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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.

 

Blog, Spring Food

Setsubun 節分 2023


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

Demons out, Good Fortune in!” For today is Setsubun no Hi held on (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”.

Setsubun is the day before we start again through the journey of the 24 micro season 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.

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 2023 is south-south-east (南南東).
This changes every year depending on the current zodiac. The word “Eho” means the auspicious direction,this is where the god of good fortune for the year exists and is also called “Kippou” or “Akinokata/Akihou”.

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 in your sushi roll it can be anything you like but it’s good to have a variety of ingredients. Just eat the whole roll without cutting it into slices with a knife and eat in silence,if you speak, the good fortune will escape.

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 of mountains and have 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, covered in spikes,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. 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 such beans and throw them 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.

Since it is believed that ogres come at midnight, nighttime 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!”

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.

This year I decided to have a little fun and combine my Ehō-maki with an Oni tiger pants pattern .

I first made my sushi roll making the rice on the outside with my seven fillings on the inside.



I them decided to use a vegan omelette on the outside using a new vegan omelette brand called Nomelette by Sun & Seed.

Making the omelette and then rolling it around the sushi roll. Finally I added a few tiger stripes made from nori.

You may now not only see the traditional sushi rolls sold in stores in japan but variations from roll cakes to burritos so why not have some fun making your own version of Ehō-maki and celebrate the beginning of Spring like they do in japan .

Blog, Spring Food

Setsubun 節分 2022 恵方巻 Eho-maki and other traditions

Setsubun 節分, is a seasonal indicator that marks the day before the beginning of Spring in the old calendar. Before 1873 the Japanese followed the lunar calendar marking the new year in February but when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in the Meiji period the new year shifted to January. Typically held on February 3rd around the time of the lunar new year it is now celebrated as a spring festival “Haru Matsuri” the day before we start again through the journey of the 24 micro season or sekki of Japan the first called Risshun. I have a totally separate section in my menu to follow these if you would like to follow along each month.
Even though it still doesn’t feel much like spring in Japan the first of the seasonal flowers of great importance start to bloom. The plum blossom. This is the month when the snow starts to melt and people may go out to parks to view the first of the spring blooms. Look closely and you may see a little green bird amongst the blooms called Uguisu a Japanese nightingale.
Why not celebrate Setsubun this year. Even now it looks very unlikely that we will be visiting Japan again this year so I think we still need those traditions to keep Japan alive in our hearts. 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. I guess during the cold winter months it is easier to get sick and it was believed that this was caused by such demons or “oni” as they are known. At this time it is custom to repel these demons from our homes. One such way to do this is mamemaki the throwing of roasted soy beans . It is custom to fill a Japanese wooden cup called a masu with such beans and throw them 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.

Traditionally another  thing to do with these beans is to eat as many of these beans as your age. This is done for good luck and good health.
Another tradition to ward of 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 hung holly at my door.
The last custom you might already know as I made this the inspiration for my second recipe card, is to make a Eho-maki 恵方巻 lucky sushi roll.


The long fat sushi roll must contain seven ingredients, representing the seven lucky gods Shichifukujin. It doesn’t really matter what you put in your sushi roll it’s what ever you like. I used my delicious nori that came with this months recipe card and filled it with seasoned mixed grain sushi rice, on top of which I placed shiso leaves, umeboshi paste,red pickled cabbage,aburaage rolled Japanese  cucumber, kikurage also known as wood ear mushrooms and kiriboshi daikon which I soaked in Umesu.
You must eat this sushi roll holding it in both hands while  in silence thinking about what you might want to achieve this year while you face the years lucky direction. This year is NNW.
Many temples and shrines in Japan normally hold events on this day, sadly I think again most are cancelled. I’m definitely going to be holding my eho-maki this year and wishing  for things to get back to normal soon so we can all enjoy travelling once more.

What will you wish for ? A healthy new year ahead, a new job maybe ? It is custom to leave your worries behind and have a fresh start . So don’t worry if you haven’t put things into motion yet now is the time to start on those new year plans. What ever you wish for “Happy Lunar New Year and welcome in Spring !

Blog

Tokyo Pony Recipe card 2 Setsubun 節分

The second in the series of Tokyo Pony monthly recipe cards following the seasons and traditions of Japanese vegan food.

RECIPE CARD NUMBER 2

February Setsubun 節分 “The Begining Of Spring”

My second recipe card marks a very significant time of year, the transition from winter to spring with the first of the 24 micro seasons Risshun. The day before the beginning of spring is celebrated with Setsubun on the 3rd of February the name literally means ‘seasonal division’,
It is custom to eat a “Eho-Maki” 恵方巻, “lucky direction sushi roll” on this day.

In my next recipe card I talk about the customs of Setsubun and how to make your own lucky direction roll using sheets of special roasted nori I have imported in from Japan just for you.
This premium quality nori is harvested from the very first young plants in the Ariake sea Kyushu Fukuoka prefecture. Because the nori is harvested this way the nori has delicious flavour and softness. It is then roasted to a perfect texture that melts in the mouth. This particular nori was chosen for the chairman’s award top ten nori in Japan. In each pack you will receive 10 large sheets of roasted nori so you can perfect your sushi making technique. Not all sushi nori is the same.

Thank you so much for your orders !

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, Spring Food, Winter Food

Setsubun & Risshun 2021

Setsubun on February 2nd marks again the changing micro seasons. It is said to be the New Years Eve of old, welcoming in Risshun the beginning of Spring. Wait isn’t Setsubun normally on the 3rd ? Astrologically it moves this year for the first time in 124 years. In fact over the next few it will flit back and forth. Next year going back to the 3rd then back to the 2nd in 2025 then every four years there on.

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.
It is a good time to find comfort in the seasonal bounty of root vegetables, creating positive energy by cooking up stews and soups to warm the body.

Another thing I like to do is make warming comforting drinks, one of my favourite being a Houjicha soymilk latte. Houjicha or ( Hojicha ) is Japanese green tea that has been roasted rather than steamed. This alters the colour from green to brown and tastes earthy and nutty, it also makes this tea very low in caffeine. I like the Dark roast or Gold Houjicha both from Kyoto Obubu tea farms and would definitely recommend trying out their tea selection.

Why not make this on a cold afternoon, perfect for a snow day relaxing at home. Just use around one – two heaped tablespoons of Houjicha in a pan and simmer on a low heat with a cup of soy milk adding a little sweetener if you like ( rice malt syrup is especially nice ). Let the soymilk simmer slowly for around ten minutes do not boil.


Then transfer to a milk frother or blender. I like to sprinkle a little powdered Houjicha on top.

It is custom on Setsubun to make a long sushi roll known as Eho-Maki and eat it in silence facing the years lucky direction (this year being south-south east) and make your wish for the year ahead.


Maybe if we all wished for the same thing it may come true! I think we all want the world to heal so we can get back to normal. I’m definitely missing my travels to Japan like many of you.

The fat sushi roll must include 7 ingredients after the seven lucky gods (shichifukuji) This year I decided to use atsuage, violet cabbage, komatsuna, daikon tsukemono, baby corn, asparagus and carrot.     If you want to know more about Setsubun customs just search Setsubun for more information. Let’s welcome in the Spring.

 

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

Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories Plum Rice Ball

Episode 3 of season 2 sees Master the owner of the diner Meishiya make plum rice balls for a customer. The series is so heart warming and shows how food has the ability to not only to connect people but to bring back memories. One such memory for me was one Marine day ( a public holiday held on third Monday in July in Japan where many people head off to the coast). We had started our train journey over to Enoshima island in Kanagawa Prefecture and there were lots of families on the train. On the opposite seat was a family the mother got out a neatly packed bento and untied the furoshiki around it. Opening the lid she started to take out onigiri those triangle shaped rice balls wrapped in nori sometimes with a filling, she handed them to her children. The onigiri filled the hands of the small children and I remember how happy there faces were to be eating such a breakfast on the way to the seaside. Onigiri ( rice balls ) are perfect for picnics or in the case of the Midnight diner an evening snack.
The pickled plums used in the series were the hard type called Ko ume, as I only had umeboshi I used those instead. Umeboshi are slightly squashy which are dried and salted plums. They are tart and tangy and I must admit to not liking them at first but now I love them. They have been used in Japan to aid digestion and are a good way to keep the rice fresh for a few hours.

Cook up some Japanese rice and chop up an umeboshi plum. When the rice is done fold in your umeboshi ( I also added some furikake with sesame and dried daikon greens to give it a little colour ).

Wet your hands and make a ball of rice then start to mould the rice by pressing the rice into a point, then rotate the ball pressing it into that onigiri shape.

Do not put in the fridge as they will go hard, the umeboshi will help to keep them fresh for a few hours, if you want just put a damp cloth over them. When your ready to eat them I find a strip of nori ( dried seaweed) makes them easier to hold.

I like to toast my nori in the oven to make it extra crispy. The crunch of the nori and the soft rice then the tang of the umeboshi, just takes me right back to Japan, and for me that is one of the  reasons I make Japanese food.

They are nice just simply served on their own with a sake or a miso soup.

 

Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

Soba Sushi Rolls

I decided to try to make sushi rolls but instead of using rice, I used soba noodles. I thought I would share with you how I made them.
First decide on your filling, I decided to use shiitake mushrooms using dried shiitake.


After soaking them in warm water, remove the shiitake but keep the water as this makes a great dashi for miso soup.

Slice the shiitake and this time I used a teriyaki sauce by clear spring, which I just sautéed in a little toasted sesame oil.

You can use anything you like for a filling tofu, veggies etc, like cucumber, avocado, carrot, asparagus etc.
Take one bundle of dried soba noodles and tie them at the top with string. Heat a pan of water until boiling and drop in your soba, cooking them until done. Drain the soba keeping on the string and wash them well in cold water.

Lay the noodles flat on a clean towel and dab them gently with kitchen towel to absorb any excess water off the noodles. Then sprinkle the noodles with sushi vinegar. I used the clear spring sushi seasoning.

Cut the string off the soba and section into two.

Take one sheet of nori and place this with the rough side up towards you on a sushi mat.

Lay one half of your noodles on the nori and spread them out, add your fillings and then cover with the remaining soba noodles.


Roll the soba just like you were making normal sushi. Cut the sushi with a sharp knife and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and make a dipping sauce. I made a citrus ponzu with Yuzu juice a little of the shiitake stock and tamari.
I think this a nice refreshing sushi and I want to try making them with somen next time.

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Japanese Micro Season Part 24 大寒 Daikan Greater cold

January 20–24  冬華   Fuki no hana saku  Butterburs bud

January 25-29 水沢腹堅  Kiwamizu kōri tsumeru Ice thickens on streams

January 30- February 3 鶏始乳 Niwatori hajimete toya ni tusku hens start laying eggs

I actually want to talk a bit about what happens right at the end of this micro season on February 3rd. This day is regarded as particularly important as it is the transition from winter to spring. The day before the first day of spring on February 3rd is called Setsubun. On this day there are a few customs in Japan one of them is to eat an uncut makizushi called (eho-maki ) while you sit in silence facing the years lucky direction, 2020 being west south west and make a wish for the rest of the coming year. The eho-maki must have seven ingredients, these relate to the seven lucky gods Shichifukujin.

Another Setsubun custom is for the male person of the house to wear a demon mask called ( oni ) and then throw roasted soy beans at other family members and out of the door while shouting “ Oniwa soto Futuwa uchi ! ” meaning demons out luck in. This ritual is called Mamemaki or bean scattering and as well as doing it at home shrines and temples hold this ritual also and many people go to partake in the Oni oi-Shiki ceremony. Women may sometimes wear the otafuku mask which is Lady Luck.


As well as the roasted soybean scattering it is custom to eat as many soybeans as your age plus one for the year to come to insure a year of good health.
Why not try making a long sushi roll for yourself this year. Fillings can be anything you like . Try asparagus, cucumber, tofu, kanpyo, shiitake, carrot or a vegan style cutlet.
I always like to celebrate Setsubun to welcome in the new spring season, although spring still feels a very long way off at the moment but the small signs are there if care to take a look.

Blog, Summer Food

Vegan Crab Sushi Salad

I have been seeing people use artichoke or hearts of palm for a fake crab meat but I have decided to use jackfruit. It makes a great filling for sushi rolls or like I have done here an open sushi salad.

First you need to drain a tin of jackfruit make sure you use the young green kind in water and not the one in syrup.

Emty in a pan of boiling water and simmer until the pieces push apart between your thumb and finger when pressed. This normally takes about 20 mins. Then drain your jackfruit. This part is a little time consuming but it’s very worth the effort. Take each piece of jackfruit and squeeze between your thumb and finger,discarding any seeds that may pop out. The jackfruit breaks up into shreds. Place in a bowl until you have done them all. That was the hard part. Now mix in two tablespoons of brown rice vinegar,the juice of half a lime,some salt and pepper to taste,some chopped coriander and finely diced red chilli. I like to also add a tablespoon of aonori. Aonori as it’s known in japan is green laver,a type of edible seaweed. Rich in minerals it is used dried in many dishes like Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki . If you would like to make these non vegan dishes I have made them vegan for you so just search for them and the recipe is there.

Mix everything together. And chill in the fridge.Place some crispy toasted nori in a bowl I actually like to use the sea crispies by Clearspring but any nori will do. Then spoon on top some cooled sushi rice with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds,and then add your fake crabmeat add on some chopped chives if you wish to garnish.

A healthy vegan dish without costing the life of a sea creature . What could be better than that.

Blog, Spring Food

Teriyaki Shiitake Sushi Burgers

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect for a Hanami picnic or for entertaining guests.

Continue reading…

Blog, Spring Food

Onigirazu

An onigirazu is a combination of an onigiri and a sandwich basically a rice ball with filling wrapped in nori seaweed. They are great as you can add what ever filling you like and are perfect for the coming Hanami season so you can pack them in a bento for an out door picnic or just to take to work or college as a change from an ordinary sandwich.

This particular one is a variation on the Japanese  tonkatsu sando using a vegan textured soy protein cutlet.

First take your nori and add cooked rice and a pinch of salt then place on top shredded cabbage or lettuce, on top of this place your cooked cutlet .

I made a kewpie mayo mustard and a vegan tonkatsu style sauce ( just tomato ketchup and tamari. Spread this onto your cutlet and then add more rice. Fold over the edges and wrap in cling film. Leave to set for ten mins then cut with a sharp damp knife leaving the cling film off or on that’s up to you.

There you have a perfect tonkatsu onigirazu.

Blog, Summer Food

Macrobiotic Nourishment Bowl

This is a wonderful way to get a balanced meal. Called a macro bowl because you hit all the nutrients carbs,protein and fat with plenty of vitamins and minerals. There are many things you can add to your bowl if you just follow a simple guideline .

You need some kind of grain this could be brown rice,quinoa,millet,amaranth,buckwheat etc.

Then you need carbs think sweet potato but carbs can also cross over into your grains.

What about protein ha ha . Well we all know there no shortage of that ! Tofu or tempeh are my favourites, but again beans are a great source of protein so it’s good to add some beans in there as well like kidney,Lima,black beans etc.

Add some good fats with avocado,olives,nuts or hemp hearts.

Plenty of veggies and salads ( Go wild ) there are so many to choose from. Spinach,kale,sprouts,carrot,bell peppers,cucumber,watercress,broccoli the list goes on.

Why not add some probiotics in the form of sauerkraut or kimchi?

Dont forget sea veg also as it’s a wonderful source of iodine and good for the thyroid wakame,hijiki,kombu and nori.

Lastly it’s always nice to make a dressing maybe a simple miso dressing with miso paste mixed with mirin,brown rice syrup and little lemon.

I think it’s a good idea to have cooked brown rice ready in your fridge especially if your heading into a busy week . Just throw some rice in a bowl add some beans veggies and tofu and you have a meal in under 10 mins.

Hope you now have inspiration to make  some macro bowls for yourself.