Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Something sweet

I realise I've been somewhat of a slacker on the recipe front lately. Not that I haven't been cooking, of course, it's just that everything seems to get eaten so quickly and I keep forgetting to have the camera on hand before I lay the plate on the table! I'm blaming the humidity, it seems to anaesthetise my brain cells...

Here's one I prepared earlier.

Girls, it's low fat!

Almond Sponge with Lemon Yogurt and Blueberries (serves 10, 200calories per slice)

4 large eggs
200g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g plain flour, sieved
50g ground almonds
500ml fat-free yogurt (ideally Greek, but I couldn't get any)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
zest of 1/2 a lemon
225g blueberries
15g toasted, flaked almonds (I forgot to use mine!)

Whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla for about 10 minutes, until pale and moussey. Gently fold in the flour and almonds, taking care not to knock the air out of the mix. Pour into a prepared and lined 20cm tin and bake at 180c for about 30 minutes. Turn the tin upside down on a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Beat together the yogurt, syrup and lemon zest. If you're using Greek yogurt it should be thicker and you can cut the cake in half and sandwich it together with some of the yogurt mixture (sprinkle some of the blueberries in the middle, too). If you're using normal yogurt, just spoon some over each slice as you serve it before topping with some berries.

Friday, 24 July 2009


... doesn't fly. It's exactly one year since I arrived in Japan. It seems a lot longer since I said goodbye to my family and friends, since I handed my cats and tortoises over to their new owners, since I gave up the keys to my home, since I prayed and sang with my church family, since I had a good curry, since I had a night out with the girls... I miss my old life. Oh, lighten up! K is happy, the boys are happy, it's not all bad! It's just one of those days, you know?

Anyway, we've had an eventful week. The boys are now on holiday for the summer, and things got off to a great start with the school camp (and it absolutely chucked it down the whole time they were there, with a tremendous thunder storm to boot) and then the solar eclipse on Wednesday morning! We headed to Kodomo no Kuni, a park on a plateau right next to Takamatsu airport. It was very cloudy so we didn't have any great expectations, but we thought we'd go anyway and enjoy the spooky darkness. As 11am approached, a huge thick black cloud moved over the grey spot where the sun was hiding, and then at exactly 11.02am the sun broke through and everybody clapped and cheered. The viewing box I'd made was a total waste of time, couldn't see a thing through it. But the clouds helped to disperse the brightness and we got some fabulous views:

The boys are being quite good about their 'holiday' routine, at least W is (J takes a lot more persuading). They are expected to gather for rajiotaiso (morning exercises) and 6.30am, but they'll only have to do that until the end of the month. Then they've each got a plan of how they are supposed to spend each day, with mornings being reserved for studying. They've got rather a mountain of homework to get through, and that, combined with the odd fun workshop and the school pool sessions, should prevent them from getting too bored. Yesterday they had a pottery class, learning how to make a money box. I only remembered about this class 10 minutes before it was due to start, so legged it out of the house just as I was (and bear in mind this was before 9am) and managed to get them there only 10 minutes late. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate to be late for anything, and that I can't bear to be unprepared. So we arrive at the venue thinking that I can just drop the boys off with an apology for our tardiness, but NO, mums/dads are expected to stay and help! So I attempted to sneak unnoticed(!) into the tatami room where there are perhaps 30 perfectly turned out mums... The lesson I have learned from this is that I must make sure that I brush my hair, slap on a bit of lipstick and make sure that I am wearing something half decent, including some of those little foot stocking things, before I even eat my breakfast, as sometimes it is easy to overlook the day's schedule when trying to ensure that my rabble are fed, dressed and not attempting to kill each other.

Finally, here's an 'only in Japan' treat for you:

It's a bottle of stout... for kids! It's non alcoholic, of course, but I was still kind of shocked. They've actually called it Kodomo no Biiru (Kid's Beer). And although it's really just a sweet, fizzy drink, it does have a slight beery taste to it... wow.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Going green

Not in the eco sense by, by any stretch of the imagination. For some reason I just particularly like green at the moment. So, what do you reckon this is then? A clue... this is Japan...

Um, no, not green tea. It is in fact...

Pepsi! The Japanese certainly love to surprise us with new flavours each season, last year it was cucumber (wasn't here to try that one) which I imagine would be very refreshing. This years it is shiso. None the wiser? Shiso is a leaf (perilla, same family as mint/basil apparently) often used in cooking here, shredded as a dressing or chopped and mixed with ume. It has a very distinct smell and flavour. Never would have thought it could end up as a Pepsi flavour... and despite it's rather radio-active looking flourescent colour, it is unexpectedly, rather delicious!

Speaking of cucumbers, we were given a whole bag of them by a farming neighbour the other day. Now, I don't exactly hate cucumber, but let's just say that there are plenty of other vegetables I would rather eat (except okra, I really do dislike okra), however I do have a penchant for pickles and read a recipe on Not Quite Nigella's website a couple of weeks ago that I was quite keen to try:

Ooooh, these are goooood... I have enough cucumbers sitting in the fridge to make another batch, these won't hang around for long, especially as I open the jar pretty much every time I open the fridge. Thanks NQN's mum for sharing the recipe with your fab daughter! And if you are wondering, they are an absolute doddle to make. Here's a link to the recipe:

I have no idea what a Lebanese cucumber is, but this worked perfectly well with the smaller-than-home fruit we get here!

Finally, here's a little something to make you smile. M LOVES noodles! It's just as well, given that we live in the heart of Udon Land. And she's definitely mastering the Japanese art of slurping. Keep an eye on that noodle, it disappears fast: