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Koshian

Blog, Spring Food

Tsubaki-mochi (椿餅) camellia leaf mochi

 


Risshun is the first micro season in the cycle of 24 sekki, this season translates to “Spring Rises”. This is the coldest season, but emotionally we are gradually beginning to feel the end of winter and the arrival of Spring. The first blooms of camellias and ume blossom bring positive energies, the days start to get slightly longer and life is starting to emerge from the earth.
Tsubaki-mochi is an oval shaped domyoji mochi, a freshly made rice cake with azuki bean paste wrapped in tsubaki (camellia leaves). This confectionery has been eaten in Japan since the Heian period and is now often served at tea ceremonies as a Kyoto confectionery during the month of February in Japan.

The leaves are not edible but are the same family as tea and traditionally used as a non-stick wrapper for some sticky sweets.

This confectionery has been eaten in Japan for about 1100 years and is believed to be the oldest mochi sweet, often being referred to as the origin of wagashi. This Japanese confectionery was written about in The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) 源氏物語 in the 11th century. Genji tale is the oldest long novel in the world written by a woman writer, Murasaki Shikibu about 1008 in Japan. You can see her statue placed at one end of the Uji Bridge in Uji Kyoto where the tale of Genji was a prime setting.


In Genji tale, young men were eating tsubaki rice cake, citrus fruits and pears in the lids of bamboo baskets after playing kemari; the ancient football game of the imperial court.

When I read that mochi powder (present-day Domyoji powder) was made by drying glutinous rice and grinding it in a mortar and was used to make tsubaki-mochi I decided to try making my own as I have never been able to obtain domyoji powder.

Recipe for x5 tsubaki-mochi:

First grind 1 rice cooker cup of glutinous mochi (you can use a suribachi Japanese mortar & pestle grinding bowl). However this can take a while to grind so I used an electric blender, you could also use a clean coffee grinder. This is going to be your Domyoji substitute. You do not want a powder you just need to break up the rice grains so giving it a few blitz in your blender will be enough.

Note: The plastic rice cooker cup that comes with the rice cooker is 3/4 cup (180ml). In Japan, this amount is called ichi go (一合).

You will also need 25grams of granulated sugar.

Add the ground rice to a bowl with the sugar and add one rice cooker cup of hot water stir and leave over night to soak.

After your rice has been soaking over night.

You will need 100grams of red sweet bean paste smooth koshian or chunky tsubuan and x10 camellia leaves wiped clean.

You will also need to make a sugar syrup 25ml of hot water and 25grams of granulated sugar. (or you can use the syrup that comes with the kuri kanroni candied chestnuts from making Osechi for new year.

I have read that tsubaki-mochi can also sometimes be flavoured with a hint of cinnamon or clove. If you would like to do this that is your own preference.

First make a syrup by adding the 25 grams of sugar to 25ml of hot water and stir to combine heat in a pan or in a microwave until boiling and then cool to room temperature if not using kanroni syrup.

Then make your mochi:

Take the rice that has been soaking in sugar over night and add this to your rice cooker and add one rice cooker cup of water. Set your timer to cook short grain rice.

Roll your sweet bean paste into 20 gram balls makes x5 balls and put to one side and wipe clean your camellia leaves.

When the rice is cooked let it steam for a further fifteen minutes. Take your mochi and mash it to a sticky consistency, I usually use the end of a rolling pin, you could use the pestle from the suribachi known as a Surikogi. Turn the mochi out onto a surface and cut into five equal pieces.

Wet your hands with the syrup and roll each piece into a ball. Place each ball into the palm of your hand and flatten adding one ball of bean paste in the middle, work the mochi over the bean paste making an oval shaped ball.

Keep wetting your hands with sugar syrup or kanroni syrup as you go. Sandwich each mochi ball in between two camellia leaves (not edible) use the leaves to hold the mochi when eating.

These delicious sweets are perfect with a sencha green tea or hojicha please enjoy and savour the coming of Spring.

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura no Hi & Chomeiji Sakura Mochi 

Day of Cherry Blossom 

March 27 is sakura no hi (さくらの日), Day of Cherry Blossom. This was decided by the Nihon Sakura no kai (日本さくらの会), Japan Cherry Blossom Association in 1992. They made it that date  because the pun of sakura 3 (sa) x 9 (ku) = 27. Saku (咲く) in Japanese means “to bloom”.
The name “Sakura” comes from Japan’s most famous flower the cherry blossoms. Some say that cherry blossom is the national flower of the country although some dispute this and say the chrysanthemum is the correct national flower of Japan.

Nevertheless there is  something to be said about the beauty and wonder the cherry blossom season brings.

The general flower language of cherry blossoms is “spiritual beauty” and seeing the cherry blossom definitely gives you a feeling like no other, touching the soul in an almost spiritual way.

There are 9 original species of cherry blossoms in Japan, and there are about 100 varieties, each coming into flower at different times depending on where in japan they are. The earlier blooms tend to appear in tropical Okinawa in January, with the last on the northernmost island of Hokkaido in early May.

The arrival of the cherry blossoms in Japan is a big deal, people eagerly wait for the forecasts of when the blossoms will bloom making the national news when the first blossom opens.

Cherry blossom viewing or “hanami” 花見 as  it’s known started in the Edo period. Throughout Japan many people will be celebrating the cherry blossoms with viewing parties and picnics, taking place in gardens and parks.

Often you will see blue sheeting laying on the ground for people to sit on while they have special food and drink sake under the blossom while generally enjoying the arrival of spring.

This can go on well into the evening when viewing the blossom under lanterns that light up the branches is known as yozakura.

Many sakura themed and flavoured foods are eaten at this time, one of which is a popular confectionery called sakura mochi 桜餅 a traditional Japanese wagashi confection with over 300 years of history when Tokyo was still called Edo. This wagashi heralds the arrival of spring.

It is a soft, chewy, sticky rice cake filled with sweet azuki red bean paste. Did you know there are two types ? You may be familiar with the sakura mochi with roots in the Kansai region around Osaka called Domyoji made from domyojiko (道明寺粉), which is glutinous rice steamed, dried, and coarsely groundThe main characteristic of Domyoji Sakura Mochi is the distinctive  stickiness of rice grain. As domyojiko is difficult to find outside of japan I always use mochigome a Japanese short-grain glutinous rice. The recipe for this is basically the same as my Ohagi recipe but you just colour the rice pink with a natural dye like a few drops of beetroot juice and wrap the mochi in a salted preserved sakura leaf. Cherry leaves are what gives the mochi that distinctive flavour.

The salted preserved sakura leaves are also hard to find but you can buy them from Nihon Ichiban on line from Japan.

They are often also decorated with preserved sakura flowers again you can buy these on line or why not use my recipe to make your own. This year I also intend to try preserving my own leaves.

The next sakura mochi is called Chomeiji Mochi which originated in the Kanto region, and was created around 1717 in an old Buddhist temple in Mukojima, Tokyo, named Chomeiji 長命寺. Unlike Domyoji mochi, the Kanto version has an outer pink thin crepe made by baking a mixture of wheat flour, glutinous rice flour, sugar, and water. The pale pink crepe is rolled and wrapped in mashed red bean paste and are then neatly wrapped inside salted cherry leaves.

People in the Kanto region (greater Tokyo areas) use shiratamako (白玉粉) a type of glutinous rice flour as the main ingredient for the mochi. They are super easy to make if you manage to gather all the ingredients it just takes a bit of planning a head if you want to make your own Sakura flowers and leaves but you can buy them if you wish.

This is how I made Chomeiji mochi 長命寺餅

Makes around x5

Ingredients & method sakura flowers and leaves rinsed in water and dried between kitchen towel. One of each for each mochi

Anko Tsubuan (粒あん) The paste has a chunky texture or Koshian (こしあん) The paste has a fine, smooth texture. Rolled into log shapes.

20 grams of Shiratama flour

Mixed with 40ml of water (mix and wait ten mins)

Then add 5 grams of sugar, 40 grams of plain flour and another 60ml of water.

Mix well until smooth and strain through a sieve.

Add a few drops of pink food colouring I like to use a natural dye so I use beetroot juice.

Heat up a non stick frying pan til hot then wipe neutral oil without flavour I use Tiana coconut butter over the pan with kitchen towel and then wipe it off (you do not want an oily pan)

Take a tablespoon of your mixture an add it to the pan add another and spread the batter out thinly into an oval shape.

This takes only second to cook once it’s solid flip it over for a few seconds to solidify on the other side. Remove and add to a plate and repeat the process until all your batter is used.

Lay a sakura leaf with the veins visible then place on top one of the crepes then add one of the anko logs and roll the leaf from the base and you are done. Continue with the rest and finish with a salted sakura flower. You can store these in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge.

Why not make yourself a bento this spring. One of my favourite places to buy bento boxes is Bento & Co in Kyoto. They have a wonderful on line store and ship really quickly from japan.
One memorable day last year I sat under a cherry blossom in my local park with my bento box and sake on a warm day.

The cherry blossom petals were falling like snow around me. Did you know there is a word for this ? 桜吹雪 Sakura-fubuki. It’s the little memories like this that stay with you. Another memory of Sakura-fubuki is when I visited Japan over cherry blossom season, I was walking in the Yasukuni Shrine and all the blossoms were falling.
The Japan Meteorological Agency determines the state of Tokyo’s sakura season by the flowers on a particular tree in the Yasukuni Shrine called the Index Tree. When only five or six blossoms have opened, Tokyo’s cherry blossoms are considered “in bloom.” When 80 percent of the buds on the tree have opened, Tokyo is considered to be in “full bloom.”  Forty seven other prefectures have their own index tree.

I hope you are able to enjoy hanami even if you are not in Japan just by doing those little things that make you feel closer.

Happy Hanami

 

Blog, Summer Food

Mizu Yokan 水ようかん

Mizu Yokan (水ようかん)

As the name suggests this red bean jelly yokan is a Japanese summer wagashi that has a higher water (mizu) content than the regular Yokan you may have tried. Serve chilled its sweet, light and perfect for summertime with a sencha tea.

To make this I used a smooth bean paste called Koshian こしあん.

Last year I decided to buy a Japanese stainless steel mold with a removable inner tray called Nagashikan (流し缶). Perfect for making  Kanten Jelly or Yokan I bought it from my favourite place to buy Japanese kitchen utensils global-kitchen they are great for all your kitchen items and most are made in japan . Like this stainless steel mold made by the Shimotori Corporation which was founded in 1955 in Tsubame, Niigata, the center of cutlery and steel manufacturing.

Every time I have ordered from them the items arrive so quick direct from japan . You can check them out on Instagram and they have a link on there direct to their website. I have not been sponsored by this company. 

I have also seen these yokan poured into bamboo cups served at tea houses in Kyoto. It’s so easy to make with just a few ingredients. 

All you need is one cup of cold water added to a pan then add one teaspoon of agar agar powder whisk and bring the water to a boil simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the agar agar then turn off the heat. Spoon in 200g of smooth bean paste and keep stirring until the bean paste has dissolved add a pinch of salt mix in and your done ! Then pour into your Nagashikan if you don’t have one you could use a plastic container. However I decided last summer to invest in one as it makes making things like my coffee jelly so much easier. Leave it to cool then put in the fridge to set.

The Nagashikan will slice it for you into individual pieces.

I served mine with a dusting of soy bean powder ( kinako ) matcha is  nice also.

As this wagashi is so sweet it best served with a green tea to balance out the flavours. Delicious for a Japanese summer tea time.


Why not take it one step further and cut your yokan into smaller pieces, It’s delicious served up with soy cream.

Or try it with soft Shiratama dango and kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) made from Okinawan sugar .

Just two tablespoons of powdered sugar combined with two teaspoons of water. Heat in the microwave for one minute or in a pan, then leave to cool. If you can’t get the okinawan sugar you can use molasses thinned with a little water.

 

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Chestnut Autumn Wagashi

This is a simple wagashi for autumn made of only three ingredients,chestnuts,sugar and koshian a smooth sweet bean paste.

First either roast and shell your chestnuts or like I did you can buy them already done in packets like this.

You will need around 15 whole chestnuts,add these to a bowl and start to mash them if you have a suribachi ( mortar and pestle ) use that. I used the flat end of a rolling pin to mash my chestnuts. Add to this two tablespoons of organic unrefined cane sugar and cream the sugar into the chestnut mash. Then divide your mash into three and put in separate plastic wrap roll into a ball and flatten out. Undo your wrap and in the middle of each place a ball of your bean paste. Gather up the sides of your flattened chestnut and make sure you cover the bean paste roll up in plastic wrap again to shape. I dipped mine in some sesame seeds for extra flavour and to make them look pretty but you don’t have to do this.

Lovely served with green tea as they are very sweet.