I gave up eating wheat about 10 months ago. It started as a lose weight or buy bigger clothes crisis. I eliminated alcohol, sugar, dairy, wheat and caffeine for a month. Now it’s not as drastic as it sounds because I am lactose intolerant so gave up dairy awhile back, although I had discovered I could eat high fat ice cream so that was very much part of my diet, I don’t have a coffee or tea habit and I really don’t drink alcohol that much. The sugar and the wheat were two huge things for me since I had multiple helpings of both in a day. What I discovered after a month was not only the weight loss (to be fair, I did go back to exercising after 8 years off) but that all the stomach things that I just took for granted disappeared. My stomach was just plain flatter and I had more energy. So ever since, I have stayed away as much as possible. I don’t do white or brown sugar, I am reasonable about it, if I go out and it is in my food, I will of course eat it. It just isn’t part of my regular diet anymore. So what to do about muffins and bread? I have discovered a spelt loaf which is pretty close to wheat bread, I can slice it and make sandwiches with it. You do get tired of eating the good but chewy 100% rye after awhile. I’m still in search of the perfect muffin recipe. I made a batch today, which were ok, I think some tweaking and it could be a whole lot better. I must say, the biggest fault lay with me, not the recipe because I over mixed. But it was a good excuse to practice with the camera so here is a photo.
Just had a lovely lunch with a friend I don’t see very often. It was a pleasure to cook for her and share a bit of time. There’s always loads to catch up on when you don’t see each other very much and I feel like we could have stayed gabbing for a lot longer. I actually took a photo of the lunch, it is attached below. Could have used a bit more time in the plating and arranging, but we were hungry. Menu for lunch; teriyaki chicken, spinach and mushrooms with a flavoured sesame dressing, miso soup and rice with added grains and seeds.
I’ve had my ipod on shuffle all day, it is nice to have music you don’t have to think about. Since it’s my music, I know I like it all and I enjoy the juxtaposition of Frank Sinatra followed by Foo Fighters followed by the Mikado. I didn’t leave the house today, a nice thing to do from time to time especially in weather like this.
Caught up with another old friend, this time by phone. A brief chat to reconnect for a bit then back to our busy lives.
We had an open house last night to show friends our new flat. Many people have been following the progress on Facebook so it was nice to show off the finished product. Nearly 50 people turned up to hang out and reconnect with each other or make new friends. We had a big party last June and some people had met each other then so there was some reacquainting going on. The food went off without a hitch thanks to my wonderful friend H who came early and did a beautiful job plating all the food. But do I have photographic evidence of this? Of course not! One of these days I swear I will take some photos of the food that I make. I wish I could have recorded all the nice things people said about it. The kids came and brought friends, it’s fun that they are old enough to be a part of our social life from time to time. Time flew by and we would love to do it again soon.
No party is complete without glass rentals and drinks from Majestic and this one was no different. If we can figure out a place to put it, it is tempting to just own all those champagne and wine glasses. Saves on the schlep the day after to return them. That’s what we did today, loaded up a car service with the rental glasses and unopened cases and took them back. Walked home afterwards and had pretty good luck dodging raindrops, when will this weather ever end? Spent the rest of the day digging out my kitchen in fits and spurts, working on this blog pretty erratically too, I think it’s a pretty typical Sunday after a party. It will take me a bit to recover, but maybe we’ll have another one early summer when we can open the windows.
Went to our favourite Chinese restaurant for dinner tonight, lucky enough to get one of the last tables. They were putting on entertainment for the new year so the place was jam packed. We went there a lot when we lived across the street so they take very good care of us. The food was excellent as usual and they gave us a bit of sweet bean soup for dessert. There was live music and a performer from a Chinese opera whose mask kept changing, how does he do that? It was festive and fun, always interesting to see another aspect of someone else’s culture. Afterwards, reality came in the form of good old TFL, waited 35 minutes for a bus that never came, ended up taking a taxi home. I want the taxi fare and 35 minutes of my life back.
A full week coming up, off to veg out for the remainder of the evening.
Well, you know from my last post that I hadn’t quite figured out how to feed all the people coming. I think I have it figured out now. First off, a very wise friend told me many people would probably drop by pre or post dinner so I wouldn’t need to provide dinner for all. So, I have come up with a menu and figured I will make so much of everything and when it runs out, we can run to the corner shop for crisps.
Right now, the menu will be marinated salmon, string beans in sesame sauce, tofu salad and gomoku sushi (a sushi that has various veggies and things mixed in, not made into any shape). I am off to the supermarket this morning so I can cook tomorrow. Since I’m gone all day, I need to make everything tomorrow. My wonderful friend H has offered to come around early and help out so I am very grateful.
It should be a fun evening and I am really looking forward to it. Now, off to the market.
I am sensing a theme here, this is the second posting where I note how quickly time flies by. We decided to throw together an open house, very last minute. We made a guest list and added people as we realized how many we had forgotten. So, I hadn’t really kept track of the numbers and this morning, when I finally added them all up, realized we have quite a few people coming. So I was meant to spend today working on how to publicize my classes but instead, I am trying to figure out how to feed the people who are coming. Oh and did I mention I am in a workshop from 10-5 that day? I’ll be lucky to make it home before the guests arrive. I’m sure I will figure something out, I still have the rest of this week.
On a different note, I tried marinating salmon in the miso marinade I had made weeks ago. It is a miso and garlic combination and it needs to sit for 2 weeks before you start marinating things. Once it is ready, you really can put anything in it including veggies. The salmon came out really well, I can’t wait to try other things. I was going to put a photo up but I didn’t really make dinner that night so the salmon kind of looked sad on a plate by itself. But I did bring it for lunch the next day with some rice and spinach. I should have taken a photo of that, oh well.
I volunteer at Dress for Success www.dressforsuccess.org/london and this is our 10 year anniversary since opening in London. To commemorate the occasion the Darlings hosted a reception for us at 11 Downing Street. It was lots of fun catching up with volunteers from other days. I go in once a week to help dress women for job interviews and so never see the volunteers from the other days. We all love what we do so there is a real camaraderie when we get together. It was fun to go behind the big gates and go past number 10 (we had a reception there in 2008) and into 11. I must admit I was very bad at meeting the VIPs who were there but did manage to meet Joi Gordon who started the charity in New York. I think we overstayed our welcome a bit since it was meant to be over at 8 but the last of us shuffled out closer to 9.
On an entirely different note, I worked out a schedule for my cooking classes yesterday. It will be a block of 5 weeks beginning 27 April. I will teach Tuesday and Thursday nights and it will be the same class so you have a choice of nights. I also figured in the beginning I will keep it simple. Also, one Saturday during the course, I would arrange an outing to Japan Centre so you will be able to navigate on your own for Japanese ingredients. Now I just need to figure out a way to post it somewhere so I can start spreading the word. Oh, and of course I need to price it. That may be the activity this weekend.
Today is the exam for my “Nutrition for Everyday Living” class that I have been taking for the last couple of months. It is given at the College of Naturopathic Medicine so the whole bent is organic, natural, evils of the food industry kind of thing. This suits me fine and so I was thinking, how long has it been since I became interested in organic food? I think we have been trying to eat organic since 1989 when my daughter was born and we joined the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn. I don’t remember it being a conscious decision but I guess I didn’t want to feed my baby pesticides. But I do think organic produce tastes better and with the various health related food restrictions I’ve had over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good about reading labels. But I am not fanatical about it at all, I buy it when I can but when I can’t I buy regular. The four years we lived in Japan we mostly bought non organic since it was hard to find organic produce and meat. If you are willing to live with a restricted selection, London is not bad. You do get tired of eating the same veg. Various people have suggested the organic food boxes they deliver to you but I am not a huge fan of surprise vegetables and prefer to buy what I need. My cooking is improvisational as it is, so it doesn’t need the added drama of mystery ingredients. And so I find myself studying for my first exam in probably 30 years if you don’t count driving or citizenship. I’m hoping unlike my other endeavours, I don’t forget all the information the second I leave the classroom but old habits die hard.
Here is the recipe for my kombu soy sauce which you will need to make the niku jaga from Sunday.
Kombu 30g cut into 2.5cm squares
Soy Sauce 2 cups
Sake 1 cup
Put a heavy pot over a low flame and gently dry saute the kombu. Let cool. Pour the other ingredients into a jar, add the kombu. Keeps in the fridge for 2 months.
That’s all there is to it. Couldn’t be easier.
Wish me luck tonight.
Both children came home for a whirlwind visit this weekend. I am also having guests for dinner tonight so I wanted to make something that would be fine sitting on the stove to feed children as they got hungry. So, I made a large pot of rice and a Niku jaga which literally means meat and potatoes. It is a dish that gets stewed on the stove top and the flavours improve with sitting around. The only hitch is, you need sukiyaki sliced beef. I happened to have some in the freezer from my last trip to Japan Centre, but my friend Nana says you can achieve the same effect by slightly freezing a steak and slicing it. I will have to give that a try the next time. I was also able to try out my home made kombu soy sauce which was a great shortcut to producing dashi (stock). The result is pretty good if I do say so myself. Here is the recipe.
sukiyaki sliced beef 300g
potatoes 3 large
onion 1 medium
carrot 1 small
mange tout (snow peas) handful
water 2.5 cups
kombu soy sauce 6 TBP
sugar 2 TBP
rapeseed oil 1.5 TBP
Slice the beef into 5cm pieces, set aside.
Peel and cut potatoes into good size chunks (6-8 for a large potato), put into a bowl of water.
Peel the onion, cut in half lengthwise and slice into 7-8mm pieces. Chop the carrot into small pieces (about half the size of the potato). Slice the mange tout in half on the diagonal. Drain the potatoes in a colander.
Put the rapeseed oil in a pan and saute the beef followed by the onion and carrot. Saute lightly and add water.
Separate the beef while cooking over high heat and remove the foam as it forms.
Add the potatoes cover with aluminum foil with hole in center and cook 12-15 minutes on medium low heat.
Remove the foil lid, add the kombu soy sauce and sugar and reduce cooking liquid by half.
When the potatoes are close to crumbling, add the mange tout, let it cook a bit and serve.
Here is what it looks like.
Today, is Setsubun in Japan. Now I only have memories of throwing soy beans so I thought I would do a little research and find out what it really means.
Good old Wiki to the rescue, here’s a little history. The word setsubun means separate the season. So it started as the day before the start of each new season. However, since the Edo period it has meant the day before the start of Spring (hard to believe looking out the window today). Because it was believed that bad spirits tended to appear when the season was changing, a tradition developed to chase them away. Around the time the ritual was adopted by the lower classes (circa 1447), toasted soy beans were thrown at people dressed as demons to ward off evil spirits in temples and shrines. People also put sea bream heads speared on a holly branch on their door at dusk on setsubun as a talisman.
Today, the tradition lives on in the form of symbolically throwing soy bean outside the house caling “Oni wa Soto” meaning demons, out and “Fuku wa Uchi” meaning fortune, in. I remember when I was little doing it at home but my mom wouldn’t let us throw many beans in the house because it was messy to clean up afterwards. My mom is a bit of a neat fanatic so my sister and I thought it was great that we deliberately got to throw things on the floor. Another tradition is you eat as many beans as your age plus one so that you stay healthy and have good fortune throughout the year. But when I was a little kid, roasted soy beans were not my idea of a good snack. But fortunately you don’t have to eat that many of them. We did the bean throwing at school too and one of the gym teachers always put a demon mask on and got pelted with roasted beans. If it is your year on the zodiac calendar, then you get to be the one that throws the beans. Every year the big shrines get celebrities and athletes who are aged multiples of 12 to come and throw the beans. There are lots of warding off evil kinds of traditions in Japan. Either they were very superstitious or lots of bad things happened. I hope there was lots of throwing beans in Japan today, the demons need to be beaten back.
Thank you to my friends who commented on my blog and asked me for recipes. Please let me know how it turns out, I would love to know.
On a totally different note, I went to a coffee morning today and met lots of really interesting women. It is really hard to meet new people and you tend to hang out with the same people all the time, not that it’s a bad thing but I find meeting new people really stimulating and I love hearing about how they got to London and sharing our stories. Our hostess is a wonderfully dynamic woman who draws people to her. It is her warm personality and hospitality skills that made the morning such a success. We all overstayed our welcome and sat well beyond the time originally scheduled.
My camera has returned from its holiday and is taking lovely photos. I hope to be able to make the blogs a bit more interesting with some photos in the future.
I can’t believe it’s February already and over a week since I posted anything. I am still waiting for my camera to return from it’s little holiday in Tunbridge Wells, hopefully it will be as good as new.
I’ve finally decided to start my classes in April. Right now, I am working on a structure but I am hoping to do two nights a week of quick one dish supper kind of classes 1.5-2 hours and a longer class on Saturday consisting of more dishes. I’ve made up some flavoured soy sauces which really add instant Japanese flavour to any dish. Here is the one I use all the time.
Bonito Flavoured Soy Sauce
2 cups light soy sauce
1 cup mirin
40g bonito flakes
Combine the light soy sauce and mirin in a saucepan. Let it come to the boil then add bonito flakes. When it returns to the boil, turn it off. Wait for the flakes to settle to the bottom, then strain into a jar. Keep in the fridge.
My favourite thing to do with it right now is to put it in my omelets. Don’t put cheese in it because that would be weird but any veggie meat combo will do. Bacon, mushrooms and onion with a dash of the soy sauce for flavouring and it becomes a great thing to eat with rice. Try it.