friends

There Is Something You Must Always Remember

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
― A.A. Milne
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“I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”
― Jon Katz
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“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
― A.A. Milne
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“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
― E.B. White
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“Our deepest wounds surround our greatest gifts.”
― Ken Page

An Unexpected Friend

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.” ―John Joseph Powell

I was introduced to Yasu unexpectedly. One day, after living in Japan for over a year, I came home to a box of chocolates on my doorstep. A letter was attached to it. It read:

“Ms Anisa

I am Yasuko from upstairs.

When I was tired from moving work, you gave me a dessert. That was very delicious and thank you so much for that. I wanted to always talk with you.
But I will move on April 30 to next village.
The new address is Nishiawakura village.
If you don’t mind, could you hang out with me sometime?
I am really bad at English, but I hope we could be good friends.”

The dessert she was referring to was actually a blueberry smoothie that I made for my neighbors after seeing them gardening on a hot day.

When I finally met Yasu and asked her why she hadn’t introduced herself earlier she said that she had been too shy/scared. Can you believe it? One year of loneliness, living below my now best-friend.

Alas, we have done much since the letter: smoothie-bowls, food outings, yoga-classes, dinners with her family and yesterday, pottery class followed by a home-cooked Japanese dinner and my black-rice pudding for dessert. On the latter, her father told her mother he absolutely didn’t like it. He said this in Japanese but I understood regardless (hehe) but, no matter. It must have been an unusual taste though black rice and coconut milk is readily consumed in Asia. Yasu’s father reminded me of the many times my own father has made inappropriate comments in Persian thinking no one (but us) can understand him when they (the non-persian speakers) can easily read his facial expressions or sense his intent! Oops hehe.
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Vegan Dinner With A Side Of Deer Meat

Vegan followers don’t be offended! And meat-enthusiasts don’t run away! (Or do-what are you doing here? I joke I joke). Last night I had the most delicious vegan dinner prepared by my dear sister and yoga sensei Akiko Tanabe. And after, I almost hit a deer. These animals are taking over.

Turmeric couscous
Eggplant and green-bean tomato medley
Cucumber tomato and mint quinoa salad
Carrot ribbon, walnut, raisin and soft-dried apple salad
Lettuce, dried figs, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds green salad

Mazel tov!

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Move Move Move

With all the dreadful earthquakes hitting Japan, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to MOVE NOW. I’ve come to realize that if we wait for the “right” time we will be waiting forever. There is no right time. There will always be a better time; when you’re in a better place, more financially stable, healthier, fitter, stronger, with a clearer state of mind etc etc and that is an endless chase. So wear your nice suit and your best skirt, tell your crush/partner/spouse and loved-ones just how much they mean to you or your colleagues, local baker and next-door neighbor, how much you appreciate them. Use your expensive crockery yourself, don’t save them for a special occasion. Today is the special occasion. And if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, do it. Life is short. So cliche or not, make the most of your life and move NOW. Though your move(s) doesn’t have to be huge nor melodramatic, it doesn’t have to be migrating to a new country or changing your career (though it can be). Movement can also happen in small steps. For each of us these are different. They can be baking a pie, a quiet walk in nature or building a chair. In the words of Miranda July, “don’t wait to be sure. Move, move, move.” To which I want to add: love love love and create create create.

Pictures from top to bottom: morning walks before work in my very rural and very pretty village, Mexican night at Kaori’s with brown rice and slow-cooked boar meat, Persian bento game on point with mayo-free Persian salad olivieh (recipe HERE) and last, a Kiwiana delivery by Anisa sensei for the other senseis.
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I Was Summoned To Make Dal

I’d swore I’d never do it. I’d swore I’d never post 10 pictures of the same damn thing from different angles like all of the other food bloggers but today is an exception. I was summoned to make Indian daal, dal, dahl or dhal, however you spell it. Here are the pictorials, followed by the cooking instructions. Oishikata (it was delicious).image[3]imageimage[2]image[1]image[4]image[5]image[6]

2 cups yellow split peas
1 cup orange lentils
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 cinnamon stick

(In a large pot, bring the above with 2-3 cups of water to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour or until soft and mushy – you will need to stir and top up the water every now and then)

1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 medium onion, chopped small
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped small
1/2 knob of ginger, chopped small
1 tbsp vegetarian indian curry paste (optional)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped small
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp sea salt
1 can coconut cream

In a frying pan, warm 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds, cover the pan and wait briefly until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Then add onion, garlic, ginger and curry paste. Fry until translucent. Add remaining ingredients: tomatoes, pepper, coriander powder and sea salt and cook for 10 minutes or so or until the flavours have melded.

Now add the lentil mixture to the onion/tomato mixture or vice versa and stir.

Turn the heat down and bit by bit add the coconut cream depending on your desired consistency. To state the obvious, the more coconut milk, the runnier the curry.

fresh coriander
2-3 tbsp coconut cream
squeeze of lemon

Serve topped with fresh coriander, a splash of coconut cream and a squeeze of lemon.

 

I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food

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Come on guys! Look at Emma’s face! There’s enough proof there to last the entirety of my chef life.

Tonight we broke the fast like a BOSS. I prepared a simple rocket and pepita salad, cannellini bean dip, curried couscous, falafel, an antipasto plate of chargrilled eggplant, marinated artichokes, blue-cheese stuffed green olives and sundried tomatoes, and last but not least, pesto gnocchi with buffalo mozzarella. Oh and nonalcoholic sangria made with grape juice, passion fruit juice, earl grey tea, cinnamon, blood orange and strawberries.

For dessert, Kaori brought ice-cream and we also had my bliss balls.
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Now they’ve gone home and again, it’s just me. Just me and my food baby.

Goodnight xx

An Israeli Dish To Make You Forget Hummus

Hummus who? That’s right. That’s how good my Israeli dinner (not hummus) was last night. Oh my, where to begin?

Hamin (pronounced with a strong KH so KHamin) or Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew. According to Lifa (Mr. Head Chef) it is usually simmered overnight Friday for about 12 hours, and eaten on Shabbat, the Religious holiday where Jewish laws prohibit cooking or turning on the light for that matter!

There are many variations of the dish but the basic ingredients are meat, potatoes, beans and barley. Sephardi-style hamin uses rice instead of beans and barley, and chicken instead of beef. A traditional Sephardi addition is whole eggs in the shell (huevos haminados), which turn brown overnight. Ashkenazi cholent often contains kishke (a sausage casing) or helzel (a chicken neck skin stuffed with a flour-based mixture). When I asked Lifa more about this casing and what it was stuffed with, he replied in his thick Hebrew accent, “I don’t know, mostly FAT and BREAD.” Ha! So I’m glad he couldn’t find it in Japan and opted for boiled eggs instead.

I loved listening to Lifa describe this dish. He very much reminded me of my father. Seeing as we were both hungry, his mouth was watering as he showed me pictures of the cooking process. One description stood out. That being his technique of placing the beans on the bottom of the pot as they are his least favourite ingredient, so if something is to burn, it will be them!

Come tasting time, the Hamin or Cholent was unbelievably delicious. Picture a marriage between a risotto and a stew. So damn delicious. Lifa had also included prunes and date syrup making it a flavoursome sweet and savoury concoction. The ultimate comfort food. I can’t wait for him to make it again. Here I should mention, Aki also made, as usual, an amazing green salad with figs and hemp seeds, cabbage soup and a tasty broccoli dish.

For dessert, we had entirely VEGAN, GF and SUGAR-FREE cupcakes which I made using Kaori’s recipe. Don’t we have the best foodie community here?! Recipe below.

150g soft tofu(it’s called KINU-TOFU in Japanese)
1/2 cup soy milk
3/4 cup maple syrup (or honey)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
nuts of choice (optional)

Mix the first lot of ingredients together in a blender then transfer to a large bowl.

Add remaining ingredients, mix well.

Pour into a greased cake tin or muffin tray and bake at 180C for 35-45 minutes.

Icing:
Flesh of one avocado
1 small banana
3 tbsp pure cocoa powder
2 tbsp raw maple syrup (or honey)

Blend all ingredients together and spread atop cake. Make sure blender is off before you start licking it! <3

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One Love One Heart

I have only ever fasted in two different environments. One, at home, with mum, dad and my sister where maman would always always prepare a feast of our most favorite Persian dishes: ghormesabzi, beef kebabs, salad olivieh and to finish, orange and saffron syrup cake. We would be gathered around the dinner table with my sister and I’s eyes glued on the wall clock’s face eagerly awaiting the sunset when suddenly, my dad would start chanting a really long prayer that always finished too late! I’d be so mad at him! Making me fast for an extra 5 minutes! Ha, can’t help but laugh at those times today.

And two, in Haifa, Israel where I volunteered at the Bahai World Center. There, 99% of the staff fasted, so as my family home, we all broke the fast, together, in a joyful and vibrant fashion. In Japan, where I live alone in a village with literally no one my age, things are different. I spent the first days of the fast eating dinner by myself which is fine and all and solidarity is important etc etc but compared to the previous years, it was less exciting come sunset. Though last night, Kaori invited me over for Indian! She said, she and her husband, Taka had traveled through the Middle East during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan so she knew how breaking a fast was often celebrated as a social and joyous occasion.

Both Emma and I (see below picture) patiently waited until the sun set with our eyes glued not on the clock but on the rice cooker and ended up eating too much food as always.

We ate 2 different kinds of vegan curry with purple rice, homemade papadum and coleslaw with raisins and cumin. For dessert, we had vegan, gluten and sugar-free chocolate cake. This cake was so freakishly delicious that I’m going to recreate it tonight to take to Akiko and Lifa’s place (Yes! Another family dinner). In other words, the recipe and pictures will feature Saturday.

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” -Gwendolyn Brooks

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We have to remember what’s important in life:

…friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work has to come third. -Leslie Knope

SUNDAY
BRUNCH
Perhaps two of the most delicious words in history and together, saliva inducing. Today, I made healthy waffles using THIS recipe and served them with home-made apple and raspberry compote and coconut oil and honey fried bananas, yoghurt, macadamia nuts and fresh strawberries.

So, speaking of friends and waffles and waffles and friends. My dear dear friend Lifa made this absolutely gorgeous piece of art, a one-off personal chopping board for me. Which, was gifted to me by his adorable son (my valentine) straight on arrival accompanied by the cutest”I love you” I’ve evereverEVER had the pleasure of hearing. TOO CUTE. This kid is driving me insane. Friends are everything. Wow, how incredibly lucky am I? Just look at it. So pretty! Made from local Hinoki Cypress, it’s light, smooth, warm and inviting! I look forward to using it again and again and again. Thank you, Lifa.

To see more of Lifa’s artistic creations, click HERE and while you’re at it, follow his Instagram, for all things wood (not that kinda wood), Japan, and KAWAII (Oz-kun – oh and of course, his beautiful wife, Akiko-san).
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compote:
3 apples, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cups raspberries
2 tbsp honey, maple or agave syrup (optional)
juice of one lemon
1 tsp cinnamon

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add apples, raspberries, honey and cinnamon, and ONE cup of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until thick. When nice and pulpy, stir in lemon juice. Can be eaten hot or cold.

fried nanas:
1 tbsp coconut oil
3-4 bananas, peeled and chopped, medium
1 tbsp honey

Melt coconut oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add bananas and honey and GENTLY stir-fry until nice and yummy 3-5 minutes.