Dumplings again and again…

While spring is on its way and nanohana are everywhere, and I can’t wait for the spring vegetables to be there, I am also happy to enjoy a little more the winter vegetables: the leeks, the cabbages and the very last kabocha until they’ll be back next fall.

By now you must very well know that dumplings are among my favorite food, from wherever they are I love them! Recently I have been making a lot of vegan gyoza and wontons because I found a very good dumpling skin that contains nothing else than when I make it myself: flour, water and salt. But I still prefer the ones for which I make everything from the scratch, the kneading and rolling are so much fun!

One thing that I love particularly to make is dumplings with a puréed filling, when you can fill a lot in one, they are plumped, with a melty heart. Sweet potatoes and kabocha are the perfect ingredient for that. So of course with a kabocha in the fridge I couldn’t help but make some simple kabocha dumplings. Here is the recipe. Enjoy!!

Kabocha dumplings (2 servings)

For the filling

  • 1/2 kabocha
  • 1/2tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp of paprika
  • 1/4tsp of salt
  • Ground pepper

For the skin

  • 120g of flour (+ a bit for dusting)
  • Water
  • A ponch of salt

In a bowl mix the flour with the salt and water little by little while kneading until the dough is smooth but non sticky. Leave to rest.

Cut the kabocha in chuck and remove the seeds, keep the skin. In a pan steam or boil the kabocha ( the less water the better so steaming is more recommended). When totally soft mash and add the cinnamon, the paprika, salt, pepper. When puréed you can start rolling your dough. For that, cut a bit of dough, the size of a walnut, and roll it into a circle. Put a generous tea spoon of filling and close, remove all the air as much as possible. Repeat.

For cooking the dumplings you have several options: steaming, boiling, pan frying or pan steaming. I pan steamed them this time: in a greased and heated pan I set the dumplings, then add 0.5mm of water in the pan and cook under cover for 7-8 min then removed the cover to let the rest of the water evaporates and served adding ground pepper and a pinch of olive oil, but you can serve with soya sauce.

Home alone experiments

While A. is on business trip while my days at work are super busy, I’m oscillating between experimenting new recipes and easy to prepare but very satisfying food such as cheesy toasts and ochazuke… In my experiments, the sweet potatoes gnocchi with a 100% sesame pairing was definitely a huge hit! It mixes perfectly a traditional Italian recipe with Japanese flavors. A must try if you love sweet potatoes and sesame. Bonus, it is one of the easiest recipe ever… and here it is!!!

Sweet potato gnocchi and sesame (two servings)

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • Flour
  • 1tbs of sesame seeds
  • 1tbs os sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper

Steam the sweet potato. When tender let it cool down. Peel it and mash it. Add flour little by little to obtain an almost non sticky dough. Shape the gnocchi. In a pan boil 1-2L of water and poach the gnocchi. Drain and serve in plates, top with a bit of sesame oil and sesame seeds, add salt and pepper. Eat immediately.

A little magic with pasta leftovers

Every morning A. goes to work on site I prepare him a lunch box. I like to cook lunch early because then I know that my portion is also ready and I can eat any time, even when my schedule is super tight, which is more than often the case recently. When it comes to preparing our lunches and it includes pasta, I love to use fresh pasta because they cook very rapidly. The issue is that the brand of fresh pasta I like most has portions that are too big for one and too small for two… so today was one of this day, where I put 2/3 of the portion to A. lunch box, and I ended up with a sort of leftover size of pasta… not enough to feed me until dinner which would be late (again) today. Luckily I had gyoza skin in the fridge (for dinner) so I decided to pick 4 pieces and add these to pasta… but how???

I realized that Asian food often mix dumplings and noodles in soups, so I decided to go for something like that except that it wouldn’t be Asian, but rather Italian like for me, with fresh mozzarella dumplings. And this is how the most delicious thing I have cooked in a bit was born. Too delicious not to share with you my recipe! I used the leftover pasta and the gyoza skin I love most, but you can use fresh pasta and make your own gyoza skin, it is super easy… I was cooking while on a meeting, so I used minimal time.

Dumplings and noodle soup (1 serving)

  • 50g of leftover noodles or the equivalent to cook
  • 4 gyoza skins (you can make your own, it is super easy and rapid too)
  • 1/2 fresh mozzarella
  • 1 leek
  • a few mushrooms ( I used shimeji)
  • thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Cut the leek in the size/shape you like, same with the mushrooms.
Cut the mozzarella in 4. In each gyoza skin, put a piece of mozzarella, a bit of thyme and pepper. Wrap.
In a pan add 500ml of water, the leek, the mushrooms and cook for 5minutes after it boils. Add the noodles, the dumplings and cook for another 5minutes. Serve, add thyme and olive oil and eat while it is hot!

A savory pie with Japanese flavors

There’s no secret here, I love all sorts of stuffed food: dumplings, ravioli, gyoza, pies and all the others. And I cook some almost every week. Last week I was set to cook an okonomiyaki, I had the Chinese cabbage, the pork meat and dinner was all set. But then, A. reminded me that we had scrambled eggs for breakfast and then an okonomiyaki would mean eggs again (since when does he care???) so I just acknowledged and said, well then, let’s remove the eggs from it and that’s gonna be a pie!!! (I am not the only big fan of pies and dumplings, A. is always OK!)

So here I am now thinking about how to make it happen. And it turned out to be fairly simple and simply delicious. Here is my original recipe.

Okonomiyaki style pie (2 servings as main)

  • For the pie crust
    • 200g of flour
    • 20cl of vegetal oil
    • 10cl of soya sauce
    • Water
  • For the filling
    • 1/2 Chinese cabbage
    • 100g of ground pork or chop filet
    • a handful of katsuobushi flakes

Mix all ingredients for the dough. Add water little by little to obtain a smooth and non sticky dough. Let is rest a bit.

In the meantime, chop the Chinese cabbage and put it in a pan with the meat and cover. Cook at medium heat for 5-10 min, then remove the cover, add the katsuobushi and cook until all the water from the cabbage is gone.

Roll the dough for your pie dish, with amply enough to be able to make the cover by folding it it. Set in your pie dish and fill with the filling, fold the dough to close the pie. Bake at 200 degrees until dough is golden.

That’s it!

Birthday lemon cakes are my favorite!!!

Here we are, Christmas is passed and new year not yet there, and it’s exactly the time for my birthday.

Almost as a tradition, A. went horse riding with me, which is a big challenge for him who feels a little uncomfortable on the back of a horse. And then he baked me a cake!

It’s the seasonal for citrus fruits and I love citrus cakes, and for a few months we have patiently and lovingly followed the growth of a single lemon on our tree. Our lemon tree, planted 5 years ago is struggling to adjust and we have very very little fruits if none, so one, wasn’t so bad. And on my birthday we picked it for a lemon cake recipe. As we have explored over the years many recipes with lemons for my birthday, it was hard to decide which recipe to choose (A. agrees to cook if there is a solid recipe to follow by the letter). With our rosemaries growing wildly and needing a trim, I decided that it would be rosemary and lemon cake, and we opted for a cupcake base. A long time ago my mother in law offered me a book about cupcakes and it’s been years I didn’t opened it, but I immediately thought about it to find a recipe for A..

I used the poppy and ginger recipe, replaced the ginger by lemon zest and poppy by rosemary, I also added a pinch of baking powder in the dough when A. was not looking, I was worried that the baking soda wouldn’t give fluff enough…

The result was damn good! I must admit that if I were to do the recipe I would have used a little less butter, but A. followed the recipe and it was great!! So here is our recipe. Oh… we didn’t do any glazing but lemon glazing could have worked well too.

Lemon and rosemary cupcakes (makes 6)

  • 100g of flour
  • 100g of sugar
  • 100g of butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • a pinch of baking powder
  • 1 lemon (zest only, unless you do the glazing, for which you will want the juice)
  • 1 branch of rosemary

Preheat the oven to 180deg.

In one bowl mix the flour, the salt, the baking soda and the baking powder. Add the lemon zest and chop the rosemary leaves. Stir well.

In another bowl mix together the butter and the sugar (using your hands is the best tool). Add one egg and stir well with a whisk, add the second egg and stir again to obtain a creamy mixture. Add in the flour mix through a sifter, little by little while stirring. The lemon zest and rosemary may get stuck, so don’t forget them in the sifter!!! Add them too to the mix and stir.

Prepare 6 medium size muffin or cupcake papers and fill to 2/3 with the mix. We added a little branch of rosemary and a tiny pieces of lemon on top but that is optional.

Bake in the oven until perfectly cooked (clean pick comes out when picked). It took 25min for us.

If you want to glaze them prepare a mix of lemon juice and icing sugar. Otherwise enjoy just as they are. I served them with hot lemon using up the rest of the lemon.

Don’t you love parsley too?

When I was a child my grandmother would only make things I love to eat. My favorite were cannelloni and “croustades” and “tomates a la provencal”. But when I stayed longer with grand parents she would also make millions of other things I love: stuffed vegetables, bouillabaisse, paella, cantonese rice, floraline, butter macaroni and “kromsky”.

That was a long long time ago, when I was eating beef (I stopped when I was 15 or 17 I think…), but I think what I really loved with kromsky (I guess it was inspired from Russian kromeskies but my grandmother recipe seems very different than the actual recipes I could find online), is the parsley. I think my grandmother always had parsley in her kitchen or in her garden and used it a lot. Contrarily, I have a tendency to forget how parsley is delicious, and mine in the garden is under used.

So, after browsing the garden this morning and harvesting some parsley I decided to make kromsky like my grandmother would, or almost… Kromsky for her are just meat balls, with a lot of parsley, I replaced the ground beef by ground chicken. So here is my recipe. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much I did!

Kromsky (for 2 servings)

  • 100g of ground chicken (or beef)
  • 1 bouquet of parsley
  • 1 egg
  • a bit of cooking oil

In a bowl chop the washed parsley. Add the egg and the meat. Stir well.

Grease a pan with the oil and heat at medium high. With a fork or a spoon make bite size balls of the mix and cook until golden. Flip on the other side and repeat. That’s it!!

I served them with spinach and rice. In the summer my grand mother would probably serve them with tomates a la provencal, which are oven slowly cooked tomatoes topped with chopped parsley.

Celebrating 18 years in Japan

18 years ago today we arrived in Tokyo with not much of a plan, I would be working at the University of Tokyo for 2 years, and A. would see how the job market is for him. Not speaking a word of Japanese, but with a few good friends in Tokyo, Japanese and French.

18 years later we are still there… still discovering, still learning.

I took this opportunity to browse the website we created when we moved in 2004. A journal where we shared our life day after day more or less, with pictures and movies (you will see two soon at the end of this post, but not today because my phone doesn’t want to save them…). We never called it a blog because we never used any such platform, rather, A. developed for us a custom site I could easily use to upload posts, images and recipes, because even back then I was sharing recipes!!!

The very first one I shared may have been nikku jagga, if not shiitake and chicken takikomi gohan. The pictures were bad… really… not that they are much better now 😉 but I have made some progresses and digital cameras and screens resolution have improved a lot. Those pictures back then were supposed to be seen in tiny size, we compressed them a lot to have enough space on our server!!! Judge by yourself below, if you can ever guess what is in the bowl.

My very first nikku-jagga in 2004

I’m a forward looking person, so I will spare you a review of these 18 years. They are what they are, and I am happy like that. But sure things are that those bowls are still in use, and today, incidentally I ironed with the cordless iron I bought when we moved in, with the same ironing table you will see in the movie…

No recipe today but I may dig one from my old website…

P.S.: the top picture is a 2004 picture of Shinobazu ike, of the now gone Novotel. A beautiful pagoda-like construction, now replaced by an ugly insipid common tower mansion.

Starting afresh the sourdough adventure

It has been two years since I made Lois, my sourdough, and even though we had our ups and downs, overall, Lois was a great fun to use and taught me a lot. It even survived quietly our absence during our trip to France. So what happened? Why did suddenly things got strange… a few weeks ago my bread started to not rise as much as it would. I naively thought that my rising time was not adequate… and then last week when I was about to feed Lois it was all strange, and I spotted mold on the side of the bottle. I did a rescue operation, which seemed to work. Baked a beautiful brioche, and hopeful that everything was back to normal. But then, Lois died. I didn’t even think that would happen. All a sudden it became liquid, stinky and covered in a white… it was over.

So I had no other choice but start a new one. So here I am back at it… starting again.

But maybe it’s the two years with Lois, the perfect weather, it’s been working like magic and Baden is born in no time, smelling divine. Very active compared to Lois, who has never been a super active kind, and which smell was so so. And after 3 days I made my first bread with it. Smooth and easy!

I hope Baden will be living for a long time and we will have many breads together!!!

Have you ever heard of propagule?

So…if you have read my previous post you may have read that in Kanazawa I bought some mysterious food (I don’t know if we can call it fruit or vegetable…): propagule-ムカゴ-mukago. It looks like a tiny potato with a darker skin. It’s the “fruit” of the Japanese mountain yam-山芋-yamaimo. It wasn’t the first time I saw some but never ventured in trying cooking them before and they are local in Kanazawa, so it made sense for me to try there.

As many of the food in Japan, the first recipe that comes to mind is to cook with rice. Mukago are no exception. I was recommended to cook them with rice and a piece of bacon. That seemed simple enough to try right away. However, recently I have been having a hard time finding good local bacon, the pork is usually imported-輸入-yunyu, and that I don’t buy… so instead I decided to buy fresh pork belly, and cook it with salt and pepper, not exactly the same thing as bacon but close enough and at least it is easy to find local fresh pork.

Mukago rice was a huge hit with A., much more than I expected!! Actually mukago are amazingly delicious. They have a very nice complex texture, a very subtle flavor with violet and flowery notes, very sophisticated. I instantly loved them!

I need some thinking and testing to understand in what kind of preparation they could be good. I tried in vegetables stew, but found that their flavors was suffocated by the other vegetables. It could be that rice is their best friend!! I’ll more investigations… in the meantime here is the mukago rice recipe. Enjoy!

Mukago rice ムカゴご飯 (4 servings)

  • 300g (2合-gou)of Japanese rice (I exclusively use Koshihikari from Isumi or Onjuku, but any Japanese rice is ok)
  • 200g of bacon (slice or block)
  • 1cup of mukago

Rinse the mukago.

Wash the rice.

In a large and thick pan or in a rice cooker bowl put all the ingredients. Add 400ml of water and cook. If you use a rice cooker chose the takikomi-炊き込み option if you have one. If you cook in a pan, start at medium heat until the first boil. Then cover and cook at low heat for 30min (check eventually that it’s not too quick nor too slow, and adjust timing, but don’t stir…) then stop heating but let rest for 5more minutes before serving.

Et voila!

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