Japanese Kuri-gohan, Chestnut rice

The festive season is approaching, and we started to see Christmas girts and decorations everywhere.

We start early in Britain. Because we do not have Thanksgiving, after the Halloween, we go straight to getting ready for Christmas.
It is lovely to see all those Christmassy things.

Supermarkets’ products become more interesting, too, but what I like the most is not a hamper baskets or a large tin of chocolates.

It is chestnuts.

I really look forward to this season for chestnuts.
I like them cooked in any way. Traditionally in Japan, we boil chestnuts, cut in half and scoop the inside with a tea spoon. In old days, we did not have an oven in our households, let alone a fire place, so that boiling was the easiest cooking method.

We also cook “Kurigohan”.
Chestnuts are called kuri in Japanese.Japanese home cooking is all about cooking with what’s in season and this is one of my favorite. Kurigohan is steamed rice with chestnuts and is a popular Japanese autumn dish.

Ingredients; serves 4
400cc short-grain Sushi Rice
20 chestnuts
2tbsp Sake
2tbsp Mirin sweet rice wine if you have
1 tsp Salt
10cm dried kombu sheet
420dcc water

Wash the rice and soak in water for 30 minutes, then drain.
Soak the chestnuts in boiling water for 15 minutes to make them easier to peel.

I have this fantastic tool; chestnuts shell peeler which my husband brought from Japan.

But I do not expect anyone to have this in Britain. You would be using a knife.
Make a cut in the bottom of each chestnut, then peel off the shell carefully.

Soak the chestnuts again in hot water. It is easier to peel when they are warm.

Then, you peel the inner skin. This time, I have to use a knife, too.


I wish I could say this is easy peasy, but I would be lying if I said so. It isn’t. It is a time consuming hard work, and I need to keep encouraging myself. End result is yummy, and I will get rewarded with smiles.

Good news is the hard work ends here.

Put the rice, water, sake, and salt in a heavy bottom pot and lightly mix all together. Then place chestnuts on top. I use a rice cooker. You can cook following manufacturer’s instruction.

Bring the rice to a boil over medium heat. Once water is boiling, turn the heat to low and cook covered for 12 to 13 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed. If you see there is still water left, continue cooking for a little longer.

Remove from the heat, and leave for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with toasted sesami seeds if you wish, then serve.


Ever thought of cooking chestnuts in savory dishes like this? You can peel chestnuts and cook them with vegetables and meats, too.

I make this dish only once a year. My hands ache after peeling 20 chestnuts. But I know there is no Japanese restaurants in London serves Kuri-gohan (simply too much work!) and I want to please my family who loves it.


Update on my amusement park


Hearing what happened in Paris last weekend has put us in a great shock and sadness. We have been taking it for granted to be living in peace. This incident made us realize how fortunate we are to live in a country which provide us safety, equality and human rights.

Recently, I was talking to my son about visiting museums in Paris this winter. I wanted to see the carousel, too, which has inspired me to create the knitted carousel.

I know we will be able to do this soon.

The knitted carousel did well in the Craftsy Awards, and I also received kind messages from many people. Thank you so much!

I have added more rides for my amusement park. Tea cups and kart ride as in a previous post, and I have a few more.

Here is the latest addtion: the parachute ride.


I have never been on one of those and I guess this is a fast falling, thrilling ride. My little friends seem very relaxed in it, so let us think this one moves very slowly.


I guess this can be a baby mobile if you take it off from the wooden pole. I wanted to make more animals but the problem is, knitted and stuffed animals can be a little too heavy for a mobile. I didn’t want to make it over crowded either.

I have my favorite elephant, giraffe and bear with my little baby boy.



I wish we could all live in harmony like this.

On the Remembrance Day

Last Sunday, we celebrated the Remembrance Day in the UK.

Every year, when I see people wearing Poppy flower pins, I wonder why we don’t do something like this in Japan. We do have ceremony on 15th of August for “shusen kinenbi”, literally the end of the war anniversary, but we do not get involved enough. May be because we lost the War? It seems that people want to forget about it and get over with it as quick as possible. And I have an impression that the ceremony is to morn the war victims who died inland and praying for peace and not much about soldiers who served the country during the War.

Recently, one of my sons became interested in our family history and asked if he could see some old photos circa 1945.
“Did anyone go to the War?”

Yes, my grandfather, your great-grandfather.

I asked my father to dig out some photos, and he found some which I had have never seen before.

This is my grand father.


My older son looks a bit like him.
He was sent to China for 8 years. He had a very rough journey coming back, getting robbed in the train and all. It took him over a year to get back to Japan. When he finally returned, all he had was a backpack and an empty lunch box.

Here is another photo.


This was taken on the day my father’s uncle was leaving to attend the War. The little boy in the centre is my father.

As the war continued, all healthy male were drafted into the army. You would receive “aka gami” meaning red letter.

Red letter” refers to the draft notices received by men during the war. These were hand delivered by army soldier or special delivery men. It was considered a great honor to receive a call to service by the Imperial Army, and families would celebrate out in the open, but, understandably, many recipients and their loved ones secretly dreaded the arrival of such notices.

Some of those who drafted were as young as my son or even younger.

The lady in the first row of this photo is the mother and she is about to see her third son off. No wonder she looks so sad.

My father was introduced to his father a few years later from this day. I remember my grandfather as a gentle man, always very kind to me and my brother, but he never developed bonding with my father.

My son seemed touched and quietly excited to find out about his ancestors. We will look for more photos next time we visit my parents. My mother was born and grew up in Hiroshima and surely, she has a lot of stories to tell.
Each family has a history, and I would like to keep the record for my sons and the generations afterwards.


Book promotion and more

My book publisher, Search Press is running a promotion of my third book, Mini Knitted Toys.

Mini Knitted Toys_COVER.jpg2
This book contains so many patterns. Originally, we started with 96 pages format as the previous books, but we struggled to fit the all projects we liked and added some more pages to the book. It is a real bargain.

To enter the competition, please go to this link, and simply “like” and “share*. I am sure they will dispatch to any destinations if you are selected to one of the winners.

Some more updates.

In the next Issue of Knit Now magazine, you will receive a calendar full of my knitting toy projects. I have an advance copy that the editor kindly sent me.


It is a handy A-5 size and each month, you get a project with pattern.
The calendar has girly, pastel coloured look, and it even comes with stickers! It is made with fine quality paper and quite sturdy. It can stand on your desk.


I think some photos are a little too bright, but the editors must worked very hard to create this calendar. It isn’t too easy to fit all patterns in such small spaces.

You may recognize some of the projects, but I have added new ones, too. I hope you will enjoy it.

And one more thing.

I entered the Craftsy Award just before their closing date. I wish I had have found out about it a little earlier, but I gave it a go anyway. And I am one of the finalist! I am very flattered.

The one I submitted is the carousel.


Today- Friday, November 6th – Mark Montano (Sorry, I am not too sure who he is…) is announcing the winners of The Craftys LIVE via webcast at 4pm Pacific (7pm Eastern, 6pm Central).

Over 100 crafters, makers and bloggers will be attending the live event in San Francisco to celebrate all the entries and cheer for the winners.

The Craftsy webcast will be hosted on YouTube. Here, you can watch on live.


If you miss the show, you can watch it here:

I am thrilled to know that I was picked out of over 1,000 nominees as a finalist in the Knitting category! Well done, me!

I was given this badge I can proudly display.


I also received nice comments and requests on the pattern. I will surely work on the pattern and find a way to publish it some day.

Japanese Kabocha squash


I see large orange pumpkins everywhere now. The Halloween is arriving.

When we say ‘pumpkin’ in Japan, we immediately think of Japanese Kabocha squash.

It may be the only squash grown in our country. We can buy butternut or spaghetti squash in posh department stores, but they can be rather pricey, and not many of us know how to cook them.

But Kabocha is very common and popular, and I absolutely love them. It has a strong yet sweet flavor and moist, fluffy texture, which is like chestnut.

I see similar looking squash in the UK supermarkets sometimes and they are sold as Kabocha.
Like this one.


It is green on the outside, but inside is yellow-orange flesh.

I cannot leave the shop without buying one whenever I see them, but unfortunately, they are not like the ones we can get in Japan. When I cook them, they always turn out too mushy and soggy.

The most popular kabocha recipe is “Nitsuke”. Nitsuke is a very simple simmering technique that yields a deep, sweet, salty flavour. We cut up and deseed the squash and cook it in soy sauce, sugar, sake rice wine and a bit of salt. We usually use a pot over a hob.

I tried many times and finally found out the best Nitsuke method for the UK supermarkets’ Kabocha.


I am not too keen on microwave cooking. I tried to cook with a very little liquid in the pan. I also tried steaming in a steamer, but these Kabocha always get too mushy. You need to let the moisture out while it is getting cooked.

1.Cut the Kabocha squash and deseed. Cut the flesh with green skin on. If the skin is too thick or damaged, remove it.

2. Use half the squash. Place the pieces in the heat-proof bowl and sprinkle 2 tsp of sugar, 2 tsp of Mirin rice wine or sake wine and 1 or 1 and 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce. Cover with a cling film loosely.

3. Heat in the microwave for 3-4 min. Stir and heat again without the film this time.

4. You will probably need about 6-7 mins all together. It will have similar firmness as a baked potato when it is done. Check, coat with sauce and re-heat until it is ready.


Other way to enjoy Kabocha is Tempura.
Or simple pan fry. You do not need to pre-cook them but slice thinly.
If you pan fry with butter, sugar and cinnamon, you can make a little dessert.

I do miss the real Kabocha grown in Japan, but we can enjoy something similar here in the UK, too.


When you are away from your home, I guess you miss this kind of simple home cooked dishes you were brought up with. They are not too easy to get, but I like them better than restaurant foods.

Japanese sponge cake, Castella

My knitted bakers. I even knitted the cooker!


I asked my son which cake he wanted for his birthday and he said, “Castella”.

Castella is a popular Japanese sponge cake made of sugar, flour, eggs. Its origins are found in Castilla (Spain).


Now a specialty of Nagasaki, the cake was brought to Japan by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. The name is derived from Portuguese Pão de Castela, meaning “bread from Castile”. Castella cake is usually sold in long boxes, with the cake inside being approximately 27 cm long.

Castella is widely available in Japan. You can buy a long cake in a box or slices almost anywhere; department stores, super markets or even at convenience stores. It is somewhat similar to Madeira cake, but it is much much lighter and very little oil is added. It does not have raising agents.

I didn’t even think of baking Castella at home when I lived in Japan. But my boys love it, so I started experimenting a few years ago.

It is a simple sponge cake. It cannot be too difficult, can it?

But I found a few obstacles. First, most recipes tell you to use many eggs, 12-13 eggs. I am not a very experienced baker and when the quantity of eggs exceed 5, I get nervous.

And where am I going to cook such a big cake mixture?

Traditionally, it is baked in a large wooden mold, but surely, I do not have one. Some suggest to make your own newspaper origami mold and line it with a tin foil, but I wasn’t convinced.

So, I tried my own version, reducing the quantity of eggs and rest of the ingredients.

You can bake in a cake tin. I recycled a cardboard box to achieve the traditional square shape.


6 egg yolks (size L; could do with 5 yolks)
5 egg white

150g sugar

2 1/2 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 Tbsp Mirin Japanese sweet wine
2 1/2 Tbsp Hot water
1 Tbsp cooking oil

150 Strong bread flour, shifted

160 C (gas mark 4) for 30 min.

1. Beat egg white until soft peaks, add sugar little by little and beat until stiff peak forms.

2. Add egg yolk to the mixture, one at a time and beat well.

3. Mix hot water and honey and Minin sweet wine in a separate bowl to melt honey. Add it to the egg mixture. Add oil.

4. Add bread flour and mix until combined.

5. Bake at 160 C (320 F) for 30 mins.

6.Take it out of the oven. Wrap with the cling film when it is cooled. Leave it over night. (This may be the most difficult part of the recipe. We want to eat it right away!)

There are many different recipes and I have tried a lot of them, but I like this one. You could beat the eggs without separating yolks and whites, but it takes ages to make the eggs fluff that way. Some recipes say to bake at much higher temperature, but that makes the cake cook too soon and make the centre collapse after taking it out of the oven.

And here is what I made.



It is moist and soft with touch of honey flavour. You have to try this.

Mini felt sugarcraft

The BBC’s Great British Bake-Off is over. We all love the show and I am already missing it.

We saw lots of great bakes, funny faces and tears. It is fantastic to see the contestants making great effort creating something original.

As I watch the show, I enjoyed creating my own sweets, yes, you guessed it right, with felt fabric.

I do love baking, but the problem is, most bakes are quite calorific. I cannot possibly feed my family extra 300 kcal a day. Making felt sweets is my alternative.

Working with felt is great. Materials are easy to obtain and inexpensive. I can also achieve the effects that I cannot with knitting.

Like this. Don’t they look real?


My boys thought these were real at the first glance, and I felt guilty when I disappointed them with the truth.

I enjoyed designing my own cakes. I love the dainty and stylish mini cakes in French style. I don’t particularly have a sweet tooth, but I would love to visit pattisseries in Paris someday. Their cakes are so pretty!


For chocolate transfer sheet, I painted jute fabric with acrylic paint and wrapped the cake with it. I tried to make a lattice with thin strips of felt, but it was way too difficult.

And now, the little chefs. I have to have little pattissiers. They are smaller than cakes, piping bags and utensils. I wanted the gnome-like effect. Or they could be the kitchen fairies?



I made the silver whisk with wires. I wasn’t too sure if I could make one, but it came out fine after some effort. The piping bag is made with felt, too, with the cardboard tip wrapped with aluminium foil.

And here is the full cast.


I recently submitted this project to The Craftys Awards competition, so, please vote for me!


I thought this competition was limited to the felt craft, but I just found that you could submit other craft as well. ( I know so little about craft awards and competitions). I made another entry with knitting of course. I submitted the knitted carousel.


I think we have only a week or so until the closing date, and I wish I knew about it a little earlier, but it is still a good opportunity to let more people know of my creations.

I do like showing off my work!