French Cake: Gironde Tot-Fait

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The Gironde Estuary between Bordeaux and the Atlantic Ocean is famous for the following cake, a kind of French rum-flavoured short cake. This cake is best accompanied by wine jam or fresh grapes. Enjoy an old rum with it.
I dedicate this recipe Taste Memory GirlvTaste memory Girl who likes her cakes so much!
Ingredients (4 people or more):
Powdered sugar: 200g
Flour: 200g
Rum: 150cc
Eggs: 3~4
Vanilla extract ( or essence): 1 teaspoon
Milk: 3 tablespoons
Butter: 30g
Salt

Recipe:

Separate egg yolks from whites. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a big all-purpose bowl until it whitens. Add flour, vanilla & rum swiftly beating at same time. Add milk and mix well.
Preheat oven to 6 (180 degrees Celsius). Beat the whites with a pinch of salt until very firm and gently mix with above mixture.
Butter the inside of an oven dish (square if possible) and pour in mixture. Cook for 30 minutes. Serve lukewarm or cold.

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Apple Souffle

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Apples are everywhere on the markets these days, even that late in Autumn. This is a good time to try something different. And as I said before, souffles are not as complicated as they sound or look!
I’m sure that Lojol will enjoy it!

INGREDIENTS (4 people):
Apples: 1kg (green probably best)
Eggs: 6
Butter: 50g
Powder Sugar: 100g
5 Sponge Biscuits or the equivalent in Sponge (Short) Cake
Calvados (French Apple Brandy): 100cc

RECIPE:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Wash the apples and wipe them dry.
Take off stems, cut in four and cook as they are in a covered saucepan inside the oven for one hour.
Take out and sieve flesh of apples. Pour this compote into a fry-pan and cook on a small fire for 5 minutes to take out excess water.
Stop the fire and mix in the 6 egg yolks.
Beat the whites with 50g of powder sugar. Fold in the beaten whites delicately inside the cooled down compote with a spatula trying to achieve the lightest possible mixture.
Cut the sponge biscuits and imbibe them with the Calvados.
Butter and sugar the inside of a souffle dish.
Pour in half of the souffle mixture.
Then spread the calvados-imbibed biscuits and top with the rest of the souffle mixture.
Cook for 15 minutes at 200 degrees celsius.
Take out and eat at once!

Coq Au Vin/Chicken Burgundy Stew

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You’ve got a one-too-many bottle of red wine (it does not have to be Burgundy!), or “unwanted” present!
No worries! Here is a simple recipe to use it! As the alcohol will disappear during the cooking, everyone can enjoy it!

Ingredients (6 people):
Cockerel or chicken (cut in appropriate-sized pieces): 2kg
Butter: 40g
Lard: 100g
Onion: 1
Echalotes (highly flavoured small onions): 2
Carrot: 1 small one
Garlic: 3 cloves
Flour: 40g
Cognac ( or marc or brandy): 50cc
Tomato puree: 1 tablespoon
Red wine (the stronger, the better): 750cc
Bacon: 125g
White mushrooms (champignons de Paris, white agarics): 250g
Bouquet garni (fresh thyme+parsley+laurel)
Salt & pepper to taste

Recipe:

In a deep saucepan heat 40g of butter and the lard cut in pieces (if soft, just as it is). Cook the pieces of chicken until golden. Then add onion, echalotes, carrot, garlic (all finely cut). Sprinkle with flour. Mix well. Pour in the Cognac and flambe on high fire (light the alcohol). Then pour in the wine and one cup of water, and the tomato puree. Add salt and pepper and the bouquet garni. Pit lid on. Let simmer on small fire for 1 hour and thirty minutes to two hours depending on the chicken’s firmness.
Cut the bacon in pieces. Put them in cold water. Bring the water to boil for a few seconds and drain the bacon. Cut the bottom of the mushrooms stems. Clean and slice. Cook the bacon in a small saucepan on small fire for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms. Saute (fry) on high fire for five to eight minutes. Pour the lot in a deep serving dish. Keep warm.
Take the chicken pieces out of the saucepan. Put them on the bacon and mushrooms.
Sieve the sauce and reduce on high fire for a few minutes if necessary. To make the sauce thicker and richer add the chicken liver crushed. Pour the sauce onto the chicken. Sprinkle with freshly minced parsley and serve with plain boiled potatoes.

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Here is another variant: I served it with vol au vent filled with some finr ratatoulle!

Vegetarian French Cuisine: Roquefort Blue Cheese and Potato Gratin

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Here is a dish for friends with a big appetite and some of my friends who appreciate vegetarian food such as Allison!

Ingredients (for 2 to 4 people):
Potatoes: 5 medium to large
Butter: 50g
Flour: 30g
Milk: 100cc
Thick sour cream: 100g
Roquefort cheese: 40g (If not , use any other strong blue cheese)
Garlic: 2 cloves, chopped
Basil: a few leaves, chopped
Italian parsley: a few sprigs, chopped
Thin leeks: a couple stems, chopped
Salt: to taste
Pepper: to taste
Nutmeg: to taste

Recipe:

Peel potatoes, rinse and cook for 15 minutes in boiling salted water.
Drain and cut in thin slices.
Butter the inside of a shallow oven dish (25×3 cm).
Preheat oven to 200 Celsius degrees.
In a saucepan, on a small fire, melt butter and cook garlic and all herbs gently for a couple of minutes. Add flour and stir until mixture is smooth. Add milk first and mix well with a whisk, then add sour cream and mix again. Mix in salt and spices to taste. Switch off fire and mix in Roquefort cheese as smoothly as possible.

Place a first layer of potato slices evenly inside the oven dish. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper and nutmeg. Repeat operation until all potatoes are used up.
Pour cheese sauce evenly on top of potatoes and cook for 25 minutes. Serve at once.
This is also a good snack to accompany a strong beer or cider!

Lemon Cointreau Souffle

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Here is another kind of Souffle, sweet this time!
It is easier than it sounds! You might have to keep the kids off it, though (LOL)

Ingredients (for 4 people):
Almond powder: 50g
Sugar: 100g (+ 30g for coating inside of molds)
Flour: 50g
Milk: 250cc
Butter: 50g (+ 20g for coating inside of molds)
Cointreau (or orange liqueur)
Eggs: 4
Lemon (clean!): 1
Glazing sugar
Salt

Recipe:

Coat insides of molds of 4 small souffle molds with butter and then sugar.
Preheat the oven at 6 (180 degrees Celsius).
Grate the lemon skin and press out the juice. Put aside.
Separate egg yolks from whites.
In a saucepan, on a small fire, melt butter, mix on flour and cook, stirring gently all the time for 2 minutes, making sure the colour does not change.
Add milk and mix on a stronger fire until thick.
Take off fire. Add sugar, almond powder, grated lemon skin, lemon juice and Cointreau and the the egg yolks one by one and mix well.
Beat the whites with a pinch of salt until very firm. Fold the whites in the mixture delicately. Pour mixture inside molds up to their rims.
Cook for 20 minutes.
Take out of the oven, sprinkle with glazing sugar and serve at once.

Robert Yellin Mishima Yakimono Gallery Newsletter: The Power of Myth–Shimura Noriyuki’s Floating World…..Previews


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Greetings from Mishima,

As late autumn winds blow here in Japan, the world around has become a seductive and gorgeous world of color. A blessing to alive to see, enjoy and be part of. In these days of seasonal and mindful change I wanted to share an artist whose work matches the season, the season of color and the season of inward and outward change. His name is Shimura Noriyuki.

First though to quote Joseph Campbell, a man I never met, yet from whom I have been a humble student of in text:

We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.・

and

“The function of mythological symbols is to give you a sense of
“Aha! Yes. I know what it is, it’s myself.”

And these two quotes point to a connection between the power of symbols and art and how they affect who we are and how we live. I believe it’s important to be reminded of this each and every sacred day. Shimura creates his very unique art with these thoughts in mind, giving us everything from small dishes to figures that not only make one smile and ‘find the child within
again’, yet also are visual entities of what Campbell speaks of, the rapture and joy that *is* being alive here and now. Many of Shimura’s pieces are mythical beings and others are just pure fun.

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Shimura (b.1956) is an Izu, Shizuoka ceramic artist, yet this is his first Shizuoka–and worldwide–exhibit. He’s shown all over Japan–after having studied with late, great Seto glaze master Kato Sho. In the early years Shimura entered and was accepted at such prestigious exhibitions as Nitten, Asahi, Chunichi, Suntory Museum, Japan Ceramic Art exhibitions, yet decided to give up these places to show at smaller galleries throughout Japan; since 1996 that is what he’s done.

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His works are colorful, yet his use of color is very shibui, as you’ll see in the preview pages below. The exhibition will go online tomorrow, Thursday the 20th–and Shimura will be in the
gallery all day for those who might like to Skype and say hi.

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If not for yourself, then Shimura’s works are a great year-end gift. Additional photos of any works gladly sent upon request:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Enjoy; peace, health and happiness for the upcoming holiday seasons around our world.

And as always thank you very much.

Warm regards,

Robert Yellin
Robert Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Seafood Spaghetti Salad

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I often cook for my better (worse?) half on Friday Nights (sometimes) Sunday nights (often) as her job keeps her busy on weekends. As she is a pasta addict, I end up preparing some one every two meals. After a hard day’s work she is pretty happy with this recipe as it leaves me with plenty of improvisation according to the season and the market!

As for measures and proportions, I will leave it to your imagination, although a good observation of the picture should be a good enough guide for you! The plate pictured above was one serving.

Prepare or choose a dressing for the spaghetti. I usually use soft Dijon Mustard (with or without the seeds), Xeres vinegar, hazelnut oil (or walnut oil), salt, pepper and a few baies roses/dry pink peppercorns. Naturally, olive oil, wine vinegar, soft mustard, salt and pepper is fine, too.
Boil the spaghetti to the consistency you prefer, drain them and hold them under running cold water for 30 seconds, shaking them well to prevent them from cooking any longer.
Drain the water energically and stir in some dressing for taste and to prevent them from sticking to each other. Leave them in a all-purpose bowl.

At the top of the picture are slightly sauteed scallops with onion confit.
To make the onion confit (can be done the day before or a few hours in advance), peel and cut 2 large onions in thin slices. Discard the “foot” (bottom core) as it is indigestible. Fry them in a pot with 100g of white butter on a medium fire. When the onion slices have become soft and translucent, add a large tablespoon of honey, a cup of red wine, a tablespoon each of Xeres vinegar and Port wine. Season with salt and white pepper (thin powder if possible). Simmer until most of the liquid has reduced. Check and add more honey if not sweet enough. A little tomato puree might help,too. Let it cool and keep it away from any heat and light source (do not leave it in the fridge as it might congeal).
Sautee the scallops with a little salt and lemon juice on a small amount of olive oil. As soon as they have reached a very light brown colour, take them off the fire and let them rest on a grill to get rid of excess liquids.

At the bottom of the picture are small prawns.
Take off the shell, tail and heads (discard or use them for making broth).
Make a shallow incision all along the middle of their back. Pick off the innards.
Sautee them like the scallops with a little salt and lemon juice on a small amount of olive oil. As soon as they have changed colour, put them to rest with the scallops.

Keeping in mind you are making two servings, cut a tablespoon each of red, yellow and orange sweet pimentos in small cubes. Fry them in olive oil without any seasoning. When soft, drop them in all-purpose bowl. Do the same with a little assortment of scallops, small shrimps and cockles (can be easily bought frozen at large supermarkets), or whatever seafood you can put your hands on. Keep in mind they ought to be of all the same approximate size (that’s a lot of “keep in mind”, isn’t it?)

When all ingredients have cooled down to room temperature and this just before you are going to serve them, toss in some finely cut fresh tomatoes (if you add them too early they leave out too much water in contact with salt!) add the pimentos and seafood in the same bowl and mix in a reasonable amount of dressing. Take half out and mix it with the spaghetti.
Place the spaghetti in the middle.

Arrange scallops interspaced with some onion confit above the spaghetti as in the picture.
Arrange sauteed prawns below as in the picture.

Add a good quantity of “baby leaves” (young leaves mixture) of your choice with rest of the veg and seafood salad and arrange on both side of the spaghetti.

Of course this is open to any kind of variations. I just hope I stimulated you into your own recipes!

Bon appetit!

Cheese Souffle

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When you mention the word “Souffle”, the first reaction you get is: “Too difficult”. It is actually dead easy, and I can tell you that some restaurants make an enormous profit from them!
And it is great food for vegetarians, too!

Ingredients (4 people):
Eggs: 4
Flour: 50g
Butter: 50g
Milk: 300cc
Shredded cheese: 100g
Salt
White Pepper
Nutmeg
Thyme
Laurel

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Butter well the inside of a (possibly round) deep oven dish (about 18cm x 8cm). This will help the souffle rise and prevent it fom sticking.

Separate egg yolks from egg whites.
In a large bowl add a little salt to whites and beat until solid.

On a small fire, prepare a Bechamel sauce (white sauce):
Melt butter completely, pour in flour and mix well with spatula until smooth. Pour in milk and mix well (diffferent people have different techniques, but I found that the best technique is to mix half of the milk little by little first, then pour in the rest and use a whisker to make a smooth sauce). Add salt, pepper and spices. Keep stirring gently.

Once the sauce has thickened to the point of almost solid, take off the fire (or switch off the fire).
Mix in the egg yolks with a spatula until colour is even. Then do the same with the cheese little by little until mixture comes smooth off the spatula.

Check that the whites have not gone back to liquid (That happened to me quite a few times, so make sure to check! In such a case, just beat them again. They will go back to a satisfactory state quite fast.). Mix in half first as delicately as possible with a spatula (not a whisker, or you will break the air bubbles in the whites and the souffle will not rise!). Then do the same with the second half. Pour in the mixture in the dish and put in the oven to bake for 45 minutes (although that depends with every oven). To check whether the souffle is properly cooked, insert a thin wooden stick or knife deep into the souffle. It should come out smooth.

Before serving, make sure that everybody is at the table before serving. ” The guests wait for a Souffle, a Souffle does not wait for the guests!”

NOTES:1) This souffle can be cooked in individual dishes. In that case the cooking time shall be about 30~35 minutes.
2) Instead of cheese you could use tinned tuna (2 x cans), or fresh spinach (one bunch; boil it a couple of minutes in salted water first, then drain thouroughly, and mince it as thinly as possible), or crab (add a little brandy and mix beforehand), or thin short narrow strips of ham, or even ham & cheese. The variations are endless.

Today’s Lunch Box/ Bento (41)

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The Missus had my health in mind when she devised today’s bento!
The doctor having warned me on my rising blood pressure, she is cutting on salt. Which is perfect with me, as I do not favor over salty foods very much!

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Accordingly, I discovered many vegetables in the main dish:
celery (Shizuoka produces 50% of all celery in Japan!), endive/chickory leaves, carrot sticks, lettuce and olives. Some tartare mayonnaise was included.

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The minuscule tomatoes are called “Ameera Rubbins”. They are very sweet. Only two farmers in Iwata City, Western Shizuoka, produce them in the whole of Japan!

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The Missus had marinated the chicken legs all night long before deep-frying (actually shally-frying) them this morning. A piece of lemon was provided for extra seasoning.

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As for dessert she included persimmon wedges and mini-kiwi fruit (above pic) grown in Shizuoka Prefecture.

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The bread had been baked the night before and toasted this morning. It includes black olives, chopped mint leaves and processed cheese.

Now, to answer Barbara‘s question whether the Missus shared her bread recipes, unfortunately, my other half (Rowena might have a few things to say about that! But she also knows I had a hard time “stealing” the Missus’ fried chicken recipe!), like most Japanese wives, is very cagey and possessive about her recipes.
As a rule I’m not allowed inside the kitchen, except when I wash the dishes (sometimes) and when I cook for her!
As for bread, she uses a bread baker gadget (more than 200 US$) which does absolutely everything from fermenting to baking!
Now, I know that she used rye flour and wheat flour at a 1 to 9 ratio and always adds a lttle olive oil with the water.
Once the dough has been completely leavened, fermented, raised and kneaded, the gadget will “call her”. Only then, will she add things like cheese, herbs and so on!
And then the gadget will take over again!

Sushi Restaurant: Ekimae Matsuno Sushi (revisited)

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As the grotty weather last Sunday prevented any cricket to be played, I just went to do some “work” at my classroom. When lunch came, I decided it was about time I paid a visit to an old favourite sushi restaurant of mine, namely Ekimae Matsuno Sushi in fornt of Shizuoka City JR Station.
They do make a point to serve local fish whenever practical and last Sunday was no exception!

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The “snack” served with the sake (See below article) from Yoshiya Brewery in Shizuoka was “Seguro Iwashi”/”black back sardine”, a succulent fatty fish in season.

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The “sashimi no moriawase”/sashimi plate were all fish (as well as all other fish cited in this article) brought from Yaizu Harbour in Central Shizuoka Prefecture:
From left to right:
-“Akami”/tuna lean part
-“Yari Ika”/cuttle-fish (calamari)
-“Kawahagi to Kimo”/filefish cut in thin strips and mixed with its own liver. Sweet dipped in a mixture of three different miso paste rice vinegar!
-“Bora”/mullet. So fresh there was no need for soy sauce. Just a little “yuzu”/lime juice was perfect!

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The chef recommended a couple of seasonal morsels:
the first one, above, was “Tachiuo Aburi”/scabbard fish lightly grilled on one side. Just a little salt, wasabi and lime juice. The meat melts away between your teeth!

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The second one was “Houbo”/blue fin robin. Tender and sweet!

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As for dessert I asked for “Tamagoyaki”/Japanese omelette (not shown) and “Kanpyou Maki”/dry gourd shavings maki!

Here are my tastig notes for the sake:

Yoshiya Brewery (Shizuoka City): Chuumasa Junmai Ginjo
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Contents: 300ml
Bottled: April 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Transparent
Aroma: Dry, light and fruity: Pineapple, ricey
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail. Junmai tingle. Complex. Fruity: Pineapple, almonds, nuts, coffee beans.
Nice acid finish with bitter chocolate, coffee beans and banan.
Turns drier with food with a strong comeback by coffee beans and almonds, although it did surprise me with a sweetish finish at times.

Overall: A “Shizuoka Type” Sake.
Very elegant, pleasant and easy to drink.
Great with sushi and sashimi.
Strong character and many facets revealed all way through.

Ekimae Matsuno Sushi
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Oyuki Cho, 9-3 (just across from Shizuoka JR Station North Exit after Matsuzakaya Dept)
Tel.: 054-2510123
Business hours: 11:00~21:00
Closed on Wednesdays
Credit Cards OK
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

Local Food: green, healthy and social.

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By Patrick Harrington

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As this article appears more current by the day I decided to post it again for the attention of all my new friends at Foodbuzz!

From all the excellent articles in the Shizuoka Gourmet blog the one which had most impact on me was the shortest one, with a quirky title that hid a very serious issue: ‘Shimizu goes bananas’, in March 2007.

As we all know our use of the earth’s resources is exceeding the earth’s ability to sustain itself. It is calculated that we would need an earth almost twice the size to sustain our thirst for resources.

It may seem obvious but one way of significantly reducing our over-use of resources is by consuming local food.

We can massively reduce the amount of transportation. Can you imagine how far strawberries must travel to keep the supermarkets of Northern Europe stocked year-round?.
And we can also reduce or eliminate the the processing and packaging, not to mention the advertising. Plus there is reduction in the need for chemical preservatives and irradiation.
Growing local food also results in a tendency toward multiple cropping and better crop rotation. This can lead to reduced pesticide use, minimization of crop failure and better preservation of indigenous biodiversity.
In addition the by-products, eg manure and silage, may be used productively rather than be viewed as nuisance waste.
However multiple cropping requires multiple skills and a wide range of tools and machinery, but it utilizes human labour more efficiently as each crop will have a different cycle.
The green dimension of local food is something we can all probably agree upon.

Secondly there is also the health dimension. As mentioned above the amount of processing and the need for pesticides and chemicals can be reduced by using local food, but it is also thought that better nutrition also results.
Regional and seasonal conditions affect the compostion of plants and animals and consuming local food provides an optimal nutritional fit.
Having said this, science has been unable to prove nor disprove this idea, but anecdotal evidence abounds. A simple example is the consumption of oranges in Shizuoka in the winter months. The vitamin C from the oranges helps combat the increased risk of catching colds at this time of year. A more radical example would be the traditional Japanese diet of rice, fish and green tea, which surely provides a better nutritional fit for the people of Japan than a diet of burgers, french fries and cola.

Thirdly is the social dimension. Local food can help protect local jobs and shops, and increase food security. Support for local food may also result in the continuation (or re-discovery) of community structures and values. And local food often carries inherent traditional and cultural symbols for a community, something which is perhaps undervalued in today’s global society.
Though it may be counter-argued that international trade is a method of wealth redistribution, this is a highly complex issue, and evidence suggests that the wealth divide is actually widening rather than narrowing.

So the argument for local food appears to be a compelling one. But don’t get me wrong! I’m not advocating that we forsake all food from outside our local community. In fact it is ludicrous to imagine every region being self-sufficient in food. What would happen to Tokyo, or Finland, or Singapore?
And why shouldn’t Robert eat cheese, and why shouldn’t I eat bananas?

But cheese is now made in Fujinomiya, and bananas are now grown in Shimizu, which make them local (to Robert and me).

Admittedly there aren’t many places which can boast Shizuoka’s capability to produce such diverse foods, but I would urge a greater balance toward local food in the diet. There are significant green, healthy and social benefits to be gained. And local food tastes better too!

Vegan & Vegetarian Sushi

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(from top to bottom and left to right: Konnyaku/Devil’s Tongue Tuber, Celery marinated in Amazu/sweet vinegar and pickled Japanese plums, Shiro negi/White leek, Na no Hana/Rape Blossoms, Gobo/Burdock roots, Satsuma Imo/Sweet yams, Daikon/Long Japanese radish)

Whenever I can convince there is Japanese food fit for Vegans and Vegetarians (I’m neither!), I make a point of posting articles that might help friends with different culinary priorities!

There is vegan and vegetarian sushi in Japan and elsewhere!
As a proof have a good look at the picture and explanations above. The pic was taken at Iroha Sushi, a small but extremely renown sushi restaurant in Iwata City, an area celebrated for its vegetables!

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Kyoto is a renown place for Vegan & Vegetarian Sushi!
From right to left, top to bottom:, Yuuba (tofu sheets), Takenoko (Bamboo shoots), Myoga (myoga ginger), Zenmai (Spring vegetable variety), Ki no mi (Spring vegetables), Awafu (grilled tofu sheets), Kamo Nasu (kamo egg-plant), Hakusai Maki (Chinese cabbage).
Print a copy of this pic, show it to your local Sushi Restaurant and challenge him/her into preparing your favorite tidbits!

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From bottom to top: Takenoko (boiled bamboo shoots topped with a sprig of sansho/Japanese pepper plant)), Kabu Tsukemono (pickled turnip), Sugiku no Ha Maki (sugiku Chrysanthemum leaves)
And what about these? Not only tasty but fulfilling!

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“Kanpyou maki”/dry gourd shavings: here is one that any sushi restaurant will serve you!

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That small one is my personal favourite: “menegi”/thin leeks sprouts!

I promise I’ll keep searching!

To smoke or not to smoke!

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lojol

Patrick Harrington is a good friend of mine at Think Twice, a blog dedicated to his English students.
Like me he is a dedicated anti-smoker, although I’m only a repented non-smoker!
As we both live in Shizuoka City, Japan, we hope this will bring a little contribution to the betterment of life and gastronomy!

_To smoke or not to smoke_

It’s a battle of rights: the right to smoke against the right to a smoke-free environment.

In the past the right to smoke has been the undisputed winner.
However for a few decades smoking has been banned on public transport, such as airplanes, trains (except the Shinkansen!) and even buses, and this has spread to subway train systems and cinemas. But these bans were because of fire-risk, ie on safety rather than health grounds.
More recently legislation in Europe and North America has required a full or partial ban on smoking in many more public places, such as restaurants and bars. This has been on health grounds, and the pendulum continues to swing.

I must confess that I do not smoke and the new legislation has made an immense difference to my social life back home. No longer do I think twice about going out, no longer do I become disgusted when a stream of smoke envelops my head, and no longer do I worry about the laundry bill.
Most of all though I am content that I am not putting myself into a higher risk group of developing lung or throat cancer.
Incidentally there is some fledgling research which suggests two knock-on effects of this smoking ban.
Firstly, there has been an increase in traffic accidents as tipsy smokers spill onto the streets for a relaxing smoke.
And, secondly, it is predicted that there will be an increase in the incidence of cancer in children, since many smokers are choosing to enjoy their cigarettes in the comfort of their homes, and the rest you can guess.
Worrying as these may be, these effects remain unsubstantiated.

So how is the battle faring in Japan? As far as restaurants and bars are concerned the right to smoke is still certainly winning. Despite the fact that a few Tokyo wards and some city centres have been designated smoke-free, it is very rare to find a place to eat or drink where
smoking is prohibited.
Many establishments, particularly family restaurants, have separate smoking and non-smoking sections, but these are often two sections of the same room, even sharing the same air-conditioning system, so have limited effect.
Some places have separate rooms, often divided by a glass partition, and these work pretty well for the customers, but the staff still suffer.
And there are some places, especially in Tokyo and the major cities, that have prohibited smoking altogether, the Starbucks chain being one famous example.
But in a provincial city like Shizuoka such places are rare. My sister-in-law opened her own cafe a few years ago, and took the brave decision to go smoke-free. It has probably cost her some business, but it has surely preserved her health.

The tide has turned and the current movement toward smoking bans will inevitably come to Tokyo, and then to Yokohama and the provinces, but it is not a great vote-catcher at present. My personal estimate is that we won’t see a full ban for another generation or so, 2020 is my
guess.

Simple Recipes: Potato Pizza

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potato-pizza.jpg

Have you ever wondered how to make a pizza when you do not have the bread dough or the ready-made bread? Have you ever thought that for once you could bypass the bread and it its soggy appearance as soon as it has cooled down/

The solution is cheap, easy to prepare, tasty (I can hear the fried potato addicts lick their lips in anticipation…) and open to infinite variations!

Now, how do you prepare that?

For the pizza above, I used 3 large potatoes (enough for 4 persons). If you plan to make a very large one, say use 5 or 6 potatoes, but the it will become pretty thick. Better experiment first!

Peel the potatoes and shred them as thin as possible. Wash them under running water, drain them thoroughly and take as much moisture off in cloth or kitchen paper towel. Put them in a large bowl and add salt, pepper according to your need. I always add a generous amount of nutmeg. Mix well.
In a large non-stick frying pan of the size wanted for the pizza, pour two tablespoons of olive oil and heat sufficiently. Put all the potatoes in the frying pan and spread them evenly. Press the whole upper surface with a spoon, spatula or flat piece of metal to help potatoes to adhere quickly. Fry on middle fire until the potatoes have become translucent on the whole upper surface. Check how cooked the lower surface then. Wait until it has become a deep brown colour. Only then, should you be able to turn it over without breaking it. When both sides have cooked to a crispy dark brown colour slide onto an oven plate covered with baking paper. Let it cool a bit.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
As for the garnish, it is entirely up to your imagination!
Usually I first brush the “potato bread” with tomato ketchup or puree and Thai sweet chili sauce. Then I had bacon (raw or fried/skip them if you are vegetarian!), thin slices of onion or Belgian shallots, at least three types of thinly slices pimentoes and plenty of cheese.
As for the one in the picture above, I utilized left overs of that particular day:
bacon fried to a crisp, smoked salmon marinated in Thai sweet chili sauce, previously sauteed mushrooms and pimento slices, the whole with a generous helping of grated cheese, some seasoning and fresh herbs, including basil and Italian flat parsley.

Enjoy!

Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (40)


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bento-2008-11-14a

I do not usually publish The Missus’ bento on Friday when I have to take the train to University as they are very simple sandwich affairs.
But for once, she decided to bring some variety, which meant extra things to carry!

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Rice balls contained umeboshi/pickled Japanese plum and o-kaka/fine bonito shavings.

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The nigiri/rice balls were “wrapped” in two shiso/perilla leaves each, as nori/seaweed would get soggy before I could eat them. Very tasty and healthy!

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The “main dish” consisted of (from left): home-made pickles (not really visible, sorry!), fried sausages, plum tomatoes, “tamagoyaki”/Japanese omelette (she sweetend it honey on purpose) and wedges of “kaki”/persimmon for dessert.
I had a pack of vegetable juice to help it down.

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Now, Japanese trains everywhere in the world are not very clean places for obvious reasons.
The Missus, like most Japanese ladies is very cleanliness-conscious. She makes a point to ensure that I carry “wet tissues” with me all the time. I certainly cannot fault her for that as I did have to eat with my fingers!
These are very common in Japan, and I always carry a couple. I wonder if my European/Asian/African/American friends know or use them!