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Friday, October 29, 2010


Pumpkin cheesecake for Halloween!

Rub or cut 2 tablespoons cold butter into one and a quarter cups flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Mix to a stiff dough with half a cup of cold milk to which 1 teaspoon of vinegar has been added. Roll out to cover the bottom of a spring-form cake pan.
Blend one cup of cooked pumpkin, 2 eggs, one can of sweetened condensed milk, 100grams of cream cheese, and a pinch of nutmeg in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Pour into cake pan and bake at 180 degrees C for approximately one hour. Cool in pan, and chill in refrigerator before serving.
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Monday, October 25, 2010


Baby bitter melonImage by Kodamakitty via FlickrHave you read BFG by Roald Dahl? It's a children's book about a big friendly giant (BFG) who lives with a lot of horrible child-eating giants in a country where the only food that grows is a kind of vegetable called a snozzcumber. These vegetables taste so bitter and disgusting it's almost no wonder the bad giants would rather eat children.

Imagine my surprise when I found snozzcumbers in Japan!! They look like fat bumpy cucumbers. Here they are known as goya (in English I think they are usually called bitter melon.) And they are supposed to be extremely good for your health.  Anyway, there is a special Okinawan dish  called goya champiru which has sliced goya fried with rice, egg, and maybe tofu. I can eat anything, but I don't enjoy champiru at all.

One of my good friends often brings me vegetables from her parent's vegetable garden, and one day she brought me some goya. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away, but I didn't want to eat champiru again, so for a few days it sat in the refrigerator. Then one night I was making pizza, and I decided that cheese might offset the bitter flavor and make it palatable. I removed the seeds, which are the most bitter part, and sliced the goya very thinly, then spread it over the pizza. I figured I could pick the pieces out if they tasted really bad, but I didn't need to. My flavor instincts triumphed again!

I like snozzcumbers on pizza.
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Friday, October 22, 2010


There's absolutely no reason for me to still be in my pajamas at 1 pm... but I was blogging, you see, and you don't need to get dressed to do that. Then someone knocks at my door. I wasn't going to answer because I thought it might be Jehovah's Witness people again, but I change my mind, and slide open the window next to my door .

NOT Jehovah's Witnesses, but a good looking young man selling apples out of the back of a van. Red or yellow, sweet and delicious (he offers a piece of each kind to taste.) Only 500 yen for 1 kilogram.Good heavens! That's NZ$7.50! But that's what they cost at the supermarket (or more) and they look so good, and I want apples now! I just won't think about the price.

I find my money, put on some shoes and go out to the van. I buy a kilogram, two large red apples and two large yellow ones, hoping the smiling young man doesn't realize I'm still wearing my pajamas.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


My local supermarket has been out of frozen blueberries for ages, so I've been buying frozen strawberries to use with my breakfast rice instead. They're pretty good, but I prefer blueberries. Maybe it's been a bad season for blueberries.
Did you know that black pepper and balsamic vinegar are supposed to enhance the flavor of strawberries? I don't have any balsamic vinegar, but I have been sprinkling black pepper on my rice. I think it's definitely a better match than cinnamon.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Fast, easy, delicious, economical and popular with just about everyone, Japanese curry is 'comfort food'. The photo is of a block of curry roux, which looks a bit like yellow chocolate. In New Zealand most folks use curry powder to make curry. You are supposed to fry the curry powder with the onions and meat to bring out the best flavor. But in Japan you add the curry roux at the end of cooking, and it flavors and thickens the curry at the same time.
If you buy curry at a restaurant (there are lots of restaurants that just sell curry) you get served a plate half covered with white rice, and half covered with curry. You also get a spoon to eat it with, and that's because it's what New Zealanders would describe as curry flavored sauce. On a lucky day you might get three or four small cubes of beef with your sauce, and maybe even a piece or two of carrot and potato. I know that sounds pretty lame, but even so it's really delicious and satisfying.
However when I make curry at home I make it chunky, with lots of onion, potato, and carrot, and instead of beef cubes I use thinly sliced pork. I make a big pot and the flavor gets better and better as it sits in the fridge.
Once I went to a friend's house in Japan and was served the most  incredibly delicious curry I have ever had. We all pressed the cook for her secret. She told us it was because she used twleve onions!!!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Gimchi, a very common side dish in KoreaImage via WikipediaKimchi is a Korean food - pickled Asian cabbage (or sometimes other vegetables) flavored with chili and garlic. Koreans seem to eat it with almost every meal. I first encountered it back home in New Zealand when we had Korean home-stay students staying with us. I tried to make home-made kimchi, and while the result was fairly tasty, the smell was absolutely terrible every time I opened the refrigerator.

I sometimes buy kimchi in Japan. I love kimchi fried rice, and kimchi-cheese takoyaki (octopus dumplings) are the most delicious takoyaki I've ever had. Kimchi name is also very good. But recently I decided to experiment with  kimchi-cheese bread (using my bread-maker of course.)

I made a basic white bread dough, then when the breadmaker finished the second kneading cycle, removed the dough, and quickly rolled it out. Then I generously sprinkled it with grated cheese, and dotted it with kimchi (warmed in the microwave so that it wouldn't slow the final rising of the bread.) Finally I rolled it up again and pushed it back into my bread-maker to rise and bake.

It was delicious! Definitely a winner! I put the kimchi a little too thickly in some places, so the filling fell out when I sliced the bread. Next time I will roll the dough more thinly and spread slightly less kimchi.

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That means 'long time no see' in Japanese. I've been kind of busy because I had an exhibition of my artwork. It's all over now, but to commemorate the occasion I thought I'd post a picture of my Sakuramochi Print!

Granular red bean paste                              Image via Wikipedia
A lot of Western people don't enjoy traditional Japanese sweets, but I really like them. When I first came to Japan back in 2003, I ate more things with sweet red beans than chocolate.
One unusual traditional style sweet I really enjoy is sakura-mochi. It is often served with matcha (green tea) in Spring, but it is available throughout the year. A center of sweet red bean paste is covered with sticky pounded rice, then wrapped in a salty pickled cherry leaf. I have to admit, the first time I ate it I thought it was interesting, but wasn't sure whether I liked it. But now it is one of my favorites. I love the flavor contrast between sweet and salty when you first bite into it.