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Sunday, December 19, 2010


 There's another new shop in Teramachi... (or maybe it's actually Sanjo)... and it's my idea of heaven (well, almost!) "Rotti Bun". It doesn't sound immediately appealing, does it? I'm not even sure it sounds edible. But the smell hooked me as I was walking past, and drew me into the shop. It smells like your mother is the best baker in the whole world, and she's been baking cookies and cakes just loaded up with love all day long. Seriously!

They had a selection of drinks (comparable in price and style to Starbucks) and a choice of three different buns - regular, vanilla, and chocolate. I ordered caramel macchiato and a regular rotti bun, and took a seat by the window. The coffee was just how I like it, and the *bun* ... was... !!!!!... even better than it smelt!

So what is a rotti bun? Well if you know what melon pan is you've got a starting point. A sort of cross between a sweet roll and sponge cake with a slightly crisp shell covering it (if it's any good at all.) And if you've ever eaten a freshly baked melon pan while it's still warm, well you're getting closer to a rotti bun. But its  better than that. And in the center it has just the right amount of sweet butter. Every mouthful was divine, right to the last, and it was so good I didn't rush up to the counter and buy another one, because it was unthinkable that I should sully such a perfect experience with greedy repetition.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010


Rhubarb in Boston.Image via Wikipedia
I mentioned rhubarb and tamarillos in my post about trifle, and someone asked me what they are...
Rhubarb is a leafy vegetable with thick fleshy stalks. The leaves would make you very sick if you ate them, but the stalks are delicious cut into 2cm lengths and cooked with some sugar (rhubarb is very sour.) People often combine it with apple for pies, or use it with breakfast cereal. It's really good with custard or crumble, and my mother makes rhubarb trifle, which I love. I've only ever seen canned rhubarb in Japan, but I've heard of people growing it here. It's very easy to grow.

Red and yellow tamarillos (tree tomatos). Pict...Image via WikipediaTamarillos (sometimes called tree tomatoes) are a fruit about the size and shape of a kiwi fruit, with smooth dark red skin. Inside is yellow flesh, and dark red seeds like large tomato seeds. A few hardy people eat them without sugar, but I can't, because they are both sour and a little bitter. But if you peel and slice them, then sprinkle lots of sugar over and let them sit a few hours (macerate?) they become wonderful.  You can also boil them with a tiny amount of water and a lot of sugar.

The flavor is very rich and strong. The only thing I can think of to compare them with is cassis, but the flavor is quite different. If you somehow get hold of some tamarillos, they are difficult to peel unless you pour boiling water over them, just like as you do for tomatoes.

Sadly I've never seen them in Japan.

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Layers of a trifle dessert.                 Image via WikipediaIn New Zealand you can't really have Christmas or New Year without trifle. And probably there are many different versions as there are cooks. Basically it's  three layers - a layer of broken chunks of sponge cake, a layer of thick custard and a layer of cream.

Many people pour jelly over the spongecake and let it set before they add the custard. Some people add fruit salad, fresh or canned. Some people sprinkle sherry or some other alcohol over the cake.

My mother used to make trifle with stewed rhubarb or tamarillos (sadly I hardly ever meet anyone who even knows what tamarillos are), and replace the custard with lime flavored instant pudding (That was an inspired combination!)

My favorite way to make trifle is very quick and simple. I smear raspberry jam (possibly thinned with sherry) over the chunks of sponge cake. Sometimes I add sliced banana. I think it's really important to have a nice creamy custard. And after adding the final layer of whipped cream, I decorate it with fruit, either strawberries or passion fruit pulp.

How can such an easy dessert be so incredible delicious?
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Sunday, December 12, 2010


Pavlova is a famous New Zealand dessert (whatever Australians may tell you.) The story goes that a chef created it in honour of famous ballerina Anna Pavlova when she toured New Zealand early last century.

Every New Zealand family has their pavlova specialist. In my family when I was a child, it was my Auntie Francey. At Christmas and New Year family gatherings, and whenever there was a celebration like a 21st birthday party, an engagement party or wedding anniversary, it was her responsibility to bake the pavlova.

Pavlova is a very festive and impressive dessert and many people believe it is difficult to make, but it's really very simple. Basically it is a large meringue, crunchy on the outside and marshmallow textured on the inside, topped with whipped cream and decorated with fruit, especially strawberries, kiwi fruit, or passion fruit pulp.

Usually pavlova is baked in an oven, but you can also make a version of this dessert in your microwave. Of course it doesn't have the lovely golden brown crunchy meringue. It's all marshmallow, still very delicious. And you can get the color (but not the crunch) by browning your microwave pavlova in an oven. If you'd like to try and make this, here's the recipe...

4 egg whites
pinch salt
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
 1 teaspoon vinegar

Beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they are stiff (I wouldn't attempt this without an electric beater!)
Add the sugar gradually, sprinkling it over the surface of the egg white while continuing to beat. When there is only a little sugar remaining, mix the cornflour with it, then add to mixture. It should be thick and white and glossy, and the sugar should be dissolved (you can check by rubbing a little of the mixture between your fingers.) Finally add the essence and vinegar and beat till they are mixed in.
Now pile the mixture onto a dinner plate, and cook in microwave for 2 minutes. Leave it to cool without opening the door. When you are ready to serve, spread with whipped cream and decorate with fruit.


Panettone is a fruity Italian loaf often eaten at Christmas time. I especially love Panettone toasted, and it makes the best French toast I've ever eaten! (French toast with Italian bread, made by a Kiwi in Japan - how's that for fusion cuisine?!) I make this recipe in my bread-maker, and it turns out very well.

3/4 cup warm water
6 tablespoons oil
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
3 cups bread flour
1 packet dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
1/4 chopped almonds (or walnuts)
1/4 raisins
1/4 lemon and orange candied peel
(you can add glace cherries and angelica too if you like)

Put everything in the bread-making machine and run the light crust setting.
(Of course you could make this by hand if you don't have a bread-making machine.
Just follow the instructions for any sweet bread recipe.)


My friends often give me interesting food to try. Recently my friend Junko gave me two plastic containers of food. She said they would be good with rice and beer. One of the containers had small fish she said her father had prepared (no idea what kind but I think they came from Lake Biwa.)  They were sauteed in soy sauce and sugar - kind of teriyaki style. I'm pretty sure the sauce was exactly the same as that used for the  large cooked grasshoppers a friend from Nagano once presented me with. The fish were indeed delicious with rice, but quite bony. I wonder if small fish bones are worse than crunchy legs...

The other container had sweet potato stems, which I had no idea you could eat! And they were really good, a little sweet, and slightly sour. I wonder if the Maori people in New Zealand ever eat sweet potato stems?
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