Samstag, 30. November 2013

Advent wreath

Finished it just in time... what is left to do, is to bake the first christmas cookies...
Last week I looked around for a wreath but was quite annoyed about the costs. 12,50 Euros for a small wreath built on a ring of straw or styrofoam - are they serious???
 I decided to make my own using whatever evergreen shrub my garden is providing at this time of the year. So I went and cut some cypress, hollies, boxwood, mahonia and juniper. The center of the wreath is made of some wisteria wood which can be easily tied to a ring. I simply attached the other greens with thin gardening wire, layer by layer. I did not add much ornaments because I like the more natural look the most. I simply took some dried lantern flowers and hydrangea blossoms I used for an autumn decoration (which is now gone) and some small items. I think it is quite ok and it did not cost one cent. I just have to add the candles I am going to buy today.

Just some sort of spring roll

Yesterday I bought some so called "strudel" dough, the same as Filo dough. It comes in square thin sheets.
I prepared the filling using some ground meat, vegetables and mushrooms. This is quickly done, the only thing left to do is to wrap it up and bake for 20 minutes.
I was delighted to find a mushroom mix with different kinds of oyster mushrooms: bright yellow,  orange-brown and greyish. They also sell a new type of enoki: "golden enoki" and shimeii, besides the more "common" mushrooms as button mushrooms and shiitake. The product range is getting better and better these days...

I took:
6 sheets dough

  • 1 carrot, diced into small cubes
  • 1 smaller celery stalk, diced into small cubes
  • 1 onion, diced into small cubes
  • 250 g pork, ground meat
  • 200 g oyster mushrooms (different varieties), diced
  • 150 g white cabbage, diced
  • 1 knob (half my thumb size) ginger root, minced
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon arrow root starch
  • Sesame oil for frying and basting
  • sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • black pepper

I stir-fried meat and vegetables, mushrooms in a huge pan, and after the meat turned white and the cabbage soft, I added mirin and soy sauce and let is simmer for a few more minutes until the liquids were evaporated. I added the Hoisin sauce and chili paste, pepper and arrow root starch (stirred in a little water). Heated it up once and let it cool down a bit. I filled the rolls and basted the rolls with a little roasted sesame oil and sprinkled some sesame seeds. Baked the rolls at 200 C about 20 min (or until golden-brown and crunchy).

Prepare filling:
Wrap it up:
Put it into the oven:


Sonntag, 24. November 2013

Salmon and potato-pumpkin pancakes

Friday I bought a piece of a salmon half with the skin on and pickled it with brown sugar, coarse sea salt and some spices. I did not measure the pickling ingredients but I guess it was just 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon coarse salt, pinch grated yuzu peel, red and black coarse pepper .
The fish was then wrapped in clingfilm, placed in a dish, some weights went on top (2 cans of tomatoes) and I stored it in the fridge - flipped it over once at saturday night.
This is a method to pickle salmon the scandinavian way called graved lachs - burried salmon. In former times the salmon (rubbed with sugar and salt) was burried in soil to keep the fish fresh. No need to do this in the time of refridgerators, maybe the temperature is slightly too cold. The fish will not be as fermented as in former times.

Today I rinsed the fish, patted it dry with paper towel and sliced the fish into thicker slices (yes did it with the vegetable knife I bought in Tokyo)

I prepared potato-pumpkin pancakes to go with. Therefore I grated (into medium stripes):
  • 5 medium small potatoes 
  • round end of a smaller butternut squash (peeled, seeds scraped out)
and mixed in:
  • 1 egg, 
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped, 
  • 1 bunch parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • some pepper
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch

I chopped the spring onion and the parsley with the new vegetable knife, went very smooth..

I fried the pancakes in 3 batches in a pan in a good amount of oil:
I took 1 very heaped teaspoon of the mixture for one small pancake and pressed the mixture into a flat round shape. The oil should not be too hot to start with, medium high heat is recommended, because the pancakes should roast nicely and slowly to become crisp and not turn out roasted outside and raw inside. The potatoes will take some time.  After one side was roasted and the edges crisp I flipped the patties over and fried the other side.

I placed the fried pancakes on paper towels to reduce the fat content.

How to serve:
I placed some slices salmon on top of each pancake and added a small amount of horse radish cream (whipped cream mixed with grated horse radish)

Samstag, 23. November 2013

Crunchy sesame cookies

I bought some very small new cookie cutters in Tokyo at the Kappabashi dori, could not resist because there was a sakura shaped one included.


Now I had to bake some cookies. I decided on not too sweet sesame cookies. They are really tiny just a little bit bigger than a thumb nail:
Sesame cookies

For 2 baking sheets it took:

100 g butter (cold and firm)
160 g flour
70 g sugar (brown sugar)
1 small egg yolk
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons sesame paste
3 tablespoon black and white sesame seeds (toasted)

Mix salt, sugar and flour, cut butter into small cubes and rub the cold butter into the flour. Add seeds, egg yolk and sesame paste and quickly knead into a dough. Form a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let rest in the fridge for 1 hour. Roll half of the dough into a thin layer ( between clingfilm) and cut out the cookies. The dough has to be cold or it is too soft to deal with, store in fridge again whenever it feels to soft. Prepare the next batch.
Bake at 180 degree C about 12 minutes.

Sonntag, 17. November 2013

Day #13 in Tokyo

This is my last day in Tokyo. Today I went to Akihabara and Kanda.
At Akihabara I did what all did, looked at the new electronic devices as tablet PC and smartphones and bought me new headphones for my I - Phone. I strolled some streets, found some of these famous maidens catching some young  or not so young and stupid guys, did not find an intersting Manga store and went to see a shrine or two. On my way into the Kanda area / book quarter I found a very beautiful calendar for my office. Went back to Akihabara main station and visited a flea market near the JR tracks. Sadly they did not sell figurines of my favorite mangas. Lots of Otaku stuff but right now I don't have any space in my luggage left.
Jumped in the JR line to Ueno, searched for an opportunity for a snack at the mall but it was crowded, went back to Asakusa via Ginza line. And that is all. I will have a little walk in Asakusa and buy me some food around here. The train is running in the late afternoon.

Maiden in the waiting:
Yushima Seido - shrine under construction:
Kanda Myojin Shrine:

Samstag, 16. November 2013

Day #12 not in Tokyo

Where is it

It is at the sea.. splendid weather..
I have seen the weather report on my hometown: actually fog and 2 degrees Celsius. Today at the sea it was warm and pleasant about 19 degree Celsius. Hard to believe I will soon be home again. Must remeber to to wear a warm sweater on the flight back.

Today I jumped into the train and left Tokyo. Last chance to see old houses and shrines and temples to my heart's content.

Some 'mums

Cute little fellows

Old houses
And the sea 

Kamakura was very lovely, sadly I did not have time enough to take the hiking route from shrine to shrine. But I had a wonderful hot bun at one temple, filled with eggplant, mushrooms and I walked all of that beach and town.

Freitag, 15. November 2013

Day #11 in Tokyo

The weather is bad, lots of rain, so I decided to go into an area where I can spend most of my time inside. First I crossed the Nihonbashi and went into the Mitsui Memorial museum. There was an exibition on pottery: national treasured tea bowls and plates, incense burners. Very interesting, the most famous looked rather raw, simple and out of shape ( Oribe) but that is the art behind it. At the entry all visitors got a list with the names and numbers of the objects and with marks about their importance. So I was able to see the most expensive tea bowls of Japan. Needless to say I was the only foreign tourist.

After this I wanted to visit an antique market mall in Ginza. I searched the location by google maps but that lead me wrong. As much as I strolled around, I did not find it. It is in a street without name, just numbers. I tried the I-phone map but the map said there is no such adress. After 1 hour I gave up. I walked down the Ginza shopping streets and did some window shopping at Tiffany and such. I walked some underground malls because of the rain, the eateries where crowded and I was not inneed to buy some lingerie. At the end I found the Ginza line station and went back.

In Asakusa I went into a Pasta restaurant and had some spaghetti with a touch of autumn, means different kinds of japanese mushrooms in cream sauce with tomatoes and cheese. Very good. Tasted not really italian. At an small artisan bakery I bought a peace of soft white yeast cake with a green tea swirl and red pean paste swirl for my afternoon cup of tea. Very yummy too, not that sweet at all.

Donnerstag, 14. November 2013

Day #10 in Tokyo

This time I left the cosy quarters and went downtown. First I visited Tokyo main station and then went to the imperial palace.
Shiploads of chinese tourists... nothing much to see, the palace area and gardens are not open to the public. Yes I stood on the bridge..

Missed some modern buildings?

Somewhere there is an emperor hidden..

I walked along the water way around the palace area and walked, and walked on one side is the palace area on the other side is an express way. Not the nicest place to be, had a look at the national theatre. OK.  Finely I reached the war memorial shrine. Did not enter because there were huge crowds of japanese elder people and no tourists at all, just had a glimpse.
Behind I crossed a waterway and train tracks to the backside of Shinjuku, at least I think it is part of Shinjuku. I headed to Kagurazaka. Walking up the Kagurazaka there are many shops and eateries with reasonable prices. Went into a Kimono- Store to watch their goods and bought an hairpin. Bought iced double dripped coffee at a coffee house founded 1933 in Kobe ( whatever) the coffee was not to my liking but the place terrible crowded.
There was a reason why I wanted to visit Kagurazaka: in the small backstreets there are some old Geisha houses which survived the war and modern times, fantastic. I strolled around and decided next time I have to visit Kyoto.

Main street
The areas behind

I went down again and walked through the Kanda area until I found a metro station. Early supper: Japanese beef hamburga with demiglace, mixed autumn salad. They put slices of steamed potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and crumbled marrons, walnuts to the mixed leaves-carrot-radish, very good.

Mittwoch, 13. November 2013

Day #9 in Tokyo

Today I went to see 3 quarters: Sendagi, Yanaka, Nippori...
I walked quite a lot and need a short break right now.

Shortly after 9:30 AM I jumped into the Ginza line. At Ueno I passed the park entry, went behind the pond area und tugged along to Neza station. I took the metro to Sendagi station and left at the Dango slope to walk up the hill to the Kyu Yasuda Tei. The residence was build in 1918 in the old fashioned traditional japanese manner and is open for the public on wednesdays and saturdays. Entrance fee is 500 Yen.
You enter the house by crossing the stonefloored Genkan and leave your shoes and bags at the huge stepping stone behind. A very nice japanese lady (volunteer from the japanese national trust) guided me through the building. She told me the history of the house, about the owners - an old lady lived there until 1994 - her husband died and she could not pay the inheritance tax so had to move out and donored the house to the JNT. The house is wonderfully in shape. She must have cared a lot about it. Even all the tatamis were the original tatamis from 1918. All the Washi paper windows, sliding doors with their stenciled paintings, the wooden beams and frames, ceilings.. It was like a dream. Every room had it's special function I was told: room for waiting for reception, great guestroom, westerized parlor, family room, study, tea room to watch the garden. The kitchen and the bathroom with the cedar wood tub and the toilet were only a little bit westerized, all during the early 1920th. The Kitchen got a gas stove and the bath a shower - one of the first showers in Japan. The good condition of the wooden and bamboo ceilings and wooden floors were amazing. I asked how they clean the wood to keep it in such good shape and they lady told me they use dry cloth towels only, no oil or wax. She told me the house has to be aired out very carefully due to damp summers. We sat a long time in the second floor and watched the garden from out a huge sliding frame window and chatted. They all were very amazed to have a foreign visitor. Seems to be pretty rare for them. The garden is preserved in it's traditional japanese style too. It displays rock formations and a peeble stream running through nicely shaped trees and shrubs. The huge Weeping Sakura tree must look glorious during blossoming season. She showed me a picture.

After 2 h I left (spent some money for the trust) and walked into the Yanaka area which is just opposite, down the hill and up the hill. There are lots of smaller temples and cemeteries and a park to bee seen. Lovely smaller family homes with gated gardens and even persimmon trees can be watched from the quite streets. It is hardly to believe that this living quarter is located in a Megacity. Sadly all the small craftsmen stores were closed. There were Dip-Dyer and Sake brewer ( I guess) stores too.
The entry of the residence:

At the cemeteries you can catch a broom and a wooden water bucket to clean sweep the grave - at our cemeteries you will find legions of green plastic ewers.

Found a temple cat..

At the temple:
After the temple:

Leaving Yanaka I had tonkatsu at a small family restaurant in Nippori, 345 yen.

In Nippori I looked into different stores while strolling down the fabric road. I was tempted by second hand Kimono jackets for 800 yen, but what should I do with these at home.
And I went to Tomato - great collection of fabrics, so great I could not decide and left without buying anything. Some typical stores selling fabrics, buttons, yarn and such.

I have never seen such a small gasoline station, isn't it great the gasoline comes from the ceiling above, see them dangling..

In Nippori I jumped into the JR, went to Ueno, switched to the Ginza line. And that was all for today.

Dienstag, 12. November 2013

Day #8 Tokyo Part II

After strolling around the ponds in Ueno park ( I was tempted to rent a Swan boat but decided agains) I went back to the JR station.

Walking over the street-crossing at the station the Ameya Yokocho starts next to the train tracks.
Between the street market Ameya Yokocho and the Shinjuku/Ginza Underground shopping mile are lightyears.
Ameya Yokocho reeks, it is crowded and they sell everything from dried jellyfish to wellies, fruits, fish, mushrooms, mobile phones. The restaurant boothes are small, dark and shabby on the cheap side. The smoke of the grills and oil of frying pans painted them in a greasy black or brown. The street market may look the same since many years: A market for the working people far away from blingbling. I had Udon at the museum, so no need to try kebab or yakitori. The kebab dealer called me over: neesan, neesan try my kebab. Neesan told him that this is the most common street food in Germany called Doener...and I am not going to eat Doener in Tokyo, but thanks and have a nice day - he was a guy from turkey. So Doener found the way into the far outside. In the stores the meat and seafood was sold uncooled and the chicken parts were stored in plastic bags at the floor. Could have been any average street market scene in China too or an oriental bazaar. 

Day #8 in Tokyo

Todays program was Edo-Tokyo-Museum and market in Ueno.
The museum is not far away from Asakusa station so I decided to walk. It is located next to the Sumo arena and Kanto Earthquake memorial.
The exhibition area starts at the upper floors because inside of the museum is a huge hall, where you can walk over a wooden bridge ( Edo times) and watch Edo style homes. There are  daily life scenes too to look at and also exibithions as "how did a fire brigade work", Shoguns wife's kimonos, dresser and so on, Kabuki theatre, courtisan kimono and hairstyles, Tokyo after restauration, prewar and postwar scenes. All in all very interesting but there could have been more displays (because it was so interesting). I stayed around 3 hours and have seen all I guess.

Because I came back in the early afternoon, I had some coffee and looked after the train connection to Nippori, but there was an accident on the tracks and the trains were not running. I switched to the Ginza line to Ueno to have a look at the pond area of the park.