Figs are fully in season, so I made Ichijikuno Kanroni.
Ichijiku means ‘fig’ and its kanjispelling is 無花果, which denotes a plant that bears fruit without flowering: 無=naught, 花=flower, 果=fruit.
Kanroni is a cooking method or type of dish, and it spells as 甘露煮: 甘=sweet, 露=dew, 煮=simmering /simmered. The ingredients stewed in sweet sauce or syrup are not necessary to be fruit, and fish like sardine, smelt etc. are also common for kanroni served as an appetiser or a side dish.
For kanroni, green, firm and less sweet ones like White Genoa or Kadota varieties are preferable, and they need to be just before fully ripe and not splitting open.
Being seasoned with some say sauce, it may taste a bit like mitarashi or daigaku imo.
1 kg fig, green, firm and less sweet such as White Genoa or Kadota (just before fully ripe and not splitting open)
200 g caster sugar
2 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp koikuchi shoyu (dark Japanese soy sauce, not tamari)
Wash the figs and remove the stems. Put the figs in a large pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring to the boil over medium heat. When boiled, take out the figs and drain off the water.
Pour the sake in the pot, place the figs and sprinkle over ¹⁄3 of the sugar. Cover with an aluminum foil or baking parchment lid (on top of the figs so as to circulate heat and the liquid), then bring to simmer over low heat for about 60 minutes. While simmering, do not stir but shake the pan occasionally, so it will not burn to the bottom.
Add another ¹⁄3 of the sugar, and the rest after 60 minutes. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, stir in the soy sauce and honey, and simmer for further 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for overnight.
Bring back to simmer for 15 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. It can be store at room temperature for a week or so unless in hot weather, but keep in refrigerator for longer storage up to 3 weeks.
The juicy, chewy and nicely sweet fig is scrumptious as it is, but really goes well with ice cream!
If you live or happen to be around in Tokyo this long weekend, why don’t you pop in Yushima Tenmangu, or Yushima Tenjin to sip umeshu, Japanse plum wine?
Umeshu (梅酒 : 梅 ume = plum, 酒 shu = sake) is made by steeping unripened Japanese plums in alcohol and sugar to allow the flavours to infuse. It is called plum ‘wine’ in English, but it is liqueur type of alcohol.
Over the weekend, the Umeshu Matsuri, Plum Wine Festival is held at the Shito shrine, which is famous for its beautiful plum blossoms in spring. Beer is nice – Oktober Fests are thrown here and there around this time of the year even in Japan, but it may be a good idea to try this aromatic, sweet and plesantly sour liqueur.
At the entrance, purchase 18 token coins for 1,600 yen (advanced ticket was 1,400 yen). 1 or 2 coins are required for a small cup of umeshu (about 30 ml/cup), but 3 for some or award winning ones. Okay, now you are ready to sip. Enjoy and find your favourit(s) out of 156 umeshus from sake breweries all over Japan.
If you find your favourit(s), you can buy it/them!!
I bought a bottle of 梅申春秋, Baishin Shunju from my fav brewery!
Umeshu Matsuri Facebook page
Period: 6th – 9th October 2017
Venue: Yushima Tenmangu
Access: Nearest staion is Yushima on the Chiyoda Line. Take Exit 3 and the left, turn left at the first intersection and walk down about 30 metres. It’s on the left hand side.
Now that you’ve come all the way, why don’t you look around the site?
Yushima Tenmangu（湯島天満宮）a.k.a. Yushima Tenjin（湯島天神）was originally founded for Ameno Tajikaraono Mikoto in 458, and became one of Tenjin shrines in 1355 – Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto is the most famous one.
‘Tenjin’ is the name ofMichizane Sugawara (845-903), a scholar and a high government official. Like other Tenjin shrines, Yushima Tenjin is visited by students to pray for passing exams and inscribe ema – small wooden plaques – with petitions for success in exams, esp. entrance exams.
Among lots of ema, you will find Michizane on a cow. A cow, a typical feature of a Tenjin shrine, is believed to be the servant of the deity.
In the precincts of the shrine, there is a bronze cow, which is known as nade ushi (a cow to stroke). People believe that touching or stroking the cow will cure physical illness, and that is the reason why its head and forehead are so shiny.
You will also see plum trees in the garden and bonsai as well.
Tenjin is strongly related to plum because Michizane had always favoured the trees and blossoms (There is a legend about him and his tree, called ‘Flying Plum Tree‘), so ‘plum’ became a crest of the shrines.
Strolling in the precincts, you might come across a wedding ceremony.
The Nanbanzuke recipe I posted earlier this month intended to allude this Sardine Escabeche recipe.
Icame across savur, a.k.a. ‘savor’ or ‘saor’, Croatian escabeche when I was making my ‘To-Eat in Croatia’ list picking out the local dishes from Taste of Croatia. It describes savur that ‘Traditional way of preparing and preserving fish, usually sardines and anchovies, that is very popular in regions where ancient Venetian republic ruled but very similar recipe can be found even in distant Japan’, which attracted my interest on the propagation: the Portuguese or Spanish dish was passed on eastward – e.g. to the Mediterranean regions, Philippines, Japan etc. as I mentioned on the Nanbanzuke post (also spread westward to their colonies in the new continent as well, though).
Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to try escabeche in Croatia, so I made it myself referencing a recipe on the web and adding some changes.
(for 2 servings)
6 butterflied sardine fillet
salt and pepper
15 g plain flour
15 g cornstarch
50 ml olive oil, to shallow fry
100 ml water
75 ml white wine vinegar (acidity 6%)
60 ml white wine (I used medium bodied Riesling)
½ tsp caster sugar
60 g red onion, finely sliced
30 g carrot, julienned
30 g celery, julienned
3 small sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
½ tbsp salted capers, rinsed
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
fresh rosemary springs
fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp juice of fresh lemon
extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
sweet paprika, to garnish (optional)
celery leaf or flat leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)
Season the fish with salt and pepper, and lightly dust with a mix of the flour and starch. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry over medium heat, skin-side down until lightly brown and drain excess oil. Set them aside in a wide non-reactive tray.
Place the celery, carrot, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, bay leaf, rosemary, sage, fennel seeds, sugar, vinegar, water and wine in a non-reactive saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, and pour over the fish. Set aside to cool completely, and scatter the lemon juice before place in a fridge. Leave for at least 2 hours or overnight to marinate.
On a platter, top with sardines, garnish with the paprika and green leaves, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil when serve.
I tried as many dishes as I listed whilst in Croatia this summer and learnt that Croatian cuisine has received influences from neibouring cultures and the countries ruled the territory of Croatia throughout history. It has similarities with Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish etc., but each region has its own distinct culinary traditions. I stayed mostly in Split and Dubrovnik, the coastal Croatia, and enjoyed lots of seafood cooked in traditional Dalmatian way.
I tried Ćevapčići in Bosnia Herzegovina where it is considered a national dish. Ćevapi or Ćevapčići is well known and eaten in all parts of the former Yugoslavia once under the Ottoman Empire. Next time Dubrovnik, I will try Taj Mahal (funny, it’s not an Indian restaurant!) near Lapad, not in the Old Town, to explore more about Bosnian food. Sofra in Zagreb was pretty good.
Those I mentioned above were all nice, however, what I enjoyed more was the food cooked with bare minimum of seasoning and really brings out the full original flavour of ingredients.
The octopus salad at Konoba Menego in Hvar Island is highly recommended. All the ingredients were fresh and tasty, especially the caper! They don’t sell their homemade capers, unfortunately…. Instead, they advised me to find ones preserved in vinegar at farmers’ market. Their cheese and dry-cured ham platter looked yum.
In Dalmatia, fresh seafood grilled over open flame is superb. It is simple, but tastes different as it is cooked with fresh olive oil and Mediterranean herbs over olive tree or grapevine wood fire, which gives it deep flavour. So the grilled meat and vegetables are flavourful, too.
grilled sea bass @ Miličić Winery
Lady Pi-Pi, one of MUST places in Dubronik, offers delicious BBQ food at reasonable price considering to the location (within the Wall), a great view over the Old Town and good atmosphere under the grape trellis. They don’t accept reservations, so I avoided dinner time and dropped in just before lunch time (breakfast is served until 11:00). I had to wait a bit for a table to be ready, but there wasn’t a queue.
You absolutely must try peka while in Dalmatia! Peka is a slowly baked dish with meat or seafood along with vegetables in a pot or tray, but it is actually a method of cooking, and also a dome or bell-shaped ceramic or metal lid. The dish is also called ispod čripnje, or ‘under the bell’ – food cooked under the bell-shaped lid in fireplace.
The lid is covered with hot coals while the ingredients are being slowly cooked in their own juices under the ‘bell’. That is why they are moist and flavoursome. It is said that it probably is the oldest way of food preparation in the Adriatic, even Mediterranean area – according to some archaeological researches, the artifacts of peka was found in the layers of Bronze Age.
It may be a primitive way of cooking, but the result is more than satisfying!! Even the potatoes accompanied by were moreish!
I wish I could have joined sunset tuk tuk tour followed by dinner at Konoba Dubrava, one of the most popular peka places in Dubrovnik! Unfortunately, it was not available for just one person…. Anyway, I had a chance to try some, which was divine!
Some locals I met while in Dubrovnik dreamily said octopus peka is scrumptious and much tastier than meat one. It was too late to notice some restaurants near Polače Port in Mljet serve octopus peka – little time was left until departure back to Dubrovnik…. Peka usually needs to be ordered in advance and takes some time to be prepared. Stop by and ask restaurant staff before you visit the Mljet National Park if you make a day trip to the island.
In Dubrovnik, I rented a holiday apartment halfway between the Old Town and Gruž Port – less expensive and much quieter than staying inside the Wall. There are very frequent bus services to/from the centre until late, however, it was just about 20 minute walk and very safe even at night. I sometimes walked down for a glass of wine or a scoop of ice cream enjoying cool evening air after dinner at the apartment.
There are fish and green markets near the port, where I popped in almost every day to get some fresh fruits for breakfast, and vegetables etc. for my cooking. I cannot recall well, but I think the mussels were about 15-20 kunas per 1kg.
Dalmatian cheese and dry-cured ham also are a must, which I shall mention when I write about Croatian wines.
Nanban is a Sino-Japanese word, originally referred to the inhabitants of Southeast Asia, particularly the islands of modern-day Philippines and Indonesia. After Portuguese first made contact with Japan in the 16th Century followed by Spaniard, the trades based in their colonies in Southeast Asia were carried out. Consequently, ‘Nanban’ became to designate Portugal and Spain (mainly the former), the people and things from the countries and trades.
As the name indicates, nanbanzuke (tsuke or zuke means ‘marinade’, ‘pickled’, ‘soaked’, ‘dipped’), a Japanese dish which is principally deep-fried fish soaked in vinegar based marinade flavoured with soy sauce, dried red chili pepper, onion or Japanese leek etc., is Portuguese origin and derives from the escabesche.
… in Portugal, escabeche (eesh-kah-besh) is a way of preserving food in vinegar and aromatics. It is commonly served cold as a petisco (Portuguese tapas) with some bread to soak up the sauce. Recipes vary but the basics consist of fried sardines or mackerel marinated in a sauce made with vinegar, olive oil, onions and herbs. Its origins go back to the Romans who used vinegar to preserve both fish and meat though the word comes from the Arab iskbê.
When it comes to the main ingredient of nanbanzuke, it usually refers to aji, Japanese horse/jack mackerel, but there are many varieties: wakasagi Japanese smelt, mackerel, sardine or salmon, meats like chicken nanban, or even vegetables. The Nanban-style marinade and the history of influence to Japanese cuisine remind me of Filipino Adobo originated in Spain.
Red chili pepper and deep-frying cooking method you can recognise in nanbanzuke dishes, were also introduced to Japan through Nanban. That is the reason why the pepper is also known as ‘nanban kosho’, or nanban pepper.
At soba or udon noodle places, you might come across kamo nanban (soba/udon) and/or curry nanban (soba/udon). In this case, ‘nanban‘ designates red chili and onion or Japanese leek (as substitute of onion), which is plausibly said that Nanban-jin were eating a lot of Japanese leek to prevent cholera at the time when kamo (duck) nanban was invented in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867). Onion was also brought to Japan by Nanban trade during the period, but remained as an ornamental plant until the turn of the last century.
Oops! Sorry, too many trivia. It’s already September, but summer is still here. Enjoy this refreshing nanbanzuke dish in hot weather!
(for 2 servings)
5 cm x 5 cm dashi kombu (dried kelp)
60 ml water
50 ml rice vinegar (acidity 4.5%)
2 tbsp usukuchi shoyu (Japanese light soy sauce)
2 tsp caster sugar
½ dried takanotsume red pepper or dried red chili pepper (small-sized)
60 g onion, finely sliced
20 g carrot, julienned
6 small fillet of aji, mackerel, salmon or sardine
10 g plain flour
10 g katakuriko or cornstarch
vegetable oil, to deep fry
optional as garnish: shishito pepper or okura, prick each to avoid explosion kabocha, sliced
Leave the akatogarashi in water for a while. Drain, seed and cut into thin slices.
Put the water, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a non-reactive tray, and mix well until sugar dissolved. Add in the kombu and akatogarashi, then onion and carrot to marinate. Set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat to 180℃. Lightly dust the fish with a mix of the flour and starch. Fry shishito and kabocha (without flour/batter coating) first, both sides until slightly brown and drain excess oil. Fry the fish in the same way.
After frying, immediately marinate: remove the vegetables from the marinade, put the fries into the liquid and cover with the onion and carrot. Stand for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
On more trivium:
You may already know, but tempura is one of the Nanban cuisine as well.
Portuguese merchants introduced tempura to Japan. They were in the habit of eating fried fish during the religious seasons (“tempora“) of abstinence from meat.
The word “tempura“, or the technique of dipping fish and vegetables into a batter and frying them, comes from the word “tempora“, a Latin word meaning “times”, “time period” used by both Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period or Ember Days (ad tempora quadragesimae), Fridays, and other Christian holy days. Ember Days or quattuor tempora refer to holy days when Catholics avoid red meat and instead eat fish or vegetables. The idea that the word “tempura” may have been derived from the Portuguese noun tempero, meaning a condiment or seasoning of any kind, or from the verb temperar, meaning “to season” is also possible as the Japanese language could easily have assumed the word “tempero” as is, without changing any vowels as the Portuguese pronunciation in this case is similar to the Japanese.
This Fettuccine recipe is adopted from the Raviolini al Limone I enjoyed whilst in Enna for the Holy Monday last year.
Instead of ricotta filled ravioli, I used fettuccine and added the cheese into the sauce. Also scattered with ground pistachios to make it Sicilian!!
(for 2 servings)
200 g dried fettuccine
2 liter water
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
400 g fully ripe tomato, finely chopped
200 ml water from boiled fettuccine
100 ml heavy cream (whipping cream, fat 35%)
2 tbsp ground pistachio (pistachio powder/flour)
100 g ricotta cheese
2 tbsp juice of lemon, freshly squeezed
a few pinches of lemon zest (organic unwaxed), freshly grated
ground white pepper (to taste)
Bring a large pot of the water to the boil. Salt the water and cook fettuccine until 2-3 min short of ‘al dente’. Reserve the cooking liquid for the sauce.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Put in the tomato and fry for a few minutes stirring consistently.
Transfer the fettuccine into the pan and add the cooking liquid. Increase the heat to high and mix well by stirring consistently for 1-2 min or until the liquid thickened. Make sure it doesn’t get dry. Add some more cooking water if required.
Reduce the heat to medium. Pour in the heavy cream and pistachio stirring constantly as it thickens. Add the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, season with the white pepper and toss it well. Once mixed, turn off the heat immediately. Taste it and add salt or some more lemon juice if required.
Plate the pasta, and sprinkle with the chopped pistachio and parsley.
MUST VISIT whilst in ENNA
Villa Romana del Casale, a large and elaborate Roman villa or palace located about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The villa and artwork contained within date to the early 4th century AD. (source: Wikipedia)
The Villa is famous for so-called ‘Bikini Girls’ mosaic, but for me, the most impressive one was the Giants.
The mosaic with the Giants shot by the arrows of Hercules is one of the most expressive in the entire residence. The figures are isolated and emerge clearly from the white background, heightening the drama of their poses.
The dying Giants have powerful bodies with reddish brown skin and are called serpent-footed because their lower limbs end in the form of sinuous snakes.
As in the central field, Hercules is not shown in the scene, which instead depicts the result of his vanquishing of enemies who dared challenge Olympus.
How to get to Villa Romana del Casale
1. to Piazza Armerina
by Pullman (intercity bus) – arrives at Piazza Marescalchi
from Enna and Palermo – by SAIS
from Catania, Catania AP, Caltagirone – by Interbus
2. from Piazza Armerina to Villa Romana del Casale
by local bus: Villabus (1st May – 30th Sept. only)
by taxi: leaves from Piazza Marescalchi (main bus station)
If you cannot find any taxies, try the bar at the piazza/near the bus station. They have the phone numbers and will probably call for you if you don’t speak Italian (so I could manage to take a taxi!!). Make sure to book for return. The return fare (both ways) costed about 20 euros as of March 2013.
I had never travelled to any seaside resorts during the peak season, so I was really amazed!! and learnt how Europeans (and others) spend their vacance, which was a good anthropological study 😀
Although fed up with the crowds (and prices!), I had a wonderful time in Croatia – enjoyed stunning views, encounters, swimming, sunbathing… and food + wine, of course!!
Before departure, I had asked one of my blogger friends for some tips.
Thank you, Martina on Crunch Crunch Away! !
Plitvice Lakes National Park
I advise you to take Entrance 2, not 1 if you visit the park in the high season, otherwise you would waste more than one hour to go through the entrance like I did.
I recommend the views over Split from the Marjan Park rather than from the Bell Tower of Saint Domnius – I am fearful of heights!!
Three island hopping by speedboat:
I was really looking forward to seeing the Blue and Green Caves. I waited for the tour while in Split, however, all were cancelled because of strong winds. As a Marphy’s Law, it went back to normal on the very day I left the city 😦
Lots of unexpected things happened in Split almost ruined my holiday but, thank goodness, Dubrovnik saved me!
To avoid (human) traffic jam on the Ancient City Walls and the long queue for the cable car, stroll early in the morning, then head to the top of Srđ Mountain!
Joined a tour group from Dubrovnik and visited Mostar.
‘The historic town of Mostar, spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO. The Old Bridge area, with its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar is a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.’ (source: UNESCO website)
If you plan to visit this pretty old town or Montenegro with a guided tour from Dubrovnik, choose one in a mini van or/on weekdays, otherwise it would take really long – 6 hours in the high season – to clear the border(s).
Last but not least, Mljet is the best highlight of my trip. I didn’t see Odysseus Cave, but the national park was marvelous enough to satisfy me. Walking around the salt lakes, dived into the water whenever/wherever I wanted. I highly recommend the small lake where the waves were calmer, the water looked more emerald green and there were few tourists. I loved the tranquility and calmness floating on the gentle waves. It was so peaceful and soothing, which brought me back to childhood as I brought up by the sea, that I almost fell asleep!!
My photos cannot describe the beauty enough, so I uploaded below:
About 1.5 hour ferry boat trip from Gruž Port, Dubrovnik to Polače, Mljet (140 kn for return). The entrance fee to the Mljet National Park is 125 kn (incl. bus and boat fares in the park), but worthwhile paying.
Next time on, I will avoid travelling in high season (and the places Game of Thrones were filmed – is it the reason why Isle of Skye was full of tourists last year? Nay, it’s not the filming location, isn’t it?). And next time in Dalmatia, to keep away from the major towns/cities and stay in a smaller and quieter village or island.
Anyway, my culinary adventure stories shall follow.
Sadly, the strawberry season has been over here… but I have been playing around with my strawberry confiture – scones, Victoria sponge, strawberry choc brownies etc. Today, I am posting the best result from those experiments I have made so far: Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins.
(makes 6 jumbo muffins)
130 g plain flour
60 g polenta or cornmeal
10 g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
a dash (1⁄8 tsp) of sea salt
80 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
65 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 190° C. Into a bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each, then add the vanilla extract.
Fold in half of the flour mixture, the whipped cream and finally the rest of the flours gently until evenly combined. Add the confiture, stirring just to roughly mix.
Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 180° C and bake for about 15 minutes more or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Here comes June again – the month of Minazuki, June in the lunar calendar, and the month for Minazuki, a confection. One of my colleagues brought the latter Minazuki from Gionmanju in Kyoto for me, so once again I am posting this Wagashi.