Wagashi of the Month: June 2019

 

I attended a wagashi workshop the other day, and made three pieces of wagashi: two nerikiri and one kinton. Now we are in the midst of rainy season where hydrangeas bloom beautifully and delight the eye. Here in Japan, Ajisai, or hydrangea, is considered to be a symbolic flower of June and the rainy season, so the three wagashi were hydrangea-themed.

 

 

Mine didn’t look sophisticated like the below – Wagashi of the Month: June – but tasted rather good!

 

Ajisai Kinton made of mashed beans

 

I had always wanted to try to make wagashi, and one of my blogger friends, Mutsumi-san’s posts on Sakura Junction) encouraged me. Hoping to join her workshop in London someday….

 

Sakura – cherry blossom theamed nerikiri (source: Sakura Junction)

 

Today, attended a Shinto summer purification ritual, which I mentioned on Kyoto Trip 2014

 

 

and after that, enjoyed minazuki.

 

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Bucatini con Broccoli Arriminati – Broccoli Pasta and B&B in Palermo

Today, I am reposting the Bucatini con Broccoli Arriminati recipe because it is one of the most popular one in my blog, and some come to see almost every day – so far, more than 1,600 views in total.

 

Finally, found Sicilian broccoli in Japan!

 

And also, I’d like to introduce a brand-new breakfast in Palermo. B&B Bandiera 77 located near the Teatro Massimo is their second B&B that my Sicilian friends have opened up recently. Here is the review on Tripadvisor. I must stay next time in Palermo!! Oh yes, the Bucatini recipe is originally from them!

 

画像に含まれている可能性があるもの:座ってる(複数の人)、テーブル、食べ物、室内

B&B Bandiera77

——————–

I always stay at the same bed and breakfast in Palermo. It is located in a convenient area, spotless and comfortable to stay at, but these are not only the reason. I like the Sicilian couple who runs the B&B, so I go back to see them.

I had asked them for a Sicilian recipe to post here, and upon arrival, they gave me a typical one in Palermo: Bucatini con Broccoli Arriminati.

 

Broccoli Pasta 1

 

Arriminato means ‘stirred’, and broccoli arriminati is literally translated to ‘stirred broccoli’. This is a pasta dish with broccoli sauce made by stirring well.

Hang on! Cauliflower is called broccoli in Sicily! This is confusing…. The bright green colour of the vegetable confuses us, too!  It’s not ‘broccoli’ but greenish cauliflower what we call! To say precisely, it is cauliflower pasta!

 

Broccoli
Sicilian broccoli at Ballarò Market in Palermo

 

So I made it with white cauliflower, and with broccoli (not Sicilian one!) to colour the sauce as green cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli or broccoflower are not easily found here. Now it can be properly called ‘broccoli’ pasta 😀

Bucatini is traditionally used for this dish. It is served with toasted breadcrumbs on top, which is so called ‘poor man’s Parmesan’. Raisin and pine nut are typical ingredients used in Sicilian dishes, where we can see Arabic influence over the island.

I made some alterations, but basically followed the ingredients and instructions they gave me. I’m sure this is going to be one of my rotation recipes when cauliflowers are in season!

 

ingredients
Tried once with ‘broccoli’ while in Sicily

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

50 g bugget (leftover or stale bread is ideal), finely grated
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 liters water
2 tsp salt
180 g cauliflower (about 1/2 head)
80 g broccoli (about 1/4 head)
200 g bucatini (I used no.6)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g onion, finely chopped
2 fillets of anchovy
20 g raisins
20 g pine nuts
blackpepper (to taste)
a pinch (1/16 tsp) of saffron powder

 

Broccoli Pasta 2

 

 Method

  1. For toasted breadcrumbs: Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs to toast on low heat, stirring consistently for 5 minutes or until crisp and brown.
  2. Bring a pot of the salted water to the boil. Put in the cauliflower and broccoli and cook over medium heat until easily broken apart (about 10 min for broccoli, 15 min for cauliflower). Remove from the water and set aside. Retain the cooking liquid to cook the sauce and pasta.
  3. For the sauce: In a pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent. Put in the anchovy, and break with wooden spoon or such. Add the raisins and pine nuts to fry for a few minutes. Put in the boiled cauliflower and broccoli, then mash and mix by stirring. Season with the pepper, add the saffron and 100 cc cauliflower/broccoli water, and cook gently on lower heat for 5 min stirring occasionally. Make sure it doesn’t get too dry – add some more cooking liquid if required.
  4. Meanwhile, add some water to the cauliflower/broccoli water and bring back to the boil, then cook the pasta until just before ‘al dente’ (bucatini no.6 for about 6 min).
  5. Transfer the pasta into the sauce. Mix well all together while cooking for 1-2 min. Taste it and add salt if required.
  6. Sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs on the top when serve.

 

Broccoli Pasta

baked version
Baked version with short pasta (baked at 170C for 15 min)
Pasta con Broccoli, Scampi e Gamberi
Also made seafood pasta with broccoli (Pasta con Broccoli, Scampi e Gamberi ) – without raisins, pine nuts, breadcrumbs – while in Sicily

 

Bed &Breakfast in Palermo

La Via Delle Biciclette – You will find where the name comes from. 

 

 

Tokyo & Yokohama Feb. 2019

One of my relatives came up to Tokyo last month, so I showed him around a bit of Tokyo and Yokohama.

First we had lunch at Nemuro Hanamaru, a standing sushi bar on the basement of Tokyu Plaza Ginza. There is another Hanamaru, which is a sit-in kaiten-zushi restaurant, on the 10th floor, but we chose the bar to avoid a queue.

根室花まる

A piece is inexpensive and ranges from 108 to 358 yen – some, like today’s special for example, are around 500 yen – although the sushi toppings are fresh and flavourful. They are mostly from Hokkaido, and some of them are local fish and shellfish which are unfamiliar to outsiders. My relative ate a lot and I finished off with my favourite anago, and our bill came to ¥4,606 (equivalent to $42, £32, €37)!!  I will definitely go back when desperate for sushi!

Then we headed to Hama Rikyu Gardens, or Hama Detached Palace Gardens, adjacent to the River Sumida where enters Tokyo Bay, which was originally built as a feudal lord’s Tokyo residence in 17th Century.

Hama Rikyu (source: japan-guide.com)

Passing by ex Tsukiji Fish Market on the way, we remembered that we had nice sushi breakfast last August.

Iwasa Sushi
Iwasa Sushi reviews on Tabelog Tripadvisor and  Yelp

The fish market had moved to Tokyosu, but Tsukiji Shijogai is still busy with lots of tourists.  Some restaurants remain but Iwasa Sushi had also moved to Toyosu.

At this time of the year, Hama Rikyu becomes more popular for cherry blossom viewing.

(c) Tokyo Metropolitan Association
source and more info. amuzen

When we visited the gardens, rape flowers were in full bloom and smelled honey – actually, busy bees were working hard.

And plum trees also.

After a stroll, we took a Tokyo Water Bus (more info on Tokyo Cruise and Tokyo Mizube Cruising) to Odaiba.

Tokyo Water Bus
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Athletes’ Village
Toyosu ‘new’ Fish Market
Rainbow Bridge

On the following day, I took him to Yokohama Chukagai, or Yokohama Chinatown.

Guan Di Miao Temple
flying dragon lantern(s)

The Chinese dishes we had for dinner were so-so, so I don’t mention the name here. Instead, I recommend 翠香園 Suikoen where I usually go for their 肉糸湯麺 samma-men, which is a regional specialty ramen served in Kanagawa prefecture.

Suikoen’s samma-men (source: Yokohama Noren-kai)

 

We had a nice time together in Tokyo and Yokohama for three days. There had been some ‘distance’ between us although we are close kin. However, we became a bit closer when we got together in Tokyo last summer, and I am looking forward to doing some more Tokyo sightseeing in the near future 🙂

Bolo Rei and Porto, Portugal

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all have a great year!!
Here is my first post in 2019 with the revised Bolo Rei recipe for Epiphany. Now I’m  writing this eating the cake – too good to stop!


Upon arrival in Porto after Lisbon and Coimbra, I launched another eating project.

Porto by the River Douro

The first target was Pastel de Nata as I wrote last October, and Bolo Rei was the next. I had always wanted to have the authentic one since I tried the recipe and posted it here two years ago.

My Bolo Rei baked in 2016

Bolo Rei, or King Cake (or King’s Cake, Kings’ Cake), is a traditional Portuguese cake typically eaten during Christmas time until 6th of January. My visit being in September, I had done lots of research in advance – as usual – if it is obtainable even in summer.

Pastelaria Itaipú

I explored the town, finding five bakeries/pastry shops with Bolo Rei. Can you imagine how much I got excited when came across the cake for the fist in my life? 😀

Pastelaria Cristo Rei
Confeitaria do Bolhão

I had assumed that Petúlia might sell Bolo Rei all year round, and I was right! It has a tea room attached, so I enjoyed a slice along with proper English black tea – they have Tetley’s. Yay!

Confeitaria Petúlia

Their cake was so scrumptious that I couldn’t resist to bring a whole – about 2 kilos – back to Japan with me. I am sure the fragrant smell, especially of Port wine, filled in the train carriage and aircraft cabin tempted the passengers 🙂

@ Confeitaria Petúlia

I had another ‘things to do’ in Porto: to do Portuguese traditional grocery store hopping, and also to purchase marmelada, or quince jelly/paste, and some stuff for Bolo Rei.

Portuguese traditional grocery stores are a wonder! You will be fascinated by the wide variety of products: deli, traditional Portuguese foods, products from the local, ex-colonies including Brazil etc. I wish I had had more time to examine each item!

The names of some stores, as well as the commodity such as spices, teas, etc., are reminiscent of Portuguese discoveries derived from their maritime exploration.

A Pérola do Bolhão with an impressive art nouveau style façade

Pérola means pearl, which was one of the luxury goods through the trade with the Orient and South America in those days.

Casa Chinesa

Chinesa means Chinese.

Japão is Japan.

O Pretinho do Japão sells good selection of tinned fish, Port wines, teas and coffees, and I bought a herbal tea. They have a cafe with a lovely garden at the back.
Comer e Chorar Por Mais – The hams, sausages, cheeses etc. looked good.
Comer e Chorar Por Mais didn’t have Broa, Portuguese cornbread, but the rye bread was really tasty.

My favourite was Casa Natal. The interior space is beautifully organised – the walls are covered by wooden cabinets and shelves filled neatly with goods. One of the shopkeeper was really friendly and helped me to choose the proper ingredients for Bolo Rei, which were in good quality and I liked the dried figs from Douro Valley most. Oh, marmelada was nice as well.

Love Portugal tin packaging design
bacalhau
spices

 

Talking of Porto and Bolo Rei, Port wine is a must! I bought a bottle of Dow’s 10 Year Old Tawny not only for the cake but also for Stilton cheese 🙂

3 Port wine tasting @ Quinta do Bomfim in PinhãoDouro Valley
Dow’s 10 Year Old Tawny @ Quinta do Bomfim

 

Thank you for waiting. Here is the recipe, which needed to be revised because I had experienced the genuine taste!

Ingredients

For the dough
70 g assorted crystallised fruits (incl. 20 g orange), to chop if necessary
35 g raisin
30 g dried fig, roughly chopped
4 tbsp Port wine*
1 tbsp dark rum*

80 g full fat milk, lukewarmed
5 g honey
3 g instant yeast**
125 g strong white flour

50 g unsalted butter, room temperature
30 g caster sugar
15 g honey
2 g sea salt
2 egg yolk, whisked and room temperature

100 g plain wholemeal flour
25 g strong white flour
3 g instant yeast**
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp orange zest
20 g sliced almond, lightly toasted
20 g walnut, roughly chopped
20 g pine nuts
(optional: a dried broad/fava bean)

For the topping
egg white
crystallised fruits of your choice

For the glaze
20 g honey
15 g water

For the decoration
icing sugar

*  If you use good quality Port wine, add 5 tbsp without rum.
** Use yeast for doughs high in sugar/sweet breads (I used SAF Golden Instant Yeast).

Method

  1. Soak the crystallised fruits, figs and raisins in the Port wine and rum for 1-2 hours. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the honey in the lukewarm milk, scatter in the 3 g yeast and allow to sit for 7 minutes. Stir well and leave another 8 minutes.
  3. Tip the 125 g strong flour into a bowl, and pour in the yeasty milk to mix. Knead by hand for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pour in some more lukewarmed milk a little at a time if required. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Punch down the dough gently to degas.  Shape into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover again and sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Mix well with the wholemeal flour, the rest of strong white flour and the instant dried yeast, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, honey and salt until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flours to combine. Then tear the dough ball into small pieces and add in the batter making sure it is evenly blended together, using your hand and create a sticky dough. Knead by hand for 20-30 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put in the zests and soaked fruits, and knead for another 5 minutes or so. Add the nuts (and a fava bean) and lightly mix until all the fruits and nuts are evenly covered by the dough.
  5. Line a baking tray with baking paper and scatter over some strong flour. Scrape the dough on to the tray, shape into a round loaf (about 20 cm in diameter), and make a hole in the centre. Place a cup or something in the middle so that the dough maintains its wreath shape. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about 90-105 minutes or until it has 1.5 times in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 190. Brush it all with the egg white and decorate with cristallised fruits. Covered again and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 25-30 minutes in the oven. Cover with aluminium foil if the surface becomes too brown (Do not burn the fruits!).
  7. Meanwhile, to make the glaze, put the honey and water in a small pan over low heat. Stir until completely melted and slightly thickened. Remove the cake from the oven, and carefully lift out and place on a wire rack. Immediately brush the honey over the cake. Cool completely and dust with the icing sugar.
  8. Store in an airtight container any leftovers, but finish in a couple of days. (To revive leftover or slightly stale Bolo Rei, toast lightly.)

 

Hope you like my Bolo Rei!

My experimental Bolo Rei

For the people who is going to Porto at Christmas time, here is ‘Where to buy Bolo Rei in Porto‘ tips.

 

Christmas Markets in Germany and Riga 2017

It has been too hectic for the last three months to come here and read your posts – sometimes I had to work at weekends. Sorry guys, but I will try to catch up during this festive period.

The photos below are from my Christmas market tour last year. Hope you all have a very happy holiday season!!

 

Dresden

I was dreaming of a white Christmas…, but no snow!

If you are going to purchase a Dresdner Christstollen, try Schreiber ‘s!!

 

Nürnberg

 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber 

Snow in Rothenburg!!!

 

München

Made a visit to Munich on the day of Krampus!

Krampus

 

Augsburg

Also chose the day to see Das Engelsspiel.

Engelsspiel / Angel Performance

 

Koblenz

 

Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler 

 

Ahrweiler Markt

 

Riga

No snow even in Riga!

Believe or not, but it is said that the first ever Christmas tree was set-up and decorated in market square, Riga in 1510.

Monument to the First Christmas Tree on the plaque marking the site of the first New Years (Christmas) tree ceremony

What is your favourite? – Pastel de Nata

As far as I can remember, I had 10 Pastel de Nata(s) during the trip:

Santo Antonio

Six in Lisbon, one each in Coimbra and Porto, one from a gift box and the last one served with an in-flight meal.

Nata and Hóstias Conventuais for breakfast @ Pastelaria Briosa, Coimbra

Somehow, I had none whilst in Lisbon 10 years ago, so I was going to try as many as possible.

And besides, I had planned to participate in a nata baking class in Porto, however, it was cancelled on the very day of the activity…. It was really disappointing and ruined a part of my trip…. What a shame!!

So I am writing about the pastries I had in Lisbon instead of the baking class. Those nata places are:

Pastelaria Batalha

 

Pastéis de Belém

 

Fábrica da Nata

 

Manteigaria

 

A Nata de Lisboa

custard filling @ A Nata de Lisboa

 

Pastelaria Santo António

 

My top three pastel de natas are…

 

  1.  A Nate de Lisboa
    This place may be less popular than others, but I liked theirs most. The crispy thin layers of the pastry case and the smooth and creamy custard are very harmonious. I loved the thinner flaky layers.
  2.  Manteigalia
    As good as A Nata de Lisboa’s, but the crust is thicker. If you prefer crunchy one, this would be for you. and the filling are well balanced.
  3. Pastéis de Belém
    Took it away and had on the following day, so it may not be fair to compare with others. Still very good even though it was not fresh.

Me personally, the rest were so-so or the crust and custard filling, which was too rich, didn’t go well together.

 

I had 10 pastel de natas, but not enough!!! I would have had more if I hadn’t had other eating projects!!  😀

What I regret most is that I missed Aloma’s. I was going to buy one at Lisbon Airport, unfortunately, however, I had to rush to the boarding gate….

Aloma

source: Aroma website

 

Have you tried pastel de nata in Portugal? What was your favourite? Let me know!

Ichijiku no Kanroni Cake – Japanese Fig Compote Cake

 

The loaf cake baked with the Ichijiku no Kanroni, Japanese Fig Compote, is sooooo good.

 

Ichijiku no Kanroni

 

The recipe was adapted from the Roasted Fig and Almond Cake.

 

 

Method – based on the Roasted Fig and Almond Cake:

  1. Omit the 12 figs, honey and icing sugar from the ingredients and skip Process 1.
  2. Add in 300 g ichijiku no kanroni (roughly chopped) after Process 4, and mix evenly.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake as instructed.

 

 

Umeshu Matsuri 2018 – Plum Wine Festival in Kyoto & Tokyo

From time to time, some people visit my blog post on Umeshu Matsuri 2017, so I am reposting it with the links, dates and venues for 2018. It may be better to try Friday to avoid crowds and disappointment – last year, too many weekend visitors prevented my friends from stepping in!

in Kyoto:
14-17 September 2018
venue – Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

in Tokyo:
5-8 October 2018
venue – Bentenmon, Ueno Zoo in Ueno Park

If you would like to purchase umeshu while in Japan, have a look in department stores. In Tokyo, visit 検校(Kengyo)at Ginza – I have never tried, however, you can buy not only a bottle but also a glass of regional sake, umeshu, wines, beers etc. at their bar.

Ginza Sakagura Kengyo 銀座酒蔵検校
Kengyo on Tabelog (in English)
Kengyo website

 


Umeshu Matsuri – Plum Wine Festival in Tokyo (posted on 7 October 2017)

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.

venue: Yushima Tenmangu, near Ueno

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.

the leaflet and token coins

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.

made with distilled alcohol – from Hiroshima
made with sake – from Hyogo
made with sesame shochu – from Fukuoka
Kosher umeshu – made with sake – from a brewery in Kyoto (established in 1673!)
made with brandy – from Akita
blended with yuzu juice – from Wakayama
blended with gyokuro green tea – from Kyoto
nigori umeshu from my favourite sake brewery in Hyogo producing Kotsuzumi which I mentioned on Kinosaki Onsen post (left: more fruity and tastes like peach juice right: with plum pulp and full flavour)
umeshu hopping

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!

left: Baishin Shunju / right: Daku Daku


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?

Tribute to the Shito deity: the first rice sheaves of the harvest are presented as offerings, called shinsen, to the kami, deity or sacred power of Shintoism during agricultural and other festivals.

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 of Michizane 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.

 

plum blossom crest in the blue circle

Strolling in the precincts, you might come across a wedding ceremony.

Would you like to try omikuji, sacred lot?

If the fortune telling is not a good one, tie it around branches of a pine tree or some such. If good, keep it in your purse or wallet!

Hope you enjoy umeshu and the visit.

See you!  S/he is cute, isn’t s/he?

 

More about Umeshu:
Umeshu seminar in London last year
Umeshu made with whiskey by Suntory produsing Hakushu, Yamazaki, Hibiki whisky

More about Tenjin, read the post of one of my blogger friends.

 

Shimanami – Onomichi

Last month, I made a quick visit to so-called ‘the Aegean Sea of Orient’. The area has been famous for its scenic beauty, but what made it more popular as a tourist destination is the Nishiseto Expressway opened in 1999, known as the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido or just Shimanami Kaido (‘shima-nami’ refers sequence of islands and ‘kai-do’ (海道), sea route. The route connects Honshu, Japan’s main island, to the island of Shikokuwith a 60 kilometer-long toll road passing over smaller islands in the Seto Inland Sea (Setonaikai).

Source: SHIMAP

There are two other land connections between Shikoku and Honshu, the Seto Ohashi/Seto-Chuo Expressway and the KobeAwajiNaruto Expressway. However, only the Shimanami Kaido is traversable by foot or bicycle. That is the reason why so many cycle lovers and tourists head to the area in order to push pedals enjoying one of the most stunning sceneries in Japan.

Source: japan-guide.com

The Shimanami Kaido runs from Onomichi on the Honsu side leading across the six islands, Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatajima and Oshima, to Imabari on Shikoku.

Ikuchijima and Tatara Ohashi Bridge – view from Omishima

 

Hakata-Oshima Ohashi Bridge – view from Mt Karei, Oshima

 

Hakata-Oshima Ohashi Bridge – view from Omishima

This time of the year, a triathlon race(s) is/are held on the island(s): on Ikuchijima and Hakatajima in 2017 and on Hakatajima in 2018 (tomorrow, the 2nd of September! – I saw some triathletes checking out the bike course whilst I was there).

 

Before flying back to Tokyo, stopped by in Onomichi where Yasujiro Ono’s Tokyo Story was set. The film has attracted many since 1953 and a German film director, Wim Wenders is one of them.

I have always wondered where my favorite film (yes, of all times) Tokyo Story (or Tokyo monogatari in Japanese) actually takes place, except in Tokyo, of course. Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece from 1953 depicts a small seaside fishing town in which the story begins and ends. An old couple departs from there, in order to visit their kids in the big city one last time. After their return, the old woman dies, and her husband is left alone. Eventually someone told me that this coastal town was called Onomichi, in the South of Japan. So one day my wife and I made the reverse journey and traveled from Tokyo to Onomichi where we stayed for a week.

— Wim Wenders, Journey to Onomichi (source: Wim Wenders)

Got off Shimanami Liner, bus services between Fukuyama and Imabari, at Innoshima Ohashi for a local bus to Onomichi Staion.  Instead of the terminal, alighted at Onomichi Gakuen on Mukaishima, and walked down to a small port to take a ferryboat for Onomichi.

100 yen (single journey) for a passenger

Left my luggage at the station and explored the town with many temples, steep slops and stone steps for the first time in ages – actually Onomichi is quite familiar to me.

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately I had to take a 11:11 train to Mihara, then a bus for Hiroshima Airport, so I had no time for Onomichi Ramen 😦
It was not the best, but luckily I had a bowl at the airport.

Onomich ramen @ Hiroshima Airport

 

———-

A bit about the local food.

I love takikomi gohan, Japanese seasoned steamed rice with meat, fish, vegetables etc. Above all, the rice cooked with tako (octopus), tai (sea bream) and anago (saltwater eel) from the Seto Inland Sea are my favourites – not  mixed up all together but each.

tako meshi (octopus rice)

Citrus fruit, especially lemons and mikan mandarin oranges, is grown in those islands and they are good quality.

lemonade and lemon cake

Amochinmi‘s Onomichi Ramen(阿藻珍味 尾道ラーメン)is a packaged ramen with fresh uncooked ramen noodles, but this is really tasty! I get some whenever I come across in Hiroshima.

 

Click here for more about Shimanami and Onomici.

 

Octopus Salad and Croatia

I was going to post this recipe earlier – before the summer holiday season started – and to write about my trip to Croatia in 2017, esp. about Croatian wine…. Oh well, the summer is still going on and the salad is perfect for hot days. As for the wine, which shall follow later on, the information would be of help to the future visitors, anyway.

Dubrovnik, July 2017

Last year on Hvar Island, I had scrumptious salad as I mentioned on Sardine Escabeche and Croatia.

Hvar, July 2017

This is the Salata od Hobotnice, or Dalmatian octopus salad.

Salata od Hobotnice @ Konoba Menego

The restaurant staff wouldn’t tell me the recipe (of course!), so I imitated it adding my own taste.

 

Ingredients

(for 3-4 servings as appetiser)

200 g boiled octopus*, cut into pieces
200 g tinned chickpea, drained and rinsed
160 g cherry tomato, halved or quartered
100 g cucumber, diced
100 g red onion, thinly sliced
1-1½ tbsp caper (preserved in vinegar), drained well and patted dry
1 tsp garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp white wine vinegar (I used acidity 6%)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1-1½ tbsp flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 dried bay leaf, crushed into small pieces
¼ tsp dried mint flakes
salt and pepper, to taste

½-1 lemon, cut into wedges
(optional: extra-virgin oil and flat-leaf parsley, to garnish)

Note: * See the bottom of this blog post.

 

Method

  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients (First, add 1 tbsp of the capers and the parsley, and add more if necessary.) except the lemon, and mix well.
  2. Chill in fridge for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Drain well and put in plates with the lemon wedges, and garnish with the parsley. At table, squeeze lemon juice over the salad, and drizzle olive oil over if desired. Bon appétit!

 

my cooking whilst in Dubrovnik: mussels from Gruž Market cooked in Pošip (Croatian white grape variety) wine

I should have paired Pošip wine with the Salata od Hobotnice!

 


How to prepare and cook octopus

How to prepare and make boiled octopus

How to cook a tender octopus

If you preder to make it tender like tako for sushi, massage fresh raw octopus with handfuls of natural sea salt as Jiro mentions in Jiro Dreams of Sushi (c. 1:10-2:00).

 

How to prepare and cook tako sashimi on You Tube

Maybe massaging for 15-30 minutes should be fine, and then rinse well under running water. Boil water in a medium pan, add the octopus with some salt and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stick skewer through thickest part of a tentacle. When the point goes through without finding rubbery resistance, it’s done. Put the octopus into a bowl of ice-cold water and drain once cool.

 


Cherry and Coconut Cake

On 29th of June 2018, Tokyo saw the earliest end to the rainy season on record. The official announced that it had come 22 days earlier than the average and lasted only 23 days although it normally does 40 – 45 days…. How could we survive in the heat for the next three months and avoid shortage of water?

The cherry season here is almost ending, sadly. I guess the shorter rainy season has hastened it! Fortunately, I could manage to complete the recipe in time. On the other hand, apricot one is unlikely to be successful…. Oh well, probably in the next year! Anyway, here is the cherry one. Hope you will like it.

 

 

Ingredients

(for 21 cm round cake tin )

 

100 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
80 g caster sugar
20 g coconut sugar
1 egg, whisked
50 g coconut cream  (I used 25.6% fat cream)
50 g Greek yoghurt
120 g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
50 g fine desiccated coconut
200 g cherries

 

 

Shortbread Sandwich Cake

 

 

The strawberry season here is almost over, which is a shame! As I did last year, I have been making the strawberry confiture hanging on until the last minute!

 

Scones with my strawberry confiture (posted in May 2017)

 

This year, I made shortbread which goes beautifully well with the confiture. I was not sure if it should be called ‘strawberry shortcake’ or ‘Victoria sandwich shortbread’ – it’s not raspberry jam though, so mixed them up: Shortbread Sandwich Cake.

 

 

Ingredients

(makes about 8 )

for the shortbread
180 g white rice flour, plus for dusting *
20 g ground almond
½ tbsp baking powder
60 g caster sugar (I used extra fine caster sugar)
⅛ tsp salt (I used finely powdered salt)
110 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 – 3 tbsp whole fat milk, to adjust
½ tsp vanilla extract

for the filling
strawberry confiture ** or jam

for the topping
fresh strawberries, hulled
double cream, whipped with sugar

*If you try Japanese rice flour, buy komeko or rice flour for baking, not joshinko, mochiko or shirotamako for sticky rice cake.

** Japanese strawberries are sweeter, which is the reason I made the fruit/sugar ratio 5:1. Add more sugar according to taste.

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking sheet.
  2. Sift the flour, ground almond, baking powder, sugar and salt together into a bowl. Put in the butter and rub in until smooth. Combine the 2 tbsp milk and vanilla extract, stir in the flour mixture, then together to form a dough.  Add more milk little by little as needed, but not sticky.
  3. Roll out to the thickness of 6 mm on a lightly floured surface, then stamp out using a 5 cm diameter round cutter. Carefully transfer using a serving knife or something to the baking tray and bake for about 8 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. When done, leave on the tray to cool completely.
  4. Sandwich the shortbread together with the confiture, and top with a strawberry and whipped cream.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Sake Fair 2018

FYI
If you happen to be around in Tokyo this coming Saturday, why don’t you try Sake Fair 2018 in Ikebukuro?

Click here for the detailed information.

 

There is another option: the 1st Sake Tasting Fair organised by Tokyo University of Agriculture.

 

Not sure yet, but I might pop in the university…. 🙂

For the further info, click here and/or here (in English).

 

 

Gluten-Free Carrot Cupcakes

I’m in good health; however, I’m afraid I have taken too much gluten and sugar because of my baking experiments…. You know, I don’t want to throw them away…, so now I am trying to cut down on some.

 

 

Ingredients

(for about 10 servings/5 cm diameter cups)

[for the cake]
80 g white rice flour
30 g chickpea flour
20 g buckwheat flour
20 g ground almond
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
⅛ tsp gluten free bicarbonate of soda
a smidgen of salt (I used finely powdered salt)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ ground ginger powder
¼ tsp ground coriander powder
a pinch of clove

2 eggs
4 tbsp rice bran oil (or sunflower oil)
4 tbsp date syrup
4 tbsp maple syrup (I used Grade A: amber/rich flavour)
1 tbsp Cointreau
½ tsp vanilla extract

200 g coarsely grated carrot
40 g raisin, finely chopped
30 g walnut, chopped

[for the frosting]
140 g cream cheese
30 g sour cream
2 tbsp maple syrup
⅛ tsp vanilla extract
a little cinnamon
a little salt (possibly finely powdered salt)

[for the topping, optional]
chervil or chopped pistachio
candied orange peel or marmalade

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix the dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in the oil, syrups, Cointreau and vanilla, and beat well. Spoon in the flour mixture, then stir in the carrot, raisins and walnuts. Mix until well combined.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. Bake for 25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Sit at least 24 hours at room temperature but don’t let them dry.
  4. For the frosting,  beat the cheese, soured cream, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until smooth, then chill until required. Spread the cream on top of the cakes with a cutlery knife or pipe swirls. Decorate with the orange and chervil or pistachio.

 

Sekitei Ryokan Inn – Miyahama Onsen, Hiroshima

Last February, I made a quick visit to Hiroshima for a family gathering. It was an auspicious occasion, so I booked a room for lunch at Sekitei which is famous for its rooms, garden and cuisine.

Click here for the tripadvisor reviews (photo from Sekitei website)

Sekitei, a traditional Japanese ryokan inn with a good reputation near Miyajima, is very popular among both the locals and tourists, so advanced booking is a must. Luckily, I could get my hands on the very last room/slot.

View from our room, 大観 (annex Taikan )

Before the lunch, we stepped out to the manicured Japanese garden for a stroll.

library
facing Miyajima
Nishikigoi, Amur carp

It was a chilly winter day with some snow and the garden was colourless, yet still pleasant to stroll around. Once winter is gone, it becomes bright with flowers and green leaves.

in cherry blossom season

This time of the year, satsuki and fuji are in bloom.

五月 or Satsuki azalea bloom from May to June; the name “Satsuki” in Japanese is reference to their blooming period, the fifth month of the Asian lunar calendar. (Wikipedia)
fuji or Japanese wisteria

 

I had ordered a kaiseki course menu for the special occasion.

menu
先付 sakizuke, appetizer: anago sushi wrapped in bamboo leave and Chinese cabbage mousse
椀物 wanmono, soup course: oyster with vegetables and maitake mushroom
造里/向付 tsukuri/mukozuke, sashimi dish: sea bream, cuttlefish, shrimp etc.
八寸 hassun, seasonal platter
煮物 nimono, simmered dish: bamboo root, satoimo eddoe etc.
awabi, abalone
焼物 yakimono, grilled course: anago
酢物 sunomono, vinegar marinade: monkfish liver, spring onion etc.
食事/飯物  shokuji/hanmono, rice dish: anago meshi (grilled saltwater eel with rice)
水菓子 mizugashi, dessert: custard pudding with matcha ice cream

 

After pleasing and satisfying meal, some of us enjoyed dipping in the onsen at 500 yen pp – it was a bit rush though as we were supposed to vacate the room by 14.45 (the lunch plan, 11.00 – 14.45).

 

We were all full but couldn’t resist Anago Meshi Bento from Ueno restaurant, their sister restaurant, to take away.  Anago meshi is one of my favourites – somehow I am not into unagi, freshwater eel  although both look alike! Anago from Setonaikai Inlandsea  is superb!

It may be a good idea to order the bento at Sekitei if you don’t want to queue up for anago meshi at Ueno near Miyajimaguchi. If you are going to Miyajima and don’t mind standing still in a queue, try Fujitaya  – oh, I didn’t know the restaurant had been awarded one Michelin star!! It was ages ago that I tried their anago meshi but clearly remember how scrumptious it was!

We were all happy with the place, meal, staff and service and left Sekitei hoping to come back and stay overnight someday.

 

En route to Hiroshima Airport, I popped in Miyajima (no time for Fujitaya and of course, no room in my stomach!!)

 

One more thing – about tipping. There is no tipping custom in Japan, however, there exists old one called kokorozuke(心付け). It is usually practiced at pricey ryokans, and to be given to nakai or a room attendant on arrival at your room. Kokorozuke should be a small amount in an envelop (1,000 – 3,000 yen, depends on number of guests and duration of stay) or a small gift, like a box of confectionery. Don’t worry, nowadays there are many who don’t know this custom, even Japanese, so they wouldn’t expect people from outside Japan.

 

 

石亭 Sekitei

For more photos or booking through booking.com, click here.

“Located in the Miyahama hot-spring area, Sekitei features spacious Japanese-style accommodations with traditional interiors…. Guests can relax in the hot-spring baths and enjoy the seasons at the Japanese garden. A free shuttle is available from JR Oonoura Train Station, which is a 5-minute drive away.

Some spacious rooms are located in the main tower, while many are individual cottages with 2 floors and a private wooden bath. Most rooms come with tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each room has garden or ocean views.

A traditional multi-course meal is served for dinner in the guests’ room. A Japanese set-menu is offered for breakfast, which guests can choose to dine in their rooms or in the dining room.

Sekitei Inn is a 15-minute drive from Miyajimaguchi Ferry Terminal. JR Hiroshima Train Station is a 50-minute drive away. ”  — Booking.com

(other than mine, the photos from Sekitei website/Instagram)

Lemon Scones

Still playing around with lemons….

 

Ingredients

80 g whole fat milk, luke warmed
60 g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

40 g caster sugar
grated zest 1 lemon

250 g plain flour
20 g wholemeal flour
strong white flour, a little for rolling out
3 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda

50 g salted butter, chilled and diced
20 g lard, chilled and diced

2 tbsp lemon jam (sugarless is preferable)
30 g candied lemon peel, finely chopped

50 g icing sugar
little lemon juice, freshly squeezed

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking sheet.
  2. Put the caster sugar in a small bowl  and work the lemon zest into the sugar with the back of a spoon until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
  3. Put the warmed milk, yoghurt and lemon juice into a jug and mix well. Set aside for a moment.
  4. Sift the flours, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl. Using fingertips, rub the butter and lard into the dry mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and spoon in the jam, peel and the two-thirds of the liquid. Combine quickly until a sticky dough forms with a flat-bladed knife, adding more liquid little by little as necessary. Don’t overwork or you will toughen the dough.
  6. Flour onto the work surface and tip the ball of dough out. Fold the dough 3-4 times until it’s a little smoother, then pat out to a 2.5 cm thickness and stamp out the scones using a cutter.
  7. Place the scones on the baking tray and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until well risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  8. Mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick but runny icing. Drizzle over the scones.

 

Lemon & Coconut Posset

It’s been a while since I last posted the recipe…. It’s been so hectic that no time to post here. Besides, I have been in a kind of the winter blues – probably because Tokyo experienced the coldest winter in 40 years – and weary to complete my cooking/baking experiments. However, Sakura, or cherry blossoms here came out earlier than usual  and it’s high to wake up from hibernation. Sorry guys, I will catch up with your blog posts soon!

Sakura in bloom – nearby cherry blossom viewing spot
different variety of Sakura

The UK switched to the summer time earlier today,  and what I am posting here is a chilled dessert recipe developed from English lemon posset which is perfect for spring and summer days.

Ingredients

(for 4  servings)

400 ml coconut cream (I used 25.6% fat cream)
200 ml water
80 g caster sugar
agar-agar powder*
2 grated lemon zest
80 ml lemon juice (about 2 lemons), freshly squeezed
2 cardamom pods, crushed
fresh mint leaves (optional)

*Adjust according to the package instructions. I made it softer like thick yoghurt.

Method

  1. Put 10 g sugar in a small bowl  and work the lemon zest into the sugar with the back of a spoon until the sugar is moist and fragrant. In another bowl, mix the agar-agar and the rest of sugar. Set aside.
  2.  Pour the coconut cream with the water in a pan, add cardamom and gently heat. Scatter in the agar-agar mixture a little at a time stirring continuously and bring slowly to the boil. Add the lemon infused sugar and simmer for 1-2 minutes mixing well. Just before taking off the heat, add the lemon juice and whisk well.
  3. Remove the cardamom and pour into ramekins of the sort and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
  4. Garnish with mint leaves when serve.
Ghraiba baked with a recipe I found on the web (click here for the recipe)

Posset is usually served with shortbread or biscuits, so I baked Ghraiba, Tunisian chickpea biscuits to accompany.

Cinema Paradiso and Cefalù, Sicily

 

I was invited to a small film screening party at a Sicilian restaurant the other day. The film that the owner/chef had chosen for the first screening was one of the most beloved films among many: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, or Cinema Paradiso (1988).

No mater how many times I see the film, it touches my heart and makes me sob every time.  (I prefer the shorter version. What about you?)

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso was mainly filmed in Palazzo Adriano, where the town and street-scapes  remain the same and you can easily recognise where the scenes were shot. You might already know; however, Cefalù is also one of the filming locations.

Cefalù is located on the northern coast of Sicily, about 70 km east of the provincial capital, Palemo and 185 km west of Messina. Cefalù is known as a popular seaside destination, but its beautiful sandy beach stretching alongside the town is not the only reason to attract people.

Duomo di Cefalù, a Norman style cathedralerected in 1131, is another tourist attraction. Seen from a distance, the building with two spires dominates the skyline of the surrounding medieval town (See the photo above ).

Whilst the exterior of the Duomo is simple, the interior, especially the apse and choir are richly coloured and decorated with elaborate Byzantine mosaics and eighteenth century stucco. The large Christ Pantocrator on the gold background dominating the apse, above the Madonna, archangels and Apostles is particularly outstanding like the ones of Cattedrale di Monreale and  Cappella Palatina.

 LavatoioSaracen washhouse fed by a natural spring, down on Via Vittorio Emanuele is another sight worth a visit.

Towering above the Duomo and the town centre is the massive crag called the Rocca.

The ascent leading to the top of the hill is quite steep, but it’s worthwhile climbing!

I have visited Cefalù twice – stopped by on the way travelling from Lipari to Palermo in 2014, and made a day trip from Palermo in 2016. During the first visit, I explored the lovely medieval town and around to figure out the filming locations.

Outdoor Cinema Scene

Elena’s apartment

Giancaldo Station Scene

Some believe the scene was shot at Cefalù Station, but actually it was at Lascari, one station away from Cefalù.

When leave the island, I usually take Alitalia at Palermo, which always play Love Theme from Nuevo Cinema Paradiso before taking off.  It makes me about to cry and I always cry out inside: ‘Stop playing that! I don’t wanna leave!!’


For the second screening, the chef is going to play Il Postino, or The Postman (1996), set in Salina, Sicily (filmed mostly on Procida, though). Unfortunately, however, I cannot make it that day…. What a shame!!!!

Every moment has its meaning.
Every word has its place.

Salina Island – view from Lipari
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