Shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day

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.

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Mimosa, Mimosa and Mimosa

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.

Mimosa Sweets

As soon as I had Mimosa’s image in my mind I got some idea. I tried making these three types.

Mimosa 1

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.

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My New Tools and the First Attempt

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.

Practice1

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.

Not Pancake, it was Taiyaki Day!

Yesterday was the Pancake Day in the UK. It is the day people make pancake in order to consume the ingredients in the fridge such as eggs and milk before Easter starts. So I tried making ‘Dorayaki’ Japanese Pancake and then … in somehow I failed. The pancake part did not come out well. I was hoping that I would be able to post a photo of beautifully baked Dorayaki pancake here but now I don’t have any photo. It could be because I used one of the brand new frying pan? I will take a revenge on making great Dorayaki sometime soon, but in the meantime I am going to show you the photos of my recent ‘Taiyaki’ fish shaped Bake instead.

 

Taiyaki with Shiratama Mochi Balls

These are the Taiyaki I made a few days ago for my teatime.

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Hichigiri for Hinamatsuri

Usa hinaIt 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 HichigiriΒ  (εΌ•εƒεˆ‡) means literally ‘pull and cut into a thousand’. I could imagine that the Palace kitchen was so busy.πŸ˜†

Hichigiri

So this year I tried creating these sweets for Hinamatsuri.

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Momo-Mochi Matcha Zenzai

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

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.

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White Daffodils

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.

Daffodil-Flower-Record-Group_0a3cc90f-7f51-4a18-bf08-a9a89bb59cb6_x2000_crop_centerThey 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.

White Daffodils

I created yellow Daffodils last year so this year’s ones are pure White flowers.

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Raspberry & Cream (Meringue style)

I apologize that I have been absent for quite a while. I went back to Japan at the end of December for spending New Year’s Day with my family and also for meeting up with some friends whom I haven’t seen for many many years. I was hoping that I could make some sweets whilst I was staying in Japan but it was difficult to work in somebody else’ kitchen where you don’t have the right tools and materials you normally use. I ended up not making any sweets there. So here is my first sweet in 2019.

Raspberry & Cream in Meringue Style

Today is the 14th of February and as you can guess I created this sweet for Valentine’s Day! I have been thinking some possible designs for this occasion such as something with heart shape. But as that was a too obvious and well used idea I wanted to make something a little more subtle to express Love this year. I had one image in my mind. It was perfectly swirled soft pink meringues with a softly whipped cream sandwiched in between and I wanted to create this as Japanese sweet.

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Cosmos, Japanese Sweets

Before the year 2018 finished I received an order of my sweets from a Tea shop My Cup of Tea (Piccadilly Circus, London). I was asked to make two types of sweets for their Tea & Sweet Tasting event. I have already introduced one of the sweets that I had created for them. That is Gingko, here on my blog. It was a ‘Mochi’ type sweet with the soft and sweet Mochi outer layer wrapping up sweet white bean paste filling inside created into a shape of Ginkgo leaf in yellow autumn colour.

So I wanted make another sweet with a different type of material. I also wanted it to have a little more colourful design and then I chose a sweet in a pretty flower shape of Cosmos.

Cosmos

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SFCOS114-2_mediumThis is one of the designs I selected as ‘Nerikiri’ sweets. Nerikiri is one of the most traditional Japanese sweets that is used to serving at a tea ceremony. Because it was still Autumn time I created it into a Cosmos flower. It is actually quite a nostalgic flower for me from my childhood. It comes in a shade of white to striking dark pink colour on very soft and delicate looking leaves. Continue reading

One Door Closes and Another One Opens

We have just stood at the beginning of the year 2019. Everything starts from a beginning and the things have an end.

The Beginning

I have been making ‘Wagashi’ Japanese sweets in London for several years now and particularly in the last three years my sweets were served to paying customers. It was at the ‘Matcha’ Bar of a Kimono shop, Wasoukan, that was located in Notting Hill. It all started three years ago when I entered a ‘Sake’ Cooking competition and won second prize. At the same time Wasoukan was looking for someone who would provide Japanese sweets for them and the manager of the shop at that time heard about me and my Wagashi making skill from the organizer of the cooking competition. They contacted me soon and the following month and since then I had been supplying two types of seasonal Japanese sweets to Wasoukan every month.

and The Ending

Now nearly three years have past since then. Although Wasoukan has been doing well and especially gained many loving customers, they decided to close their London branch and the last December was their last month. It was very sad news for me, not because from my business point of view but it was because I really liked the shop and all the staff who were working there. They seemed to get on very well together. During this three year period of my serving sweets to them I have met many of their customers and I can tell that they all loved the shop. Everybody was so sadden by this closing news and wonder where they would get good Matcha tea from in London after the shop is gone.

So one evening before the shop was closed some of the present and ex-staff of the shop as well as their great customers gathered to hold a surprise farewell party for the manager who was going back to Japan.

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