Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sweet Seasons / October 2006 - Chrysanthemum -


I know. I cheated. Today is not October 31st, but I need to have a wagashi entry on the last day of every month, so please forgive me.

This wagashi is another nerikiri with a beautiful color gradation. The color on the surface is lighter pink, and redder pink inside is showing through the cuts.

* Click to enlarge

It is said that in the past, it was a taboo to make chrysanthemum-shaped wagashi with 16 petals, because it is the emblem of the Japanese royal family. It may not be true any more because… Now I can see the readers of my blog putting their fingers (or mouse cursors) on the above photo and going 1, 2, 3… ;)

* Wabashi by Shingetsu


Friday, October 27, 2006

Buttermilk Pancakes for Breakfast

Buttermilk Pancakes

My breakfast today. YUM!

Oh, don't get me wrong. These pancakes were very small... just as big as your palms. I'm not such a big eater ;) ;)


Monday, October 23, 2006

My Therapy...

Chocolate Muffins

Something frustrating happened last night and this morning, so I made these in the late afternoon to pamper myself. While baking these in the oven, I gutted a couple of fish to let my aggression out. :O

A nice teatime with these muffins healed me. And a good thing is that I have more than enough fish fillet to make meuniere for my supper tonight.
Cooking/baking can be pretty therapeutic, you know.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Apple Pork Chop and Rosemary Potatoes

Apple Pork Chop with Maple-mustard Glaze and Rosemary Potatoes

This is what I made yesterday. And, Yes! I used the French seasonings that LPC sent me from Paris the other day! :D

I used the mustard for the glaze, and sprinkled the lovely finishing salt all over the potatoes. The above photo doesn't show it much, but I did pour the mustard glaze into the prying pan and glazed the pork.

I pre-boiled the potatoes and then oven-baked them, but couldn't wait until they turn brown...

Everything was so great, especially the mustard glaze. It was just a mixture of the pink mustard, maple syrup, sugar and vinegar, but it was oh so good.
The only thing was that the meat was rather tough... Well, next time I'll buy more expensive meat. The mustard glaze is definitely worth it.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Autumn Festival Feast in My Hometown

Now I’m back in my apartment with lots of photos and memories of the autumn festival in my hometown held last weekend.

On Saturday, October 14th, I took an early bus to my hometown to help with the cooking. When I came to the small kitchen adjacent to the shrine, four women around my mom’s age were already there, busy with cooking. They were touya’s wives, including my mom. According to her, they had made a VERY brave decision of making many of the dishes of the feast themselves this year. (I heard that last years’ cooking team totally depended on the local catering service and it costed too much, so I guess there was a budget-cut.)

As soon as I entered the kitchen, I was led straight to the deep-frying pot. There waiting were breaded prawns and seasoned fish meat to be deep-fried. Rice was cooking in the electric rice cooker, and someone was filleting fish at an outside sink.

When you hear about elderly women cooking together for a community gathering, don’t you automatically expect them to be making “grandma’s signature dishes” with their expertise and all dishes to be wonderful? Oh well, that’s not necessarily always true. Sorry to disillusion you, but actually it was kind of hilarious. You know how it is to cook in a kitchen that you are not used to? To make things worse, everyone forgot to bring some ingredients/utensils and most of them were not available at the shop nearby.

So things got pretty messy there. Kamasu (peto?) for the stuffed sushi was opened in a wrong way, someone added wrong amount of water to cook rice, and some said that some of the dishes had to be delivered to another place at 3 pm while others said 4 pm, etc. etc…. Ahhhhhhh!!! And you know what? The communication through cell phones often does not work in my hometown – sometimes because the elder people do not know how to use them, and other times, the cell phone displays “no-service area” message. :O

And in this kind of situation, you have to realize that each household has a different way of cooking/serving and different preference of taste. In a very rural, traditional place like my hometown, women in our grandmothers’ generation learned to cook just like their mothers did, or after they got married, like their mother-in-laws did. There was no restaurant or shops in a small farming and fishing village, and of course no recipes from TV cooking shows or the internet, so they had no chance to get familiarized with more “standardized” tastes. And women of my mom’s generation learned cooking from them. So each family’s preference of taste seems to be rather persistently inherited. You know what I mean. ;)

Participants of the festival enjoying the big feast.

We served the big feasts on the festival eve and the main festival day. On the main festival day, the four cooking staff got together at 6 am(!!) to cook some dishes different from the day one and serve the feast around 11:30 am. (I joined them later because I was not an official member of the cooking team this year.) There came sooooooo many amateur photographers on that day to take shots of the unique rituals of our festival. They had no way to buy lunch, because absolutely no food stalls come to our festival, and the only store in the community sells candies, ice cream and seasoning stuff only but no snacks/bentos. So we made rice balls with "superfluous" gomokuzushi and fed the photographers. (Hope the cooking team next year does not hate us for doing that.)

Unfortunately, we, the cooking team, could not join the feast both days – our duty was to stay in the kitchen and keep serving foods and washing glasses/dishes. :( We were all so tired when it was over, then one of the elder ladies came by and said, “Oh, you are lucky that you had to come here at 6 am today. When I cooked here for this festival, we came here around 2 am!”
Gee. Then when my real turn comes in about 30 years from now, the cooking team would be meeting at around 10 am. Boy, I really hope so. :P

Full write-up and photos of the festival:
Preparing for the Autumn Festival - Part 1 -
Preparing for the Autumn Festival - Part 2 -
Autumn Festival in My Hometown - Festival Eve -

Autumn Festival in My Hometown - Main Festival Day -

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Goodies from Paris!!

A "French" Package from LPC

It finally arrived today! :D
Yes, I got a package from one of my fellow bloggers, LPC of La petite chinoise. A “French” package with 5 food (or food-related) items! Can you imagine how excited I am?

She kindly thought about me when she was shopping for her package for EBBP#6, and sent me one, too. On a lovely picture card, she wrote a detailed explanation of each item. (The picture was a work by Marc Chagall, BTW. I should have shown that side of the post card in the photo.)

Here's the list of the goodies she sent me:
Fleur de Sel de Guerande … High quality “finishing” salt. I just took a lick, and YES! It is totally different from the mass-produced salt we have here. It’s mild and very tasty, and yeah I can definitely tell that it was handpicked by women only. ;)

Maille Mustard… Mustard? Really? It’s pink! And I see the illustration of raspberry, blueberry and blackberry on the label. But after tasting it, I’m fully convinced that it is mustard. I love this taste!

Hand/tea towel…You triggered something very dangerous in me, LPC. You wrote that French people wrap breads with this kind of towels. Now I’m picturing myself baking French baggetts at home and wrapping them with this tea towel. Let’s see what happens. (Maybe next week…)

Jasmin Fruit Concassees…I’m tempted to use this for some kind of fish dish.

Langue de Chat… Oh, this is so good. So soft and smooth… and looks so cute! I already ate two of them. And I’m definitely keeping this can.

This package really made my day. Last year, I did have a couple of offers of package exchange, but could not go for it because I was rather financially tight then. Now I’m making a little more money than last year, so I decided to give it a go this time. And I’m so glad that I did. I almost forgot the excitement of receiving something from abroad, but this package from Paris reminded me of that wonderful feeling.

Thank you LPC for all these goodies! :D
(Her post about my package is here, if you are interested.)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Revenge of the Wild Boars...???


I know these photos are not very appetizing, but I thought about sharing them because this may be something you don't see often. ;)

Last weekend I stayed at my parents' house and I need to do so this weekend again. It’s for the autumn festival in my hometown. The town consists of 3 (or 4?) small sections, and every year one family from each section has to join the festival committee to take care of the festival. It is our family’s turn this year, so my parents and I have been involved in the preparation. (I’ll be posting about it on my another blog, if you are interested.)
Anyway, these are the pics I took at my parents' house last weekend. This is how a couple of wild boars did a revenge in my dad’s veggie garden. As I wrote before, dad has a license to trap certain wild animals in a certain time of the year, thus my family eats wild boar meat once in a while this way.

Now, in my hometown, wild boars often cause damages to veggie gardens and orchards every year. That's why dad decided to get a license to catch them in the first place. But this autumn, they dug up my dad’s veggie garden three times already while the neighbors' veggie gardens were untouched. So my mom and I are joking that it must be the revenge of the family members of the boar that dad caught last year. Dad insists that they are attracted by the special fertilizer he uses but the neighbors don’t. He says that the fertilizer has a distinctive smell from fermentation and the wild boars are attracted by it. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but the fact is that his young daikon (top photo) and Chinese cabbage (left) are suffering seriously.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kabocha Pumpkin Souffles

These are kabocha pumpkin souffles I made yesterday. I know. It’s not Halloween yet. But I just felt like making a dessert with the kabocha pumpkin which I had bought the day before.

I used a Japanese recipe, because I thought it was safe to stick with the recipe that called for this particular type of pumpkin. But this was not a great success. The souffles did not rise as much as I wanted them to, and did not turn out as moist as I expected. Also, they tasted rather bland to me, so I made sherry sauce with sherry, sugar and butter.

I liked the sauce very much, but I have to admit that it almost hid the mild, natural flavor of the pumpkin.
Oh well... Better luck next time.