When I opened my blog for writing this new article I was so shocked to realize that it hasn’t been updated since the beginning of March. I know I haven’t posted much lately but there’s no excuse for nearly three months of absence. However, one thing I can tell you is that I have been creating sweets and there are lots of photos of them and half written articles in my folder. It was just because many things happened. We are at the end of May now and I have almost missed the opportunity to post about the beautiful Sakura season. Almost! We are still in springtime, right? So, it’s better late than never!
The beautiful season passed very quickly. I am talking about the Sakura Cherry blossom season of course. In a normal year cherry blossom flowers at the beginning of April. It’s the start of an academic year in Japan so all parents and children who are dressed up for the entrance ceremony to school take a photo with fully blossoming cherry trees. However, I heard that cherry blossom opened so early this year and it was actually the earliest flowering in 1200 years in Japan. It means that the parents and children could not have a memory shot in front of the beautiful sakura this year sadly.
Although it’s been so cold in the UK for 2-3 weeks now in May, we had wonderful weather at the beginning of April. It was good enough weather for viewing single-petal cherry blossoms which was also great timing when the strict lockdown was just eased a little. Lots of people were in the park but still socially distancing between each group.
For this springtime I made several cherry blossom sweets and the first ones are these. They might look similar to the one I made last spring but I introduced a little different technique.
The 3rd of March, was Hina-matsuri the Girls’ Day in Japan. People celebrated the girls’ healthy growth by placing Hina-dolls and having some special food and drink on this day. The most famous meal for this day is Chirashi Sushi with clear soy sauce based soup with clams. Since it is the flowering season of Plum tree, the day is also called Momo-no-sekku which means Plum blossom day. In sweets wise we have Hishi-mochi, a diamond-shaped tri-coloured mochi in green, white and pink, and Hina-rice-crackers etc.
I made a Mochi type sweet for this year’s Hina-matsuri. What I wanted to create was a mochi which reminds of Hishi-mochi sweet.
By following Storm-Darcy’s arrival to the UK very cold air has been sitting over London for a few days now. It snowed at the weekend and since then we still have some white cover left on ground even after two sunny days. It may seem like we are in the middle of winter but I know nature is preparing to be ready for spring.
I created this sweet with the image that a tiny plant sprouting out from white blanket of snow in my mind.
The transition period from the end of a year to New Year in Japan is interesting. Traditionally we close a year by listening ‘Joya-no-kane’, 108 gongs of a huge bell at a Buddhism temple. In the Buddhism world it is believed that each person has 108 evil passions so each time hitting the bell it is removing our passion from us before starting the new year.
However, when we celebrate the New Year in a totally Shinto style. Of course we are all sin-less thanks to the Joya-no-kane on the previous night so it is a happy celebratory morning. When I was a child my family used to have a morning bath and changed into brand new underwear. When we sat at the table the first thing to do is haveing a little alcoholic beverage called ‘O-toso’ in a flat goblet and hope that all family would be well and healthy all through the year. We moved onto the breakfast having ‘O-sechi’ (special New Year meal prepared previously) and ‘O-zoni’ (Mochi in broth).
There are so many other customs we do only in New Year but one of them is placing ‘Kagami-Mochi’ in certain places. It is basically a set of two round mochi ( which are pounded glutinous savoury rice and not the dessert mochi sweets with ice cream inside) with a citrus fruit ‘Dai-dai’ on top. Normally it also gets decorated with some green leaves and white paper cut into Shinto style, but how you decorate it depends on the family.
All the things I wrote above are the customs in Japan. I’ve been living in the UK for a long time and haven’t done much traditional custom in the past, however, I felt I wanted to do some for this year so I made Kagami-mochi.
Yesterday, the 22nd of September, was the Autumnal Equinox Day this year. One week period around that day is called ‘Higan’ in Japan and people cleanse ourselves spiritually by doing right things and cleaning ancestors’ graves.
On the culinary side of this tradition during the week we have sweets called ‘Ohagi’. It is a mochi type sweet with half pounded sweet rice with ‘Azuki’ sweet red bean paste. Some of them are flavoured and decorated with ‘Kinako’ toasted soyabean powder, green seaweed or black sesame seeds.
I love Ohagi and can eat 2-3 pieces of them easily all one go! It is normally quite big and filling, and for the people who’d like to try all the flavours for a teatime it might be a little hard. So I made a version of all three types of sweets on one skewer! In this way everyone can taste all the flavours. 🍡
A little Indian summer has come to London. The temperature has risen to around 28-9℃ for two to three days. I know it’s not any significant temperature for people who live in very hot weather. However, in the UK this summer was terrible. It suddenly became unbearably hot about 34 ℃+ in June that stopped me from doing anything outdoor or even indoor. Then after there were rainy-cold-miserable days that to last forever… But now in mid-September, finally very nice summer days are back to London.
Whenever we are in summer, there is Watermelon. This is the watermelon ‘Wagashi’ Japanese sweet I made this summer.
It’s made with lots of Watermelon juice which is gathered with agar powder. It’s a little similar to jelly but agar is made from seaweed and is vegetable based.
Do you know Mochi? Have you eaten any before? Mochi is one of the recent phenomena in the Japanese food industry that became very popular in the world all of a sudden as a surprise. It’s a soft gooey rice cake that was made by pounding glutinous rice. It can be either sweet or savoury and also hot or cold.
The best know Mochi in the western countries is the one with ice cream inside and the other type is with a fresh Strawberry and sweet bean paste wrapped up inside the Mochi sheet. This Strawberry ‘Daifuku’ Mochi is one of my favourites, however, it is not just strawberry that the Mochi goes so well with. You can have all sorts of juicy fresh fruit in a Mochi.
Here is my creation of Raspberry Mochi to show you that. I selected juicy but firm raspberries and filled them with smooth raspberry sauce. I wrapped them up carefully with a sheet of sweet and soft Mochi.
This Raspberry Mochi is one of my regular products when I have a market stall that I know people love. I was planning to have a stall in a big Japanese culture market in June and it was sadly cancelled unfortunately of course because of the pandemic.
However, a great news for the people who live in London is that you can get two of my Wagashi Japanese sweets at the moment. This Raspberry Mochi is one of them and I received great feedback already from the customers. They are served at the Havan Store (262 Kensington High St, London W8 6ND). You are not allowed to walk into the shop yet but you can get a takeaway.
The Havan is located right next to Holland Park so how about getting some sweets and their gorgeous Matcha tea as a takeaway and have a lovely teatime in the park. 😋💕
Previously I introduced my Lacecap Hydrangea sweet and this one in another form of my Hydrangea sweet this year. It’s a rather traditional design for this flower as a Japanese sweet, however, I added something unconventional to it!
During the Elderflower season in May I made two things to preserve the loveliness of the flowers. One of them is the famous Elderflower Cordial and the other one is Elderflower Champagne. Both are made in a similar way by keeping fresh flowers in a sugary water with lemon and lime to extract the flavour and the scent of flowers into the liquid. You can make a refreshing summer drink by adding water to a little amount of the cordial.
However, I wanted to have it not just as a drink, I wanted to taste it as a Japanese sweet. I wonder what type of sweet is the most suitable for using Elderflower flavour and then thought it should be definitely soft Mochi.
As the Mochi sweet with Elderflower flavour, the look has to be very simple and the colour scheme has to be white.