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Miso

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, Winter Food

Vegan Ramen With A Creamy Tofu & Miso Sauce


Ramen written in Japanese: 拉麺, ラーメン or らーめん

Arriving  in Japan in the late 19th or early 20th Century
from China ramen has become one of the most popular dishes not only across Japan but the world.
The first Japanese restaurant to serve up a bowl of noodles similar to today’s ramen was Yowaken 養和軒 in 1884, but it wasn’t until 1910 that Japan had its first ramen shop called Rairaiken 来々軒 in Asakura, Tokyo.
There is something comforting about a bowl of ramen, even if it didn’t originate from Japan, Japan have made it their own and given ramen it’s on Japanese culture. Nearly every region in Japan seams to have their own version. Different areas, cities, and even shops have their own twist on ramen. From different broths like shio (salt ramen) shoyu (soy sauce), miso, milk or curry. Then there are straight or curly noodles of all different thickness.
Loved not only by salarymen who have no time to prepare their own meals but who are looking for something quick hot and filling, but also by students and those looking for a quick cheap, and delicious, meal on the go.
The appetite for ramen saw even a ramen museum open in Yokohama in 1994.
So when Hikari Miso and parent company Dragonfly Tofu asked if I could come up with a tofu ramen recipe just for them I wondered what I could do to make things different to the other tofu ramen recipes found across Japan and ones that come up on the internet when you search “tofu ramen”. I also wanted it to be easy, relatively cheap and quick to make. You may have some of the ingredients already in your store cupboard and apart from the tofu if you do have to buy the ingredients you will have lots left over to use over and over again.

I took my inspiration from ramen created in Hokkaido using miso paste as a seasoning. Hikari miso has been crafted over four generations in Nagano Japan, where the water air and cool climate make the perfect environment for making miso. The ramen I have created has a robust flavour as the miso paste is creamy and tangy, and instead of using tofu as a topping I decided to use it with the miso to make a sauce. The dish feels so decadent but is so quick and simple to make.

Using the true authentic gently coagulated soft Shizenno Megumi Organic Tofu known as “ kinughosi” in Japan, it lends itself well to making the perfect rich sauces as well as using it for desserts, smoothies or just simply cut up into cubes and added to miso soups.

How to make my Ramen with a creamy tofu & miso sauce.

You will need: (serves two)

x1 pack of Shizenno Megumi “natures best” organic soft tofu
x1 tablespoon of Shiro Nerigoma  (white sesame paste)
x1 tablespoon of Hikari miso organic white miso
x1 tablespoon of light soy sauce (known as Usukuchi)
x1 teaspoon of brown rice vinegar
x1 teaspoon of mirin
x1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
Add all the above ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth thick and creamy. Then pour into a saucepan.
You will also need a variety of toppings prepped in advance. This could be a combination of steamed vegetables bean sprouts, komatsuna or chingensai (bok choy), hakusai (Chinese cabbage), grilled lotus root and shiitake, sliced kabocha roasted or steamed, sliced red onion, sliced negi (green onion), tinned sweetcorn, watercress, maybe some roasted bell peppers, whatever you fancy.
Once you have prepped your toppings things come together quickly so you could do this in advance.
Put your ramen noodles of choice in a pan of boiling water (check to make sure they are vegan.)  I recommend samurai ramen. Some may come with a sauce you will not need to use this so save it for another time. I also like ohsawa ramen which I often bring back from Japan.
Get your serving bowls ready.
Many ramen broths in Hokkaido have milk so in true Hokkaido style add soy milk to your tofu sauce. Add as much as you like to make the sauce the consistency you want. Start to gently heat your sauce do not let it boil.
Drain your ramen noodles and add to your serving bowls. When your sauce is nice and hot pour over your sauce and quickly add your toppings so that it’s all still nice and hot when you serve it. I like to add a few drops of chilli oil, some chilli threads known as Ito togarishi and a scatter of sesame seeds.
Happy Slurping.
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.

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

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House A Japanese Style Breakfast & Caramel Bread Pudding

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 3

“Taboo”

Part one: A Traditional Japanese Breakfast.

Have you ever visited Japan and been served a Japanese breakfast maybe in a “traditional Japanese inn with tatami floors and an onsen communal bath”?

A Japanese traditional breakfast normally consist of rice, miso soup, tsukemono (pickles), a main meal like grilled salmon and some side dishes like tamagoyaki ( Japanese rolled omelette) and gomaae.

Waking up early before anyone else, Kiyo sets to work on making one such meal for the girls breakfast in the Maiko house. She puts on her apron and ties back her hair in preparation. She greets the dashi stock that she made the night before as she opens the lid on the pot “ Hello there and good morning”. 

First she starts to slice okra to make a simple side dish with sesame “Okra Gomaae”.

This side can also be made with green beans or spinach. Kiyo doesn’t cook the okra where as if I was using green beans or spinach I would blanch them first.

Goma 胡麻 means sesame and Ae 和え means to dress. To make this you can toast and grind your sesame seeds but for ease in the morning I like to use Surigoma which are already toasted and ground . Slice your okra with diagonal cuts like Kiyo did and place to one side. Add to a bowl two tablespoons of surigoma and to that add one tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari and one tablespoon of sugar, mix well into a paste, then add your okra to combine and your done. You might wonder about the raw okra but believe me this side dish is lovely and crunchy with out the slime of cooked okra.


Next Kiyo makes a simple miso soup with silken tofu and cherry tomatoes using a special sieve to dilute the miso with out clumps called a Misokoshi. I love mine and they are available to buy from www.hatsukoi.co.uk 

Kiyo opens her rice cooker and fluffs up the rice, then starts on grilling the salmon.

Obviously we want to make a vegan version of this so this takes a little preparation starting the night before with marinating some tofu.

To make your marinade:

Add to a jug or bowl, x1 tablespoon of shredded nori (kizami nori), x2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, x2 tablespoons of tamari, x2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoons of liquid smoke, x1 tablespoon of beetroot juice, x1 tablespoon of coconut palm sugar, a one inch piece of peeled and grated fresh ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes. Leave this to soak for a few hours and then pour the liquid out through a sieve. Pour the liquid into a dish for your tofu to sit in.

Prepare the tofu:

You need to get the water first out of a block of firm tofu. You can do this by pressing it or you can steam it for five minutes or microwave for one minute wrapped in a paper towel. Let the tofu cool, then cut the piece of tofu in half and slice the top of each piece at an angle making a wedge shape. Make diagonal slices in the tofu be careful not to cut all the way down.

Place into the marinade turning it over a few times and then leave over night cut side down.

In the morning remove the tofu and place a piece of cut nori to fit  the uncut side of the tofu then lightly dust in starch and fry on all sides in a pan with hot oil. Remove and put to one side.


You will notice kiyos breakfast consist of two other sides as well as quick pickles.

Another popular side dish is hijiki no nimono simmered hijiki seaweed salad.

First soak two tablespoons of dried hijiki seaweed in hot water for 30 minutes.

You will also need to remove the oil residue from a piece of aburaage, to do this put your aburaage in a sieve and pour hot water over it then blot with kitchen towel, after that slice into thin strips and put in a pan. Drain a can of precooked soy beans or if you can’t get soy beans something similar (I used cannellini). Put half the beans in the pan with the aburaage. Julienne or grate one carrot and add this to the pan. Drain the hijiki and add this to the pan. Give everything a quick stir fry in a little sesame oil, then add to the pan, x1 teaspoon of dashi powder, x2 tablespoons of mirin, x2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce and 100ml of water. Simmer for about five minutes until all the water has gone. Place to one side.


I also made a vegan tamagoyaki using a vegan omelette mix called “Nomelette” which you can purchase from www.sunandseed.com. I made up the desired amount instructed to make one omelette and added a piece of nori before rolling it then cut it into slices.

Finally no Japanese meal can be without tsukemono or quick pickles called asazuke made with salt or vinegar and they are super easy to make. Just add chunks of carrot, cucumber and daikon to a zip lock bag. Then if you want to make salt pickles known as shiozuke just add a few teaspoons of salt and rub the salt into the vegetables. I like to use Japanese salt from Okinawa but I understand this is not easily come by. Do this at the start of making you meal in the morning and then they will be ready to serve when everything else is done.

Kiyo served her Japanese breakfast with onigiri rice balls so I decided to do the same with my breakfast.

I had just recently received this beautiful solid ash wooden serving box containing mino ware plates and dishes that fit inside. It is called a Hibino Modern Shokado Bento Box. I love how this can be used from using the dishes and plates that come with the box or adding your own. The lid can be also used as a tray. If your interested in this it is from www.musubikiln.com

I thought this would be the perfect way to serve this very special breakfast.

A further note in this episode:

Kiyo goes grocery shopping at the local market, she buys silken tofu and is delighted to find daikon radish grown in Aomori. The store owner points out that the leaves attached are edible. If your lucky enough to ever find this you can lightly blanch the leaves or stir fry them  or why not try my furikake recipe found in my “Live by the Shun” blog for summer.


Part 2 Caramel Bread Pudding also known as  (Pan Pudding)

パンプディング, pan means bread in Japanese. 

Tsurukoma one of the girls in the Maiko house is upset to find her caramel pudding missing from the fridge. It was just an ordinary caramel pudding from the convenience store, but Maiko are not allowed to enter when their hair is done so she would have to wait all week for another.

It’s early morning and Kiyo is washing rice, Tsurukoma comes down before anyone else is awake requesting bread for breakfast, but there is only one slice. What can be done with it ? As Tsurukoma was so upset over her missing caramel pudding, Kiyo sets out to make her a caramel bread pudding.

The bread pudding is made with shokupan パン Japanese milk bread. Even if it is available for you to purchase it is very rarely vegan as it’s made with milk and butter.

If you follow my shokupan bread recipe you can make your own.

The next problem with  making the bread pudding are the eggs used. So I decided to give the new liquid egg vegan substitute a try called “scrambled oggs”

To make vegan Caramel Bread Pudding:

Preheat your oven to 165 dregrees C

You will need a gratin dish greased on all sides with vegan butter.

You will need one slice of shokupan around 3/4 inch thick cut into six  pieces. Add this to your gratin dish leaving space in between.

In a bowl add  100ml of vegan egg mixture to that add two tablespoons of sugar, 3/4 of a cup of soymilk, 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. Whisk up the mixture and pour half over the bread and let it soak in then add the rest. I actually sprinkled a little nutmeg on the top of mine but that was just personal taste. Put your gratin dish in the oven and bake until golden brown around 30-40 minutes ( keep and eye on it.)  

During the episode Kiyo receives a parcel from her grandmother it’s a heavy cast iron pan called Tetsuko. Tetsu meaning iron in Japanese. She uses this to make the caramel sauce. I had recently bought some oat syrup by Clearspring when I tried it I thought how much it tasted like caramel so I decided instead of making a caramel sauce to warm up a tablespoon of the oat syrup and swirl that onto of the bread pudding when I removed it from the oven.

This pudding is just as delicious as one made with diary and eggs, it melts in the mouth and feels luxurious and comforting at the same time. Crispy on the outside and soft inside. Like Tsurukoma did in this episode just take a spoon and dive straight in.

More recipes to come in my next The Makanai blog.

If you haven’t already watched it yet

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House is available for streaming on Netflix.

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, Winter Food

Comforting Winter Stew Donburi With Tofu & Miso


Everything goes better with rice right ?
Well this Lima bean and tofu sausage Nabe definitely does, but equally comforting spooned on top of mashed potato or served with warm crusty bread. However you decide to have this delicious winter stew it’s sure to warm and nourish you.
Start with some tofu sausages I used some organic ones made by Taifun. I brushed them lightly with toasted sesame oil then rolled them in some sage, thyme and rosemary and set them under the grill to cook.

When they are done slice them into chunks and set aside.
In your donabe pot or other cooking pot, sauté  half a diced onion, one diced carrot and  one of each diced red and green bell pepper in a little sesame oil or olive oil. Add your sausages and then add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato purée  one tin or carton of Lima beans (butter beans), two cups of vegetable stock and a dash of red wine if you have it and a dash of tamari or soy sauce. Then add a dash of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle of fennel, mustard and coriander seeds and some salt and pepper. Put the lid on your pot and let it simmer until every thing is tender.  While it’s cooking cook your rice if your having it with rice.
When your stew is done mix in a heaped teaspoon of brown rice miso  this will give it lots of depth of flavours, add some chopped fresh parsley and a squeeze of citrus.


I managed to get some fragrant bergamot lemons which just add a lovely freshness to the sauce.
Spoon over warm rice or dunk right in there with that crusty bread.

Perfect for a cold day to warm you up.

Blog, Winter Food

Year of the Tiger Tora 虎 2022


明けましておめでとうございます!

Happy New Year to you all ! This year is the year of the Tiger. 

Years of the Tiger include 2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938.….

The zodiac sign Tiger is a symbol of strength, exorcising evils, and braveness.

People born in a year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, and confident. They are very charming and well-liked.

Tigers usually enjoy good health. Colds coughs, and fever, are rarely experienced by Tigers. Let’s hope that’s a good omen for 2022

The Tiger ranks third among the animals of the 12 zodiac animals

in order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each year is related to an animal sign according to a 12-year-cycle.

Tigers in temples

I have talked about Kurama-dera (鞍馬寺), before In a previous post “Yama no Hi “.

On visiting the main hall you see some very unusual guardians . Tigers protecting the main temple .

Why unusual? Usually, two koma-inu, or sacred dogs, protect the entrance of temples. However Tigers are considered to be messengers of the Buddhist divinity Bishamonten, one of the Four Heavenly Kings and the protector of northern Kyoto. According to legend, Bishamonten came to Kurama with a tiger in the Hour of the Tiger, on the Day of the Tiger, within the Month of the Tiger according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Called “the tigers of A-Un”, the concept of A-Un is one that encapsulates all of life from its beginning to its end. 

The two tigers sit facing each other, one with an open mouth representing the beginning and the other with a closed mouth representing the end. These two tigers are a metaphor of the universe.

New year Osechi-ryōri (御節料理, お節料理 or おせち) are traditional Japanese New Year foods.

I make Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理 every year for New Year’s Day ( Ganjitsu 元日). Even though I am not in Japan I feel making it can bring Japan closer to me with  with my food. And hopefully closer for you also.

New year is a very important time and food has a lot of special meaning. I have done a few posts on new year foods over the years on my website why not check them out.

Osechi Ryori are traditional foods normally packed in a tiered bento box known as ojubuko 重箱 enjoyed at New Year’s Day in Japan.

These boxes can contain small appetizers to go with drinks,  grilled and vinegared dishes, and simmered dishes. All dishes are eaten  at room temperature,  like a bento box. If the dish contains countable food like Inari for instance then serve in auspicious numbers 3, 5, 7, or 9 pieces. To make your box look pleasing to the eye Coordinate your colours. I also like to use small bowls and dishes These small bowls are called Kobachi 小鉢 and it’s nice to use ones with bright colours and pretty patterns. Try looking at Musubikiln which have a lovely selection of such bowls to purchase on their website.

I have made a vegan selection of traditional dishes.

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).

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

Sekihan (Red Bean glutinous Rice) 赤飯 traditional rice dish served on happy occasions which I stuffed some into inari いなり寿司. The other  Inari was  komatsuna Yuzu citrus vinegared rice.

Namasu (なます) or also known as Kohaku Namasu (red and white)(紅白なます) Red and white are considered celebratory colours in Japan. Julienned daikon and carrot pickled in a sweet vinegar with a hint of citrus.

Kuromame (Sweet Black Soybeans) 黒豆 served on New Year’s Day as a part of Osechi Ryori (traditional New Year’s meal). Eating kuromame is considered good for your health for the new year.

This year I was lucky to be given by a friend in Japan some very special  Hanamame which are from Gunma .

Pickled Lotus Root (Su Renkon) 酢れんこん Lotus root has been considered an auspicious food for the Japanese New Year because lotus root with its many holes is a symbol of an unobstructed view of the future.

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.)

aburaage rolls with daikon and carrot 油揚げロールズ tied with kanpyo. Black sesame Gomadofu, Ginnan, simmered Kabocha and Yuzu tofu mousse served in a Yuzu fruit.

ピーチビーガンゼリー Peach vegan jelly


Start  the New Year’s Day with a traditional Japanese breakfast.

This breakfast soup, said to be the most auspicious new year food 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 I added daikon,carrot, komatsuna and Silken tofu with the mochi as the 5th ingredient.


関東風书雜煮 Kanto style Ozoni

(more popular in Tokyo and eastern Japan ). This is a clear kombu dashi, with mirin and tamari known as Osumashi.

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 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. This time it is traditional to use a rectangular or square mochi for Kansai style.

As we head into a new year I wish all of you a healthy and happy one. And for those of you who are missing Japan because you cannot travel let’s make Japanese food together to help us feel closer to the place we love and miss so much.

Winter Food

The Perfect Miso Soup

Miso

For centuries Japanese artisans have been fermenting grains and soybeans with koji to make what’s considered a super food. An essential ingredient in many dishes but who can forget the humblest of them all miso soup.

white miso with silken tofu, komatsuna, maitake and enoki mushrooms and chopped green onion.

Miso soup, rice and pickles are the main components of any ichiju-sansai or ichiju-Issai zen Buddhist meal or a kenchin-Jiru soup, a root vegetable and tofu soup with miso.

miso soup with shimeji mushrooms, mizuna,daikon, aburaage and Japanese sweet potato.

Miso is a source of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals from iron and B vitamins to calcium and protein. This ingredient is often used to restore health and prevent illness and many people in Japan have miso everyday. There are many different types of miso depending on what has been used to make it. The cooked grains or beans are mixed with koji aspergillus culture water and salt and left to naturally ferment at room temperature for up to two years. Gradually the enzymes supplied by the koji breaks down the beans or grains into fatty acids, amino acids and simple sugars.
When you go shopping for miso there is a wide variety to choose from some are white and sweet and some are dark and earthy, choose ones that are made naturally preferably organic and unpasteurised.

Miso soup with mushrooms,cabbage,tofu and watercress.

When making miso soup start with dashi, in Japan this is often made with fish flakes called bonito,but a simple kombu dashi will work fine for vegans. Just soak a piece of kombu over night in water and gently simmer for 10 mins then remove.

why not try adding some Yuzu rind to your kombu dashi for a touch of citrus flavour.

You can experiment with different ingredients from carrots, mushrooms,radish,seaweed and tofu along with different kinds of miso to find your favourite but here is some inspiration for you. Cook your veggies first before adding your miso. Never boil your miso as this will destroy the natural beneficial enzymes. The best thing is to take a little warm cooking liquid and ladle some into a bowl, add your miso and dissolve then put this into your pan.

I normally use 1/2 litre of kombu dashi with two tablespoons of miso but you might like it stronger or weaker depending on the miso your using. Who would of thought a simple miso soup could have so many possibilities. You could even experiment with combining different miso together.

Leeks, mushrooms and vegetables

In Japan on New Year’s Day there is a special soup called Ozoni which is eaten for breakfast as part of Osechi Ryori ( New Years food) with a Mochi rice cake. The kansai style uses sweet white miso why not try having this and follow the Japanese traditions even if you can’t be in Japan right now.

Ozoni

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.

Blog, Winter Food

Vegan Honey Butter Miso Toast

You may think it strange but in Hokkaido where butter and miso are used together quite often and in Tokyo cafes where they have thickly cut toast with honey, I decided to combine the two to bring you this honey butter miso toast.

A combination of sweet and salty it would be perfect for breakfast or a delicious cosy afternoon snack.
I used a vegan orange blossom honey by a independent company called Plant-Based-Artisan, but if you can’t get this you could try maple syrup, agave or another vegan honey if you know one.

You will need an uncut white tin loaf, cut two slices around 1 -1 1/2 inches thick and score a cross hatch pattern on one side, half way through the bread slice.
You will need one 1 inch x 1 inch piece of vegan butter slightly warmed.
one teaspoon of vegan honey or similar and one teaspoon of miso paste of choice. I used Clearspring barley miso paste.  Mix your butter, honey and miso together.

Toast the uncut side of your bread under the grill then flip it over and spread over your honey miso butter thickly and put it back under the grill. The miso will start to bubble a bit like cheese on toast. When the miso butter in bubbling and your toast is done, take it out and sprinkle with a few sesame seeds. Eat while it’s still hot.
A comforting toast with the taste of Japan .

 

 

Blog, Winter Food

Hachinohe Senbei-Jiru & Suiton

As we dive deeper into colder days the winter micro season on the 7th of December with Sora samuku fuyu to naru meaning “cold sets in winter begins” starts. This is a time to start thinking of cosy home cooked meals with seasonal ingredients to feed the soul and warm the body.
Have you heard of a dish called Senbei-Jiru? It’s a country-style rice cracker stew sometimes known as wafer soup, from the northern prefecture of Aomori in the city of Hachinohe.

This dish dating back to the Edo period uses something called Nambu-senbei crackers. They are made from wheat and salt and are formed  into thin round shapes before toasting.

They can be eaten on their own or as a snack or in this case they are dropped into a soup before serving. The soup varies but always has seasonal vegetables and mushrooms in either a soy sauce or miso broth. The wafers absorb the flavour and when In the soup take on a dumpling like texture. This is how the soup known as “Suiton” evolved from this to Senbei-Jiru, as the crackers can be stored dry for a long time.  Suiton is a soup commonly known as Hitsumi is an earthy vegetable soup with dumplings made from rice or wheat flour sometimes known as Hatto-Jiru or Dango-Jiru.

I decided to make one base miso vegetable soup and try it three ways.

The soup can be any seasonal vegetables with a kombu dashi, like potato, daikon,carrot and kabocha then mushrooms I used shiitake. The soup normally has some meat so I used strips of aburaage instead ( deep fried tofu ) I love this in broth as it soaks up all the lovely flavours. I then added some miso. I used a combination of organic Japanese brown rice miso and white miso paste by Clearspring.
For the Suiton you need dumplings 1/2 cup of all purpose flour mixed with 1/4 cup of water and a little salt. Mix into a dough and form into balls. Drop the balls into the cooked soup when they float to the top they are ready. Serve with some chopped green onions or chopped greens like komatsuna.

I was lucky enough to be sent some nambu-senbei from Japan so in my second dish I added these just before serving.

However like many of you who can’t get the authentic thing why not just try using wheat crackers the type you would use for cheese. I tried these ones.

The second part of the winter micro season starts on the 12th of December and is Kuma ana ni komoru meaning bears start hibernating in their dens.  Maybe that’s something we also do in away. We stay inside on cold dark days. It’s a time to cosy up under a blanket or in Japan something called a kotatsu which is a low level table draped with a thick blanket with a heater underneath. The perfect place to eat your nourishing soup which ever way you choose to prepare it.

Autumn Food, Blog, Winter Food

Japanese Thanksgiving & Kondate-Zukushi Meal

Niinamesai 新嘗祭 is a Shinto celebration held on the 23rd of November, nowadays it has been rebranded as Labour Thanksgiving Day. It is a very important day in Shinto religion as it is the annual day to give thanks for the newly harvested rice. This is known as the celebration of first taste.In Buddhist temples it is known as The Autumn Festival and is normally a ceremony of the gratitude for everything nature provides. It is also a time to pray for a prosperous and fruitful New Year.

I decided to make a temple style meal to celebrate doing something a little different. These days due to modern cultivation methods, vegetables are grown all year round and no one seams to know a vegetables true season. In temple cuisine it is believed to be important to follow the flow of nature and eat foods provided by the season. This makes sense as each season provides us with the nourishment we need, consider summer vegetables tomatoes, cucumber and melon all have a cooling effect on the body. Autumn and winter root vegetables give us warmth and nourishment to warm the body with soups and nabes.

I had just received a box of kabu from an organic Japanese vegetable farm. Robin & Ikuko run Nama Yasai farm in East Sussex.

Kabu かふis a type of Japanese turnip, it has an effective digestive aid and is rich in vitamin C, iron and fibre. The leaves are nutrient rich in vitamin A and Calcium.
As the whole part of the vegetable is good in so many dishes from soups and simmered dishes to salad and pickles, I decided to prepare a meal using two Japanese principles. The first is called Ichi Motsu Zen Shoku, which is the use of using a vegetable in it’s entirety. The second approach is called Kondate-Zukushi a culinary practice of making an entire meal from one single ingredient (in this case kabu).

This is my Teishoku meal

Kabu & Soymilk Soup

Chopped Kabu, simmered in vegetable stock until tender adding some greens at the last minute, then add a dash of soymilk and white miso before blending.

Gohan & Kabu greens

cooked Japanese rice with chopped Kabu greens mixed in after cooking.

Simmered whole Kabu with Yuzu miso

Miso roasted Kabu with sautéed greens and baked tofu

Finally what no Japanese meal should be without Tsukemono or pickles. This pickle is known as Asazuke or quick pickle.

Slice a medium Kabu and place in a ziplock bag, add to this some chopped greens, some sliced kombu kelp, 1/3 chopped red chilli a teaspoon of Yuzu zest and a teaspoon of Yuzu juice, a table spoon each of brown rice vinegar and mirin and a tablespoon of salt. Press the air out of the bag and seal it then massage the Kabu so all the flavours are immersed. Then leave in the fridge at least four hours or overnight.

I hope this can inspire you to make your own meal around the Kondate-Zukushi principle.

 

 

Summer Food

Hiyajiru ( cold summer soup ) & Kohaku-Kan ( Brown Sugar kanten jelly )

Even though there is still ranging heat in Japan I am beginning to see a shift in the seasons here in the UK. The nights are getting shorter and the weather cooler. The swallows are getting ready to migrate and the fields are being harvested. With that said I wanted to make one final summer Japanese dish before I start to think about heading over to making autumn meals.
This is something I have tried making in the past but it didn’t turn out to my liking but when I saw an NHK programme dining with the chef I knew I could try to make a vegan version.

Hiyajiru is a Japanese cold summer soup with rice. Traditionally with flaked mackerel and miso. Instead of the mackerel I decided to use flakes of jackfruit with aonori seaweed mixed in.

First you need to make a dashi, soak a small piece of kombu kelp for a few hours in 150ml of cold water, after bring the water to a simmer over a medium heat for ten minutes ( do not boil) then remove the kombu.

Add to the water, 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce or tamari and mirin then chill in the fridge.

Make some Japanese rice in advance and tip out into a bowl and allow to cool. I used 1 rice cooker cup – 2 rice cooker cups of water.

Emty the contents out of a tin of jackfruit rinse and drain, you will only need to use half a tin so transfer the other half to a container to use in something else ( you could try one of my other recipes like vegan crab sushi). To the other half of the drained jackfruit add a teaspoon of aonori.

Finely grate a 1 inch piece of peeled ginger.
Slice in half a bulb of myoga ginger and finely slice.                            Slice into rounds a two inch piece of Japanese cucumber, or similar.  Half a lemon length ways and remove the skin and any seeds and dice into small cubes.
Chop half a green onion.

You will also need miso around one tablespoon, about a heaped teaspoon of vegan butter and a tablespoon of ground sesame.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the grated ginger and green onion and sauté, then add the jackfruit and miso keep stirring as it burns easily, add the ground sesame and stir in. Sauté for a few minutes then transfer to a dish, add your cubes of lemon and put in the fridge to cool.

Make a ball with your rice ( to fit in the middle of your bowl ) press the rice so it doesn’t fall apart. Pour around the rice your chilled dashi and then add around your rice slices of cucumber and myoga ginger. Finally top the rice with your jackfruit miso mixture, and maybe some sliced shiso leaves. Then add any remaining dashi over the rice. Eat by taking a little rice, mixture and dashi in each spoonful.


Hiyajiru is the signature dish from Miyazaki in southern Japan and  has been selected as one of the top 100 countryside recipes making it the perfect summer meal as temperatures rise.

For dessert why not make Kohaku-kan brown sugar jelly.

Kohaku-kan mean amber relating to the colour of the jelly.

For the jelly we use Kanten which is made from seaweed and traditionally you would use raw cane sugar but I am using coconut palm sugar. This dessert is so easy and quick to make.

Depending on how many people you are making it for just double the recipe. This makes two servings if you decide to put the jelly with other things like sweet red beans and fruit.

For the jelly
125ml cold water

1.5 gram of powdered kanten

30 grams of coconut palm sugar
Plus a small container to pour the jelly into around 3×3 inch

You will also need to make kuromitsu which is a brown sugar syrup, simply made with brown sugar and a little water heated in a pan until it thickens and if you wish some sweet azuki beans to add over your jelly plus any fruit of choice. I added a few pomegranate seeds.

Add kanten to a pan with the cold water and stir to dissolve. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil then turn the heat to a simmer until the liquid looks clearer, then add your sugar and mix in. Turn up the heat and wait until your mixture starts to bubble then turn off the heat.

To a large bowl add some iced water then fit a small bowl inside. Pour your sugar jelly Into the empty bowl this will help to cool it down. Keep stirring this will stop the sugar sinking, when it starts to set at the edges pour into your mould. Allow to cool at room temperature then set in the fridge for a few hours.

Loosen the edges and tip out onto a plate and cut into squares.

Serve in a glass dish or bowl, with sweet azuki beans and pour over kuromitsu.

There you have it Hiyajiru cold summer soup and Kohaku-kan sugar jelly dessert

Let’s say goodbye to the summer and welcome in the new season.