Today, the 17th of March is St. Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick was the foremost patron saint of Ireland and his death on this date is traditionally a festival day for the Irish community.
The famous symbol of Ireland is a Shamrock so lots of people wear something green on them. I have seen places where people even coloured the river green for this day (which I’m a little against the idea). However, do you really know what a shamrock looks like? I made two types of Japanese sweets for this St. Patrick’s Day that look quite similar but slightly different. So, tell me which one you think is a Shamrock.
You might have seen many photos of Mimosa flowers last week and wondered why these flowers now? It was because the 8th of March was the Mimosa Day. Actually it was the International Women’s Day and the flower is the symbol of the day. I was not planning to make any sweets that day but when I heard it was the “Women’s” Day I thought I had to do something to celebrate particularly for this day. I made some sweets with a Mimosa design but I could not take photos quickly enough for posting to my Blog here in time on the Wemen’s Day. However, as I believe “being late is better than never”, so here it is.
As soon as I had Mimosa’s image in my mind I got some idea. I tried making these three types.
The image in my mind was lots of fluffy tiny yellow pompoms on the tips of every branches that reach out with the blue sky as the background.
When I come back from Japan my suitcase is always full, actually too full and overloaded which means sometimes I have to remove some stuff from it. It’s normally filled with Sencha green tea, sweets and some other Japanese food that are either difficult to find or too expensive in London. However, when I returned this time in February there were something different I brought back in my luggage.
They were my brand new tools for making Japanese sweets. Now I am back in London and started creating Japanese sweets. I could not wait to see if I could use them properly. I have seen that many professional sweets makers were producing beautiful sweets by using the same tools and could not wait to try out how I can use this.
This sweet is the very first trial I made as a practise, so it is far from the perfection. I realised that controlling the grip of the tool is the key to producing a great result and I need a lot of practice. One of the petals came off by cutting too deep, but I am quite pleased to see the outcome as this was my first attempt. I don’t know how it looks to you but I hope you can see this as the shape of Chrysanthemum or some kind of flower. I am going to carry on practising and hopefully I can show you the great result of a Chrysanthemum by this autumn.
It was ‘Hinamatsuri’ the Girl’s Day yesterday. I have mentioned about the Japanese culture of praying for the good health and happiness of girls on the 3rd of March on my previous post. We decorate our home with Hina Dolls of Emperor and Empress as well as some other figures on red carpeted shelves, that are between five to seven shelves (or even more) traditionally. I created some sweets in shapes of the dolls in the past. On this day we don’t just decorate but also eat a sweet called ‘Hishimochi’ which means diamond-shaped Mochi which I also have created it once before.
There is one sweet that people particularly in the Kyoto area eat for the Girl’s Day but I was not familiar with it until recently. The sweets are called ‘Hichigiri’. I heard that this sweet was born in the palace in the old time in probably the Heian period. People needed to make many Mochi to serve so many guests that they were too busy to roll up each Mochi piece into a ball shape. Then they just pulled small pieces and left the pulled shape as it was. If you understand ‘Kanji’ (Chinese) character you know Hichigiri (引千切) means literally ‘pull and cut into a thousand’. I could imagine that the Palace kitchen was so busy.😆
So this year I tried creating these sweets for Hinamatsuri.
We are in March now and going to have one of the Japanese customs tomorrow on the 3rd of March. It is Girl’s Day called ‘Hinamatsuri’ and we pray for the health and happiness of girls by decorating special Hina Dolls in our houses on the day. This day is also called ‘Momo no Sekku’ which means Peach Festival and we place peach flower in a room or eat peach fruit or peach flower shaped sweets. I have created some sweets in a shape of Hina dolls in the past but I made a simple dessert for the coming event this year.
Momo-Mochi Matcha Zenzai
I created ‘Momo’ (Peach) flower shape in a bowl and had it with Matcha tea in ‘Zenzai’ style. Zenzai is a sweet soup type dessert that we normally make with sweet Azuki (Red) bean paste during a cold season. I created this Matcha version to make it suitable for spring. It is very easy to make at home so I am going to share how to prepare this dessert.
So officially or perhaps unofficially ‘yet’ it is spring here in London. By following my previous post with ‘Ealy Spring Field’ I am going to introduce another early spring flower that you can find right now.
They are Daffodils. Both Daffodil and Crocus are bulbous plants so they use energy stocked up in their bulbs to spread out the leaves from the ground even in the toughest season and try to be ready for opening flowers just on time when the sun warms up the air. I have to say their timing this year was perfect.
I created yellow Daffodils last year so this year’s ones are pure White flowers.
‘Spring has come!’ This is the phrase my late father, who was eager to learn English but could not complete his desire, liked to say whenever the weather was becoming warm. Even before the end of February now the weather is so mild in London, unlike the usual dark grey English weather this time of year it is very sunny with beautiful blue sky. So I go out for a walk and find some bulbous plants flowering.
The scene with yellow and purple dots in the field made me smile. They are the flower buds of Crocus just about to open.
So this is my interpretation of the cheerful early spring field as a Japanese sweet.
Oh, No! It’s already middle of December! The final month of a year. We have only two weeks before the brand new year starts. The time seems to pass more and more quickly every year. Is it the sign of aging? It has been quite a mild winter so far, but now the weather has become wet and cold which is the typical winter in England. Before it became this wintery weather I received an order of my sweets for a Tea & Sweet Tasting event held at a Tea shop My Cup of Tea. The tea shop ordered two types of ‘Wagashi’ Japanese sweets, so I decided to make one ‘Nerikiri’ and the other ‘Mochi’. I wanted them to be something pretty and also in autumn colour.
This is one of the sweets I made for this Tea & Sweet Tasting event order. Yellow Ginkgo ‘Icho’ and Red Japanese ‘Momiji’ Maple leaves are the most significant autumn colour so I thought serving sweets in Ginkgo design would be perfect in November. The sweets look quite similar to the sweets I made last year. Last year’s one was made with a different type of Japanese sweet pastry ‘Nerikiri’ which is easier to create shapes, but the sweets I made this time were made of ‘Mochi’.
Christmas Tree seller at the hall entrance
Our annual event of Japanese Christmas Market has just finished! Unlike the last year’s snowy day it was a great sunny day this year! As we expected the great turn out of people I’d say this year’s market was a great success.
We arrived a little earlier on the site even before the doors to the venue opened for the vendors and started preparing our table to be well ready for the arrival of customers … but then I realised that I forgot to bring some of my Japanese sweets products! I had to go home and brings them as quickly as I could since they were quite a big part of my products. Last year I had to go and fetch some stuff on the snowy road on foot. It was so horrible and I had tried to be sure that would not happen this year, however, it did happen again! I was so stupid. Anyway, so I went back home and when I was walking back hurriedly towards the venue I saw a man holding a container that looked like my sweets inside! I thought ‘Wow! Already?!’ It was just a few minutes after the market opened to public and my products were already sold without me. It was a great sign ahead for the day.
This Sunday Sakura Junction will be having a stall in a small Christmas Market in North London. The special thing about this Jolly Hobbies Market is that many stall holders are Japanese or the stuff sold there will be something related to Japanese culture. Hence, it’s Japanese Christmas Market! The number of visitors is definitely increasing every year. This year’s event was notified on Time Out recently so I believe we are going to have very many people.
I have been a part of this event for 7 years now. The products I have dealt with have changed slightly but I always stick to one thing ‘Wagashi’ Japanese sweets. This year I am preparing two types of food. One of them is of course my speciality Wagashi and the other type is ‘Gyoza’ Dumpling cooked on site. As I mentioned on my previous post this year’s Gyoza comes in two flavours. One is for vegetarians and the other one is Turkey meat with Christmas seasoning. I tried tasting at home and it worked very well! So I hope everybody likes it on the day.
I have only two more days to prepare but actually I haven’t decided all the Japanese sweet products selection yet. I have been providing two seasonal sweets for a Kimono shop’s Matcha Bar every month for the last three years so I would like to pick some of the sweets that had received great feedback from their paying customers. A few sweets definitely on my list are Sweet Rose, Apples, Mochi Mont Blanc and Matcha Swirl Mochi so far. Purple Sweet Potato Mochi might be chosen too. I am also going to take one brand new very seasonal sweet I just created with very Christmassy decoration.