Thursday, 27 September 2007

A Taste of Autumn

Summer is gone. The mornings are cooler now, the leaves are turning colour and the chestnuts are ripe and falling from the trees. For thousands of years before the "Yamato" oriental race entered Japan the indigenous Jomon people grew chestnuts as their staple diet. Chestnut trees, both wild and cultivated, are spread throughout Japan, and we are blessed with both varieties in our garden.

It is also the time of the rice harvest, and Mikas' parents grow organic rice on the family property in Gunma. Each year they bring us the new rice fresh from the harvest. Mikas' sister also gave us some "Kuro Mai" wild rice, so today we will feast on the seasons gifts.

"KURI GOHAN" (Chestnut Rice)

450 grams of white rice

50 grams of "KuroMai"

200 grams of peeled chestnuts

600mls of japanese stock

3 spare teaspoons of salt

Wash the rice and let it stand for an hour. Put all ingredients into your rice cooker, press the button and viola! If you dont have a rice cooker, put all the ingredients into a lidded non stick saucepan, bring to the boil on a high flame, reduce the flame to very low for twenty minutes, then let it stand for five minutes before stirring gently so as not to mash the chestnuts.

One of the neighbours also brought us some home grown "Sato Imo" (Taro Potatoes). One of our favourite Japanese country meals is "Niku Jaga" (meat and potatoes) which is usually made with beef and ordinary potatoes. This is my original recipe!


600 grams of Taro potatoes

350 grams of sliced lamb

200 grams of sliced onion

3 tablespoons of honey

6 tablespoons of "Mirin" cooking sake

6 tablespoons of soy sauce

200 grams of "Shirataki" yam noodles

750 mls of water

Put all ingredients into a pressure cooker, seal and cook on a high flame till the valve starts to hiss. Reduce to a low flame for ten minutes. Allow to cool naturally till the valve drops, then serve immediately with a garnish of "Sansho"(Japanese Native Pepper).

Sansho grows wild in the woods here, so I took a stroll up the hill and picked a few fronds. It is best to hold the fronds in your cupped hand and clap once as hard as you can. This bursts the fragrance cells without damaging the leaves, making the aroma fill the air! It was the perfect meal for a Mashiko wood firing in autumn.

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