Here comes June again – the month of Minazuki, June in the lunar calendar, and the month for Minazuki, a confection. One of my colleagues brought the latter Minazuki from Gionmanju in Kyoto for me, so once again I am posting this Wagashi.
I participated in a baking contest took place in Tokyo earlier this month. This is one of the reasons I had been a bit away from here. I don’t remember how many loaves I baked, and I have totally no idea how much flours, dried fruits etc. were consumed for this 😀
At first, I was just trying to bake Bara Brith, a Welsh fruit loaf made with tea and Welsh version of Irish Barm Brack, according to a recipe postcard from a Postcrossing friend in Wales. Then the announcement of the contest followed: ‘Irish & British Bake-off! looking for contestants’. This was organized by an English woman who runs a bakery and baking classes in Tokyo, and had nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off 😀
To be honest, it was really struggling to make a NICE Bara Brith since no butter (or no oil) is used for the cake. It didn’t work out the way as I wanted at all, so I adopted a Boiled Fruitcake recipe and mixed up the methods, which turned out to be pretty well.
Unfortunately, the cake couldn’t beat others. For me, however, the result was rather good – I had assumed the physical appearance wouldn’t attract the judges and the cake would taste too heavy for Japanese. Surprisingly, I got 6 votes! and received some nice comments. Among others, ‘the cake was rich in depth and complexity and I loved it!’ satisfied me a lot. I didn’t reveal the ingredients, but some noticed the ‘complexity’.
The ingredient that gave the cake complex richness is Penderyn, Welsh single malt whisky, and I selected dried fruits and preserves which go perfectly well with the whisky.
I guess most of you haven’t heard of Welsh whisky unlike Scottish and Irish counterparts. Actually, the whisky production once died out in the late 19th century, but some entrepreneurs endevoured to revive distillation in the 1990s and in 2000, the Welsh Whisky Company was founded, which is now known as Penderyn Distillery. As of 2016, Wales has two whisky distilleries in operation. (Wikipedia)
Penderyn whisky is completely different from Scotch – I have a kind of impression that Penderyn is feminine or womanly: smooth, fresh, sweet, elegant, flowery yet deep while Scotch is manliest: strong, powerful, earthy…. I tried some Scotch for the cake, but none of them created the ‘complexity’.
What makes Penderyn whisky unique is their still:
‘Our whisky still is a single copper-pot which produces a flavourful spirit of extraordinary strength and purity and was designed by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the ground-breaking Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. As of 2013 we have a pair of these stills.
Whilst most Scottish and Irish distilleries use a conventional two or three-pot still system, the technology developed at Penderyn allows an extremely clean ‘flavourful’ spirit to be produced from a single still.’
I used Penderyn Madeira for the cake:
Other than the whisky, my Bara Brith requires specific ingredients and products. I’m not sure if substitutes work or not, so I haven’t posted the recipe here. Please let me know if you would like to try to bake my Bara Brith. Anyway, I am going to develop this recipe and will post it later this year, hopefully before Christmas!
As I mentioned last March on this blog (Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs Resort), a friend of mine and I made a visit to another Onsen place. It was just before the New Year’s Eve and Kinosaki was ready for the 2017.
Kinosaki Onsen is one of the most well-known hot spring resorts in Japan. One of the reasons is that it appears in At Kinosaki (1917) by Japanese writer, Naoya Shiga – there still exists the ryokan, Mikiyawhere the author stayed. In the short story, the main character visits Kinosaki Onsen to recuperate from injury.
Not for recuperation, but I used to dip in the hot spring in winters when I was a resident in Kobe (Arima Onsenin Kobe is my another favourite). Kinosaki is getting popular among foreign tourists – but still less compared to Hakone, Kusatsu etc. – although it is far from Tokyo, and even from Kyoto or Osaka, it takes about three hours.
Whether it’s popular or not, you would surely be charmed once you visit the onsen town along a willow-lined river. Walking down the high street with old-fashioned shops, restaurants and amusement arcades, you would feel the ambience of good old Japan.
The top attraction at Kinosaki is sotoyu meguri, ‘public bath stroll’ although every ryokan has its own bath. There are seven public bathhouses in town, and in the evenings, people enjoy onsen hopping from one to another in yukata outfit and wooden geta sandals – also some in early mornings as well.
Sotoyu meguri is enjoyable, but you should be mindful of yuatari, bath dizziness, which may cause your blood pressure and heart rate to rise temporary. To avoid yuatari, we didn’t bathe too long or longer than our body can handle, and didn’t try all the seven bathhouses – just two or three a day at most is enough! – and had two at night and one in the morning.
Below are the seven along with the sotoyu meguri map:
The weather forecast expected snow for the days, however, we had some rain and occasional sleet or hailstone instead. Our bare feet in geta sandals miserably got soaked and frozen on the way to the baths, so we had to defrost them in the hot spring 😦
Other than that, we relaxed in the hot springs and enjoyed hopping (and a bottle of German wine afterwards 😀 )
The beer is good, but I would like you to try Japanese sake, Kasumitsuru. If you visit Kinosaki in winter, try Kasumitsuru Shiboritate sold only for winters.
If you drive to Kinosaki or can afford a one-hour taxi drive from Kinosaki, visit Katsumitsuru Brewery, where you can join the guided tour (booking is necessary) and try some samples.
Sake brewing at Kasumitsuru Brewery (in English)
To be honest, I prefer Kotsuzumi from adjacent province, Tamba. There are variety of Kotsuzumi, and among others, I like Akino Hiyaoroshi most. Unfortunately, this one is also seasonal product and only available in autumn months.
Visit the liquor store, Sakamotoya in Kinosaki where you can find the drinks I mentioned above and buy not only bottled but also a glass (glasses 😀 ) of sake at the counter.
crab crab crab crab
In winter months, from November to March when Matsubagani crab is in season, many, especially from Kansai region (I used to be the one of them), head to Kinosaki for Matsubagani cuisine – kani sashi, yaki gani, kani suki/kani nabe etc.
However, Matubagani is pretty expensive. If you find less expensive ones or dishes, they are not Matsubagani but crabs from Russia.
If you would like to enjoy sushi, sashimi, Matsubagani and other seafood dishes in high quality, dine at Orizuru, one of the best restaurants in Kinosaki. Reservation is a must.
As you can easily imagine, the bill would come out quite…, but their lunch menu is more affordable. I popped in the restaurant at lunch time after seeing off my company who headed for Izumo Grand Shrine, and took away a bento box of kani chirasi, scattered sushi with crab meat.
If you are Wagyu or Kobe Beef lover, Tajima Beef is a must!
How to get to Kinosaki Onsen
By bus (Zentan Bus)
From Osaka (nr Umeda Station) or Shin Osaka (departs from nr JR Shin Osaka Station): about 3-3.5 hour journey
From Kobe (nr JR Sannomiya Station): about 3 – 3.5 hour journey
By train (JR)
Click here for further information. Hyperdia – timetable and route search
Tomorrow, the 21st of December this year is Toji, or winter solstice. The two most commonly practiced Japanese customs associated with the beginning of true winter are eating kabocha and having a yuzuyu, a hot bath with yuzu citrus fruit floating in it.
Yuzuyu is a tradition with its roots in prayers for safety and good health. It is said that bathing with yuzu at winter solstice keeps a cold away during winter. And besides, the strong smell of the citrus is believed to remove evil from the body and purify it.
In fact, a component of yuzu is known to be good for skin protection, and to warm the body, and it is also known that the aroma has a stress relief effect. Actually, the fragrance is very pleasant and soothing!
What I’m posting here today is not ‘how to make’ or ‘how to have a yuzuyu’ but the recipe of pleasantly bitter Honey Yuzu Marmalade.
500 g yuzu, preferably organic
100 g caster sugar
35 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
Wash the yuzu thoroughly and pat dry with paper towel or something. Cut the citrus in half crosswise, squeeze out juice and strain. Reserve seeds and any removed membrane.
Scoop the pips and pulp into a non-reactive pan and add the seeds and membrane. Pour in enough water to cover and simmer for 10 minuets on medium heat. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, remove the seeds and push to draw out pectin, using a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, slice the peel into very thin pieces, put into a large bowl of water and wash gently by squeezing. Change the water and repeat the process two more times for a total of three washes.
Place the peel in a large pot with a plenty of water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and simmer for a few minutes. Then remove from the heat and drain in a strainer. Repeat this process two more times.
Put the peel into a non-reactive pan along with the juice, pectin liquid from the process 3 and 50 g sugar. Simmer on lower heat for 10 minutes, skimming off scum.
Add in the rest of the sugar and simmer stirring regularly for further 10 minutes or until thick. Spoon in the honey and bring back to simmer, then remove from the heat.
Cool completely. Keep refrigerated and finish in 1-2 weeks.
As autumn deepens and it gets cooler, leaves change colour into bright red and yellow.
Wagashi of the Month in November is fallen Momiji, or Japanese maple leaves on the bottom of river.
Autumn colour from my album:
I’ll add some more photos from a local autumn festival last month.
There are countless local festivals (Matsuri) in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates one of its own. Most festivals are held annually and celebrate the shrine’s deity or a seasonal or historical event. Some festival are held over several days.
An important element of Japanese festivals are processions, in which the local shrine’s Kami (Shinto deity) is carried through the town in Mikoshi (palanquins). It is the only time of the year when the Kami leaves the shrine to be carried around town.
Of all the year’s 12 full moons, the harvest moon in autumn is considered to be the most beautiful here in Japan. There is a moon viewing custom to admire the beauty at the night on 15th August in the lunar calendar, which falls on 15th of September this year. The night is called Jugoya, the night of 15th, and it is said that the moon at Jugoya is the brightest, most beautiful and most sublime of the year although the moon is not always full.
The moon rabbit in folklore is a rabbit that lives on the moon. … The story exists in many cultures, prominently in East Asian folklore and Aztec mythology. In East Asia, it is seen pounding in a mortar and pestle, but the contents of the mortar differ among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore. In Chinese folklore, it is often portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Chang’e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her; but in Japanese and Korean versions, it is pounding the ingredients for rice cake. (source: wikipedia)
On the surface of the moon, Japanese people see not ‘a man in the moon’ but a rabbit pounding Mochi, rice cake.
Towards the end of August… but the very hot weather will continue one more moth. We are still in the midst of summer and seeking for coolness through five senses. The green colour and the fresh smell of bamboo and the leaf evoke a sense of coolness.