Belly Warming Bread and Jelly

 

 

Pan Class January

 

This month in pan class we made two delicious breads and a bean paste jelly treat.

It is so nice to have bread class to look forward to once a month, pan sensei’s house is a warm and happy place. She takes great care and pride, like many Japanese, in making her house welcoming to visitors and her motherly character puts us all at ease when we are with her. I am so lucky to be able to experience a Japanese home like Pan Sensei’s, it gives me great insight into their way of life.

We made a large loaf which looked and tasted amazing! It was fluffy and light on the inside with a nice crusty crust. Japanese bread is known to be very light and fluffy, cloud like kinda fluffy.

 

Rolled and shaped doe balls

 

 

Don't they look beautiful.

 

 

Pan

 

 

Clouds

 

Learning to roll and shape the doe is a skill I would never have picked up from reading books or magazines, it is (to me) the best thing I take away from these classes.

The raisin and cheese rolls were also great to pick up shaping tricks, we learned how to cut the top of the breads to make fancy shapes. Pretty bread for some reason tastes better. The cheeeeeesey rolls where the favorites from the staffroom feast on Friday morning!

 

 

Raisin Roll

 

 

Fresh from the oven

 

 

Raisin Pan

 

 

Cheeeeeesy Roll

 

We also made a bean paste jelly, very easy to make. You need 12g agar,40g sugar, 280ml water and 250g bean paste. Pre-mix the sugar and agar, boil the water and slowly add the sugar/ water mix over a low heat, be careful not to add too fast or the mixture will curdle. Take off the heat and add the bean paste (crunchy or smooth). Poor into a shaped tin which you have coated with water (avoids sticking). Refrigerate until firm to touch, which is about 1 hour. Slice and enjoy.

 

'An' bean paste jelly

 

Sonomi and I enjoy pan feasting

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A Snow Tribe Of Aomori

Hanging out in the powder with Sonomi-chan

 

Snow falls long and hard in Aomori, the snowiest city in the world?  Unquestionably very true. The snow crazed inhabitants of Aomori amaze me with their dedication and will power to live on in this never ending falling white blanket. The shoveling begins before sunrise and goes on well into the darkness of the nights. They become a closer community than ever, working together, like quiet beavers they dig and dig and never let the snow swallow them. The young and the old, the single, married and widowed take to the streets to release their city from vanishing beneath the white. They remind me of an ancient tribe, rich in diversity they use the skills of many before them to keep them and their families alive. To stay alive in a place with such huge amounts of snow like this is a challenge that they have come to conquer after hundreds of years of practice.

I am so amazed by this place, it makes me think of how easy we have it in cozy Ireland. A mild climate for sure, we barely have a winter or a summer it’s all just luke warm rain. Ok slight exaggeration, but after growing up in Ireland all my life and getting used to the nation shutting down after a few feet of snow it made me feel almost embarrassed at our snow freak outs. (Note: I am not an embarrassed Irish woman, I am proud of Ireland, just not our snow tantrums.)

Aomori often seems so full of endless struggles yet so un-affected by them, the people of this crazy city have given me a deep insight into the strength and courage that people can build together.

It is said that the people of Aomori hibernate when the snow comes, I don’t think they are all hiding I think they are just busy at work keeping their lives at visible non snowy eye level. The shops are still thriving, the buses and trains all run and the schools are at their busiest. Once the snow melts I’m sure I’ll see many more people out and about but that will also be because there won’t be huge 10feet tall piles of snow hiding the path ways and streets!

Until then I will try my best to do my bit in this tribal city, if it means pilling on the layers and facing the blizzards to clear the snow from the pathway to my apartment then that’s that, no more hiding or moaning.

The people of Aomori/Northern Japan are truly an inspiration.

A path way made by the unfortunate front man brought us to the sea

 

Crossing the beach were we had summer BBQ's only a few months ago

We found the sea eating the snow

Chilling on the beach

Find the Panda man

 

Snow- It's a love/hate kinda thing

Sonomi-Cake

 

Powder Bed!

Snowmi and I

It's near impossible to get up once you fall into this fluff

Ikebana in January

Ikebana January 21st

Ikebana club at Nishi Koko is really a great club, I feel like I am part of a family when I join these classes. The teacher loves to chat enthusiastically to everyone, (unfortunately for me all in Japanese) but that doesn’t stop her talking away to me, which I appreciate and enjoy. She is a great character, the teachers and students seem to adore her quirky nature. She arrives, does a demonstration which we follow and then we spend the rest of the class fixing each other’s displays and talking about anything and everything. Having Ikebana after school on Friday’s is a wonderful end to my week, not to mention the beautiful flowers I can bring home to my apartment.

Student and Ikebana Sensei

Over the classes I have learned the basic formation of any arrangement is to follow the three quarters rule. You have a base flower which stands tall at the rear of your display, this is divided into three and you can place flowers/ leaves only at the 1/3 mark or 2/3 mark. The flowers and leaves should either fall to the right of this main stalk or face straight towards you, not to the left.

I normally try desperately to watch her every move and copy it exactly which ends with me doing it all wrong, this time I remembered the thirds rule and just went for it myself,  she was praising me all class on my beautiful display and wonderful improvement!

Flowers ready

Tulip, main base flower

 

Ikebana January 2011

 

Ikebana January 2011

Japanese New Years

New Years Party

Leaving Aomroi in 2010 and returning in 2011 meant January was New Years party time with Atsushi. We went to his favorite restaurant (same as Christmas party) and had a traditional Japanese New Years feast. It’s important to try eat absolutely nothing for the day before these meals otherwise you won’t survive past the first few rounds. It’s always very tricky for me to figure out what I am eating, the meaning of the food and what it is often gets lost in translation. I did some research this time though and have a little more knowledge than usual.

It’s traditional custom for Japanese people to eat O-sechi (traditional food for the New Year) and O-zoni (rice cake and fish based soup) during New Year’s, just as Western people enjoy eating turkey and ham at Christmas.

SECHI originally means celebration. It is a celebration of the New Year, and one of the five times a feast is mythically served to the gods.

To begin we were served a delicious pallet taster. Believed to be pumpkin at the time I have realized after some research that it was in fact sweet potato. It is called ‘Kuri kinton’ and is made of mashed sweet potato with sweet chestnuts, the version we were served was topped with steamed shrimp and caviar. ‘Kuri Kinton’ is one of the Japanese New Year’s food (osechi). Its golden yellow color symbolizes prosperity.

Kuri Kinton

 

Sushi is also a popular New Years food, even though it is popular all over Japan it can be very expensive so is considered a New Years dish. We had a sashimi plate with tuna, squid and salmon.

Sashimi

The second dish was seafood, I think it was sea bream we had, which represents auspicious fortune for the New Year. It also had Renkon (lotus root) served with it, renkon has holes in it, which we can see through and ahead  to the new year.

The yellow of the dish is Datemaki which looks like the tamago-yaki (egg custard) you often find in a bento box (Japanese lunch boxes), but here it’s made with a fish paste and has a sponge-like texture. It’s quite sweet to taste.

The gold flakes are a New Years tradition and should be eaten for good luck.

Seabream and Renkon

 

Datemaki (yellow sponge)

The Nimono – Simmered Dish
Each person is presented with a simmer pot and a plate of raw fish (or meat) and vegtables. Nimono usually includes gobo (burdock root), satoimo (taro), renkon, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and more. Sometimes also Takenoko (bamboo shoot) which represents growing quickly like a bamboo shoot.

You light your flame and wait until the pot is boiling. Add the extras into your simmering pot for taste (spring onions and carrot/ginger I think). You only need to dip the fish into the simmering pot for a few seconds, the vegetables take a little longer. This dip is followed by a dip into your sauce bowl, followed by your mouth. It tastes amazing. The flavor is sweet and almost citric but yet so delicate.

Nimono simmering pot

 

Raw ingredients for Nimono pot (Tuna Fish)

 

Fish in the kimono pot for only a few seconds, vegetables take a little longer

 

Extras for flavoring the simmering pot

Sauce bowl

Kimono Simmering Pot result

The next dish was KO-HAKU-KAMABOKO (red or pink and white fish cake) which represents the sucessfulness of the rising sun. This one was made of Ebi (prawn). The shape of a boiled prawn is the same as an elderly person, and this represents longevity.

Ko-Haku-Kamaboko

The Ko-Haku-Kamaboko was followed by Tempura. Tempura is not traditional a New Years food but more a winter one, so it was include in the menu for this reason. The tempura in Japan is so light and crunchy, it is very different to anything deep fried in Western countries.

Tempura

Tempura Sauce

 

In the old days, the difference between festive days and normal days were quite distinct. MOCHI (rice cake) was a food eaten only for celebrations, as was O-ZONI (rice cake and soup), one of the most important foods in Japan.

Mochi was a food mythically prepared for the gods, and communities often included it in soup. Thus, ozoni was created and each region makes it differently. Whether made with meat or fish based broth, and sweet or savoury, ozoni means good luck. The shape of mochi can be square or round. A round shape portrays a precious mirror from ancient times that has no sharp corners. Everything goes smooth like the rounded lines. If the mochi is square, enemies or bad luck can be beaten with its sharp corners. The former shape is common in Kansai (a region in the south central part of Japan), originating in Kyoto, the old capital of Japan. Usually, the soup is made with white miso.The latter shape is popular in the northern part of Japan, in the Kanto area. This is where the culture of the samurai warrior originated. The picture shows the Kanto area style of ozoni with clear soup.

I found Mochi incredibly heavy, its also difficult to chew because it is very compact and after eating the load of food before it was very difficult to eat this. It tastes delicious but I just found it hit my stomach just that bit too hard.

Kanto mochi beneath white miso soup

Strawberry’s and custard for dessert which are not known for New Years but I raved about the strawberrys so much at the Christmas dinner that they were requested for me!

Dessert

Washed down with Japanese Sake

Ice daggers

Facing Fears

I’ll admit I was a very nervous child. Something as simple as answering the telephone used to make me gag. No joke. Being asked to make a telephone call would make me choke, again I kid you not. As I grew older I became less scared of everything in life and instead just held distant memory’s of the ridiculous flusters I used to work up. Such terrifying flustered that I am surprised I haven’t had heart problems. There are still things I should not be scared of, like walking up my drive way at home, but I am and that will never go away. Since moving to Japan I have overcome fears that I thought as a child would haunt me for life. I never ever wanted to live alone. Never. Living solo was a crippling fear, I’d rather have lived on the streets with the bums than alone. Then before I knew it I’dvoluntarily signed myself up to my worst fear. My first few night living in Japan I was so exhausted I barely even noticed I was alone, then occasionally when I heard odd noises I would freak out. A mini pang of fear that quickly melted away because knowing whatever it was that made the noise I would have to deal with gave me some kind of courage.  Eventually the courage became me and the noises became distant. It helps that there cannot be anywhere safer than Japan in this world, can there? People return untouched full wallets to lost and found that have been left on the bus. They leave cars running, key in egnition, while doing their shopping in the local supermarket. Mad I know. I lock my door at night but many don’t bother. This is the kind of heavenly place for a nervous reck to rebuild themselves.

So here I am living in Japan growing my courage. I will always be nervous in some way, but everyone is. In the place of the telephone fears I have developed a new (just as bizarre fear) one of being murdered by Aomori’s ridiculously extreme sized crows, they are like large cats with beaks that could kill a horse. Seriously disturbing creatures. It doesn’t make me gag or choke though thank god. And now winter has come, with it comes roofs loaded full of snow ready to avalanche you to death, if the load dropping on you doesn’t finish you off then you would definitely be buried alive and freeze. Or you could just get stabbed by the massive ice daggers.

Ready for the kill

 

Waiting...

 

Would you walk under that?

 

Face the fear that haunts you the most and when the telephone rings, answer it.

Desperation For Warmth

Coming home after a day at work to see -7 on your thermometer, it makes you smile in an awkward terrified kind of way. This is the welcome as you stumble in the door after battling a hurricane snow blizzard on your way home. This place is dam crazy. I did not think people or any type of civilization could live in such conditions.  It snows all day, the wind is so cold and wild it would take the skin off your face. The worst has to be the eyes, the eyes get stabbed with shards of ice if you lift your head to look ahead for too long, but if you look down not only can you not see a thing about where you are going but the dam snow still whips into your face from every corner. I always thought the people of Aomori where a little crazy but in a fun loving way, to think that they endure this every year just blows me away.

So arriving home to minus 7 and needing at least 30minutes for the heater to kick in means you need need need an activity to keep you moving. Scrubbing the bathroom was one days activity but that needed a lot of energy so yesterday I made this bread. The cooker is a great way to get extra heat into the kitchen too! I strapped two hot water bottles to my body and headed to baking in my ski gear. By the time I was done I was verging on warm which made me smile in a non-awkward kind of way.

The Heart Warmer

Nutty Heart Warmer

Two little heart warmers

 

Very easy to make this little gem. I’m naming it ‘The Heart Warmer’

275g plain flour

125g wholemeal flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cream of tartar (couldn’t locate this at all)

90g crushed up nuts

1tblsp sunflower seeds (couldn’t find these either)

Sieve all these ingredients and mix together, then add in the following wet ingredients (pre-mixed also)

250g yoghurt

300ml milk

1 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Once it’s mixed into a running dough pour into a pre-greased tin, (a big one, I only had two small ones hence the two odd shaped loafs). Sprinkle with seeds. Pop into a pre-heated oven of 180 for one hour. The bread is ready when golden brown and the sides of the bread have shrunk away from the tin.

Serve hot from the oven and use the tin as a hand warmer if still desperate!

Christmas on the Green Isle

Home for Christmas to eat lots of raspberry jam and brown bread, play with sisters and friends, get hugs from auntys and uncles, kisses from mommy and daddy, cuddles with a fox. This blog is about my life and adventure in Japan not in Ireland so here are just a few photos of my favorite December days with the paddys.

Jessie, Jill and Ryan are three furrys I miss terribly, growing up surrounded by dogs means my appartment in Japan feels very empty and lonely at times without them.

The Fluffy's

On Christmas day myself, mama, pops, Aoife and our cousin Brendan headed up to Bray head for a walk, from here you can see all of Dublin bay stretching to Howth from one side and from another you can see Greystones and Arklow on a clear day. Was a beautiful morning.

Christmas day view of Wicklow

Christmaa day on Bray Head

Lunch in Avoca Kilmacanough with Mum, Aoife and Bernie with her mum Lilly and daughter Aimee.

Avoca December 28th

Christmas days were spent with family and cousins from all sides of the family. 

Christmas Eve Lunch with the Doyle's

 

From Left, myself and newly engaged cousin Louise, Christmas day breakfast with sisters Aoife, Ruth and cousins Brendan and Alyce

Eamonn and Ryan on a walk to Arklow

Christmas day breaky at home

Christmas Dinner 2010

Returning to Aomori

Poor Creatures

 

I went back to Ireland for a Christmas/ New Years holiday, returning on Sunday to find a new and unrecognizable Aomori. Three weeks ago I could have walked to school blind folded, today I couldn’t even find a path to guide me. When the snow falls in Northern Japan, it falls and falls and covers ever inch of your memory. The path I cycled in the summer and walked in the frosty ends of autumn has gone into deep hibernation, in its place are huge mountains of snow. I was so confused when I stood at the edge of my road unsure whether to climb the mountain or detour onto the narrow road. I did a bit of both desperetly looking for others to follow, which is a key feature to survival in Japan. While climbing the mountains you get a few options, one is you slip and land on your arse (bear in mind you are raised well above road level for all to view your fall) or you slip and your foot goes flying through a chunk of powder, before you know it one leg is buried and the other still perched above, you fall then of course due to major unbalancing. Then there is the option of taking one step and flying through the side of the pathway, your leg bound for the road or OR it flies straight down along with your second foot following its example. Then you snow wade. I’m not sure why but I found this hilarious, I was crying with laughter as I cautiously took each step having no idea which option would delight me. I was well equipped in snow gear so very much enjoyed my amusing walk to school but I don’t know how the old grannys hack it. At lunch I headed for the bank half delighted but secretly disappointed to see these adventurous path ways had been cleared, but the odd path mountain was left for me to explore. Aomori is a scarily snowy but equally exciting place to live!

Cleared adventure mountain 😦

Snow mountain mid clearance

Can you find the car?

There is infact a car beneath spotted by the wing mirror!

I rooted up some pics I took during the summer here are some before and after snow shots.

Summer

Winter

Summer

Winter

Summer lane up to appartment

Winter lane up to appartment