There were so many things I had experienced this year that I did not have a chance to post on my Blog. This post is one of them and I wanted to introduce it to you before this year ends.
In October one of my friends came to London to see me from Paris and I did not miss the chance to take her for an Afternoon Tea. The last time I had High Tea was spring time this year. I posted the experience on my Blog and received a recomendation of another restaurant which serves good Afternoon Tea from one of the readers. So I booked a table there and went to have another experience with my friend.
Another Afternoon Tea in London
It is a Viennese Restaurant located in Aldwych of London. It has a quite rich atmosphere with very decorative walls and a European style setting. I had dined in this restaurant before but never been there for Tea time. We were taken to our table promptly and not long after ordering a pot of Earl Grey Tea the traditional three layered cake stand served at our table.
It is the middle of Summer in the UK. The weather is so far so good. Many sunny days and also a few rainy days. It is great for plants and nature. In the summer time one plant you cannot avoid talking about is ‘Sunflower’. The most significant things about this flamboyant flower are its huge flowerhead with array of magnificent yellow petals and big leaves. It’s called ‘Himawari’ in Japanese and it means the ‘thing moves with the sun’. It came from the plant’s nature that the flowerhead moves its direction by always trying to face toward the sun.
During this summer time I wanted to make this most summer-like flower as a Japanese sweet.
It was the time I had to develop sweets for Wasoukan Café (Notting Hill, London) for July. It is a ‘Kimono’ shop with a café counter that the staff serves ‘Matcha’ Green Tea in a Tea Ceremony style and also two types of monthly Japanese sweets. Yes, their sweets are made by me and I have been developing two new Japanese sweets every month for them. The staff told me that they were amazed at the popularity of ‘Mochi’. So I had to decide what kind of Mochi sweet I should deliver to them for this month… I wanted a colour and the flavour which go well with the Mochi texture and considered several possibilities and then an idea came to my mind.
It is a Mochi type of sweet with Purple Sweet Potato Paste. Western people are rather sceptical about the idea of using Sweet Potato as a sweet but in Japan we love to use several root vegetables as sweet and Sweet Potato is one of the most popular ones. It has the natural sweetness and more importantly the flavour goes so well as the Japanese sweet. I saw some BBC program which introduced the reason that many people live a very long healthily life in one area of Japan was due to Purple Sweet Potato. They did not show any scientific evidence to this theory so I am not sure if it is true or not but one thing I can say is we like Purple Sweet Potatoes.
Purple Sweet Potato Mochi
So, here is my Sweet Potato Mochi. It is not just a normal Sweet Potato Mochi but it is a “Purple Sweet Potato Mochi” for this month. 😀
I like foraging. Although I hardly do any foraging myself I like the idea of it. Of course I hate the recent new foragers who never consider how nature’s cycle works and remove all mushrooms they can find from the area even before mushrooms open the umbrella. It is becoming a great threat to forests in the UK. That is outrageous! Nothing remains in the forest if people keep doing this.
That is not what I do. My foraging is much more in a smaller scale … such as Blackberry Picking. However, it does not seem a good season for Blackberry this year. It might be the problem where I live but I could get only handful of them.
Anyway, there is a sweet I always make in Blackberry season.
Blackberry Custard Tart
It is mid-summer now. Even here in London we are having the hottest days so far this year. I know it is nothing compared to the heat and humidity of the summer in Japan or India, but still it is hot.
So what does Summer remind you of? For me it is the Radio Gymnastic Exercises and Morning Glory flowers. In Japan during school summer holiday many (probably not all) children get up early and gather in a nearby square or school ground. We tune in the radio to “NHK Radio Gymnastic Exercise” program which starts 6:30AM every day. After exercising each child receives a card and collect one stamp a day. On the way back home I remember I felt good and healthy after exercising in the fresh morning air and saw Morning Glory flowering beautifully at the front of many houses. The flowers are mostly in gradation between blue and pink which is my favourite colour.
Its Japanese name is ‘Asagao 朝顔’ meaning ‘Face in the Morning’. Morning Glory opens its huge round flower in early morning and closes in the afternoon. The people in the old days maybe thought the flowers reminded them of smiley faces of children, I wonder. It is certainly a face of beautiful flower in summer.
Now we are in July. However, I don’t see them in London. So … I made my nostalgic summer flowers as Japanese sweet.
Morning Glory / Asagao 朝顔
I like ‘Matcha‘ Green Tea. Actually since I was a child I really liked the taste. Although we had a set of Matcha making tools at home my mother did not make Matcha tea that often. Only when we had very good Japanese sweet ‘Wagashi‘ my mother brought out the set and made Matcha tea for us. Maybe that is why I thought having Matcha tea is something special. It was more like for ceremonial occasions and I still get excited about the whole process.
I think Matcha’s popularity these days is phenomenal. Western people knowing its Japanese name ‘Matcha’ was unthinkable to me until 5 years ago and it is unbelievable that there are several shops and cafés serving Matcha drink or food even here in London. Now we have been informed that there are great health benefits in Matcha and it is not just foodies but healthy food eaters are joining the Matcha drinking club.
I made various versions of sweets with a ‘Spring’ theme for Wasoukan Cafe. Some of them were good and some were a little experimental and challenging. There were two particular ones that went to the final selection but did not go through to the Cafe menu. I feel they deserve to be introduced here.
Yoshino (Cherry Tree Mountain), Ukishima
I was eagerly waiting for Sping to arrive for so long. I felt winter lasted forever but now it is spring. I see lots of posts of Sakura🌸 Cherry blossoms on Social Media Network particularly from Japan. In London Cherry blossom has started to open too. Some has flowered even in March by being confused with the strange weather this year. It is the season I like the most.
Although it is supposed to be a cheerful season it started to be rainy this week in England. When I see a grey sky I need some sweet that reassures me it is spring. The Colour scheme of the sweet came into my mind first – Pink! Then I thought of Strawberry Jam. I know Strawberry is a summer fruit in England but the Strawberry in my mind is light pink not that vivid red of summer Strawberry.
I was planning to make some sweets in the Easter theme. Yes, I tried but unfortunately I did not have enough time. You wonder why I have been so busy these days? I promise to tell you about it soon.
However, I have some photos of Japanese sweets in the Easter theme that I made in 2014. Because not many people have seen them I decided to take this opportunity and re-introduce my creation to you.
Easter Chicks & Eggs, Japanese Sweet
These are “Easter Chicks & Eggs” made of Japanese sweet, ‘Nerikiri‘ which are free from Gluten, Dairy and Egg. Yes, it’s Egg free!