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Lotus Root

Blog, Spring Food

How to celebrate Setsubun 節分の日


Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (
鬼は外、福は内).

Demons out, Good Fortune in!” For today is Setsubun no Hi (節分の日) February 3rd.

Setsubun 節分, is a seasonal indicator that marks the day before the beginning of Spring and is now celebrated as a spring festival “Haru Matsuri”. A traditional event marking the official beginning of spring, according to the Japanese lunar calendar.

Setsubun is the day before we start again through the journey of the “Nijushisekki (24 solar terms)” or sekki of Japan when we welcome in Risshun 立春 the beginning of Spring.

This is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Even though we are in the coldest days, in Japan you will start to see those signs that spring is near by. The days are just getting slightly longer and you can see the start of life emerging from the earth. Ume blossom is starting to bloom, giving those well needed splashes of colour to the brown landscape and maybe you might see  flashes of a little green bird known as Uguisu (bush warbler or the Japanese nightingale) another symbol of spring in Japan. Why not look for signs of spring where you are.

Let’s enjoy Setsubun with Ehou Maki 恵方巻き, Ehō-maki

On this day there are a few customs in Japan one of them is to eat an uncut makizushi called Ehō-maki 恵方巻, “lucky direction sushi roll” while you sit in silence facing the years lucky direction. The “lucky direction” (恵方) of this year 2024 is east-north-east (東北東).
This changes every year depending on the current zodiac. There is actually a chart to work out each year which is the lucky direction. So as 2024 ends with 4 the lucky direction is east -northeast.

Years ending with

Lucky Direction

0 or 5

West – Southwest

1, 3, 6 or 8

South – Southeast

2 or 7

North – Northwest

4 or 9

East – Northeast

The word “Eho” means the auspicious direction where the god of good fortune for the year exists and is also called “Kippou” or “Akinokata/Akihou”.

Originally from Kansai the Ehō-maki must have seven ingredients, these relate to the Seven Lucky Gods (七福神, Shichi Fukujin) from local folklore who are in charge of bringing prosperity in business and good health. It doesn’t matter what you put inside it can be anything you like, but it’s good to have a variety of ingredients. Just eat the whole roll without cutting it with a knife and eat in silence, if you speak, the good fortune will escape.

In 1989, convenience store 7-Eleven started selling futomakizushi especially for Setsubun. Since then, the popularity of ehomaki quickly spread across Japan and supermarket and deparments also began to sell ehomaki.

Even if you’re not in Japan you can still follow Japanese customs.

Let’s make an Ehō-maki

As one of my seven ingredients I decided this year I wanted to add the new Organic Marinated Tofu from dragonfly foods. Their latest tofu is marinated in a blend of tamari, garlic, and ginger. Just remove from the packet drain the liquid, I recommend to oven bake then allow to cool for this recipe. When cool slice ready to add some flavour and texture to your sushi roll.

Other ingredients that you can add could be:

Vegan omelette, cucumber, avocado, Kampyo (cooked and flavoured gourd strips), Shiso/Ooba (perilla leaves), Lettuce, carrot strips, cooked shiitake mushrooms.

For x3 Ehō-maki wash two sushi cup of sushi rice, soak the rice for at least half an hour and cook your sushi rice in your rice cooker. While it’s cooking prepare your filling.

You will also need x3 pieces of toasted nori, place the nori with the rough side facing up on a rolling mat.

When your rice is done tip the rice into a bowl add some sushi seasoning and cool down with a fan in one hand while you gently cut and mix the rice in the other. When the rice is cool start to spread the rice on your nori leaving a gap at the top. Start to add your filling at the bottom then roll the nori over the filling. Remember to not cut your sushi roll but eat it whole in silence facing the lucky direction of this year east-north-east.

Setsubun is all about the Oni (おに)

Oni are a kind of yōkai, demon, orc, ogre, or troll in Japanese folklore. They are known as the god ofmountains with a fearful appearance. It is believed that the Oni come to punish humans when they misbehave. They come in many varieties, but are most commonly depicted with two or more horns, and fang-like tusks, red or blue skin, wild hair, large in size and possess superhuman strength. They are terrifying in appearance and are associated with disease and misfortune. They are often shown carrying their choice weapon: a large, heavy iron hexagonal club, called a tetsubō, which is used for torturing victims. They are typically depicted wearing little-to-no clothing, but when clothed they are usually shown wearing a loincloth made of tiger skin.

It was believed that this time of year the spirit world and our world combined making it easy for evil spirits  to bring illness into our homes. During the cold winter months it is easier to get sick and it was believed that this was caused by oni. At this time it is custom to repel these demons from our homes. One such way to do this is Mamemaki (豆まき), the throwing of roasted soybeans. The tradition of Setsubun dates back centuries, but the bean throwing tradition first emerged in the Muromachi period (1337 – 1573). So why use soybeans ? They are believed to have sacred power along with rice, which could get rid of evil spirits. The Japanese word for beans is pronounced as mame () and sounds similar to the word for demon eyes (mame, 魔目) and because of that throwing beans has a similar sound to destroying demons (mametsu, 魔滅).

It is custom to fill a Japanese wooden cup called a masu with the prepared beans which should be displayed on the altar and offered to the gods until the day of the bean-throwing ceremony.

On the day preferably midnight the beans are thrown out the entrance to your home or maybe at a family member dressed as a demon. As you do this you shout “Oni wa soto ! Fuku wa uchi”鬼は外! 福は内! meaning Demons out good fortune in.

You may also see another mask worn often by female members of the house hold, the kami of luck, good fortune, and kindness, which is the deity Okame portrayed with a white friendly face, chubby cheeks, and a warm smile. She acts as the defender against misfortune.

Since it is believed that ogres come at midnight, this is the best time to start the bean-throwing ceremony. Open the front door or window of your house and scatter beans, saying “Oni wa soto!” After closing the doors and windows immediately to prevent the ogres from returning, scatter the beans inside the room, saying “Fuku wa uchi!” It is then also custom to eat as many of the beans as your age plus one extra for luck.

Another tradition to ward off the evil spirit is to hang holly at your door with wait for it a smelly sardine head stuck on top. This talisman is called Hiragi iwashi. The evil spirits are apparently repelled by the strong smell and thorns of the holly leaves. Needless to say I just hang holly at my door being vegan. I was watching an NHK programme about a group of  nuns and they displayed holly with fabric fish as a representation as they didn’t eat meat or fish either, which I thought was a nice idea. I definitely recommend the series Nun’s cookbook on NHK. I noticed in the episode that the nuns do not chant the phrase “Oni wa “ it is believed that oni do not appear before the temples enshrined deity and as such, the chant is unnecessary.
Instead, the phrase “Senshu banzai fuku wa uchi!” is recited, meaning “Long life and good fortune, come in!”

In the Kanto region, kenchinjiru けんちん汁 is considered as an auspicious food and is eaten on Setsubun. Originally created as Buddhist temple cuisine by a Buddhist priest of Kenchoji temple in Kamakura city, Kanagawa prefecture. Jiru means soup and Kenchin is derived from the temple name. Packed with lots of nutritious root vegetables miso and tofu it is the perfect soup to warm you on a cold day. Maybe this is why it is considered lucky as eating this can help you stay healthy and ward off illness.

Let’s make kenchinjiru to bring health for the year.

This soup is full of umami flavour using kombu,shiitake mushroom,toasted sesame oil and tamari (or soy sauce). The soup consists of root vegetables in a shiitake kombu stock (you can also add miso if you wish).

This soup also has tofu, it is said that you tear the tofu into the soup instead of cutting the tofu as it is supposed to be divided equally between the residents of the temple regardless of status.  This dish contains no onion, devout Buddhists believe that onion is not good for your peace of mind so not good for meditation.

First make you stock:

I normally leave a piece of konbu to soak over night in cold water, the konbu comes with a white powder on its surface do not wash this off as this adds to the flavour just simply wipe with a cloth.  (for this recipe I used 3 cups of  konbu stock and 1 cup of shiitake stock).

After you have soaked your konbu place the water and konbu in a pan and turn on the heat remove the konbu just before the water starts to boil.  Make shiitake stock by soaking a few dried shiitake in one cup of warm water for around 20 mins (place a small bowl over to submerge the shittake to stop them from floating.  After 20 minutes take out the shiitake and slice them place a sieve over the konbu stock and pour the shiitake stock through the seive into the konbu stock to catch any gritty bits.

Now you need to prepare your vegetables.

You can use a variety of vegetables burdock root, daikon radish, carrot, lotus root, taro komatsuna or any leafy green vegetable. You can also add konnyaku (konjac) Konnyaku

Konnyaku is rich in dietary fiber,and a food that cleanses the body. For this reason, it is considered good luck to eat it on Setsubun. In some regions, konjac is eaten to drive out demons that live in the house, and at the same time, to expel the bad things in the body. However in my recipe I just used tofu.

The tofu I recommend is the Shizenno Megumi Organic Firm tofu. (Follow the link at the side or bottom of the page depending on your browser) Following a traditional Japanese recipe for “Momen Tofu” this lightly firm Tofu is full of juiciness with the richness of soya and a sweet aftertaste. All of the Shizenno Megumi are made using an authentic Japanese process practiced for thousands of years. The tofu is pressed carefully and delicately to ensure the proteins do not go tough. The result? A premium textured tofu that retains a good structure and absorbs flavours well. Certified Organic by the Soil Association since 1991, with their products you can be sure you are eating natural, nutritious food with no nasties. You will need to drain the liquid and press the tofu before using it in the recipe.

Chop your vegetables and if using burdock root scrub off any dirt chop and place in a bowl of water. If using taro root remove the skin slice in half and soak in water to remove the starch. Add about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil to a deep pan sauté your root vegetables for a few minutes.
Then add your stock  but do not add your leafy greens until the soup is nearly ready to serve.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender then add 1 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce and one tablespoon of mirin . If you would like to add more depth in the flavour of the stock why not add a little miso. I decided to use Hikari miso it is always my miso of choice.

Finally take your already drained and pressed tofu and crumble it into the soup in large pieces adding your chopped leafy greens just to wilt in the hot broth at the end before serving.

Other foods that are custom to eat at Setsubun are Setsubun Soba similar to Toshikoshi soba the meal on New Years Eve.

As well as soba, zenzai or anything with red beans are said to ward off evil.

Drinking Fukucha tea with lucky beans in it is considered to be a drink of good luck. Fukucha is a cup of hot water poured over kelp, pickled plums, and three lucky beans.

I hope you will have fun welcoming Spring this year and celebrating with unique Japanese customs.

 

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

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House. Vegan Tempura

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House

舞妓さんちのまかないさん A series on Netflix about Food & Friendship set in a Maiko house in Kyoto.

Photo Credit: The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, 2023. Netflix

From acclaimed filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda

Adapted from the manga series “Kiyo in Kyoto”by Aiko Koyama,

season 1 episode 5

“Choice”

Do you believe in destiny? Many of our choices in life take us on different paths. For me, when I started following a vegan lifestyle over twelve years ago now, I became interested in cooking. This then lead me to start to try and create vegan (plant based) recipes for Japanese food which wouldn’t normally be vegan. This incorporated my love for Japan, animals and food.
Even though Kiyo was told she would never be a maiko she found that rather than it being a set back, it lead her into a new life’s path. She discovers new pleasures in every day life, from shopping for seasonal produce at the markets to deciding what she will make for food for the maiko house.
In episode five which it titled “Choice”, we see lots of characters reflecting on the choices they need to make or have made. A lot of them are over love interests.

At the beginning of the episode we see Kiyo making tempura, all the girls are discussing love interests while they eat. Tsuru asks Kiyo if she has any love interests and for a moment Kiyo shocks everyone with her reply , “You know what? I’m actually in love…. with my frying pan Tetsuko”. Kiyo is also asked how she makes her tempura batter so crispy she explains she keeps the batter in the fridge. Keeping the batter extra cold is indeed key to making the perfect tempura batter.

The perfect tempura vegan batter:

You will need a selection of vegetables for your Tempura you could choose sliced kabocha, sliced Japanese sweet potato, lotus root, shiitake, bamboo shoots, shiso leaves, and maybe asparagus.  Prepare your vegetables and put them to one side, keeping potatoes in water to remove the starch, lotus root is also best kept in water once sliced.

I like to slightly steam or microwave root vegetables so they do not take as long to cook, just 1-2 minutes in the microwave. So just before you’re about to cook your tempura drain the sweet potatoes and lotus root pat them dry with kitchen towel and slightly cook them with kabocha squash if using.

Make your batter:

Add to a bowl 1 1/4 cup of plain flour, 1 tablespoon of potato starch, 1/4 teaspoons of salt and 1/8 teaspoons of baking powder and mix.

You will then need to add to your dry ingredients 200ml of ice cold carbonated spring water. Stir in the water to make a lumpy batter but do not over mix. Chill in the fridge while you heat up your oil.
You will need to heat four cups of cooking oil suitable for a high heat like rapeseed, vegetable or sunflower oil, in a deep pan. Heat the oil and test it by putting a chopstick in the oil if you see little bubbles gather around the chop stick it’s ready.

Put a wire rack to one side of the pan and your vegetables and batter to the other side. Remove your batter from the fridge give it one final mix and then start to dip the vegetables into the batter and then drop them into the oil. Do not over crowd your pan just cook a few at a time for 1 minute until golden and crispy and transfer to your wire rack.

Finish with the shiso leaves if you have them. Dip the underside of the leaves in potato startch before  dipping one side only in the batter. Drop them for a few seconds in the oil until the batter is crispy then remove.


Now your Tempura is ready to serve. You can serve them just simply with a dipping sauce known as Tsuyu .

You can make this with 1/2 cup of dashi (kombu and a dried shiitake left over night in 1 litre of water then discarded.) Add to 1/2 cup of dashi, 3 tablespoons of tamari and 2 tablespoons of mirin. I also love the concentrated noodle broth by clear spring just use four parts water to one tsuyu which makes it super easy and quick to use.
You can also add your tempura on top of rice this is known as “Tendon” Tempura rice bowl.
I definitely recommend making more tempura than you need and freezing the rest. Just defrost on a wire rack when needed and place in the oven to crisp and warm back up (do not microwave as it will go soggy).

Tempura is also delicious with soba noodles. A popular dish is “Tenzaru” cold soba noodles served in a sieve or basket  with tempura and a dipping sauce “Mentsyu” or for short “Tsuyu” served in something called a“Choko cup” with condiments like grated daikon and ginger and chopped green onions, maybe even a little wasabi. Just dip the soba and tempura into the dipping sauce.

Another variation could be Tempura soba in a hot broth. Just use the clear spring concentrate for ease or make tsuyu and add more dashi and tamari to taste. You can also add maybe some steamed greens and chopped green onion. Be sure to add your tempura at the last minute.

This whole episode seamed to be about fried food tempura then croquettes and finally karaage (fried chicken) please see my vegan recipe made from wheat gluten on another recipe page.

Kiyo makes karaage as a surprise for Sumire but it turned out to be a celebration meal as Sumire is told she will be officially a maiko earlier than expected. As they both sit in the kitchen it is then that Sumire asks Kiyo that when she is officially a maiko she would like the tiny sandwiches eaten by maiko that do not ruin their makeup. She explained she had always dreamed of having them. It was decided that Sumire will have a maiko name “ Momohana” taken from sister Momoko and combined with hana. Momo means peach in Japanese and hana means flowers so Sumire’s new name is peach blossom.

Photo taken in Kyoto

 

Blog

Midnight Diner Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂) Vegan Tonjiru


ビーガン豚汁

Vegan Tonjiru Soup

Inspired by Midnight Diner

Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)

Tonjiru is a classic winter dish which is popular all over Japan when the weather is cold. Some people call it Butajiru (豚汁)

As you know I am in love with the Japanese series  ‘Midnight Diner.’ And “Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories”. I have already made lots of the recipes on my website inspired by the episodes making them more suitable for a VEGAN diet and talk more in-depth about the characters and meals.

The owner (known as Master) only has 4 things on his menu: Pork and Vegetable Miso Soup (Tonjiru), Beer, Sake and Shochu. However  Master will cook anything on request so long as he has the ingredients.

As Tonjiru is the only food actually on the menu on the opening sequence of the start of each episode you will see “Master” prepare this meal.

Tonjiru translates to “pork” (ton) “soup” (jiru)

The soup is full of seasonal root vegetables and to replace the meat I added torn konnyaku and sliced aburaage. It’s a perfect miso soup on a cold day. Why not cosy on down at home with a  nourishing bowl of root vegetable miso soup and watch episodes of Midnight diner to warm the soul while the soup warms your body.

If you would like to read more about this check out the rest of my midnight diner series here on the website.

Here is what went into my soup.

You will need to make a kombu shiitake dashi by soaking them in water over night. Discard the kombu and take out the shiitake and slice them ( I used three shiitake).

Then prepare all your veggies this is what takes the time but after this it’s quick to make. I used carrot, daikon, Gobo, satoimo, lotus root, komatsuna, satsumaimo, aburaage, konnyaku.

I bought Gobo ( burdock root with the soil still on it so I gave it a wash and scrub, sliced it and put it in water so it didn’t go brown.
Slice lotus root into chunks and again leave to soak in water.

Peel satoimo ( taro potato and soak in water ) you can leave the skin on the satsumaimo ( Japanese sweet potato ) if you wish just slice and soak in water. This helps to remove the starch.

Cut your carrot and daikon into wedges and set aside.

Drain the konnyaku and rinse under running water then rub a little salt into it, tear into pieces and simmer in boiling water for ten minutes.

When it’s done drain and add to a pan this  is your pork substitute. Sauté the konnyaku in a little toasted sesame oil for a few minutes then add sliced shiitake, carrot, daikon, drained lotus root and Gobo.

Sauté and then add your kombu dashi. I normally make around 500ml of dashi to top up with 500ml of water. Take a piece of aburaage and pour boiling water over it to remove excess oil. Slice it into strips and add this also to your pan. Add a dash of mirin and tamari or soy sauce, gently mix and then simmer with the lid on.
In another pan I add the drained potatoes and cook those in water at the same time. I find potatoes easily get damaged as they knock about with other veggies so I cook them separately and add them at the end.

Just keep an eye on the water level as they simmer and top up the liquid with either dashi or water as needed. When the potatoes are not quite done add them to the pan to finish with the rest of the veggies.
When the veggies are tender, turn off the heat and with a ladle add one tablespoon of miso to a ladle ( I used an organic red miso ) brown rice miso or barley miso would be nice also. Lower the ladle half way into your soup and with another spoon start to mix liquid with miso. This helps break down the miso so it’s not all in one clump.

Add some chopped greens of choice like komatsuna which are Japanese mustard greens or you could use something like choysum. These will wilt in the hot broth.
Serve up into your bowls. Can be eaten like temple food with simply rice and pickles.


When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. 
My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect……

Blog, Spring Food

Chirashi sushi Scattered Sushi for Hinamatsuri

On March 3rd in Japan it is Hinamatsuri a special girls day festival held every year for parents to celebrate their daughters if they have them and pray for their health and happiness. It is the second in the five seasonal festivals this one also known as peach blossom festival or dolls day. The peach blossom are blooming at their peak now and ceremonial dolls are displayed in households.

There are many traditional foods that are eaten on this day for instance, hina-arare bite sized crackers, a fermented sake drink called shirozake, strawberry daifuku, Sakura Mochi, Temari sushi, kompeito small candy sweets, Dango and inari sushi to name a few. You can find out more about these in previous years posts. This year I have decided to make a special sushi known as Chirashi Sushi or Chirashizushi. This starts with sushi rice, lovingly preparing the sushi rice as normal washing it thoroughly  until the water runs clear and then cooking it in my rice cooker. When it was done I added ume plum vinegar to keep in with the theme of the blossoms at this time carefully mixing it in and fanning it cool. Then scattering over  some organic toasted sesame seeds to set the base for the rest of the toppings. Some of the ingredients were prepared in advance like sliced lotus root, cut into flower shapes and pickled in shiso vinegar for a week before hand. Chirashi Sushi  translates to scattered sushi. You will often find the one made for Hinamatsuri decorated with lotus root and slices of omelette, known as kinshitamago, I made a vegan omelette and this was my first topping. Then I scattered some kiriboshi (dried daikon) that had been soaking in warm water to reconstitute. It is tradition to add fish like salmon roe, crab meat and maybe shrimp but as I am making a vegan sushi I added, peas, sliced shiitake, snap peas, pickled daikon flowers and carrot flowers, preserved salted Sakura and shredded nori known as kizami nori.

This is the perfect meal to make and share at a party or gathering.
In Osaka Chirashi Sushi is known as Barazushi or Gomoku Sushi sometimes topped with unagi eel. In Tokyo it is known as Edomae taken from Edo and features an assortment of sashimi.

It is also traditional to make a clear clam soup known as ushio-jiru to go with a Hinamatsuri meal. As I wanted a vegan soup I made a similar clear soup known as Suimono. Starting with a cold water dashi the day before with kombu kelp, dried shiitake and Yuzu peel then the next day discarding  the kombu and slicing the shiitake adding  just mirin, tamari and a little salt to the broth. Pouring it over silken tofu (kinugoshi) and adding pretty fu flowers,with a few other ingredients bamboo shoot, shiitake, broccoli stem and mitsuba. The flavour is very delicate but full of umami.

To make the meal extra special some seasonal desserts, pink tofu dango topped with a rhubarb sauce, Sakura Mochi and a white peach sherbet jelly from the Japanese wagashi shop Minamoto Kitchoan.

Happy Hinamatsuri  I hope you can make a special meal or something to celebrate the beginning of spring even if you do not have a daughter.

Blog, Winter Food

Pickled Lotus Root (Su Renkon) 酢れんこん With Yuzu

A few days to go before new year in Japan it’s time to start preparing what food to make for Osechi. The new year Osechi Ryori is considered the most important meal of the year, and lots of time and care is taken to prepare it. It starts a few days before with deciding what will be made and collecting any ingredients needed.
Here is a shopping list of things you might need to buy.

kombu and dried shiitake for making dashi stock

mirin and tamari to add flavour to broths and marinades

Brown rice vinegar for making tsukemono (pickles)

konnyaku for adding to simmered vegetables

soba noodles for New Year’s Eve plus aburaage

Mochi rice cakes for ozoni New Year’s Day soup along with white miso paste.

Kuri Kanroni ( sweet candied chestnuts for making Kuri Kinton

Kuro-mame black soybeans

Vegetables lotus root, carrot, daikon radish, mongetout, taro potato, Kabocha, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese sweet potato,gobo,green onion, komatsuna or mizuna.

Yuzu and Yuzu juice

Sake and amazake

I like to start by making any tsukemono Japanese pickles so they can stay in the fridge a few days to be ready on the day. This year I am making Su-Renkon. Lotus root (renkon) is an imported food over the new year, the holes symbolises an unobstructed view to the future.

You can use fresh or boiled vacuum sealed lotus root depending on what you can find.

It is popular to make Hana-renkon flower cut lotus root for decoration. Which is easy to do. Cut your piece of lotus root in half and cut down in between the holes and take out the slices like this.

When you have done this you can cut the lotus root into slices.

Use a cup of water and a piece of kombu and let it soak with the lotus root for 30 minutes in a pan.


In another pan add two tablespoons of sugar, one tablespoon of mirin, a few slices of Yuzu rind and half a cup of brown rice vinegar and a little salt. Heat up the vinegar until the sugar dissolves then pour it into the pan with the kombu and renkon.
Start to heat the pan and then just as it starts to boil take out the kombu, then simmer down for about 15 minutes.

Pour your lotus root and liquid into a container, add a few slices of sliced red chilli pepper and a drizzle of fresh Yuzu juice over the lotus root. Let it cool then seal and refrigerate. Serve as part of your Osechi on New Year’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog

Toji 冬至 ( How to celebrate the winter solstice )

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. The winter solstice or Toji as it’s known in Japan is another one of those celebrations. I love the winter solstice in the fact that we know after the darkest day of the year the light and warmth will start to return.
People in Japan love to visit onsen and it is a winter solstice custom to either visit an onsen or take a hot bath with Yuzu citrus fruit on this day.


This bath is called Yuzu-yu, Yuzu grow on small thorny trees and have the taste between a grapefruit and mandarin, the smell of the fruit relaxes the mind and relieves stress. It is also said to ward of cold and viruses and as the Yuzu signifies good luck it is said to protect you from evil spirits. The juice also has a softening effect on the skin.
Yuzu juice is also really tasty and I like to slice the rind and freeze it to drop in a dashi broth or use in refreshing drinks in the summer. I often buy the juice in bottles already done to use in desserts. You can find many recipes on my pages that include Yuzu.
Why not try recreating an onsen at home for a real act of Japanese self care.

There are foods in Japan that are said to be auspicious Kabocha and red azuki beans are some of the Japanese good luck foods. Why not have a winter zenzai breakfast on the day of the solstice. A sweet azuki bean soup with simmered pieces of Kabocha and a toasted Mochi.


There is also something in Japan called “unmori” this is something that has an auspicious nasel sound of “n” which means fortune so it’s considered lucky to eat udon, daikon, ninjin (carrot) and renkon (lotus root). I made a lucky miso hot pot with these seasonal vegetables. Eating seasonal foods nourishes the body and gives us the vitamins we need.

I hope you can celebrate the solstice and welcome back the light returning.

Autumn Food, Blog, Summer Food

Lotus Root & Tofu Mushimanju

These little dumpling or steamed buns are inspired by Shojin Ryori or Buddhist cuisine. I actually added onion to mine which in typical Shojin Ryori they would not do, as they do not use onion or garlic in their cooking.

First start by peeling then finely grating a piece of fresh lotus root around 6 inches in length. Put the grated lotus root in a sieve and push out all the liquid until you are left with a pulp. To this add 3/4 of a block of drained silken tofu. I then added some black salt and chopped green onion for extra flavour, you could leave them plain if you wish or even add more veg like finely chopped carrot or sweetcorn.

Mix the tofu and lotus root pulp together. Then cut three squares of muslin cloth and in the middle of each add some mixture. Gather the ends and squeeze any liquid out through the cloth,then tie each one with string and steam for ten mins.

Take each bun out of the cloth and now you can use them as dumplings for soup if you wish.

This one is with a sweet sesame miso sauce,just white miso paste and sesame paste with Mirin.

Again could be a perfect dish as part of a Teishoku set meal.

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Macrobiotic Soup With Miso Buckwheat & Lima Beans

In the U.K. Where the weather is very changeable we very rarely get much in the way of hot summers,so it’s a good idea to make meals with a macrobiotic approach. Not only eating what’s in season but eating for the temperature. So when the summer weather is more like mid Autumn why not make a nourishing warming soup. This is a good one as we head off in to Autumn and you can change the vegetables you use accordingly.

To make the stock for the soup I used kombu good for the thyroid as its high in iodine, you just add a piece of dried kombu to water and gently heat for ten minutes then take out the kombu ( this can be chopped and used in salads if you wish)

I also used miso in this soup a good source of iron,calcium,potassium and B vitamins and beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Miso helps to stimulate the digestion and energise. No wonder people in Japan start the day with it. Make sure your miso is GMO free and organic and unpasteurised.

I added a grain to this soup you could use things like brown rice, quinoa,millet,amaranth or barley . In this one I’m choosing to use buckwheat. Buckwheat is a rich source of protein a very nutritious grain which is also gluten free.

Adding a bean of some kind really gives it extra sustenance  and also adds to it being macrobiotic. You can choose what ever you wish in this soup I’m using butter beans also known as Lima beans rich in protein,fiber and B vitamins.

Lots of veggies like carrot,potato,burdock,kale,shiitake and daikon and butternut squash when in season kabocha pumpkin would be wonderful also.

Maybe top with some fresh chopped herbs and a few pieces of tofu if you like.

Just what you need to curl up with on the sofa as the nights start to draw in.

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Chirashi Zushi

To night is a traditional meal for Hina-matsuri
Chirashi Zushi ( scattered sushi )
Seasoned sushi rice with seasonal toppings .
As Hina-matsuri is also known as dolls day I put one of my kokeshi in this photo that was sent to me from @tohokukokeshi if you get chance to read her book it’s very interesting.
Also a big thank you to @malamala for the beautiful Hina-matsuri cloth
Happy Hina- Matsuri Japan
幸ひな祭り
ちらし寿司

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Salad Donburi

Salad donburi .
I’ve been wanting to recreate a salad I had in Kyoto at Kousocafe85
I enjoyed the salad don so much .
Underneath all that salad is warm rice with azuki beans.
The salad was a mix of lots of different leaves spinach,baby red leaf,mizuna,chive,parsley,baby coriander,salanova,butterhead,
Rocket and celery leaf.
Mixed in to the leaves were chiquino peppers,chopped celery,cherry tomato,grated carrot,radish,cucumber wedges,raw cauliflower florets and raw tender stem broccoli and asparagus tips,blanched beansprouts,lotus root and burdock,hijiki seaweed and avocado. I also remembering how nice it was to have a bit of mango in my salad I threw in a few pieces of chopped mango . In fact I only had half this salad as it was so filling and saved the rest for lunch tomorrow.
I made a miso dressing and had this with a simple miso soup and a small dessert of yuzu ice cream with sweet bean paste.
Mixing in the salad in to the warm rice was so delicious. A little bit like having a scattered sushi bowl.
If your in Kyoto I really recommend finding kousocafe85 I found it by accident it’s a vegan organic cafe and was a very memorable visit .

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Pizza or Toasted Open Sandwich

This is kinda of a mix between a pizza and a toasted open sandwich . Toasted bread topped with sweet tomato purée then spread with mochi cheese and roasted veggies . Veggies were red and yellow peppers,aubergine,lotus root, eryngii mushroom and snap peas and cress. Served with salad and miso tofu dressing .
ピザオープン野菜サンドイッチ
餅チーズ
サラダ
豆腐みそドレッシング

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Osechi Ryori

Another Osechi Ryori
お節料理
O’zoni お雑煮
Namasu and Kiriboshi
紅白なます
Nishime (simmered vegetables) 煮しめ
And kuromame with candied yuzu peel
黒豆
For the simmered vegetables I used taro,carrot,daikon,freeze dried tofu
shiitake,mangetout and bamboo shoots. I did mean to use lotus root and completely forgot so will use it in another dish .
It was a lovely sunny day to day much better weather than yesterday so we went for a lovely walk in the countryside. I hope everyone is enjoying their New Year so far.

Blog, Winter Food

Kenchinjiru

This is a traditional Zen Buddhist shojin Ryori cuisine which originates from the Kencho-ji Temple in Kamakura .  Jiru means soup and Kenchin is derived from the temple name.

This soup is full of umami flavour using kombu,shiitake mushroom,toasted sesame oil and tamari ( or soy sauce )

The soup consists of root vegetables in a shiitake kombu stock ( you can also add miso if you wish .) This soup also has tofu it is said that you tear the tofu into the soup instead of cutting the tofu as it is supposed to be divided equally between the residents of the temple regardless of status.  This dish contains no onion,devout Buddhists believe that onion is not good for your peace of mind so not good for meditation.

First make you stock

I normally leave a piece of konbu to soak over night in water the konbu comes with a white powder on its surface do not wash this off as this adds to the flavour just simply wipe with a cloth.  ( for this recipe I used 3 cups of  konbu stock and 1 cup of shiitake stock .

After you have soaked your konbu place the water and konbu in a pan and turn on the heat remove the konbu just before the water starts to boil.  Make shiitake stock by soaking a few dried shiitake in one cup of water for around 20 mins ( place a small bowl over to submerge the shittake to stop them from floating.  After 20 mins take out the shiitake and slice them and add the stock to the konbu soaked water .

Now you need to prepare your vegetables

You can use a variety for vegetables Burdock root,daikon radish,carrot,lotus root,taro komatsuna  or any leafy green vegetable,you can also add konnyaku (konjac) but I just used tofu in this recipe . I didn’t use burdock root as I couldn’t find any and I didn’t use taro .

chop your vegetables and add about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil to a deep pan sauté your root vegetables for a few minutes then add your stock  but do not add your leafy greens until the soup is nearly ready to serve.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender then add 1 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce and one tablespoon of mirin .

take a block of drained tofu and crumble it into the soup in large pieces  and finally add your chopped leafy greens .

Now your soup is ready