How to cook Azuki beans and make Anko (sweet red bean paste)

 

No.198

 

This weekend it is Spring Higan(彼岸) in Japan. Higan is a Buddhist holiday and we have 2 Higans in a year, one in Spring and the other in the fall. It is always around Spring and Autumnal Equinox. People visit their family grave during Higan holiday. I spoke with my mother today and she said she was at our family grave yesterday.

We make a special sweets called “Botamochi” for Higan in spring. We make the same sweets for fall Higan too but then it changes its name to “Ohagi”.   I think it comes from this Japanese culture of appreciating seasonal things so highly, “Botamochi” is named after the spring flower “Botan” (Peony) and “Ohagi” is from the fall flower of “Hagi” (Lespedeza).  When the season changes, the flowers change, and the name of sweets changes accordingly.

 

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Today I made small Botamochi and served it in Dango style.

To make Botamochi you need to cook Azuki beans to make sweet Azuki bean paste called “Anko (あんこ)”. When cooking Azuki beans:
1. You do not soak Azuki beans in water before cooking
2. When you cook Azuki, you start with very high heat
3. When adding sugar, you add it in several separate times
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Rinse 250g Azuki beans gently in cold water. Put the beans in a pot and add 1 L cold water. Put on high heat and cook until it boils.

 

When it starts to boil, drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cold water, put them in a clean pot and cover them with 1 L of fresh cold water. Again put it on high heat. Azuki beans have a character that they absorb water and get cooked better when the temperature of the cooking water changes. It is a kind of temperature shock and the bean’s skin stretches and it cooks better.

 

After it has reached boiling temperature again reduce the heat to medium heat and simmer. Azuki beans cook well at a temperature just below boiling about 90℃. You can add a 1/4 cup of fresh cold water under cooking, we call it a “Bikkuri Mizu” (a surprise water) in Japanese, it is really to bring the cooking water’s temperature shockingly down to attain the good results when cooking Azuki beans. In this term, a pressure cooker cooks faster but I find it too high heat for Azuki beans and it is difficult to benefit from this shocking tricks in the sealed high pressure environment.

 

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When the beans are cooked and soft about after 30-40 min, discard 2/3 cooking water, add 200g sugar (I put sugar about 80% of the bean’s weight. You can add more sugar if you like really sweet one). Do not add the whole amount of sugar at once. If you do that sugar absorbs water in the beans and the beans get tough. Add sugar in 3-4 separate times.
If you discard all the cooking water and make paste, you get “Anko- red bean paste”.

 

Bon Appetite!
xxx Rie

 

 

Gobo, Burdock Root, Salsifis

No.197

We are lucky to have this vegetable in Norway, it is called Gobo (牛蒡)in Japanese and Storborre or Storborrerot in Norwegian. I think it is called Burdock Root in English and Salsifis in French. If I am making a mistake here, please let me know, I will correct it!!

I buy Gobo at Mega Coop in Bekkestua, this is my little shopping tips for you who live in Oslo 🙂 but I am sure there are other stores in town who sell it.  It is kind of a super mysterious vegetable for many Norwegian, they once told me that it is nothing but a weed and they could not think of it as a food they eat.

In Japan we eat Gobo all year around. It may not look so elegant,

 

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but it is a healthy vegetable!

The biggest difference between Japanese Gobo and the one I get here is the fragrance.
Japanese Gobo is a lot more fragrant and the skin part is much thinner. This is a root vegetable. When the soil and the climate is so different I think a lot of root vegetables are of its own charactor (except for carrot and onion).

I remove the skin part by scrubbing with a clean scourer. You can also use and scrape with the spine of your kitchen knife but be careful with the blade. Wash and clean it with water and you should cut it right away as it starts discoloration.

Prepare a big bowl of water and add 1/2 tea spoon of vinegar in it.
Whittle the Gobo and shave it like you sharpen a pencil

 

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and soak the shaves into the bowl. After 4-5 minutes, the water has turned its color to brownish, you can take Gobo shaves out of the water and pat dry.

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Heat a fry pan, add sesame oil and sautee with carrots and season.
– 200g Gobo
– 30g carrot
– Sugar 1 table spoon
– Mirin 1 table spoon
– Soy sauce 2 table spoons

Sprinkle some white sesame seeds before serving and here is a very typical Japanese dish called “Kinpira Gobo” 

It makes a good side dish in your bento as well.

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Bon Appetit!
xxx Rie

 

Cakes lately

No.196

 

Tuesday February 21, 2017

 

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I am baking many cakes lately.

The most recent cake is the one I baked yesterday for the cooking class. One of the participants has a birthday today and his wife sent him to my cooking class as her birthday gift. So sweet. So touching. And I was so grateful.

I baked a cake for him and we shared it after we sang a happy birthday song for him and he looked very surprised! 🙂

I love surprise birthday parties. 🙂
with good food and good friends.

 

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I would like to attend a cake/baking class in Paris to brush up my cake-baking and decoration skills this summer, the class is intended to teach semi-pros and experienced home bakers who enjoy making fancy cakes with elegant decorations for adult.  There are no such class in Oslo and I am not so far away from Paris. The class will be taught in french, of course…, and you know my french language level is not so high… but it will be fun if I can have the opportunity.

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Maybe my husband will send me to the class as his birthday gift?
I do have a birthday in summer!! 🙂

My cakes lately all had good fruits on top.
Specially I liked these Blood Oranges from Spain. Gosh, they are so good!

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There will be more photos of my cakes on this blog soon!

xxx Rie