Friday, January 15, 2010

Making Mochi

I have to put my hands up and admit I’m not a big fan of mochi (rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded), but it is a mainstay of Japanese cuisine and served in soup (ozoni) is a traditional aspect of New Year…
So without entering into the mochitsuki ceremony how did we make mochi? (Well, when I say “we”, I mean Mrs Cook Japan and the 10 friends and countless children who had a great time making and eating it at our house.)
First up, mochigome (special glutinous rice for making mochi) was left to soak then wrapped in muslin and steamed in the Cook Japan rice cooker…
…and this is where the brilliant idea came into play…use a breadmaker!!!
Traditionally the rice is steamed then put into a huge mortar where it is a pounded to make a paste, whereas their plan was to put the rice into a breadmaker using the “dough” function and keep 20+ collective fingers crossed on the results….
…and what great results they were!  About 30-minutes in the breadmaker produced a wonderfully sticky paste that could be easily moulded then devoured…
And what a feast it turned into, never before have I seen so much mochi in one place.  Eaten with adzuki (red beans), natto (fermented soya beans), daikon oroshi (grated radish), kinako (soybean flour), and of course as ozoni, everyone had a whale of a time.
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So if you’ve got a breadmaker to hand, start steaming your rice and start making mochi!

For more information visit:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rice, Teriyaki Chicken, Burdock Root and (Eggy) Miso Soup

…yeah you read that right, “Burdock Root” (gobo).  Do you remember drinking dandelion and burdock as a kid, well this is the root it is made from… 


We are really lucky because our friend Ikuko-san has a Japanese vegetable farm in Sussex so we can actually get fresh burdock root from her (by their very nature is a root fresh?).  At the top of the picture is kinpira gobo (braised burdock root – the thin one) with renkon (lotus root).  Alongside which is some lovely chunks of chicken in a teriyaki sauce and lightly tempura’ed leeks.

Alongside which was the obligatory bowl of Japanese rice…


…and a light miso soup into which a poached egg was inserted – delicious!!  I can heartily recommend this combination for any lovers of miso and egg out there…


Monday, January 11, 2010

French Onion Soup a la rice cooker

Pray tell, what could be easier…
…first brown 3 onions in the Cook Japan rice cooker using the “braise function” (or do it in a pan if your machine does not have this option…
…then add 4-cups of water into which you’ve dissolved 2tbsp of beef bouillon, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a bit of salt…
…set the “slow cook” function for around 3hours and come back to it later, when its had chance to sit a little longer on “keep warm” to intensify the flavour and voila…
…top it off with a piece of cheesy toast and its a supremely easy way to cook a lovely heart-warming soup…
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nanakusa-gayu (Seven herb porridge)

Eaten and drunk too much over the past couple of weeks?  Feeling a bit lardy, lethargic and lumpy?  Have a bowl of Nanakusa-gayu (seven herb porridge)…


After indulging too much over ohshogatsu (new year), a long standing tradition in Japan is to eat nanakusa-gayu on 7th January.  Not only is it a simple low-calorie food after all that richness over the previous few days, but importantly it is believed to bring longevity and health, and also intended to ward off evil for the coming year.

The tricky bit if you’re not in Japan (where you can actually special packs at this time of year in the supermarket) is how to get the 7 herbs, traditionally (but with local variations):

  • seri – Japanese parsley
  • nazuna – Shepherd’s purse
  • gogyo – Jersey Cudweed
  • hakobera – Common chickweed
  • hotokenoza – nipplewort
  • suzuna – turnip
  • suzushiro - daikon


Your best bet is to therefore replace these greens with whatever locally available green leaf vegetables you can easily get hold of, and more importantly like.  So, armed with some lovely fresh greens how do you make this porridge?

Well, first things first, its not porridge in the western rolled oats sense of the world, this is an Asian rice porridge (in Japan referred to as okayu – but not much different from what you would find in China as congee or similar dishes elsewhere throughout SE Asia). 

In a rice cooker its an absolute breeze to make…

…wash the rice thoroughly, then put 1 cup of rice into the rice cooker with 7 cups of water, press “Congee” and leave the rice to cook.  Probably takes about 40-minutes or so and then it will have a nice porridge consistency (see top photo).  At this point ,add your chopped greens and leave it on “Keep Warm” for a few minutes – but not too long as you don’t want everything to wilt too much.  Add a little bit of salt and serve…how easy is that!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sardines with Mentaiko

What is mentaiko I hear you ask? Well, its marinated Pollock roe to the unitiated…


…but this isn’t any mentaiko, its karashi mentaiko or spicy fish eggs!

In case you’re not sure, the mentaiko is the orangey/brown balls on the outside of the fish.   Of course the bowl of rice was courtesy of the dear old Cook Japan rice cooker, but what a wonderful combination for a quick easy healthy lunch…


The sardines have been cooked have a sweet soy sauce taste from their own marinade, which combined with the slightly spicy marinated mentaiko is a great fusion of flavour and texture.  With a steaming bowl of fresh rice its a real treat along with a piping hot bowl of miso soup and a side of homemade gobo (burdock) salad…


Osechi Ryori Part 2

Come on, you didn’t really expect me to allow the leftovers to go to waste did you?


A great end to the first day of the year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Osechi ryōri (Japanese New Year Meal)

あけましておめでとうございます! Happy New Year!

1st of January can mean only one thing in many Japanese households – osechi.  Osechi ryori is the traditional Japanese food eaten on New Years Day dating back centuries, an array of delicate dishes presented in lacquered boxes.  This year we didn’t get back to Japan so made it at home (check the bottom of the post for last years photos from Japan).

In addition to the traditional 3 jubako (lacquer boxes) we indulged in some homemade sushi and got some chu-toro (tuna belly) for sashimi…


…while not quite up to the standards of a master in Japan, this was really nice sushi (squid, octopus, prawn and saltwater eel)…


The jubako roughly followed the Japanese traditional one one being seafood, one from the land and one from the earth...

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I couldn’t resist this little photo of one of the Cook Japan kids fave osechi dishes – ebi prawn) tempura on one of our “only to be used on New Years Day plates”…


Osechi wou;dn’t be osechi though without also having a bowl of ozoni – soup with “mochi” (steamed rice pounded into a sticky/elasticy rice cake) inside…but its not for the faint hearted!  Each year there are a few small deaths recorded from people choking on mochi!"


So that was our attempt at making osechi and it was a wonderful meal and perfect way to start what will hopefully be a good 2010.  Last year, we were back in Japan and this is the magnificent food Mrs Cook Japan’s mum rustled up…a true master of the kitchen!!!




…and yes, it did taste as amazing as it looked!


So with the osechi devoured, there’s only one thing left for me to do…relax and enjoy hatsuburo (the first bath of the year).  Oh, and the kids will be expecting otoshidama – the traditional Japanese gift of money on New Years Day!

Happy New Year everyone…and don’t forget the Cook Japan shop is running a 10% discount on all stock through January.

Osechi on Foodista