Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins

 

Sadly, the strawberry season has been over here… but I have been playing around with  my strawberry confiture – scones, Victoria sponge, strawberry choc brownies etc. Today, I am posting the best result from those experiments I have made so far: Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins.

 

 

Ingredients

(makes 6 jumbo muffins)

130 g plain flour
60 g polenta or cornmeal
10 g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
a dash (18 tsp) of sea salt
80 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
65 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
70 ml whipping cream (heavy cream, fat 35%), whipped
120 g strawberry confiture

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190° C. Into a bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each, then add the vanilla extract.
  3. Fold in half of the flour mixture, the whipped cream and finally the rest of the flours gently until evenly combined. Add the confiture, stirring just to roughly mix.
  4. Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 180° C and bake for about 15 minutes more or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

Wagashi of the Month: Minazuki

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.

 

Wagashi of the Month: June last year

 

Kyoto Trip in Minazuki Day 1  from my post last year:

 

Kyoto Trip in Minazuki Day 2 and Minazuki sweets from my post last year:

 

 

Strawberry Confiture

 

Here in Japan, the strawberry season is coming towards the end 😦

 

 

So I have been cooking strawberries almost every night 😀
This strawberry confiture tastes sooooo good that I’m going to make it until the last minute!!

 

Ingredients

(makes about 280 – 300 g)

500 g ripe strawberry,  hulled and large ones halved
100 g golden caster sugar
juice of ½ – 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

 

Perfect with vanilla ice cream!

Method

  1. Put the strawberries into a non-reactive pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer on lower heat , stirring from time to time and skimming off scum.
  2. Roughly mash the berries with a wooden spoon or fork, and leave to simmer until thickened. In all, it will take about 45 – 60 minutes to make.
  3. Cool completely. Keep refrigerated and finish in 1 week. (Alternatively, bottle or freeze)

 

Sunday cream tea 🙂

 

I shall post a baking recipe with this strawberry confiture.

 

 

 

Bake-Off ! – Bara Brith and Welsh Whisky

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’.

My cake – Entry No. 4

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.

Penderyn Madeira

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:

TASTING NOTES – Nose: A classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins. Palate: Crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness. Finish: Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist. 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition – Silver (from Penderyn website)

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!

Next time in London, I’ll sign up for the Great British Baking Workshop (ex Celtic Baking Workshop) at Bread Ahead Bakery & School.

Lemon Lentil Soup and London

We have reached May already…. April has gone without any posts – things have been too hectic here to do blog hopping (sorry guys!) and posts.

This lentil soup is a copycat from Gaby’s Deli, a Jewish restaurant at Leicester Square, London. Not sure if I could succeed in copying it…. Or rather I should say I just tried to imitate their recipe, however, I like mine very much.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
¼ tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh coriander stalk, finely chopped
100 g onion, finely chopped
70 g carrot, finely chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
650 and 150 ml water
4 tsp no sodium vegetable bouillon (adjust according to the package instructions)
200 g dried red or yellow lentil, rinsed
1 tsp dried mint leaves
½ – ¾ tsp fine sea salt (adjust according to the package instructions)
1 juice of fresh lemon

fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
slices of lemon, to garnish

Method

 ( For 3 -4 servings)

  1. In a large saucepan, put in the olive oil, ginger, garlic and coriander, then fry over low heat stirring consistently until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes but not brown. Spoon in the turmeric and cumin powder, and carry on until fragrant. Add the carrot and fry for further one minute.
  2. Pour the 650 ml water into the pan, stir in the lentil, bouillon, salt  and mint, and increase the heat to bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Purée the soup in a food processor or a blender until completely smooth. Let it sit for overnight if possible.
  4. Return the purée to the pan with 150 ml water and reheat over low heat. Pour in some more water if too thick. When boiled, add the lemon juice and simmer for a few minutes. Taste it and add more salt and/or juice of lemon if needed. Remove from the heat.
  5. Serve the soup in bowls and garnish with a slice of lemon and coriander leaves on top.

When in London, I pretty much enjoy Middle Eastern food. Below are the restaurants and shops I have tried:

Gaby’s Deli
Once it was forced to close, but fortunately still there! It’s no-frills but I enjoy their food and atmosphere. I pop in for a quick meal or when I’m away from home for a while and eager for vegetables.

Lentil soup (source: Yelp)

 

Honey & Co.
Very popular restaurant at Warren St. Booking is a must.

 

Mr Falafel

 

Hummus Bros

 

And I tried my blogger friend Kay’s recommendations last year. Thank you Kay for the posts, Yalla Yalla and the Barbary !

Yalla Yalla

At the corner of Green’s Court, found a nice Italian deli, Lina Stores and took away a cannolo.

I’ll definitely go back for their fresh pasta!

 

The Barbary

Halva ice cream

 

Restaurants and shops on my list:

Ottolenghi
Honey & Smoke  – Thank you Kay for sharing the review
Berber & Q – Shawarma Bar
Maroush
Karma Bread Bakery
Pilpel

Let me know if you have any recommendations! Also if you happen to know where I can purchase a bottle of Arak, Israeli anis liqueur.

 

If you badly want tons of Halva…

It’s a Greek restaurant, but try the Greek Larder at King’s Cross when Whole Foods Market’s tiny package cannot satisfy you! They would happily slice some for you  – I bought about 500 g 😀

Bubur Cha Cha

Burbu Cha Cha is a coconut milk based dessert from Malaysia or Singapore. Usually cooked with yam, taro, sweet potatoes, black eyed beans, pandan leaf etc., but I made it simpler with just sweet potato, banana and tapioca.

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2-3 servings)

800-1000 ml water
35 g tapioca pearls

500 ml water
1 tbsp salt

450 ml water
240 g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
110 g coconut cream (thicker and richer than coconut milk)
½ tsp coconut sugar
2-2½ tsp caster sugar (to adjust)
½ banana, cut into small pieces
(optional: fresh mint)

 

 

Method

  1. Pour the 800-1000 ml water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add in the tapioca and simmer over low heat for 1-1.5 hours or until transparent, stirring occasionally. Rinse in running water and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, leave the sweet potato pieces in 500 ml water with salt for about 1 hour and drain. Put the potato chunks in a pan with 450 ml water and bring to the boil. Cook on medium heat until tender.
  3. Reduce to low heat, add the sugars, ladle in the coconut cream and simmer for about a few minutes. Add in the tapioca and banana, then cook for further 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more caster sugar if needed. Serve hot. Or let it cool and chill in fridge to serve cold.

NOTE: Change water before adding coconut cream if use purple sweet potato.

 

Kinosaki Onsen Hot Spring Town

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.

Shimekazari : traditional Japanese New Year decoration or wreath hung over the front door to keep evil spirits away and to welcome the Toshigami, the deity of the New Year
Kadomatsu (Gate Pine) : another New Year decoration to welcome in good fortune for the New Year – normally set up on either side of the front entrance to the house

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, Mikiya where 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 Onsen in 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.

map from Independent

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:

 

 

① Satono-yu
② Jizou-yu
③ Yanagi-yu
④ Ichino-yu
⑤ Goshono-yu
⑥ Mandara-yu
⑦ Kouno-yu

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 😀 )

Kinosaki Onsen promotion video

 

MUST EAT & DRINK at Kinosaki

Seafood from the Sea of Japan

Onsen tamago again (Read my Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs Resort). Buy nama (raw) tamago and cook your own in a hot spring well!

(You can make onsen tamago – not in a hot spring though – at home! Here is the wonderful recipe.)

Takeaway Ohagi/Botamochi at Chikara Mochi.

(from left) cinnamon daifuku, shio (salt) daifuku, ohagi/botamochi

Kinosaki Beer from a microbrewery in Kinosaki.

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 ganikani 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.

Kani suki, crab hot pot (pic from Mikiya website)

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.

Orizuru

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.

kani chirashi (1,400 yen)

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

 

Where to Stay in Kinosaki

http://visitkinosaki.com/lodging/inn/

 

More options: minshukua kind of bed & breakfast or guest house usually run by family – a bit away from the central Kinosaki but more budget

Hashimoto –  We wanted to try this minshuku but had fully booked. (Not sure if English-speaking available)

Or stay in KasumiShibayama etc. small towns by the Sea of Japan and visit fish markets!

Maruya – I have stayed here many years ago. The place was cosy and comfortable, and I remember they served good Matsubagani cuisine. (Not sure if English-speaking available)

Kasumi Tourist Information: http://kasumi-kanko.com/index.php

Accomodation in Tajima province: http://www.hyogo-tourism.jp/english/accomodations/hi_tajima.html

 

Bolo Rei – King’s Cake and Lisbon

Bolo Rei, or King’s Cake, is a traditional Portuguese cake usually eaten around Christmas, from 25th of December until Epiphany, 6th of January (This reminded me of my Kutia, Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding.)

Bolo Rei is a sweet rich fruit bread – rather than a cake – baked with raisins, various nuts and crystallised fruits. Also included is a dried fava bean, and the tradition dictates that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the cake next year. (Wikipedia)

As you can easily imagine from the name of and fève in Galette des Rois for Epiphany, Bolo Rei is originally from France although it looks like Frankfurter Kranz. (Click here to learn more about Boro Rei from a video.)

I didn’t know anything about Bolo Rei, but a Postcrosser in Lisbon gave me a recipe on the web, and it has stood by to be posted here since last August!!

My Bolo Rei with postcards from Postcrossers in Lisbon and my Portugal postcard collection.

The first try didn’t work out that much – the dough turned out to be hard rock buns 😀 so I changed plain to strong flour. Also altered some ingredients, quantities and process but I basically followed the recipe.

Ingredients

For the dough
85 g assorted crystallised fruits, to chop if necessary
35 g raisin
2 tbsp port wine
1 tbsp rum

35 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tbsp dried yeast
50 g strong white flour

50 g butter, room temperature
50 g caster sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked

100 g strong white flour
100 g plain wholemeal flour
25 ml lukewarm milk
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp orange zest
20 g sliced almond
20 g walnut, chopped
10 g pine nuts
(optional: a dried broad/fava bean)

For the topping
1 egg white
crystallised fruits of your choice

For the glaze
50 g icing sugar
25 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
2 tbsp water

Method

  1. Soak the crystallised fruits and raisins in the port wine and rum for 1-2 hours. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Tip the 50 g strong flour into a bowl, and pour in the yeasty water to mix. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pour in some more water 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 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Shape into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover again and sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flours until just combined and stir in the milk to mix well. Then add the yeast mixture to the dough making sure it is evenly blended together, using your hand and create a sticky dough. Put in the zests, nuts and soaked fruits (and a fava bean). Lightly mix until all the fruits and nuts are evenly covered by the dough. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 190 C.
  5.  Knead the dough for about one minute. Scrape the dough on to a greased baking tray, shape into a round loaf (about 20 cm in diameter) , and make a hole in the centre. Brush it all with the egg white. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if the surface becomes too brown. Remove from the oven, brush the top surface again with the egg white and decorate with cristallised fruits. Put back into the oven, and bake for a few minutes (Do not burn the fruits!). Carefully lift out and place on a wire rack.
  6. To make the glaze, put the icing sugar, honey and water in a small pan over low heat. Stir until completely melted and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and spoon over the cake.
So far I have received two postcards from Lisbon, which are my faves.

Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Lisbon. I’m sure to make this again whether it’s Christmas/Epiphany or not!

 


I have been wishing to revisit Lisbon…. Night Train to Lisbon, both the novel and the film, added fuel to the wish. Once I planned train journeys from Nice to Lisbon via San Sebastian but it hasn’t come off yet.

What I enjoyed most in Lisbon are:

city views from above

trams

tram-3

and steep slopes of narrow streets and alleys. Above all, the slopes up to the B&B I stayed at. Whichever the labyrinthine alleys I took, I could go back to the place, which was really fun!

 

MUST STAY in LISBON

Casa Costa do Castelo is located at the foot of Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, which offers gorgeous views by day and night.

A Room with a view

 

MUST EAT in LISBON

I happened to find Fonte das Sete Bicas when exploring Alfama. It is a small family run restaurant  like a trattoria, and many locals were in for lunch. You can enjoy dishes at reasonable price – I paid 8 – 9 euros for one course with bread and salad, a glass of wine, dessert and coffee (as of 2009)!

Cozido à Portuguesa, Portuguese stew with several kinds of meats and vegetables.
pudim flan

According to Tripadvisor reviews, their fish dishes look also nice.

At another restaurant, Sardinhas Assadas, Vinho Verde and Vinho do Porto satisfied me a lot…. Must go back to Lisboa!!

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year to everyone!

image
Osechi, traditional Japanese new year’s food and Ozoni, broth with rice cake
Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement, for new year (by Rotwein)
Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement, for new year (by Rotwein)

 

Wagashi of the Month: December

Wagashi of the Month for December – Christmas tree and boot