By the season

I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks because we have been traveling in Japan, where the seasons are noted and celebrated in daily life and the food people eat.

It was spring when we arrived in Japan and that means one thing, even to non-Japanese, it was cherry-blossom time (in Japanese, sakura).

Sakura, (cherry blossom) at the Kouzu Shrine, Osaka, Japan
Sakura, (cherry blossom) at the Kouzu Shrine, Osaka, Japan

On our first morning, following breakfast in a local coffee shop, we found that we were just across the road from the Kuromon Market. Oh for something of this quality in Canberra.

In the Kuromon market,  in just one of the seafood aisles, near Dotombori, Osaka.
In the local market, in the seafood aisles, near Dotombori, Osaka.

A morning walk down the stalls took us past tempting displays of seafood,

A large tuna was attracting plenty of browsers to this shop.
A large tuna was attracting plenty of browsers to this shop.

and other displays that we were rather less enthusiastic about.

Show some respect, the potentially deadly fugu fish.
Show some respect, the potentially deadly fugu fish.

This led us to the fruit and vegetable section of the market. It turned out that strawberries were in season. It is not unusual to see stalls in Japanese markets that have such large displays of a single item of produce in season.

A stall of strawberries. At the front are boxes of 'white' strawberries.
A stall of strawberries. At the front are boxes of ‘white’ strawberries.

The more expensive fruit was individually wrapped.

Individual strawberries. Asking price, roughly $A3 each! Not to mention the recently introduced, additional 8% sales tax
Individual strawberries. Asking price, roughly $A3 each!

To celebrate the spring season there were also stalls selling sakura mochi, a pink-tinted rice ball around a centre of red-bean paste and wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf.

Sakura mochi, riceball, Osaka.
Sakura mochi, riceball, Osaka.

They made for a tasty mid-morning snack while we travelled by train into the countryside, looking for cherry blossom as we went

Sakura seen from the train.
Sakura seen from the train.

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Cruisin’ the Cupboards

I was once in a class where we were challenged to go for a year making art without buying any art materials – as it was pointed out we are always complaining that we had no time to make art, but always had time to run to the art shop to buy materials. Similarly TB and I were considering why, given the bounty from the garden and what we have preserved and what is already in the cupboards why are we forever running to the shop to buy more food?

So we’ve decided to accept the challenge and cruise the cupboards for the month of August to explore what we can make with what we already have. Like my art mentor said you just have to get creative! We do not foresee running short of any major food group – we have a fair bit of Dexter the cow in the freezer, both Spaghetti and Trombone Squash aging gracefully in the shed and lots of greens and a few carrots in the garden beds. Then there is the box of lentils …. one and a half packets of red lentils, ‘french style’ lentils, mung beans, yellow split peas, blue peas, not to mention the pearl barley. Hopefully we’ll be more inspired by Barry Vera  or Greg Malouf  than by Neil from the Young Ones.

_40248987_neil2bbcok

To get us started on our way Bishlet put me on to a great Jill Dupleix recipe for Tuna and White Bean toast, here’s the recipe link, a great Saturday lunch, or any day lunch. We used our home bottled tuna and some tinned beans to make our batch. Obviously you might use a tin of tuna and some dried beans that have been soaked and cooked. It is all about being creative. Tonight we’ll be having curried soup – home made stock, garlic, some trombone squash and some cooked borlotti beans and some curry powder (come on when did you last open that tin of curry powder) all whizzed up in the blender. We think we’ll have enough wheat flour to make regular loaves of bread, but if we don’t there’s always besan, potato and rice flour lurking in another box at the back of the cupboard.

So here’s to the 100 metre diet! (apologies to Novella Carpenter for the metric conversion).

The tuna is on the inside

Putting aside such fancy notions as sashimi, most of us most readily associate tuna with cans. I don???t know why but it never really dawned on me, until watching a recent episode of Italian Food Safari?? when Pietro Demaio made Tonno sott’olio that you could preserve fish yourself. Demaio is the author of the equal most popular preserving book at Chez Fork, Preserving the Italian Way.

This week as TB was cruising Fishco Downunder at Belconnen Markets he spotted an Albacore tuna that looked just right for the job. This baby ??? it only weighed in at 8kgs ??? was enough for us to cope with and I must say was ridiculously low-priced at $7/kg. So for just over $50 we had a tuna that could barely fit inside our fridge.

Tunainfridge

I???ve also read Demaio???s recipe in the book and would strongly urge you to resist the temptation, as suggested, of buying a 50kg tuna for the recipe (unless you have a large truck, willing assistants, a trolley and walk-in freezer storage).

Tunamummy
Tuna

The process while messy is very straight forward. (The cat, fascinated by such a bounty of fish, remained glued to TB???s leg for the whole operation). Having de-headed the fish and removed its amazingly long pectoral fins (30cms or 12 inches in the old scale),

Tunahead

the body was cut up into 10 cm wide pieces.

Cuttuna

These were then brought to the boil in a brine of 120gms of salt per kilo of fish and then simmered for three hours. Do the cooking outside!

Having removed the fish from the cooking liquid it is left to cool overnight.

Tuboftuna

The next morning the skin, bones and blood are removed from the fish.

Tunapicking1

Tunapicking_2

The pieces are then put into sterilised jars and covered with olive oil or fresh water, with some bay leaves and peppercorns, depending on how you like your tuna. The jars are then placed in a large pot with water coming close to the top of the lids. This is then brought to the boil and the jars are simmered for half an hour. Please check that all the jars have sealed properly, as two of ours didn???t. These will need to be re-boiled. Leave the bottled tuna for a month before using.

Tunabottles

As for the remaining head and tail, the meat was cut off for ourselves

Tunasashimi

and some put aside for the cat (last seen waddling off to crash out next to the heater). The remaining bits were then boiled for stock. We???ve already used some of the stock to make miso soup with tuna and noodles.