Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flavours of Japan

Japanese food. Anyone that knows me knows that I love Japanese food. All Japanese food.

Strangely enough, the first time I went there were a number of things I couldn't stand eating. It wasn't a matter of flavour, rather one of texture. Two of the things I remember not liking were mochi (like a chewy rice ball) and anko (red bean paste). I ate them once or twice during that visit, but steered very clear of them after that.

About a year or so after that trip though, I started getting mysterious cravings for both of these foods. Why my body craved something I didn't like, I don't know. Perhaps I was just craving the taste of Japan... Anywho, from then on, I was hooked. Lets just say, my next trip to Japan was very different in terms of food choices...

Me eating taiyaki <3 A fish, shaped pancake (like thing) stuffed with anko), Shoko is eating takoyaki.

Japanese-Western breakfast. Macha toast with butter and a nice thick layer of anko.

Me eating homemade zenzai (at least I think that's what it was called...) which is mochi in soupy red beans.

Dango covered in (very) sweet sauce on skewers. We had them at Osaka castle.

Yum. Looking at these photos brings back such great memories. I'm so glad I decided to like these things - Anko in particular has become one of my favourite Japanese foods.

Unfortunately, anko is in short supply in New Zealand (Read: you can't buy it :( ). Recently however, I found that you can actually buy adzuki beans (canned) in select locations. I also found that making anko isn't that hard, so long as you've got a pot, some sugar and a crazy hunger for some sweet, sweet anko.

Hmm, Check, check aaaaand check ;)

1 can adzuki beans, drained
1/2-3/4 cup sugar

Put ingredients in a pot. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 or so minutes, stirring often. Once mixture has thickened mash roughly with the back of a wooden spoon.

Store in sterilised jar in the fridge.

How does one eat anko, you might ask? My suggestions would be: On toast with butter, with ice cream, sandwiched between two pancakes (and butter), in baking!

OK, I'm not going to lie, I can eat this stuff pretty much with anything. With peanut butter is another suggestion ;D I often just attack the jar with a spoon. Mmmm...

It's amazing how one's tastes can change so dramatically!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vanilla Latte

Upon finishing assignments, one of the first things I did with the abundance of time I suddenly had was some baking.

Baking is like a stress release for me. Putting the ingredients in a bowl, then onto a tray or in a muffin pan, and finally into a hot hot oven where it sits for a period of time and becomes delicious. The intoxicating smell of baking fills the room. It might be the rich moistness of bananas in a banana cake. It might be a sweet syrupy caramel odour from caramel cookies. Whatever it is, it makes you just want to rip open the oven door and either inhale the contents of the oven, or shove it all in your gob, piping hot. Whatever happens, there is something extra-delicious about just-baked goods. Soft and warm, with a nice cup of coffee. The best way to cheer anyone up.

Anyway, I made these cookies. It was fun. Full stop.

Although, the icing part wasn't so fun. I ruined one batch of chocolate (completely) and then I broke my bowl... But apart from that, good times ^^;

Vanilla latte cookies
Makes 15

1 vanilla latte sachet
1/2 tsp coffee
1/2 Tbsp hot water
110g butter, softened
70g sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
140g flour
pinch of salt

White chocolate, for icing

1. Mix first 3 ingredients to make a coffee paste.
2. Mix butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl. Beat in milk, vanilla and coffee paste. Sift in flour and salt and stir well until thoroughly combined. Wrap the dough in glad wrap and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 190C and line a baking tray with paper.
4. Unwrap the dough and roll out between two sheets of baking paper. Stamp out cookies with a 6cm round cutter and put them on baking trays, well apart.
5. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
6. When cooled, ice with melted white chocolate.

Eat them with a hot cup of coffee.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Home-made falafel

Cooking is very enjoyable for me at the moment. With the sudden influx of fruit fresh of the tree (or not so fresh any more..) from home, there has been a lot of stewing going on in this household. My first mission was stewed apples, which was a success and I've still got a few more to do. Second was stewing feijoas which I've never done before so I just made it up. The feijoas were a little bitter so I added a bit more sugar than I normally would, and they came out really well. I think I prefer them to fresh ones actually. Ryan likes them too, which is a bonus.

Ryan and I sometimes eat vegetarian. not because we don't want meat, mainly just because we don't mind a lack of meat every now and then. It also slightly lowers our weekly shopping bill... Anyway, this week we had falafel burgers, and rather than buying a falafel mix, I decided to go crazy and try making it myself. I had two recipes, one from an edmonds cooking book and another from an australian woman's weekly book and both had some difficult ingredients so I kind of combined them.

If you every fancy some home-made falafel, give this a go. It's easy and really tasty.

Makes 3 big or 6 small patties - serves 2
300g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
salt and pepper

Put it all in a blender and blend.
Cool for about an hour, then shape into patties. Fry each side in hot oil until golden brown.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Sick and busy. Not a good combination, let me tell you!

However, now that I am (finally) better and less busy I shall post a recipe to delight your tastebuds.

I've wanted to try lentils for a while now. I'm not going to lie, I don't have any idea what they are. I see them here and there every now and then though, and I find that it's the things that I've never tried that intrigue me the most. Flicking through my cookbooks, I found a simple recipe that only had a few ingredients and thought that I may as well give it a go. My verdict? Delicious. Right up the Erin tree of taste. They tasted.... I guess the only thing I can think of comparing them with is beans. They tasted similar to beans. Forgive me if this isn't the case, but that was my initial reaction.

Here is the recipe for anyone wanting to have a go with lentils.

Lentil and Vegetable Bowl
Ingredients (for two):
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g cherry tomatoes
400g can of lentils, drained
1 tsp sake
1 tsp vinegar
1/2-1 tsp coriander
pinch of chili powder
salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini, capsicum and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until soft.
2. Add the tomatoes and crush with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
3. Stir in the lentils and remaining ingredients and cook for 3-4 minutes to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot in preheated bowls.

I'm thinking it might go well with sausages next time...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


It can be difficult to make time to post, even though I've been making so much food!

I even feel that my still in the kitchen has significantly increased. I made scones the other day and were much better than they usually are. It's astounding and very rewarding :)

Here's what I made tonight:
A Japanese dish called 'Omelette rice' Which I've attempted before with Ryan, but which came out significantly better tonight.

Here is my inspiration:

for rice:
cooked rice for 2 (perhaps 1-2 cups)
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 a carrot, cubed
1/2 can diced tomatoes
200g cooked chicken
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp chicken stock
1 Tbsp sake

For omelette:
4 eggs
dash of cream
salt and pepper

In a pan, fry onion and garlic gently over a medium-high heat and add carrots until it's all nice and soft. Add the rest of the ingredients with the rice at the end and season well.

Mix the ingredients for the omelette together and make omelette in a non-stick pan. When nearly cooked, put rice on top and flick corners over the sides. Flip omelette onto plate and shape with a paper towel into the shape of a rugby ball.

Serve with tomato sauce :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cooking, cooking and more cooking!

What can I say?

Cooking for myself and Ryan over the last few weeks has been a deliciously fun adventure. Every Saturday (usually night) we choose the recipe plan for the week. This usually involves me pouring over recipe books, getting really excited and wanted to cook everything. By some miracle, this system works and we choose on seven meals for the week ahead, usually with one 'easy' meal - something like pizza on a ready-made pizza base or the traditional Folster-family Friday night dinner of eggs on toast.

Sunday is shopping day and then the fun begins for one more week!

Some of the things we've made include:
Scotch eggs (Ryan's favourite)
Spanish Lamb stew with pumpkin scones (my favourite)
Pasta and pumpkin bake
Miso stuffed fish
Steamed pork buns
Gyoza (Japanese fried dumplings)
Intense salads
Delicious toasted sandwiches

And the list goes on.

I've even had the chance to do some baking! Only two sets of cookies so far, but in the future this list will surely expand immensely.

Sadly, while I do take photos, they don't come out looking really professional-like, but I'll keep working on them to make this blog even more purdy and professional-like.

Well, appealing to the eyes at least.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Pancake mix and cookies

I have a recipe book, courtesy of Japan and someone special, which claims to be able to make anything (But realistically, a wide range of things) from Japanese hot cake mix. However, there are two problems with this cookbook.

1. It's in Japanese.
2. Japanese 'hot cake mix' and the humble pancake mix which one can purchase in New Zealand are most likely very different.

Regardless of these issues however, I have finally decided to launch myself into the world of pancake/hot cake mix treats after half a year of speculation.

The recipes in this book range from pancakes and hotcakes to donuts, scones, cookies, cakes, steamed buns and tarts, and claims to transform your average Joe pancake mix into marvelous 'cafe-style' sweets (as far as my Japanese skills can determine, anyway).

Japanese food is known (to the best of my knowledge) as being immaculately presented as well as made. I've been to Japan twice and I can most definitely confirm this to be true. Meals in japan aren't a giant burger slapped on a plate with fries and maybe sauce in a pattern which aims to give the illusion of caring about presentation. Japanese school children, for example take their obento (lunch boxes) to school, filled with frankfurter octopi and rice shaped into their favourite anime characters. If they spend such time and effort on school lunches, one can only imagine the precision that goes into restaurant meals.

Anyway, despite that sidetrack, time for the recipe.

First of all, however I would like to say that there is not guarantee that this recipe will work for you because of differences in hotcake mix. I personally think, however, that on most occasions it will work - the outcome will probably be slightly different depending on the mix you use. For example, the cookie in the book looked a great deal more solid than the one I made. Nevertheless, it was deliciously melt-in-the-mouth soft, a combination which worked really well with the flavours.

Lemon Sugar Cookies, from:'うちカフェおやつ'


180g Hot Cake mix
110g butter, at room temperature
45g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
The zest of one lemon
a little sugar and beaten egg

1. Beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
2. Mix in egg yolk thoroughly, then add hot cake mix and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Finally, mix in lemon zest.
3. Place dough in a large sheet of glad wrap and shape into a cylinder, with a diameter of around 2-3 cm. Cool in refrigerator for about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Remove from refrigerator and glad wrap. Brush edges with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Finally, cut dough into 1cm thick circles. Place on an oven tray with baking paper and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden.

Enjoy :)