremely hot and humid summers, and was initially a popular dish for farmers to make as they picked their crops fresh from the fields.
Nowadays you will find this enjoyed in restaurants even outside Yamagata prefecture. This healthy and refreshing vegetable dish is a bit like a Japanese equivalent of a salsa. With raw finely chopped eggplant, cucumber, Myoga ginger and Shiso leaves and sometimes other vegetables like green onion, okra, corn, chives, edamame and shishito peppers.
Yamagata Dashi is commonly seasoned with soy sauce but is also very light and refreshing with a citrus ponzu to pour over noodles and tofu.
Ingredients:
1/2 a small eggplant
1 small cucumber or 2 mini cucumbers
1 bulb myoga ginger
1-3 fresh Shiso leaves
Plus any other vegetables and herbs listed above .
Salt and soy sauce
Method :
First slice and chop up finely your eggplant add this to a jar or bowl with water and 1 teaspoon of salt . Keep the eggplant submerged to soften by putting a plate on top leave for an hour then tip out the water, squeeze the eggplant and add to a  bowl.
Slice your cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds. Dice the cucumber and place in a bowl with a teaspoon of salt gently rub in the salt and leave for half an hour then rinse the cucumber and add to the bowl with the eggplant.
Wash the leaves of the Shiso and trim off the stem, pat them try with kitchen towel, slice in half stack them on top of each other, then roll them up tightly and cut into thin slices. Add them to the bowl with the cucumber and eggplant and toss them gently.
Cut the Myoga ginger in half then slice into thin shreds and add to the bowl. 
Add any other ingredients you like. You could maybe substitute shiso leaves for fresh basil. I have found shiso and myoga in places like natural natural in London and ichiba so try your own local asian supermarket.
Add a few tablespoons of soy sauce and maybe a some fresh yuzu juice or a squeeze of sudachi or lime. And you’re done.
As temperatures and humidity rise on hot summer days it can be enjoyed on top of chilled somen noodles
or cold silken tofu
or enjoyed simply on fluffy rice.
It’s even delicious stuffed into vegetables why not hollow out a tomato or pepper and add your dashi inside.


There are a number of theories as to the origin of the word “Dashi” (soup stock), for example, because “Dashi” brings out the best in other ingredients; “Dashi” comes from the word “Kiridasu” (cut from) used when vegetables are chopped into small pieces and “Dashi” comes from the word “Dasu” (serve) used when vegetables are quickly served at the table after being chopped and seasoned.
As well as using this recipe to utilise eggplant or cucumber you could also try “Eggplant Agebitashi” a fried and soak summer dish or “Nasu no nimono” (simmered eggplant) or “Kyuri Itame” a cooked cucumber dish. All of which can be found on this website.
During this period people pay respects at family graves this is known as  (ohakamaeri お墓前り)
It is not a somber time but a time to reflect and celebrate some one’s life. The obon celebrations often involves a  special matsuri where people may dress up in their finest Yukata and dance a celebration dance known as ( bon odori 盆踊り). This matsuri is a time for families to get together and enjoy lots of street food like Okonomiyaki, yakisoba and takoyaki.
You could also think about cooking up one of your favourite Japanese street foods if you cannot visit a bon odori festival yourself at home and put on your favourite music and have a dance!
Lastly at the end of Obon are farewell fires & lantern processions known as okuri-bon (送り火、灯籠流し) to guide the spirits back for another year. In recent years floating lanterns (toro nagashi) have gained popularity. The lanterns are lit and placed in a river that runs to the sea to symbolically send their ancestors spirits home.
In the UK we do not have such a tradition but I thought it might be nice to make Shouryouma and light some incense to remember my father, cat and good friend who have passed away and place photos of them on my tokonoma, in my tearoom at home. A tokonoma is a recessed space it could be an alcove or a special corner in your home. It is normally a place that would have a hanging scroll and a ikebana display of seasonal flowers. 
I also have a lantern which I will be leaving on to guide their way.
You could do a similar thing yourself maybe by just having a photo of someone who has passed away whose life you wanted to honour. Why not light a candle or incense and add some flowers by the side. Maybe they had a favourite chocolate bar you could add that too. If you’re wanting to welcome home pets that have passed, do you still have something that belonged to them? A collar or a favourite toy. However you want to celebrate it is a wonderful way to remember loved ones that have passed don’t you agree?
Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Kuwa Matcha Buckwheat Biscotti


Kuwacha is mulberry leaf tea. It has been traditionally drunk in Japan for many years for its health benefits being rich in calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. The most interesting compound in kuwacha is DNJ which has shown to inhibit intestinal glucose absorption and accelerate hepatic glucose metabolism, hence it maybe helpful for people with diabetes.

Kuwa (桑) is Japanese for mulberry and Matcha (抹茶) is Japanese for powdered tea. Clearspring Organic have a brand new tea added to their extensive range of products “Kuwa Matcha”. In fact their Kuwa matcha is the first naturally caffeine-free matcha in the U.K. Just like traditional Matcha, Kuwa Matcha is a vibrant green, finely ground powder which has been widely enjoyed in Japan for centuries. It is made using the finest organic and sustainably grown mulberry leaves from Kagoshima Japan. Kagoshima has volcanic soil and a humid climate making it ideal growing conditions for the mulberry plants. Once harvested the leaves are steamed, dried and ground into a fine powder which is just as versatile and delicious as traditional Matcha. The powder is not only delicious for a caffeine-free hot drink or lattes but is perfect for smoothies.


So with that in mind I decided to bake with it much like you would do if you were using regular matcha.
I decided to take my matcha biscotti recipe one step further and used buckwheat flour as a naturally gluten-free alternative. Buckwheat is not related to wheat despite its name and has been grown for centuries as a nutritious staple food. Originally from Central Asia it is actually related to rhubarb and sorrel, has high levels of fibre and is a good source of protein. You may be familiar with soba noodles a thin noodle enjoyed in Japan made from buckwheat. The seed of the plant has a triangular inner groat and a dark outer hull, after the hull is removed it gets processed into flour. This flour has a mildly sweet, nutty and earthy taste similar to wholewheat flour. I thought using the Kuwa matcha which has tasting notes smooth savoury sweet hay- with honeyed notes, would be great to use in baking as the Japanese suggestion of food pairing with drinking the kuwacha is cookies.

Recipe for Kuwa Matcha Buckwheat Biscotti

Preheat your oven to 180 fan assisted and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In one bowl add:

1 and 1/2 cup of organic buckwheat flour (I used Doves Farm)

2 tablespoons of already sifted Kuwa matcha

2 teaspoons of baking powder

A handful of sliced blanched almonds

In another bowl add:

2 tablespoons of apple purée (check out Clearspring fruit purées)

1/2 cup of unrefined sugar

1/4 cup of melted coconut butter

1 teaspoon of almond essence

1-2 tablespoons of water (added later if needed)

Add the wet mixture to the dry to form a dough use your hands to work the dough together adding a little water if needed but don’t make your dough wet.

Form into a log and flatten to an oval about one inch thick.

Bake in the oven until golden then take out and leave to cool completely  ( if you don’t it will crumble when you cut it)

Cut into slices using a sharp knife and turn onto their sides and bake again for a further ten mins in a cooler oven about 150. Take them out and flip them again for a further ten minutes.

Take out the oven and leave to cool completely before storing .

Enjoy with a delicious Kuwa matcha latte.

You can also make this recipe with regular matcha and Clearspring do a great Premium grade matcha green tea powder which is perfect for culinary use from baking and smoothies to ice cream it is made from organic tea leaves grown in the hills of Uji.

I also have a promo code you can use against anything on the Clearspring website to get a one time 15% off on your purchase use tokyopony15 at the check out. You can find the link to the Clearspring website at the bottom or side of the page depending on your browser. 

 

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

Tofu Taco Crumble introducing “Shizenno Megumi Tofu”

Meet Shunzo Horikawa managing director of Shizenno Megumi Tofu.

Shunzo arrived in the U.K. in April 2022 from the parent company Hikari Miso (you may been using this lovely organic miso already) which they had been making since 1936. Born in Kawasaki his first job out of university was working for House Foods America one of the largest Tofu manufacturers in the world and in 2019 joined Hikari Miso Co Ltd. Dragonfly Foods Tofu original brand since 1984 was bought by Hikari Miso in 2015 and decided to upscale production capacity by shipping massive equipment made in Japan and set up a new purpose built facility for making tofu in Devon in 2017.

Shunzo started to travel back and forth from Japan to Devon to help with supporting the production of tofu. In 2022 Shunzo moved to Devon with his family to start a new challenge with the Dragonfly team. “Shizenno Megumi” means natures best, the brand was started to follow the traditional style of tofu making in Japan. Working as a parent company with Dragonfly Foods in Devon they are BRC A+ soil association approved. Using Nigari as a coagulant the tofu requires intensive control to coagulate the rich soymilk. Nigari naturally promotes umami and sweetness, Nigari derived from the Japanese word for “bitter” is a product created through harvesting sea salt and letting the water evaporate. Nigari contains a high concentration of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, selenium and chlorines. The delicate soft tofu is hand crafted in Devon using Japanese techniques by a small group of passionate members bringing traditionally made Japanese style tofu to the U.K.

I was so humbled when I was approached by Shunzo who asked me to try out their range of Shizenno Megumi tofu. The range is firm, super firm and soft tofu. So what can we use each tofu for you might wonder. The soft tofu is wonderful cut into cubes and used in miso soup, Shunzo even recommends using it in smoothies and desserts. The super firm is good for dishes like a grilled sandwich or anything that might require the tofu to keep its shape in frying or sautéing.
I have decided to use the firm tofu to bring you a versatile recipe for a kind of taco style vegan mince that can be used in so many ways.
Let’s get started using Shizenno Megumi tofu !

Tofu Taco Mince

You will need:

x1 pack of Shizenno Megumi firm tofu (open the pack drain the water and wrap in a cloth or kitchen towel top with a weight and leave for an hour to drain) I use my heavy cast iron Japanese teapot lol.

You will also need:
1 cup of walnuts pulsed in a food processor to fine crumbs.

Spices: x1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, x1 teaspoon of mixed herbs, x1 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.

x1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast

x1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil

x2 tablespoons of tamari or soysauce

x2 tablespoons of tomato purée

x1 tablespoon of miso paste

A dash of chilli oil and vegan Worcestershire sauce

Method:

Unwrap the tofu, place into a bowl and mash it with a fork.
Add the pulsed walnuts and the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good mix.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the mixture.
Place in a preheated moderate oven and bake for 30 minutes, then take the baking sheet out of the oven and give the tofu mixture a good mix round and spread it back out again. Place the tray back in the oven for 10 minutes and repeat again until all the mixture is dried out. Now your tofu taco mixture is ready to use.

How to use:

The tofu mixture can be used in a multitude of ways but keeping things Japanese here are three ways you can use it.

The first is soboro don そぼろ丼.
This meal is classed as Japanese comfort food. Normally beef Mince and scrambled eggs on top of fluffy rice. This is another perfect way to use the soft tofu, as you can use this to make the scrambled eggs part, to make it a vegan meal. Like before drain and wrap the soft tofu but do not weight it. Leave it to stand for 30 minutes to drain then add to a bowl and mash it with a fork, add x1 teaspoon of turmeric, x1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast and x1 teaspoon of ground kala namak black salt (this will give it a slight egg flavour). Give it all a mix and lightly scramble it in a frying pan. Just add a flavourless oil like coconut oil to the pan then wipe clean so the egg mixture is not sitting in oil. Cook some Japanese rice. You will have made enough tofu taco mince for many meals, I like to section mine out into sealable containers and freeze it as needed. Spoon some rice into a bowl and top one half of the rice with warmed through tofu taco mince and the other  half scrambled tofu. It is customary to add green vegetables like peas or beans in the middle.

Second meal idea is of course taco rice

(takoraisu) タコライス.

Taco rice is a Japanese fusion meal from Okinawa, normally consisting of taco ground beef on a bed of rice with lettuce, tomato and cheese. It owes its existence to the military presence in Okinawa in the 1960’s. Nowadays it’s a firm Japanese favourite. I have already got a few different recipes for taco rice on here so you could also check those recipes. This one was just lettuce rice and the taco mince on top. I made a delicious salsa for this one using roasted tomatillos, blistered pardon peppers and sliced myoga ginger.

Tomatillos, padron pepper and myoga salsa:

I had just recently acquired some tomatillos that come wrapped in a papery inedible husk which you must remove first.

Wash them and slice into halves or quarters depending on the size. Toss lightly in olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt and roast in the oven.

While that’s being done toss some padron peppers in a little olive oil and blister them on high heat in a pan.

When they are done leave to cool. Slice one small red onion and one bulb of myoga ginger and add to a bowl.  Myoga ginger can be found in some Asian super markets I have seen it in Ichiba in London and I buy mine from a Japanese store called Natural Natural in London. Myoga ginger doesn’t taste like ginger and is an edible flower bud. Add to this the juice of half a lime and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Give it a mix and let it rest. When your tomatillos are ready leave to cool and chop finely your padron peppers then add both into the bowl with the onion and myoga. Finally add some chopped coriander and give it all a final stir.

Assemble your taco rice and add your salsa on top.

The final way I recommend using your tofu taco mince is with a creamy and flavourful Tantanmen ramen 坦々麺.

You will need 1 cup of shiitake dashi (leave a a dried shiitake in water over night)

First you will need to make goma dare this is the base of your sauce.

Add to a bowl x1 tablespoon of Neri goma (white sesame paste) if you have not got this you can use tahini. To this x1 tablespoon of white miso paste. Then add x1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, x1 teaspoon of brown rice vinegar, x1 teaspoon of chilli oil and x1 teaspoon of mirin.
Give it all a good whisk and put aside.


You will also need a packet of vegan ramen and toppings.

My toppings were vegan tofu taco mince, steamed bean sprouts, chingensai (pakchoy), Hokusai (Chinese cabbage), sweet corn, pea shoots, sliced pickles, lotus root, padron peppers and chilli threads. Choose what toppings you like and prepare these in advance.
When you’re ready start to cook your ramen. Add to a pan 1 and a 1/2 cups of soy milk 1 cup of shiitake dashi and 1/2 a cup of water. Add your goma dare mixture and start to heat it gently stirring to combine.

When your ramen is ready drain and divide into two bowls and pour over your sesame soy milk. Drizzle with extra chilli oil for heat. Add your toppings and you’re done.

Just on a final note you can add extra things accordingly to your tofu taco mince depending on what you’re making. You could add extra tomato purée or tomato passata to make a bolognaise sauce for pasta or maybe  sautéed onions chopped mushrooms or peppers.

And now a treat for you Shunzo has very kindly given me an exclusive discount code for you to use on their website to purchase their delicious tofu. Just head over to www.dragonflyfoods.com click shop choose your items and put them in your cart, check out and input the promo code TOKYOPONY20 under coupon code on the delivery and payment section. This will take 20% off your bill. This offer will run until the 11th of August 2023.
Have fun in the kitchen.