summer

Boys (and girls) and BBQ

At home, I eat mostly vegan/vegetarian. With my Japanese friends, I’m sorta obliged to eat meat because I don’t want to offend them when they have placed much care and time in either taking me to a favorite restaurant or preparing me a special dish. There, I suck it up like a big girl and wash it down with a kale smoothie, later. I’m serious. However; I don’t mind eating locally hunted deer. This is because, in the countryside, there are SO many of them and they often get themselves killed or kill people through severe road accidents. They just run everywhere. Venison is pretty lean and has very little fat to it. I enjoy the taste. Last night, the boys cooked the girls (Aki and I) a delicious BBQ and we loved it. I made a platter featuring hummus (recipe HERE) organic veggies, nuts, blue-cheese, olives, crackers, prosciutto wrapped bread-sticks and chia-seed corn-chips. My super talented friend, Lifa (the Israeli wood-worker) made his beautiful wife a gorgeous grocery box and for the our BBQ, a chimney coal starter.

For more of  his work check out his dope Instagram HEREimage
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Behind The Scenes

If you didn’t know, fruit is expensive in Japan. Like, 8-bucks-for-a-single-peach expensive. So, I may have spent my month’s grocery allowance already…And since I don’t get paid for this blog, unlike some other food-bloggers, I have had to alter my foodie-ventures. You might know (if you’re a regular follower) that I’ll be finishing up my contract in the Japanese countryside in less than 8 weeks… which means (note to self) I should be eating the things in my pantry instead of grocery shopping. So, I  raided my pantry and made  onigiri (rice balls). These specific ones are called sekihan 赤飯 which are usually white rice boiled together with red beans – though I used brown rice and too many beans (on purpose of course). They are a traditional Japanese dish and often served on special occasions throughout the year like birthdays, weddings and some holidays, such as Shichi-Go-San.

Further, I didn’t buy these flowers. I rode my bicycle at 5.30am, in the rain and picked these wild ones instead. There, I had the pleasure of receiving 3 vicious sand fly bites which have caused my ankles to become as large and round as my watermelon.
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Summer Eaaats

Early summer in Japan is brilliant because the weather is dry and the mornings and evenings, cool. It’s mid summer when things go to shit and the insects come out and the weather enters humid hell. Anyways, believe it or not, I have started eating less and lighter and feeling as radiant as summer itself.

From top to bottom: granola (ft. Wild Friends almond butter and ViBERi freeze-dried blackcurrants), BBQ (a common Japanese summer event always ft. fireworks), the vegan nacho salad I made to take to it (the BBQ – with chia-seed chips), more granola this time with passion-fruit (if only you could have shared my excitement when I found the thing in a Japanese supermarket!), wholewheat pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and blue cheese stuffed olives alongside mix seed crackers from The Breadman Organic Bakery all the way from Christchurch (NZ), a simple kidney bean, cougette, cucumber and chickpea salad dressed only in lemon juice with a side of my zucchini banana cake, pay-day treats, vegan black rice sushi and last but not least, today’s bento: asian-style salad of carrot, cucumber, capsicum (red and yellow), peanuts and black sesame seeds dressed with a little soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil next to a humble free-range boiled egg and two purely-decorative flowers which have no reason to be there.
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gelato experts of hashimoto farm

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A few weeks ago, as I was scrolling through pictures tagged with #gelato on instagram (as you do) I came across the most delicious looking (and probably tasting from the way it was looking) double scoop cone AND to my delight it was sold in Tottori which is only about 1 and half hours drive from my home in Ohara. Yesterday, my cousin (who was staying with me for a couple days) and me ventured to Hashimoto gelato farm – where there were no cows but definitely loads of gelato. Hashimoto gelateria is situated in a cute small cottage and served by an even more adorable elderly Japanese couple. Inside, directly above the gelato counter, a large frame proudly deems said husband and wife as successful graduates of Gelato University of Rome – what has life come to? Where is this University and WTH did I waste three years of my life studying a BA when I could have graduated from a life of gelato?! GELATO.

The labels were in Japanese leaving us to guess the gelato flavours which is harder than you think; when there are Japanese inspired flavours such as black soy bean (which looks like chocolate chip) and sour plum (which looks like strawberry). Nevertheless,  I chose Ferrero Rocher and white peach and my cousin copied by choosing Ferrero Rocher as well and grapefruit – which to his surprise tasted “just like grapefruit!”, well no shit sherlock. As we sat outside savouring every mouthful (the gelato was divine; not sickly sweet as some ice cream can be) overlooking the picturesque Japanese countryside, an elderly Japanese man (80s/90s) in a straw hat and denim overalls rode past on his bicycle.

japanese noodle water slide (nagashi somen)


Technically, I’m not allowed to post anything about my students or my work on social media – even though yesterday I posted a picture of cut watermelon (red and yellow – redandyellow redandyellow redandyellow) on my work desk, on Facebook. Woops. But I swear we work hard! I mean, it’s the bloody school holidays and we’re still here slaving away – Japanese style (work hard, play hard or just work hard).

Anyways, my recent staff lunch experience of nagashi somen, literally: “flowing noodle” or as I like to call it “noodle water slide” was too good not to share! So, if I get fired/deported for this, then so be it.

During the hothotheat of summer, the Japanese take playing with your food to a whole new level. Aquatic, to be exact.  Families split bamboo reeds in half and prop them up like slides in their backyards. A hose is placed at one end of the contraption and handfuls of cold boiled somen are dropped into the water. The host yells “Ikuyo!” and the noodles shoot forth. The aim of the game then, is to catch your dinner using chopsticks before it slides/flows away! Seriously, what the hell. Why eat noodles (stationary) out of pot or a bowl when you can slide them high-speed down bamboo? Japan, I love you.

If you already struggle with chopsticks then I recommend you watch from the sidewalk or do as my young colleague did, position yourself at the end of the slide (taking the place of the bowl/bucket which catches the uncaught noodles) and use your mouth to directly catch your dinner (and your weekly recommendation of H2O) caveman style -okay, now I’m definitely getting sacked.

We served our deliciously cool and refreshing somen with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, spring onions, ginger and sliced ham all topped with tsuyu, a rich condiment made of shoyu (soy sauce) and dashi (fish stock).

SO MUCH FUN

cold soba salad

Soba noodles offer a low-cal alternative to wheat pasta. A cup of cooked soba contains 113 calories whilst white spaghetti, on the other hand, contains 220 calories per cup, and the whole-wheat variety contain 174. So, if you eat pasta three times per week, switching from white pasta to soba noodles will save you over 16,692 calories annually, or the equivalent of  about 5 pounds of fat. True story.
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Soba is probably my favourite Japanese food of all time. It’s super healthy and versatile. This salad is so simple and so delicious you’ll be foolish not to try it!

half a packet of soba (cooked, rinsed and drained)
1 large red tomato (diced, small)
1 large yellow tomato (diced, small) -or alternatively, yellow capsicum. You see, presentation is just as important as taste!
1 cucumber (diced, small)
1 green capsicum (diced, small)
3/4 cup of raw peanuts
handful of fresh basil (chopped, small)
3/4 cup of cooked edamame beans
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper to taste

Cook soba as per packet instructions, let cool.

Dice and chop errythang then mix through soba.

Sprinkle with extra sesame seeds to finish.

Refrigerate before nomnom for extra yumness.

summer corn salad

Something really funny has happened to me. If you see my kitchen you’ll think I’m crazy. No, you’ll be convinced of it. This is because my fridge contains 12 cucumbers, 15 red tomatoes, 9 green capsicums and 14 eggplants. My shelves hold 3 cucumbers, 5 corns, 4 yellow tomatoes and 6 eggplants. My kitchen floor…I’ll save you the statistics.

So I’m pretty sure I’ve already mentioned that I live so rural even the frogs sing in dialect meaning every single soul within a 50k radius has a vegetable farm/garden. And get this, everyone grows the same things and everyone harvests at the same time. Another thing you should know is that Japanese people are super genenrous and gift-giving is a big part of their culture. Don’t get me wrong, there are few things I appreciate more than fresh organic vegetables but now I find my self on an ardorous mission to save my ample produce from spoilage. My dilemma being that it’s far too hot to cook (around 35/38 degrees) and also, cooking for one is depressing and lame. So, behold the salad series. 5 vegetables a gazillion ways.
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2 large sweet corns
2 tomatoes (diced, small)
1 cucumber (diced, small)
1 green capsicum (diced, small)
juice of 1/2 lime
salt
black pepper
a handful of fresh basil (chopped) or 1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cook the corn in salty water, let cool.
Remove kernels using this method.
Combine with remaining ingredients and mix.

tropical blueberry smoothie (vegan, sugar, gluten and dairy free)

I am just sitting here, in my apartment, sweating. Humidity is gross. HELP ME.
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To combat Japan’s intense heat, I’ve decided to surpass this summer by living on an entirely smoothie-bowl diet. Just kidding – not really. This one’s healthy as (just refer to title), delicious and real prudddy!

1 cup unsweetened light coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen tropical fruit
1 frozen banana

topping:
2 tbsp all-natural canned blueberries
1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut

Whizz together all smoothie ingredients in a blender until smooth – you may need to add a little extra milk…

To finish, decorate with blueberries and shredded coconut in an instagram-worthy fashion.

Enjoy mindfully, sitting down with a SPOON. This is because many smoothie drinks are packed with so much goodness and nutrition that they’re actual meals in themselves. So, treat them that way and avoid over eating. Also, using a spoon aids chewing and thus better digestion. In addition, sitting down and mindfully enjoying a smoothie bowl as a meal rather than sipping a smoothie drink on the go, keeps us feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer.