Mushroom Season

It's autumn! Which means mushrooms! Locals who know what they're doing can saunter into the forest and come back with sacks full of mushrooms if they want to, but we have to sit here and hope that someone will be kind enough to throw some our way. So far we've been very lucky! The old guy next door has offered to take Y. with him next time. People are highly secretive about their mushroom hunting spots, so we're quite excited. This particular mushroom is called Maitake (pronounced my-takeh) and seems to be the most common one. The -take part means mushroom, which is why it rhymes with Shiitake.

There are so many fantastic things to do with mushrooms, so it always adds an extra half hour on to the cooking time just trying to work out what to do. This time I ended up making pasta, and thought I'd post the recipe because I'm a big fan of Japanese style pasta. I wasn't quick thinking enough to take my own photo, so here's the photo that came with the recipe, from orangepage.net, a cooking magazine's website.

Maitake and Bacon Japanese Style Pasta

Ingredients (2 people)
160g spaghetti
100g maitake
80g bacon
1/4 bunch mizuna (rocket would be great though)
1/4 onion
1 clove of finely chopped garlic
2/3 tsp yuzu koshou (spicy citrus-y condiment, maybe chilli + lime would be good?)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp butter
1 tsp soy sauce

1. Cut up the mushroom, mizuna, onion and bacon the way you like them.
2. Get the pasta cooking. Halfway through take out half a cup of the water and reserve. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the packet instructions and drain.
3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. When you smell the garlicky smell, add the onion and bacon. When the onion has softened, add the mushroom, stir briefly, then mix in the butter, soy sauce and yuzu koshou.
4. Add the pasta water. Bring to the boil, then add the cooked spaghetti, mixing it all together.
5. Serve topped with mizuna (or rocket).

Yummy yummy yummy!


Fishies! And learning to cook them.

I've always been a bit terrified of cooking fish that can't just be treated like a steak, like tuna and salmon. Which something I have been lamenting for quite some time, what with the supermarkets here seeming to have lots in common with aquariums. As in there are lots of exciting and potentially delicious things from the sea. Not that that's how I think about the seals and dolphins swimming around too...hmmm...anyway, I think you know what I mean!

We were given some of these little guys the other day, their English name is Saury, Sanma in Japanese. A kind neighbour who just happened to drop by rescued me, and showed me how to cook them. Eternal gratitude is heading her way! You just: Score them on each side with a knife. Sprinkle them with salt. Wait 5 or 10 minutes. Put under the grill for about 10 minutes each side, and all done! Maybe even easier than a steak! I highly recommend it. Just watch out for the bones!


Wasp Hunting

I battled it out with this wasp in our kitchen two nights ago. I should admit however that it wasn't really a fair fight - I just trapped it under a glass bowl and waited for it to die! At first the wasp was way up on me, because in my haste I accidentally trapped in under the bowl with another little bowl of food. I didn't notice until the next day that the wasp was seeming to quite enjoy himself; apparently they like banana and sweet potato?! So I waited for it to turn the other way, snatched the food out, and then all I had to do was wait for victory. Only problem being that another one came back tonight! Y. just got out the can of insect spray and it's all over already. Anyway, I just wanted to post the photo, because when they're not trying to attack you, these wasps are kind of pretty. Or maybe that's up to personal taste?


Oh, but I liked you so much....

When we moved here a few months ago, every few days we were given lots and lots of warabi, which is type of edible fern. It's one of the wild foods that grows around the place here and is in season for most of June it would seem. Once we worked out how to cook it we were so excited, it tastes fantastic! It's a bit of an effort, you need to soak it with wood ash and warm water for 5 hours and then wash it thoroughly before you can cook it, but totally worth it....or so we thought....! But, shock, shock, horror, it turns out that you shouldn't eat very much of it because it causes cancer! Hmmm. Maybe not smoking cigerettes makes up the difference? This is the last lot of warabi we were given a few months ago a couple of hours into the preparation process.


Welcome to Me! And a baby animal.

I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while...so this is it! I've done it! Not really sure what I'm going to write about, but figured looking and cooking, though not necessarily in that order, should cover it for now. If my current cooking obsession doesn't last then I'll just have to think up something a little more cryptic for the cooking part.

This morning our neighbour came to our house with lots of veggies. Hooray! Wonderful guy. And told us that he'd just caught a badger, so if we want to see it we could go to his house. When we got there, we saw this little guy, very cute and very scared hanging out in this cage. From what I can gather Japanese badgers are a bit different from European ones. Anyway, they apparently wander down from the mountains at night time in family groups to raid the veggie gardens. The traps aren't big enough to get adults, so they usually only catch the babies. It was so cute, I really wanted to keep it! But our neighbour said the only thing that can be done is to kill it. I haven't been living here long enough to have much of an idea of the issues involved in all this. However I definitely do feel like it's a pity that my first encounter with one of the cute furry things living in the mountains that I stare at through the kitchen window while I'm washing the dishes everyday had to end like this. Here's to a better ongoing relationship with the mountain dwellers!