Azuki Kinako Shortbread Cookies

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Always having been quite the avid baker, ever since arriving in Japan I have been experimenting with new Japanese flavours and ingredients I either was unable to acquire back home or had never even heard of!

Not just baking but cooking also, over the past 6 months my skills in the kitchen have gone from cooking the most basic of curries to basically anything that might take my fancy if I have the means to google a recipe.

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Here is the recipe to whip up a batch of Azuki 小豆 Kinako 黄粉 Shortbread Cookies that I baked.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup kinako (roasted soybean flour)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
250 grams unsalted butter
250 grams azuki (sweet red beans)

Method
1. Beat butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes until fluffy with an electric mixer.
2. Fold flour, kinako, and salt into butter mixture, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. You don’t want to work the dough too much once the flour is added so use a wooden spoon.
3. Fold in azuki paste in a similar fashion.
3. Scoop mixture into a ziplock bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, using a rolling pin roll the dough into a half a cm thick rectangle. Once your done seal the bag, pressing out all the air and freeze for 30 minutes. You may keep the dough in this stage up to two days.
4. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open, discard the bag and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into small rectangles or use a cookie cutter like I did (mine were hearts). Transfer the cookies to a baking sheets and carefully prick each one four times with a fork.
6. Bake for 15 to 16 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. This recipe makes about 20 cookies.

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Note that if you live outside if Japan/Korea/China kinako and azuki may be hard to come by, but even these can be made from scratch.

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Here’s the finished product, half I dusted with additional kinako flour and the the others served with sweetened Kabocha 南瓜 (Pumpkin) paste.

Halloween Jack ‘o lantern drawings

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My Halloween lesson plan at my JHS had my students creating their own original Jack ‘o Lantern characters. A couple of my 3年生 (Year 9) girls were inspired by me in their character design XD

二十四節季 Nijushi Sekki

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This morning I was rudely awoken in the wee hours by whining winds. Grumpily I dragged myself out of bed and looked over to my calendar, glancing the date to be October 23.
A little note Soukou 霜降 sat in the box meaning ‘descent of frost’ thinking of the storm raging outside my window I chuckled to myself and though ‘yeah sounds about right’.

Unlike much of Asia the Gregorian calendar has been in use in Japan since 1873 when it superseded the Chinese lunisolar calendar which had been in place for almost 1200 years.

The Chinese calendar divided one solar year into twenty-four points signifying significant celestial events such as solstices, equinoxes and the beginning of the seasons or natural phenomenon. In Japanese these are referred to as Nijushi Sekki 二十四節季 and are still retain some importance in modern society.

The Nijushi Sekki or seasonal days are as follows:

Risshun (立春): February 4—Beginning of spring

Usui (雨水): February 18—Rain water

Keichitsu (啓蟄): March 5—Awakening of Insects (from hibernation)

Shunbun (春分): March 20—Vernal equinox, middle of spring

Seimei (清明): April 4—Clear and bright (skies)

Kokuu (穀雨): April 20—Grain rain

Rikka (立夏): May 5—Beginning of summer

Shōman (小満): May 21—Grain Fills

Bōshu (芒種): June 5—Grain in Ear

Geshi (夏至): June 21—Summer Solstice, middle of summer

Shōsho (小暑): July 7—Little Heat

Taisho (大暑): July 23—Great Heat

Risshū (立秋): August 7—Beginning of Autumn

Shosho (処暑): August 23—End of Heat

Hakuro (白露): September 7—Descent of White Dew

Shūbun (秋分): September 23—Autumnal Equinox, middle of Autumn

Kanro (寒露): October 8—Cold Dew

Sōkō (霜降): October 23—Descent of Frost

Rittō (立冬): November 7—Beginning of winter

Shōsetsu (小雪): November 22—Little Snow

Taisetsu (大雪): December 7—Great Snow

Tōji (冬至): December 22—Winter Solstice, middle of Winter

Shōkan (小寒): January 5— Little Cold

Daikan (大寒): January 20—Great Cold

Many zassetsu days occur in multiple seasons:

Setsubun (節分) prefers to the day before each season, or the eves of Risshun 立春 (Spring), Rikka 立夏(Summer), Risshuu 立秋 (Autumn), and Rittou 立冬 (Winter). However it is most commonly attributed the day before the first day of spring (risshun). Setsubun falls on the 3rd or the 4th of February on the calendar today.

Doyō (土用) refers to the 18 days before each season, especially the one before fall which is known as the hottest period of a year.

Higan (彼岸) is the seven middle days of spring and autumn, with Shunbun at the middle of the seven days for spring, Shūbun for fall.

Shanichi (社日) is the Tsuchinoe (戊?) day closest to Shunbun (middle of spring) or Shūbun (middle of fall), which can be as much as −5 to +4 days away from Shunbun/Shūbun.

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Nunobiki Herb Garden 布引ハーブ園 & Nunobiki Falls 布引の滝

20121016-午後031214.jpgA couple weeks ago towards the end of summer my good friend Matcha-san (a fellow Melbournian) and I spent a day exploring Nunobiki Herb Garden 布引ハーブ園 and the Nunobiki no Taki 布引の滝 (Nunobiki Falls) next door for a chill and relaxing Friday adventure. Situated a couple minutes walk from Shin-Kobe station (the stop the Shinkansen 新幹線 (Bullet Train) passes through) it’s insane that such beauty and wilderness exists literally on our doorstep here in Kobe.

The Nunobiki herb garden sits on the side of Mt Rokko, consisting of a large café and rest house at its peak, further down a sizable greenhouse and a long path lined with every herb imaginable. The easiest way to reach the peak by taking the Shin-Kōbe Ropeway 新神戸ロープウェー (colloquial known as the Kōbe Yume-Fūsen 神戸夢風船 (Kobe Dream Balloon)) a 1.5km cable car for a brisk 10 minute trip to the top of the mountain then walk the casual slopes down. In my opinion view of Kobe granted from the peak of the Herb Garden is far superior to that of Port Tower and I highly recommend a day up there. At 700¥ all the way up it was certainly not expensive also!

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The cable car entrance point.

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The view of Kobe on the way up was fair amazing.

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Matcha and I on the way up.

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Sample of steel cable that supports the cars.

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A model of the Herb Garden

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Sights along the walk back down.

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Here are a couple photos of the views from Nunobiki Herb Garden,

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After a relaxing morning casually strolling around the gardens we decided to head off to see the Nunobiki Waterfalls which is considered to be one of Japan’s one of the greatest divine falls alongside Kegon Falls and Nachi Falls.

Much to my amusement I forced Lady Matcha to go bushwacking (its an australian term) to the nearby waterfalls next door, a task she was not at all dressed to embark on!

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In the end it was totally all worth it as quite clearly Nunobiki Waterfalls are a little bit amazing ❤

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A couple funny little signs I spotted along the way.

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To add to the awesomeness of this place there is also a little traditional Japanese restaurant on the top of the mountain overlooking said waterfalls.
We ended up talking to the little old obaa- chan that runs the place for a good half hour! She’s meccha sweet!

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Here are some photos of the menu for the place which specializes in ramen, the item labled おすすめ (recommendation) is their specialty Nunobiki Ramen 布引ラメン (Thread-pulling Ramen) which I tried.

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After devouring this bowl whist looking out at an amazing view it too has become my おすすめ and at 500円 why not ^_^

Australian Cultural Festival Board

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With today being the eve of the Bunkasai 文化祭 (Cultural Festival) at my base JHS, I have been hard at work all week creating an Australian cultural booth, this is my sign to point visitors in the right direction tomorrow 😀

Did I really need to colour in the entire thing blue……

Well lets just say there are 2 ways to do things, the right way and the Tako way!

500¥ Coin Collection + Luffy

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I guess Luffy finally found One Piece!!!

Low and behold my 500¥ coin collection, every day since I arrived in Japan I have tried I save one, today is my 142nd day and I have accumulated as many ^_^

That’s about 7万 in yen or almost 1000$, not to shabby if i say so myself!

Rainy Day Licorice Pug Tea

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During the parentals visit to Japan last week Mother gifted me a huge pouch of my favorite licorice tea and bought me this amazing pug tea set on the streets of Gion!

After learning the true meaning of the phrase びしょびしょ (soaked through) during my bike ride on the way home from school, this amazing tea was the perfect remedy for my chattering teeth.

The Scary Door

You are entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location. The kind of place where there might be a monster, or some kind of weird mirror. These are just examples; it could also be something much better. Prepare to enter: The Scary Door.

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With Halloween approaching I decided to switch the front door of my apartment from ‘Pug Door’ to ‘(Spooky) Pug Door’. We don’t celebrate Halloween down under so I thought I might jump on the bandwagon now that I live in the orient, oh how I love Daiso (^ω^)

Insanely Sized Japanese Fruit

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Whilst shopping at my favorite local farmers market Megumi no Sato 恵みの郷 (meaning Blessed Village) last night I came across these insanely sized nashi 梨 (Japanese Pears).
The smaller ones pictured were already what I would consider large but the monsters were what really caught my attention.
These things were the size of rockmelons and at 650円 (about $8) a piece I presume they are meant to be shared.
And no they aren’t giant irradiated mutated fruit from Fukushima 福島県, infact they came from Kagoshima Prefecture 鹿児島県 in Kyushu.

Oh Japan you never cease to amaze and entertain me everywhere I look.

Daniels Australian Cookbook

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This Saturday is the Bunkasai 文化祭 (Cultural Festival) at my Chuugakko 中学校 (Junior Highschool) and returning from a week of leave I found myself being asked to plan an Australian culture table with in my free time over the next few days.

Here is today’s creation, Australian cookbooks!!! Featuring the recipes to make Anzac Biscuits, Lamingtons, Sausage Rolls, Australian Toffee and Fairy Bread!
I have printed enough to make 300booklets……… Sigh 50 down, a plethora of folding to go.

Sometimes I have deeply regret seemingly ‘amazing ideas’ without considering the work required to bring them to fruition….
(−_−;)

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