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.

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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!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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
The Good Egg

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.

 

Honey Yuzu Marmalade

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!

Yuzuyu with my duckies 😀

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.

Ingredients

500 g yuzu, preferably organic
100 g caster sugar
35 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4.  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.
  5. 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.
  6.  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.
  7. Cool completely. Keep refrigerated and finish in 1-2 weeks. 

Wagashi of the Month: November

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:

Day Trip to Hakone – Nov. 2011
Lake Ashinoko, Hakone – Nov. 2011
Tokyo in late autumn, 2014

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.

(source: japan-guide.com)

 

Mikoshi

 

Wagashi of the Month: September

‘Moon Rabbit’ and ‘Chrysanthemum’ for September

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.

Tsuki Usagi, Moon Rabbit

Why rabbit?

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.

Mochitsuki – pounding rice cake

Click for more about Tsukimi, moon viewing.

sugar candies: full moon, mountains, Chinese bellflowers, rabbits
full moon and rabbits

 

Another one is Kiku, or chrysanthemum, which symbolises autumn.

Kiku, chrysanthemum

 

Kiku is a symbol of Japan itself as well as Sakura, cherry blossom. I should have put a sword next to the chrysanthemum?

 

Wagashi of the Month: August

 

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.

 

Kuzu-mochi, a clear jelly of Kuzu (starch from Kuzu or Kudzu Root) wrapped in a bamboo leaf. Kuzu-mochi is also considered a summer dessert.

 

Nadeshiko flower – Dianthus or Pink

 

Yokan, gelled sweet bean paste, in a bamboo tube

 

 

 

Caponata/Fish Caponata and Lipari, Sicily

I love caponata and cook it quite often (as I posted in June). This time, however, I made it a little bit different – more Sicilian and summery with vegetable and fish in season. (If you are a vegetarian/vegan or not in the mood for fish, just omit it and add some more vegetables since this recipe is just to combine caponata and fried fish.)

Well ripened and juicy tomatoes at their best are abundant now, so I made Passata di Pomodoro myself to add in. This intense tomato purée is absolutely tasty – natural flavours, especially sweetness, are brought out. You would love to use the passata not only for caponata but also for pasta etc. – I’m going to make Moussaka with this passta and aubergines below.

San Marzano tomatoes to bottle

We are in fresh swordfish months here and it has arrived in stores. In Sicily, swordfish, also in season, is eaten well  and there are various dishes: Involtini di Pesce Spada (stuffed swordfish rolls), Pesce Spada al Salmoriglio (grilled swordfish with lemon Salmoriglio sauce), Pasta con Pesce Spada e Melanzane (pasta with swordfish and aubergine) etc… and of course, Caponata di Pesce Spada. Yes, I’m posting a caponata with swordfish recipe today.

Aubergine Season! aubergines suitable for deep frying: White Bell, Black Beauty, Zebra

There various caponata recipes exist in Sicily with local variations: with pine nuts, almonds or pistachio, mint or basil, sugar or honey; with or without garlic, raisins, peppers (capsicums), anchovy are the examples. You might think ‘!!’ or ‘??’ but adding cacao (cocoa powder or grated chocolate) is also one of the varieties. I’m not sure if this is authentic or not. My Sicilian friend in Palermo hasn’t heard of it and says it may be a new recipe while some mention on the web it’s from Syracuse and Catania areas – I though it might be from Modica, a Baroque town famous for its chocolate.

I tried to enhance the flavours to make it summery adding some more vinegar, for example. The first experiment lacked depth. Honey was added instead of sugar, but not enough and still something missing. I was thinking about using balsamic vinegar instead…. After some more experiments, settled on the two recipes:  i) with unsweetened cocoa powder (thick and rich) and ii) with raisins soaked in red wine vinegar (mildly sweet). Seems my caponatas are a melting pot of Sicily!  😀

Enjoy the summery caponata(s)!

Ingredients

(for 2 – 3 servings; for 4 as antipasto)

for the Passata
1 kg tomato
300 ml/cc water

for the Caponata
500 g aubergine (preferably ‘Black Beauty’), cut into 2.5 cm dice
1 tsp salt

200 g swordfish, cut into 2 cm wide pieces
1/2 lemon, squeezed
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

80 g celery, cut into 1 cm dice
vegetable oil to deep fry (I used sunflower oil)

1tbsp olive oil
120 g onion, sliced
100 g red pepper/capsicum, cut into 2cm thick slices
1 tbsp caper in sea salt, rinsed, soaked for 10 min and drained
50 g pitted olive, halved
200 ml/cc passata
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 tbsp red wine vinegar (acidity 7%)
1 tsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
i) 1 tsp (a little less than 1 tsp) unsweetened cocoa powder  or ii) 20 g raisins
salt and pepper (to taste)

20 g almond
fresh basil (to garnish)

salted capers  and dried oregano from Sicily, and homemade passata.

Method

  1. For the passata (Prepare in advance or while salting aubergines), place the tomatoes in a large pot with the water. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from the water and drain for a while, at least 30 minutes, until water doesn’t come out of the tomatoes (Do not press or squeeze!). Strain through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Put the passata in a pan and cook over small heat for 15 minutes or until thickened stirring constantly.
  2. Place the aubergines in a colander, rub with the salt and let it sit for about an hour. Before using, squeeze and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Rub the fish with the lemon juice and leave for 10 minutes. Pat dry with paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry until cooked through and lightly golden. Set aside.
  4. In a pot, bring the vegetable oil to 180°C and deep fry the celery until slightly brown. Then boil the oil again to 190°C and deep fry the aubergines until really brown (but not burnt). Drain the fried vegetables well on paper towel to remove excess oil.
  5. Dissolve the honey in the vinegar – ii) and soak in the raisins for 10 minutes. Set aside. Clean the frying pan, sauté the onion with another 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat until tender.  Add the red pepper and fry for a few minutes, then olives and capers for a minute.
  6. Spoon in the passata with the dried oregano – i) and cocoa powder. Then pour in the vinegar mixture – ii) including raisins, and mix well for a minutes or until pungent aroma subsides.
  7. Add the deep fried vegetables and the fish, and stir gently to combine. Season with ground pepper, taste it and add salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
  8. Lightly toast and chop the almonds, and scatter over or mix in the caponata. Garnish with the basil and serve.

If swordfish is unavailable, try fresh tuna, another popular fish in Sicily. Mackerel is one of the options, too. Next time I will cook with polpo, or octpus!!

 

Memoirs of a Foodie 

I always bring lots of foodstuff back from Sicily: sun dried tomatoes, dried oregano, pistachio (nuts, powder, cream, pesto), anchovy… and salted caper is one of them.

In 2014, I sailed to a smaller island, Lipari in the Aeolian Islands off the northeastern coast of Sicily. When I was enjoying the breathtaking scenery at Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani, a local farmer talked to me and showed me around the field behind the church explaining the crops and plants (I don’t speak Italian but I could understand what he said as I had studied Spanish). He seemed very happy with the arrival of spring and as if he wanted to share the joy with someone. Baby leaves of fig and olive…. It was the first time for me to see caper plants, so I was a bit excited. I think that was why he fetched a jar of homemade capers in sea salt for me! What a surprise and what an encounter!! This is one of the reasons I love travelling on my own.

My rental bike and Salina

And also he plucked a flower and gave me. At home, fully enjoyed caponata, pasta, salad etc. with the capers.

the capers and the flower

 

MUST SEE in LIPARI

Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani

It was early April and still off season – there were some tourists but very quiet. No one up there, and I had the spectacular view and tranquility all to myself!! (but the farmer disturbed! 😀 )

Chiesa Vecchia
Salina, where il Postino/the Postman (1994) was shot

 

MUST EAT in LIPARI

Popped in Gilberto e Vera twice while in Lipari for just wine (aperitivo) and for a panino. Friendly Girberto chose red wine for me – Salina Rosso from Salina Island. (Tripadvisor reviews)

Oscar is a not to be missed pasticceria/gelateria in Lipari. Their cannolo is just divine and the best one I have ever had. Ricotta cream was stuffed in a homemade shell in front of me!! They offered me some almond biscuits, which were superb and I couldn’t resist buying two packets!

pic from TripAdvisor

 

How to get to Lipari

Milazzo Port – Lipari: about 1 hour by hydrofoil or about 2 hours by ferry (Check with ok ferry)
Access to Milazzo Port: Read tips on TripAdvisor Travel Forum

 

Wagashi of the Month: July

 

Kingyo, or goldfish fascinates many people with its beautiful colours and adorable shapes. Here in Japan, the fish is most popular in summer as Japanese people regard that its gently swaying tail in water evokes a sense of coolness.

 

 

Another one is Himawari, or sunflower. I think the flower is a bit modern motif, not a traditional one, but it was too pretty to pass over!

 

Himawari

 

We are still stuck in the rainy season although it’s high time it had been over. Well, I’d rather this than the awful heat and humidity waiting ahead though….

 

 

Wagashi of the Month: June

 

Now we are in the midst of rainy season (that’s why the photos need more light!) – hydrangeas bloom beautifully and delight the eye. Ajisai, or hydrangea, is considered to be a symbolic flower of June and the rainy season here in Japan, so I chose Ajisai shaped confections for this month.

 

Ajisai Kinton made of mashed beans

 

Rokugatsu, June in Japanese and literally means ’the sixth month’, has another name in archaic word: Minazuki. There is a confection called Minazuki and sold during this time of year.

 

hydrangea petal shaped sugar candies

 

Minazuki is a layer of white Uirou, steamed rice jelly made from rice flour, with Azuki red beans on top. The white triangle shaped Uirou represents a piece of ice, and the beans, crushed ice.

 

Minazuki
Minazuki

 

Minazuki is originally from Kyoto. In ancient times, only the nobles in the Imperial Court could afford ice in summer: on the 1st of June by the old calendar, they enjoyed pieces of triangle shaped ice brought down from icehouses, where ice was stored from winter to summer, in the mountains of Kitayama, Kyoto. The commoners in Kyoto, on the other hand, ate Minazuki as substitute for the cold solid. 

 

 

In Kyoto, there is a custom to eat Minazuki on the 30th of June, which shall be mentioned later this month.

 

 

 

Pasta con Fritella – Braised Green Pea Pasta – and Caccamo

Fritella (or Fritedda) is a Sicilian springtime braised vegetable dish or vegetable stew cooked with fresh green fava beans, peas, and artichoke hearts, and can be used as pasta sauce. I encountered this dish for the first time while in Caccamo to see U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu.

fritedda
Fritella – from ‘Best of Sicily Magazine’

Caccamo is at the foot of Mount Eurako or San Calogero, and rises on a hill 520 meters above sea level. It was late March but still chilly and very windy up in the mountains. Hearing wind roaring in an empty flat, which I rented over the weekend, I felt myself pretty isolated in the small town with about 9,000 inhabitants.

 

rush hour traffic jam – on the way up to Caccamo

caccamo
Caccamo Castel (right) and Chiesa Madre (left)
Chiesa Madre di San Giorgio

 

However, the pasta con fritella I had at a restaurant in town made me somewhat relax, and I felt as if Caccamo had welcomed me warmly. This rather simple dish was a kind of  mum’s or good old home cooking, and I liked very much.

 

Ditalini con Frittella – ‘Antica ricetta siciliana con piselli, carciofi, finocchietto selvatico e cipolla’- @ A Castellana

 

I experimented with the pasta several times at home and settled on the recipe below. Just used fennel bulb without any fronds as I wanted to enjoy green peas in season. Tried fresh artichoke hearts but it didn’t work well unfortunately – maybe because they were imported and not so fresh although kept refrigerated. More likely, I didn’t clean and prepare them properly?? Cos I had never cooked before!! Well anyway, smoked hearts in olive oil from a deli worked perfectly, so I used them for my recipe. Much easier than preparing fresh ones, isn’t it? 😀

 

carciofi
carciofi (artichoke) @ Ballarò Market in Palermo, 2014

 

Another good thing is that this is one-pot cooking!

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2 – 3 servings)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g onion, finely chopped
100 g fennel bulb, finely chopped
100 g smoked artichoke hearts in olive oil,  drained and chopped
250 g shelled fresh green peas
600 – 700 cc/ml water (to adjust)
1 tsp salt
100 g ditalini or any short pasta you like
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar (acidity 6%)
pecorino cheese

 

 

 Method

  1. In a pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and fennel bulb over medium heat until translucent.  Add the peas to fry for a few minutes and artichoke hearts for a minute.
  2. Pour in the water with salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pan, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Put in the pasta and cook for 5 minutes or a few minutes less than the cooking time given on the package. Add just enough water to cover if necessary.
  4. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan and simmer for further 2-3 minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated pecorino cheese.

 

 

On Palm Sunday, Caccamo hosts U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu: a ceremony of eastern origin that recalls Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem; a parade through the main churches with an altar boy, a donkey, elegantly decked and embellished, blesses the bystanders. The altar is the smallest of the aspirated ‘russuliddi’, in clerical garb and accessories completely red. Both Jesus and the 12 apostles are played by boys holding long branches of palm trees, along the way, are intertwined, forming the arches under which passes the birthday boy. (http://www.fhshh.com)

 

 

Castello di Caccamo (Caccamo Castle) built in the 12th Century is among the largest and best preserved Norman castles in Sicily, and one of the largest in Italy. The castle is located on a steep cliff and overlooks the surrounding countryside, including the San Leonardo River Valley and the Rosmarina artificial lake.

If you are lucky (?), you might bump into ghosts in the castle!!

 

Caccamo Castle (pic from TripAdvisor)

view from castle

 

I saw another procession later that day. That was neither religious nor traditional one. The Comune di Caccamo just opened a museum of the castle, which is the first monument in Caccamo, so the town hold a ribbon cutting opening ceremony and a ‘Medieval’ procession. How lucky I was to witness two processions in a day!

 

Maltese Cross? the Knight of Malta??

 

Must Eat in Caccamo

If you visit Caccamo, you cannot miss A Castellana, where I enjoyed fritella. Their pizzas looked good as well, but I highly recommend Fiocchetti ripieni di Speck e Provola con Stracciatella di Burrata, which is  a kind of ravioli pasta, stuffed with speck and Provola cheese, with Stracciatella di Burrata cheese sauce. The photo below isn’t nice, but it was fantastic!!

 

Fiocchetti ripieni di Speck e Provola con Stracciatella di Burrata

 

How to get to Caccamo

Direct bus services are available from Palermo or Termini Imerese.
For the timetable, check with Autolinee Randazzo.

 

 

 

Onigiri – Rice Balls

My lunch today: Onigiri (Mame-gohan and Takenoko-gohan), Tamagoyaki and Tsukemono & Umeboshi

Rice balls (green peas rice and bamboo shoot rice), rolled omelette w/ Nori seaweed and preserved vegetables (cucumber and aubergine) & pickled plum

 

Onigiri on bamboo sheath, once used to wrap onigiri

 

 

 

Macco – Sicilian Fava Bean and Fennel Soup

I ran into finocchio, or Florence fennel at a  nearby supermarket the other day. ‘Wow, this is really something quite unexpected…. How on earth can I miss this???’ I had never seen the fresh ‘vegetable’ in this country, but I had been hoping to cook with finocchio or finocchietto since I had Macco for the first time in Sicily this March.

Macco (also known as macco di fave), or Maccu, is a traditional Sicilian thick soup or a soup dish cooked with dried fava beans and wild fennel as primary ingredients. The name of this dish derives from the Latin word, macero which meansto soften or tenderise’. Macco is strongly linked with St Joseph’s Day and eaten well around the saint feast day.

Macco di fave e finocchietto

In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their Patron saint, thanks are given to St. Joseph for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honour him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s Day custom. Maccu di San Giuseppe is a traditional Sicilian dish that consists of various ingredients and maccu is prepared on this day.    — Wikipedia

fave
dried fava beans @ Ballarò Market in Palermo, 2013

Many activities are scheduled for the feast, including the one called la tavola di San Giuseppe, the St Joseph’s Table. The Table manifestation takes many forms, depending on towns or villages. Upon St. Joseph’s Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies as well as other meatless dishes.

Tavola di San Giuseppe

The central element on the feast of San Giuseppe is bread.  Speaking of bread, I missed the Easter Arches or Bread Arches in San Biagio Platani near Agrigento.

bread arches
Archi di Pasqua – all made of bread

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach Borgetto to see la Tavola di San Giuseppe due to limited public transportation on Saturday. Instead, I witnessed another interesting custom in Caccamo, a small town up in the mountains where I visited for U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu on Palm Sunday.

dried fava beans
dried fava beans on a front porch on the day after St Joseph’s Day
dried fava beans, empty pot, oranges at a front door
oranges, bread, ash (representing burned sawdust?), flowers, dried fava beans on an alley
baskets on a front porch
empty baskets for petition for the needy? or representing carpenter’s implement (Joseph was a carpenter)?

Not sure what those are for as I didn’t have a chance to ask the locals about the custom. It’s not on the altar but a kind of la Tavola di San Giuseppe, I guess.

Macco ingredients

Sorry for the long introduction. Anyway, I was so fascinated by the soup, very simple dish though, that I was thinking about making this soup. Dried fava beans are used for this dish, but I cooked with fresh ones now in season here. And used finocchio bulb, the fronds and fennel seeds because finocchietto/finocchietto selvatico, i.e. wild fennel is unobtainable.

Macco

Ingredients

(for 2-3 servings)

500 g shelled fresh fava beans
800 ml/cc water
1/2 tbsp salt
100 g onion, finely chopped
100 g fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fennel fronds (strip leaves from stems)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper (to season)
(optional: extra virgin olive oil and fennel fronds to garnish)

 

Macco

Method

  1. Pour the water in a pot and bring to the boil. Add the salt and beans, then cook on medium heat for 5 min.
  2. Remove the beans from the water (retain the cooking liquid ) and rinse under cold water. Let cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and fennel bulb with the olive oil for about 5 min or until tender and translucent but not brown.
  4. Pinch each bean to squeeze out of the skin. Mash the beans or purée the beans through a sieve.
  5. Put the bean paste into a pot and mix well with 500 cc/ml fava bean liquid. Add the onion, fennel bulb, fennel fronds and fennel seeds. Bring to the boil and simmer on low heat  stirring occasionally for 15 – 20 min or until thick.
  6. Add the salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle olive oil and garnish with fennel fronds on top.

————————

I made it really thick – thicker than the one I had in Palermo – so that it can be used in a pasta dish as well. Browsing on the web, I noticed ‘pasta con Macco’ exists.

pasta con Macco
Trecce di Giulietta (fusilli) con Macco

Still bunches of finocchio left. Okay, Bucatini con Sarde next!! :-9

Wagashi of the Month: May

In Japan, Children’s Day, or Kodomo-no-hi, falls on 5th of May. To be precise, however, it is actually celebrated as the Boys’ Festival. To drive away bad spirits and celebrate the future of their sons, families display Gogatsu-ningyo, samurai dolls and their armaments, indoors like Hina Matsuri Dolls, and hoist Koi-nobori, cloth carp streamers.

 

koinobori
Koi-nobori (pic from gaijinpot.com)

 

koinobori
Carp/Koi-nobori shaped Wagashi and iris leaves

 

Iris flowers called Hana Shobu, which bloom in early May, are placed in homes to ward off evil. It is customary to have a bath known as Syobu-yu, filled with floating iris leaves and roots not only to drive off evil but also to prevent disease.

 

hanashobu
Iris flower shaped Namagashi

 

Kashiwa-mochi, rice cake stuffed with sweetened bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf, is eaten on the day. Since oak tree doesn’t shed old leaves until new leaves grow, it is considered a symbol of the prosperity of one’s descendants.

 

kashiwamochi
Kashiwa mochi 

Wagashi of the Month: April

Oops, May is almost there…. I was going to post this while cherry blossoms were in bloom but missed the right timing, so this is a bit out of season….

 

sakura

 

Sakuramochi is a wagashi confectionery consisting of sweet pink-coloured rice cake with a red bean paste (anko) centre, and wrapped in a salted cherry blossom (sakura) leaf. Different regions of Japan have different styles of sakuramochi. Kanto-style uses shiratama-ko ( rice flour) to make the rice cake while Kansai-style uses domyoji-ko (glutinous rice flour). The former is called Chomyoji-mochi, and the latter is Domyoji-mochi.                 (Wikipedia)

 

chomyoji mochi
Chomyoji Sakuramochi

 

domyoji mochi
Domyoji Sakuramochi

 

sakura

 

 

sakuramochi assortment

 

Wagashi of the Month: March

On the 3rd of March, Japan celebrates Hina Matsuri, the Girls’/Doll Festival (not a national holiday), while some places in April according to the lunar calendar.

The festival has a long and curious history, but today, it is held in order to pray for a happy and healthy life for one’s daughter.

The first sekku (seasonal festival) after the birth of a baby girl — it is a day when charming dolls are set out for display to symbolize the family’s wish that their daughter will be healthy, free from calamity and able to obtain a happy life with a good husband. Also called the Peach Festival or Momo no Sekku, as March is the season when peach flowers are in bloom.

(reference: http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/hina-matsuri-dolls.html )

Hina Matsuri Dolls

The “hina dolls” ( hina ningyo) are only displayed when a family has a daughter. Usually a set is handed down from generation to generation or the grandparents or parents will buy one for a girl’s first Hina Matsuri (hatsuzekku)! A complete set with traditional dolls can be extremely expensive! There is a superstition that the daughter of the house will have a hard time finding a marriage partner if the dolls aren’t put away in the evening of March 3rd!

Beautiful costumes of the HeianPeriod are worn by the hina dolls, representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians. They are displayed on a stand (hinadan) that is often covered with a red carpet. The platform can have several levels (up to 7). The most common ones are one-, five- and seven-tiered stands.

Depending on the region, the order of the dolls from left to right is different, but the order per level is the same. One example where you’ll find this difference in placement is with the Kanto and Kansai regions.

Top Platform:

On the top-tier you’ll find the imperial dolls (dairi bina). They represent the Emperor who is holding a ritual baton and the Empress with a fan in her hands. The Empress is not wearing a mere kimono, but a costume called “juuni-hitoe” (twelve-layered ceremonial robe). The Royal family in Japan wears it during wedding ceremonies even nowadays. Traditionally the emperor was set up on the right from the viewer’s perspective, but in a modern display he’s sitting on the left.

The hina dolls are usually put in front of a folding screen (byoubu). These folding screens are very common in Japan for any type of decoration. They’re often also used to display the zodiac of the current year. Most of the time there are also lamp stands (bonbori) decorated with plum blossoms (ume) or cherry blossoms (sakura) representing the spring season.

Second Platform:

This is the spot for the three court ladies (sannin kanjo) who’re all holding sake equipment. Placed between them are stands with round table-tops with seasonal sweets on top.

Third Platform:

A total number of five male musicians (gonin bayashi) is displayed on the third tier.  Apart from the singer who has a fan in his hand, all of them hold a musical instrument.

(reference: http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/hina-matsuri-dolls.html )

 

So I prepared Odairi-sama and Ohina-sama shaped wagashi, and (real) peach blossoms for today. The couple,  made of nerikiri, are wrapped with a slice of kimono-shaped yohkan, a thick, jellied Japanese confection made from bean paste and sugar.

 

wagashi
Odairi-sama & Ohina-sama (jo-namagashi)

 

 

uguisu
Mejiro, Japanese White-eyes (from my window)

 

 

the third platform is not for the five musicians though….