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

 

 

Advertisements

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. 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

Caltagirone, Sicily

Caltagirone is located in approximately 70 km southwest of Catania, and it is just a 1.5-2 hour journey from the airport by pullman. I made a quick visit after Agrigento and before heading to Lipari in 2014.

Caltagirone is one of the Sicily’s ceramics centres producing particularly maiolica and terra-cotta wares, and its most famous landmark is the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, a stairway of 142 steps running up a hill to the church of Santa Maria del Monte.

From my window:

What makes the staircase most significant and beautiful is that each of the steps has unique hand-painted ceramic tiles with two or three different designs.

I have to go back to see Infiorita held during the last two weeks of May when the steps are covered by an enormous floral display, or/and Illuminata on the 15th of August in which thousands of candles are lighted up and decorate the Scalinata at night.

 

MUST STAY in Caltagirone

 Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo

View from B&B (source: Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo website)
Bedroom (source: Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo website)
Stunning view over the old town from the terrace

I usually have just some fruit for breakfast, but how could I have resisted????

I’m sorry to tell you this, but the B&B is located at the halfway up the Scalinata – just right off the stairs….. Your arm muscles might ache – like mine did – after carrying your luggage up steps, but it is worth staying at Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo!

 

MUST EAT in Caltagirone

La Scala

The owner of the B&B recommended La Scala at the bottom of the stairway.

Avoiding seafood as the town is far away from the sea, I ordered typical local dishes.

Antipasto 1
Antipasto 2

Loved their fresh pasta with wild fennel, salsiccia and tomato!!

Penne alla Scala (Primo piatto con pasta fresca con finocchietto, selvatico, salsiccia, pomodoro e mollica abbrustolita e ricotta fresca)

 

 

Bettys’ Parkin

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November!

I have wanted to bake Parkin for a long time… and eventually did it today, on the 5th of November: Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night. The problem was I have never eaten the cake and I don’t know what it tastes like…, so googled and found a nice one at last!!

 

 

The recipe I tried is from Bettys and Taylors of Harrogatea tea and coffee merchant in Yorkshire, where parkin is part of Bonfire Night tradition.

 

parkin loaf (source: Bettys website)

 

The company also runs some tea rooms called Bettys in Yorkshire, at which, esp. at Harrogate, I have been wanting to try their afternoon tea!!

 

Bettys afternoon tea (source: Bettys website)

 

Ingredients

(for 8 mini loaf tins or a 1 lb loaf tin)

100 g butter
40 g black treacle (I used molasses syrup)
180 g golden syrup
110 g soft brown sugar
100 g self raising flour (I used 100 g plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder)
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg  (I used ground mace)
40 g oats  (I used oatmeal)
40 g ground almonds
2 tsp whole milk
2 medium eggs

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan assisted). Line the base of the mini loaf tins with a piece of baking parchment paper.
  2. Place the butter, black treacle, golden syrup and soft brown sugar in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Gently warm through to melt the butter and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. When the mixture comes up to the boil, turn off the heat and set aside whilst you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the self raising flour, spices, oats and ground almonds until they are well combined.
  4. Pour the warm mixture over the dry ingredients and mix in well. Set the mixture aside to cool a little.
  5. Beat the milk and egg together thoroughly and then gradually stir into the warm mixture.
  6. Pour the mix into the prepared loaf tins and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes (I baked for 40-45 min.) until well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  7. Leave the loaves to cool down slightly before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.

 


The cake was just like they describe on the website: ‘It’s a real warm, cosy scarf of a cake, deliciously sticky and with a fiery ginger kick’, and I liked it very much! Parkin should be made in advance for richer and deeper flavours, moistness and stickiness to develop, but I couldn’t resist! 😃  Well,  that’s fine cos I’ve got one more loaf to store for one week!

 

7 day old matured Bettys’ parkin

 

update (14/11/2018):
Tried the 3, 5 and 7 day old matured parkin slice each, and I liked the third day’s one. Also tried Guardian’s, which seems better to keep more than one week since the cake is more filling and less moist. I wonder this may be more authentic parkin?

 

Here is a bit about the cake and its history, and another recipe you might try.

 

from the film, V for Vendetta (2005)

 

Kabocha & Caramel Biscuit Cheesecake

 

Just yum… 💛

 

 

Ingredients

(for 18 cm cake tin)

150 g Belgian caramel biscuits, bashed to crumbs*
40 g salted butter, melted

200 g cream cheese, at room temperature
50 g maple sugar
10 g coconut sugar
100 g soured cream
100 g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground clove
1 egg, lightly whisked **
1 egg yolk
150 g mashed kabocha ***

(optional for garnish)
whipped cream
caramel syrup or sauce

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 240°C.  Grease a loose-bottomed or springform round tin or line with a baking parchment. For the crust, mix the biscuit crumbs and melted butter until evenly moist, then press into the bottom of the tin. Set aside.
  2. To make the filling, cream the cheese in a bowl, put in the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the soured cream, yoghurt, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon and clove mixing well between each addition. Beat in the eggs one at a time rather than whisk not to incorporate too much air as this will affect the smooth surface of the cake. Finally, add the mashed kabocha, blend well and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the batter over the crust in the tin.
  3. Bake for 5 mins (Do not open during this period!), then turn down the oven to 100°C, bake further for 40-50 mins****.  Turn off and leave the cake inside to cool down slowly. When cool, chill in refrigerator overnight.

Notes
*       Belgian caramel biscuits such as Lotus Biscoff
**     Just stir white and yolk not to aerate.
***   Ideally Kuri Kabocha.  Steam or microwave, remove green skins and mash well.
**** If not sure, measure the temperature of the cake an inch from the edge, turn off when it reaches 75°C.

 

Ichijiku no Kanroni – Japanese Fig Compote

 

Figs are fully in season, so I made Ichijiku no Kanroni.

 

 

Ichijiku means ‘fig’ and its kanji spelling 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.

 

left: White Genoa for kanroni / right: Horaishi to eat raw or for jam

 

Being seasoned with some say sauce, it may taste a bit like mitarashi or daigaku imo.

 

my daigak imo, Japanese caramelised sweet potato (click here for the recipe)

 

Ingredients

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)

 

 

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

Ichijiku no Kanroni with Yukimi Daifuku, mochi icecream

 

The juicy, chewy and nicely sweet fig is scrumptious as it is, but really goes well with ice cream!

 

 

Umeshu Matsuri – Plum Wine Festival in Tokyo

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.

 

Sardine Escabeche and Croatia

The Nanbanzuke recipe I posted earlier this month intended to allude this Sardine Escabeche recipe.

I came 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.

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

6 butterflied sardine fillet
salt and pepper
15 g plain flour
15 g  cornstarch
50 ml olive oil, to shallow fry

[Marinade]
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)

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Seafood Dishes

Brudet: fish soup served with polenta
Gulaš od Hobotnice: octopus stew
Škampi na Buzaru or ‘Skampi Buzara‘ @ Villa Spiza in Split – this place is getting very popular and takes no reservations. Go earlier to avoid the long queue, prob. by 7.00 pm at latest.
Crni Rižoto: black cuttlefish risotto @ Amfora near Gruž Port in Dubrovnik – loved the wild fennel adittion! Their Miso Fish Soup and Chilled Fennel Cream Soup looked nice.

Meat Dishes

Pašticada, so called ‘Queen of Dalmatian Cuisine’, served with potato gnocchi – meat dish but one of the most popular Dalmatian dishes.

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.

‘National Plate’ @ Sadrvan in Mostar – dolma, japrak, ćevapčići, lepinja, ajvar, đuveč, Bosanski Kolacic

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.

grilled trout @ Plitvice Lakes

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.

octopus salad @ Konoba Menego

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.

left: my lunch – grilled squid @ Lady Pi-Pi

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.

dome-shaped peka -(souce: Travels with Tricia)

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!

fireplace for peka @ Miličić Winery

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!

peka @ Miličić Winery

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.

octopus peka (source: Croatia Travel Guide & Blog)

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.

my cooking: mussels cooked in Pošip (Croatian white grape variety) wine
Also made my lemony pasta with ricotta filled raviori instead of adding the cheese (click here for the recipe)

Dalmatian cheese and dry-cured ham also are a must, which I shall mention when I write about Croatian wines.

Nanbanzuke – Japanese Escabeche

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.

(source: Portugal on a Plate)

 

Sardinha de escabeche (source: Pinterest)

 

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.

 

Click here for my Chicken Adobo recipe

 

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!

 

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

[Marinade]
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

 

 

Method

  1. Leave the akatogarashi in water for a while. Drain, seed and cut into thin slices.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

(source: Wikipedia)

Sicily and Lemony Ricotta Fettuccine with Tomato & Pistachio

This Fettuccine recipe is adopted from the Raviolini al Limone I enjoyed whilst in Enna for the Holy Monday last year.

 

Raviolini al Limone @ Centrale

 

Instead of ricotta filled ravioli, I used fettuccine and added the cheese into the sauce. Also scattered with ground pistachios to make it Sicilian!!

 

 

Ingredients

(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)

flat leaf parsley  (to sprinkle)
unsalted pistachio, roughly chopped  (to sprinkle)

 

 

 Method

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Put in the tomato and fry for a few minutes stirring consistently.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Plate the pasta, and sprinkle with the chopped pistachio and parsley.

     

    Calascibetta – view from Enna

MUST VISIT whilst in ENNA

 Villa Romana del Casalea 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 Great Hunt

the ‘Bikini Girls’
the Giants

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.

Click here for more access tips

 

MUST STAY in ENNA

This newly opened B&B, P&G Design is run by the same owner of Bianko & Bianko I mentioned on my post, Chickpea & Almond Biscuits and Sicily. She kindly sent me the information for my future visit to Enna.

P&G Design (source: Booking.com)
breakfast (source: Booking.com)


MUST EAT in ENNA

Centrale was recommended by the owner, whose restaurant tips never disappoint me 🙂
Antipast al Buffet is a MUST as well as Raviolini al Limone!!

Antipast al Buffet @ Centrale

 

Croatian foods will follow later on….

Croatia 2017 – Digest

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.

 

Split

I recommend the views over Split from the Marjan Park rather than from the Bell Tower of Saint Domnius – I am fearful of heights!!

View from Marjan Hill

Trogir

Half day trip from Split by boat and local bus on my way back

Omiš

Half day trip from Split by local bus (I’d love to try rafting in the river next time. )

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  😦

Heading to Milna for morning coffee – Brač Island (Try Milna Pekara for nice local bread.)
Paklinski Islands or Devil’s Islands
One of the highlights of my trip – Hvar Habour and Paklinski Islands from Spanjola Fortress

 

Dubrovnik

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!

Mostar 

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)

View from the Minaret of Koski Mehmed Pašha Mosque –  Stari Most after reconstruction completed in 2008. On the way to Mostar, I saw some remains of buildings destroyed during the Bosnian War.
He is collecting 25 euros from passersby to jump…
into the river from the Old Bridge, about 25 metres high above water level.

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).

Mljet 

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!!

Benedictine monastery on the Isle of St Mary in the middle of Veliko Jezero (the Great Lake)

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.

Mljet National Park
Timetable: Gruz – Mljet

 

Lessons learned :

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.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: