I like foraging. Although I hardly do any foraging myself I like the idea of it. Of course I hate the recent new foragers who never consider how nature’s cycle works and remove all mushrooms they can find from the area even before mushrooms open the umbrella. It is becoming a great threat to forests in the UK. That is outrageous! Nothing remains in the forest if people keep doing this.
That is not what I do. My foraging is much more in a smaller scale … such as Blackberry Picking. However, it does not seem a good season for Blackberry this year. It might be the problem where I live but I could get only handful of them.
Anyway, there is a sweet I always make in Blackberry season.
Blackberry Custard Tart
I have roughly explained about ‘Chushu‘ (the Middle of Autumn Day) and the Full Moon viewing custom in Japan in the previous post. However, there is another key character in this Story. It is a Rabbit.
In Japan we say there is a Rabbit living on the moon and makes (pounds) ‘Mochi’ Rice Cake on ‘Jugoya‘ the Full Moon. I think the story started because people in the old days saw a Rabbit shape in the pattern on the Moon.
However, there are several stories to back up the thought behind it.
- This is a story from India. ‘There were Fox, Monkey and Rabbit in a forest and they wondered why they were not human. They thought maybe it was because they did something bad before so they decided to do something good. One day an old man who was very tired and hungry appeared in the forest. Fox, Monkey and Rabbit wanted to help this guy. Fox hunted some animals and gave him some meat. Monkey climbed up a tree and gathered some nuts and fruits for this man. However, although Rabbit searched around he could not find anything for the old man then he asked the man to make a fire. The Rabbit said “I’m sorry I could not find anything for you so please eat me to survive” and jumped into the fire and died. This old guy was actually a god who came to test the three animals’ good deed. He was so moved by Rabbit’s selfless mind and felt pitty on him. He decided to leave the silhouette of the rabbit on the moon forever’.
2. In China it was said that rabbits were making medicine for immortality by pounding on the moon. When this story came to Japan the story changed that rabbits were making ‘Mochi (Rice cake)’ instead of medicine.
Anyway, it’s time to introduce my Moon Rabbits.
It is Japanese sweet which made of ‘Nerikiri‘ (White Bean Paste with Mochi) and Free from Gluten and Dairy & Oil.
Jugoya, Full Moon
It is becoming the middle of Autumn ‘Chushu (中秋)’. Actually it is this Thursday, the 15th of September this year and that is the day we can see the Full Moon. The night of the day is called ‘Jugoya / 十五夜’ (‘Jugo‘ means fifteen and ‘Ya (Yoru)’ means night). Basically it is the Fifteenth Moon from the New Moon, hence the Full Moon.
In Japan we have a custom of ‘Tsukimi (月見)’ (viewing the Full Moon) on this day. It came from China during Nara / Heian period (8-11 C) into the life of upper class people. They had a party viewing the Full Moon and read poems about it. Later on in Edo period (17-19C) it was taken to common people as well and the day was combined with the festival for farmers to hope for a good harvest.
Nowadays, it is still the same. We enjoy viewing the Full Moon. We look forward to the clear sky with the beautiful Moon. On the day we prepare for the night by placing ‘Susuki (Japanese Silver Grass)’ and of course some sweets. What kind of sweet the family have depends on which region where they live but mostly they are ‘Mochi‘ type.
Chocolate Full Moon Yokan and Rabbits
So I made these Japanese sweets for Jugoya Night, one is the Full Moon Yokan in Chocolate flavour and the other one is Moon Rabbit.
What is your favourite fruit in summer-time? Mine is definitely Watermelon. In Japan when you see big watermelons displayed in a shop I feel ‘summer is here!’. We used to have some farmers selling ripe watermelons on the side of the street. When I was about 13 on one Sunday evening my family came back from a day out and saw a farmer was about packing up his stall. He had one big watermelon which had a crack and told us “Can you buy this watermelon, please. It’s got a crack but it is very sweet. I’ll make it just 100 yen for you”. 100 yen is about 50 pence in present time. Of course we bought the watermelon and went home. When we put the tip of a knife into the watermelon it just cracked up into two by itself because it was so ripe. The flesh was so red and juicy. It was the best watermelon I have tasted in my entire life. All of my family still talk about it when we eat watermelon. It was such a memorable taste.
Watermelon (スイカ), Wagashi
As the Sweet in summer time I had to make ‘Watermelon’ as a Japanese sweet. It is almost like an homage to my summer-time childhood.
How does it look?
It is made of Sweet White Bean Paste with Rice Flour & Black Sesame Seeds.
When it becomes hot and humid in summer, there is only thing comes to Japanese people’s mind.
Summer + Hot = …
“Kakigori” Of course!
‘Kakigori’ is Shaved Ice with some sweet syrup. We love it during a very hot and humid Japanese summer. Japan is composed of a collection of many islands that lies very long from the North to the South so that there is slight difference in weather but anywhere in Japan we cannot escape from the heat and humidity in summer time. So, what do we do? We enjoy eating the food that beats it!
That is the way how Japanese people’s mind work. ‘Kakigori‘ shaved Ice is the best remedy. Actually I have introduced ‘Kakigori with Mango‘ last year (Remember this ↑ flag?). Mango flavour is fairly modern in Japan, so this time I made the most traditional flavour for Kakigori. That is ‘Uji Kintoki‘ flavour.
Uji Kintoki Kakigori (宇治金時）
Uji-Kintoki Kakigori, Shaved Ice with Matcha Syrup & Sweet Bean Paste
There is a Japanese traditional food that is a Japanese favourite but almost all foreign people disliked it. That is ‘Mochi’ Rice cake. Many western people have said that “Mochi is not enjoyable even if it is as sweet or savoury, and however it’s grilled or cooked with sauce”… That is until now. Mochi became very popular just recently at least in London. It has been used as topping on some dessert such as Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream.
Because I knew western people didn’t like the texture I was avoiding to make any sweet with the Mochi texture in London. However, there is huge demand for Mochi nowadays. What is happening? It was so unthinkable before.
So I created this sweet with Mochi and Raspberry to make it looks like a western cake.
Raspberry Mochi Cake
How does it look?
It was great weather last sunday. Shamefully I was not planning anything particular to do in this lovely day so decided to go for a walk locally to my first visit to Highgate Cemetery. It is a famous cemetery that well-known people are buried.
I have several English friends who like to go cemeteries. They say it is calming and makes them feel peaceful. However, for me as a Japanese person a cemetery is somewhere spooky so I never be keen on visiting there. In old fashioned Japanese horror films ghosts always appear under willow trees near a cemetery. By thinking lots of bodies under the ground walking around there is also quite disterving to me. Anyway, that is why this became my first visit to this famous place. It was something new for me.
In order to reach the cemetery I went through Waterlow Park in Highgate.
The park has a wide grass area with some huge trees and some colour too.
There are several types of alcohol in Japan. Two most well-known ones are ‘Sake’ (Rice Wine) and ‘Shochu’ (Spirit made from materials such as rice, wheat or sweet potatoes). We also have some liquors and the most popular one is ‘Umeshu’ Plum Liquor. I like Umeshu. Although it is an alcoholic drink I have been familiar with it since I was a child. My mother used to make it at home with fresh ‘Ume’ plums. It is very refreshing having it on the rock, neat Umeshu with some ice cubes especially after having a bath in summer. You wait a little until the ice starts melting and dilutes the Umeshu a little then you drink it. Aaaaaah, so heavenly.
Recently I had a chance to attend an ‘Umeshu’ seminar. I loved to find out more about my favourite drink.
The seminar was held at Shoryu Ramen restaurant in Piccadilly Circus, London. It was hosted by Japan Centre and Choya, the biggest Umeshu company in Japan.
The lecturer was Mr. Suzuki from Choya who had just landed in London on the same day. It was great that he incorporated a quiz into the seminar. He explained some facts regarding the Umeshu and gave us questions.
It is mid-summer now. Even here in London we are having the hottest days so far this year. I know it is nothing compared to the heat and humidity of the summer in Japan or India, but still it is hot.
So what does Summer remind you of? For me it is the Radio Gymnastic Exercises and Morning Glory flowers. In Japan during school summer holiday many (probably not all) children get up early and gather in a nearby square or school ground. We tune in the radio to “NHK Radio Gymnastic Exercise” program which starts 6:30AM every day. After exercising each child receives a card and collect one stamp a day. On the way back home I remember I felt good and healthy after exercising in the fresh morning air and saw Morning Glory flowering beautifully at the front of many houses. The flowers are mostly in gradation between blue and pink which is my favourite colour.
Its Japanese name is ‘Asagao 朝顔’ meaning ‘Face in the Morning’. Morning Glory opens its huge round flower in early morning and closes in the afternoon. The people in the old days maybe thought the flowers reminded them of smiley faces of children, I wonder. It is certainly a face of beautiful flower in summer.
Now we are in July. However, I don’t see them in London. So … I made my nostalgic summer flowers as Japanese sweet.
Morning Glory / Asagao 朝顔
I like ‘Matcha‘ Green Tea. Actually since I was a child I really liked the taste. Although we had a set of Matcha making tools at home my mother did not make Matcha tea that often. Only when we had very good Japanese sweet ‘Wagashi‘ my mother brought out the set and made Matcha tea for us. Maybe that is why I thought having Matcha tea is something special. It was more like for ceremonial occasions and I still get excited about the whole process.
I think Matcha’s popularity these days is phenomenal. Western people knowing its Japanese name ‘Matcha’ was unthinkable to me until 5 years ago and it is unbelievable that there are several shops and cafés serving Matcha drink or food even here in London. Now we have been informed that there are great health benefits in Matcha and it is not just foodies but healthy food eaters are joining the Matcha drinking club.