Wednesday 11 November 2009

The Simple Life

The art of living is a very simple thing. It is about recognising the beauty in our everyday lives, appreciating the miracle of it, and sharing it with those we love. Modern life and social pressures tend to inure us to the quiet, intimate beauty around us, but if we take a moment to catch our breath, there is joy to be had in even the simplest of things. The turning of the seasons, the light from the kitchen window, the fragrance of salmon baking in the oven.

Autumn is in full swing. The trees are shedding leaves in flurries of amber and gold, the days are shortening and the evenings are cold enough to need the wood stove. The rice harvest is done, and we have new rice from Mika's parents paddies, grown with pure spring water and no chemicals. We have picked the last of the capsicums and the first frost has withered the plants.

Yesterday our neighbour brought us a salmon which he caught in the Nakagawa river during the afternoon. The Salmon run up the river every autumn to spawn, searching for their own birth place to lay their eggs. Our neighbour is licenced to fish a limited number every year, and brings us a few over the period. We give them vessels from the kiln in return.

I decided to bake the fish whole in the wood stove for dinner last night, and as I opened the fish to clean it discovered two huge sacks of roe inside! I reserved these in a bowl while I finished dressing the fish and put it in the slow oven. I added nothing to the fish, allowing its own flavours to develop. It took an hour to cook, so while I waited I prepared the roe to marinade.

I followed Mika's recipe, pouring 70 degrees hot water into the bowl with the roe and separating the roe from the sacks. I then rinsed the roe several times in cold water before putting it into the fridge to chill. Once chilled I added a mixture of 6 tablespoons of Soy Sauce, 2 tablespoons of Sake and 2 tablespoons of Mirin, and then left it in the fridge overnight.

We ate the baked salmon with steamed vegetables and rice, but there was far too much for one meal, even with the 6 of us! I boned the remaining fish and put it with its own baking juices into a sealed vessel in the fridge.

Today we made steamed rice with a slice of "Kombu" (kelp), the fragrance of its cooking like the distant smell of the sea. When the rice was cooked I added a mixture of vinegar, sugar and salt to make sushi rice. For 3 cups of dry rice, I would add 4 tablespoons of vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 2 spare teaspoons of salt.

I made a series of stackable cylindrical bowls for the dinner and exhibition last month and use them today to make individual "Chirashi Zushi". Firstly I spread a serving of the sushi rice into the bottom of the bowl. Then I make a few thin omelettes and slice them into fine slivers and spread this on top of the rice. On top of this I sprinkle sliced red and green capsicum and avocado. I then flake the cold salmon from last night and add that to the top of the dish. Last of all I sprinkle the marinated roe and "Lo, a feast for the senses!"

The seasons come and the seasons go. This day, this moment, however, is ours to share now, and it will never come again. Oh, there will be other days to come with other joys, just as there have been times and seasons past that we have shared with others that we have loved. The ones gone remain in our hearts forever, along with hope for the ones to come, but there is no where I would rather be than right here, right now, with those I love, sharing the simple joy of this season.

These vessels are available for purchase on my Recent Works Blog


  1. Brilliant. The moment may have come and gone, but you did a great service to it by recording it here. The photos are beautiful as well. The chirashi zushi is quite a leftover! Thanks, as always for your considerate writing.

  2. beautiful post... everything looks and sounds so perfect. i was curious, after soaking in the fridge in soy sauce, sake, and mirin... that mixture is absorbed, discarded or served with?

  3. That sounds like a fine dinner, Euan. And the salmon eggs look and sound marvelous. Thanks for the recipe. Now, if we could only find the salmon eggs here on Cape Cod ...

  4. Beautifully written and poignant!