My second sweet for November is also in the Autumn Colour theme. The shape is the leaf of ‘Ginkgo’ which becomes the most brilliant yellow colour during this season. Ginkgo is one of the most ancient plants which has not evolved for millions of years. The Ginkgo tree is originated in East Asia and I think there wasn’t many in the UK before. However, I noticed lately more Ginkgo trees along many avenues in newly developed area.
I have a beautiful childhood memory with Ginkgo leaves. I think it was in somewhere in Kyoto. I was about 3 or 4 years old and running around in a Shinto Shrine ground which was covered with magnificently yellow Ginkgo Leaves fallen from the numerous trees. It was like a massive carpet spread out as far as I could see.
So, I chose the image of my childhood memory for making the November sweet.
We are in the middle of Autumn – Winter transition now. It is getting very cold lately but this chilling weather is the key to the magnificent sights of nature during this season. When the temperature drops the colour of leaves change from green to yellow or it goes even further to orange and then red. It is due to the chemical reaction in leaves. This is called Autumn Colour and can be seen on the leaves of deciduous plants.
‘Autumn Mountain’ Mochi
So, as one of the sweets for November I wanted to create a sweet in Autumn Colour. I want you to imagine all the mountain changing the colour from its deep green to various colour of yellow, orange and red but in a very tiny scale.
Just before Halloween I received an order for a gift box of Japanese Sweets. I was told that the gift was for a family with Japanese and also some non-Japanese people so that the client wanted me to make variety of sweets that could be enjoyed by everybody. I thought a lot to decide which sweets were most suitable and seasonal for this occasion.
These are the finalists for “Autumn Sweet Box Set”.
The selected sweets for this occasion in the photo (↑) from right to left
- Matcha Ukishima Cake with Sweet Chestnut (Free from Gluten, Oil & Dairy)
- Halloween Jack-O’-Lantern (Free from Gluten, Egg, Oil & Dairy)
- Mochi Sweet Chestnut (Free from Gluten, Egg, Oil & Dairy)
- Japanese Maple (Free from Gluten, Egg, Dairy)
- Plaine Castella (Free from Oil & Dairy)
In case you cannot get a good view of them from the top these are the side shots of them which are much closer.
Day by day Autumn is setting in here in London. First thing which comes to my mind by thinking about Autumn is colour change in Leaves. It would defines as Autumn Colours so it should be the most significant part of this season. In Japan we have four completely different seasons. Warm & beautiful Spring with lots of Cherry blossom, very hot & humid Summer, very cold Winter with deep snow in some area and then … this Autumn. Our Autumn is very between summer and winter, but it is not just that. During the transition period between two totally different seasons a significant temperature change causes the beautiful Autumn Colour in leaves. The Nature is Science. It is amazing!
Japan is a very mountainous country and the sight of mountains in Autumn colour is so magnificent. It does not get defeated by the sight of marvellous view of Sakura, Cherry blossom in spring. We even have a word ‘Momiji-gari‘. ‘Momiji‘ is a Japanese word for Japanese Maple and ‘Gari/Kari‘ means Hunting. Well, we do not hunt/harvest Maple leaves literally but it means that we go out to the countryside to enjoy the amazing view of mountains which are covered in various colours in yellow to red.
The most famous plant with the leaves in Autumn colour is ‘Momiji‘, Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum). I thought it represents beautiful Autumn the most so I made my version of it as a sweet.
Japanese Maple, Momiji
Yes, we call the plant ‘Momiji‘ not ‘Emoji‘. Please don’t be confused. 😀
Officially it is Autumn now. In the UK the clock has been set back to Winter Time so that morning starts in darkness and the Sun sets very early. The weather has been becoming more and more wet and miserable. On the contrary in Japan Autumn is described as for 1. Sport, 2. Appetite, 3. Arts, 4. Reading Books and then 5. Great Autumn Colour and more!
The reason that “Autumn is for Appetite” is simply because there are so many tasty food that become available during this season. They are Mushrooms (including super Mushroom ‘Matsutake‘), Fruits (such as ‘Kaki’ Persimmon), Sweet Potatoes, Ginkgo Nuts and so on …
However, the delicacy we enjoy the most of all is ‘Kuri’ – Sweet Chestnut. Everybody loves Sweet Chestnut in Japan. I have to say that it is almost like “Kuri = Autumn” for Japanese. We make lots of sweet with Kuri Chestnut and we cook even rice with it.
So inevitably I chose Sweet Chestnut as the material for the sweet of November.
Kuri – Mochi Sweet Chestnut
The main reason I went back to Japan this time was that my family had a Buddhism memorial service called ‘Hohji (法事)’. A Monk visited our home and gave us a prayer service. It lasted about 30 minutes to an hour. It was not that long but you had to be seating on a ‘Tatami (たたみ)’ mat and that was the toughest part of it. We of course sat on a cushion ‘Zabuton (座布団)’ but since I’ve been living in the UK for a while now and not used to seating on my leg … My legs became numb. The monk told us to sit in any position we felt comfortable and followed by telling us that he knew somebody who had broken her/his bone because s/he had tried to stand up and stumbled due to numbed legs. It was a hilarious story that we thought a little too extreme. Anyway we finished our prayers, thanked and said good-bye to the monk. None of us broke our bones luckily.
Before the service we had a special lunch for the day.
Do you know this beautiful shiny fish?
It is ‘Sanma (さんま, 秋刀魚)’ in Japanese. I have learned it’s called ‘Pacific Saury’ in English just recently. I never had a reason to search their name before because I have never seen them in London. Oh, only once actually in Japanese food shop but it was a frozen one.
The fish swim towards Japan in a big shoal in Autumn season with lots of oil on its body for laying eggs. They apparently have a very short life for just two years or something… 😦
Lots of Sanma appear in fishmongers in Autumn. It is one of the Taste of Autumn for Japanese.
So how do we eat them?
Of course there are many ways to cook it. Some are very regional like famous ‘Sanma Sushi’. However, the way I like the most is the simplest one.
It has been Blackberry season in England. It is good to eat seasonal food. That is Macrobiotic Diet. I am very disappointed that I managed picking them only once this season … 😦 It is nearly the end of the season now so it is very unlikely that I could get any more decent berries …
During the season in almost every year I make a tart with Blackberries, except for this year. But this year I made cup cakes with them instead. I have to say it was rather successful! I am annoyed that I could not make the tart but I am happy about these cup cakes so that I am sharing the recipe here with you.