1月 January in Kanbayashi

The beginning of January was very mild, then the wind changed, the temperature dropped and the snow came. Japanese housing is not suited for the cold and life becomes a little more arduous. Yet, it is incredibly beautiful and finally it feels like winter.

Savoury Rice Porridge ‘Zousui’

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Zousui translates as a hodgepodge or medley soup. It is typically prepared after a nabe, a Japanese hotpot, which is simmered throughout the meal and continuously topped up with meat or fish and vegetables and cooked like a fondue at the table with everyone helping themselves. At the end of the evening a tasty stock remains to which you mix in rice, crack an egg on top, cover and cook until the egg has set.

In our house though, it also refers to a one-pot dish we often make for breakfast (or lunch) using left over miso soup and rice. It is incredibly quick and simple, and is very warming on a chilly winter morning.

My children and I prefer the consistency of a creamy risotto, whereas my husband likes his more soupy so adjust the liquid to rice ratio as you like. If you don’t have enough soup add some water and mix in some more miso or shoyu. I like to finely slice the konbu originally used to make the dashi for the miso soup and add that in, too. Japanese often discard it but it is full of magnesium so I also eat it or make tsukudani (konbu relish) from it.

Ingredients

  • Cooked miso soup (or you could use a sachet of instant miso if you don’t have leftovers to hand)
  • Cooked rice, hot or cold, enough to serve the number of people eating
  • 1-2 Eggs (obviously use more for large quantities!)

Optional extras

  • Cubes of tofu
  • Handful of green leaves (spinach, mizuna, kale etc)
  • Any cooked vegetables, pulse or grain

Toppings

  • Chopped spring onion
  • Sesame seeds
  • Slivers of ginger

Method

  • Heat the miso soup in a pan
  • Mix in the rice, if cold heat till piping hot.
  • Crack in 1-2 eggs. You can either swirl the egg around on top as above or mix in the eggs and cook until lightly set for a creamy zousui.
  • Add the green leaves to wilt, if using.

Serve hot topped with spring onion and sesame and or ginger. I also like natto on mine! Pickles on the side is also good.

 

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About Me and this Blog

いらっしゃいませ  Welcome

I`m Anna, and this blog is about food, photography and living in Japan…..

Japan

When I first came to Japan 20 years ago I knew absolutely nothing about Japan and didn’t speak a word of Japanese. As an English teacher on the JET programme I was placed in Akita-ken right up in the north of Honshu (the main island) in a rural area. I imagined living among rice fields, pagodas, temples and traditional wooden Japanese houses. Instead it was small town Japan, a ramshackle mix of new builds and run down old buildings, tangled electric wires, bright signs and neon but at least there were lots of rice fields.

Despite my initial disappointment, I loved my time in Akita and made many lifelong friends, and Japan kind of got under my skin. However, after the maximum 3 years as a JET I left to go travelling in Asia and Australia. A year later the cheapest ticket back to the UK was with Japan Airlines and as a stopover was permitted I decided to call in on my way home, travel a bit and catch up with friends. Along the way I met my now Japanese husband, and 3 kids later I am forever connected to Japan.

We lived for 15 years in the UK but an invitation to run a guesthouse in northern Kyoto gave us the impetus to move back – something we’d considered while our children are small. So we cleared our house, gave away or sold most of our belongings and stored the remainder in a 1 x 2 metre space in my mum’s garage and made the move to Japan.

Food

I decided to make my profession in food whilst in Japan. I looked at what I spent my time doing – cook and take photos – and thought it best to focus on something I liked. I was clearly better at cooking than photography. Whenever there was an opportunity I was cooking, catering for events, cooking classes for my students or the local grandmothers, pop up cake stalls… However I didn’t think I had the

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Making English shortbread

aptitude to become a professional cook. Back in London an introductory course to nutrition had me hooked and 3 courses and a degree later I became certified as a nutritional therapist, which I have combined with cooking and teaching about nutrition.

Here in Japan I run a small cookery school Anna’s Kitchen where I combine English conversation with baking, people here call it ‘Cookinglish’!

Photography

Japan is so photogenic; I loved capturing it when I can. And the food and presentation is something else, I am learning all the time.

Unless stated all photos are taken by me, either snapped on an iPhone or taken on a Nikon D5000 – which I confess I still don’t know how to use properly. I switch between auto, P, S, A and M function and see what comes up. Most photos are taken in snatched moments, ie 2 minutes before leaving for work as it is dark when I get home or at the weekends, and often have a child’s hand or other in the corner as they ‘help’ rearrange food shots.

All in all being back in Japan is proving an incredibly rich and amazing experience although not without its challenges. I am finding the time limit on this chapter of my life means I focus on the positive, and try to appreciate and enjoy as much as I can before it ends….

Finally, I was featured in the Financial Times column Expat Lives in summer 2015. To read the article please see:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/5a3eaf02-47f5-11e5-af2f-4d6e0e5eda22.html?siteedition=intl

Kando Journal and Kitchen

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Ayabe Yoshimizu

Kando Journal and Kitchen is a collection of memories, images and recipes from my time living in Kanbayashi in the mountains of north Kyoto prefecture, Japan.

I arrived with my 3 young children and Japanese husband in May 2014  after being invited to run Ayabe Yoshimizu guesthouse for a year as part of a regeneration project. We decided to stay on for another year and moved to a nearby kominka, (traditional Japanese house).

We will be leaving Japan in May, an end point has put a sharper focus on my day to day life and more than ever feel the need to document my time here. This blog is a space to record, remember and reflect on my experience.

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© Nao Ogino