Wow … what a day, what an experience.
It was three months ago, I saw this advertisement about Sake Recipe Competition.
‘Gekkeikan Masters Cooking Competition’
The notice must have been out there for a while but when I saw this poster it was just a week before the deadline. The applicant had to create two recipes, one in savoury and one in sweet by using Gekkeikan ‘Sake‘ (Japanese Rice Wine) which should not be a Japanese Dish. Developing two recipes in a week seemed rather hard but I tried anyway. Then right after New Year’s Day I received an email saying that I was shortlisted for the final! They said that six finalists were selected from over one hundred applicants. That sounded pretty impressive. 😀
However, I faced the first problem … The contestants had to cook the dishes in the final day and serve them to judges. I submitted a baked dish but there was no oven at the venue! I had to develop some other dishes which you didn’t need to use an oven. I had tried several dishes but was not happy with them. And then one week before the final day I was told that I could bring a small oven if I wanted. Great! So I decided to stick to my original idea but had to adjust the recipe a little for making it suitable for cooking in a small oven.
The final stage of the competition took place at Ichiryu Udon noodle restaurant last Sunday (the 24th January). But there was a bigger problem waiting ahead of me…
Cherry Wrap Manju with Matcha Green Tea
🎶 “Haru yo Koi, Hayaku Koi”🎵
Thia is a Japanese song for Children. “Come here, Spring. Hurry up, Spring”. It is sung from a child’s point of view. It must be the feeling of lots of people right now.
It is a weird winter this season. It started so mild and then suddenly freezing! In many area in the world it seems like snowing a lot now or even a blizzard. It was the same here in London. Because it was so mild we did not need to use central heating and I did not even wear any woollen jumper for a long time and then it became so cold last week. We are lucky that the temperature is getting slightly milder now.
However, for the people who are fighting with the snowy environment I just want to say to “Keep warm & safe and also Have a Break”. Maybe with a hot ‘Matcha‘ Green Tea and a good Japanese Sweet to make you feel relaxed and keep you going. You cannot do anything productive if you are exhausted.
The sweet in this photo is ‘Cherry Wrap’ Manju with ‘Matcha‘ Green Tea. It is a Japanese style crepes with the real Cherry Blossom I preserved myself wrapping sweet Azuki bean paste. It feels like the winter has just started but it will be gone in 2 or 3 months time. Then we will see lots of Cherry Blossom again. Hope this Cherry Wrap gives you a warmth in your mind by thinking the lovely season awaits ahead of us.
Have a lovely weekend, Everyone. 💓
By going through the preparation for markets and recent private order I had a chance to make ‘Shiro-An’ so I can finally post ‘How to Make’ it here.
‘Shiro-An’ is one of the main ‘An/Anko‘ Sweet Bean Pastes for Japanese Sweets which is made from white beans such as Butter Beans or White Kidney Beans. I used to think that it is just one type of Anko but since I started making wider range of Japanese Sweets I now realised that ‘Shiro-An’ is definitely the most important one among of all ‘Anko’ Sweet Bean Pastes.
Shiro-An is not just a tasty filling but it is also an essential ingredient for making Japanese sweet. Because it is 1. in white colour so that you can change it into any colour you want 2. having a very smooth texture, it is very versatile and basically it acts like a great shape shifter. It can be used in all sorts of sweets in disguise. My recent hit sweet ‘Ukishima’ and also ‘Nerikiri’ are just two examples that ‘Shiro-An’ is used into a different shape. Unless you are told you don’t realise.
So How do you make ‘Shiro-An (白あん)’/ White Bean Paste? Well, professionally it is a long process but I am going to show you the easier method. Some steps are omitted here but the product you get tastes very good. What you need is just patience and lot of care.
Hooraaaay! I had the first order for my Japanese sweets and I managed to deliver them to the client last Saturday. (Sorry, it takes so loooooong to write in a second language)
The client was a lady who lives locally. She visited my market stall on the 6th of December and liked my products. She wanted my Japanese sweet for her husband’s birthday party who loves Japanese food. What a lovely thought!
So what she ordered me was 35 pieces of ‘Ukishima’ with Matcha Green Tea & Apple and Chocolate & Chestnut flavours. I prepared the ingredients ready for making it on time for the Saturday.
35 Pieces of Ukishima became ready! I cut and trimmed the edge of each piece carefully.
Did you know that all the tea is made from the leaves of exactly same tea plant, Camellia sinensis? They might be grown in different countries in different climates, but yes, English Breakfast tea, Japanese Sencha tea, Chinese Oolong tea or Sri Lankan Ceylon tea … any tea is from the same leaves. The difference is just the process of how to make them from leaves into a tea. I found it very fascinating that the same tea leaves can taste so different just by how it is treated.
In Japan we have several types of tea. Unlike Chinese tea most of Japanese tea is steamed and unfermented. That is why it has kept a clean green colour and aroma with lighter flavour. Some of the famous ones are as follow.
On New Year’s Eve I was invited to friends’ house for the New Year’s Eve Dinner with some other good friends of mine. Many of us are foodies so we each brought some different dishes.
The main dish and dessert were already made by somebody else so I made some nibbles for drink before the dinner started. It was Mushroom Vol au Vents and Cheese Twists. It took a while until the main dish was ready to serve so my nibbles went down a treet whilst we were waiting.
The main food was a roasted chicken brought in by Miss D. She also cooked all the side dishes such as Braised Red Cabbage, Lentil with Italian Sausage and roasted potatoes & Tomato with garlic (famous? Gwyneth Paltrow recipe). It was delicious! Thank you Miss D for your hard work.
Our course followed by a selection of Cheeses & Biscuits, Grapefruit Posset and Melting Snow Man made by the friend’s daughter and then Herbal Tea.
As our little tradition of exchanging gifts on the New Year’s Day I took some ‘Matcha Chocolate’ in a handmade Origami Box with me.
It’s easy to make and taste so good. It can be a very good gift for a Matcha lover. I presented it in a handmade Origami Box.
🎍 Happy New Year! 🎍
In Japan we celebrate three days for the New Year. Yes, the New Year Days are very big deal for Japanese. It is the biggest National Holiday and everybody should be resting including the person who cooks for the family too. In order to have less cooking time home chef prepares celebratory meal ‘Osechi (お節)’ until New Year’s Eve. It is like a bigger version of Bento box filled with lots of delicious & luxurious food all of which last for 2-3 days so that you just need to add some extra thing such as ‘Sushi’🍣, ‘Sashimi (さしみ)’ or something warm.