knits by sachi

Japanese Kabocha squash

IMG_6912

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.

IMG_7194

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.

Microwave.

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.

Method
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.

IMG_0201

Other way to enjoy Kabocha is Tempura.
Kabocha-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.

IMG_7229

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.

Leave a comment »

Japanese sponge cake, Castella

My knitted bakers. I even knitted the cooker!

IMG_7138

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).

FotorCreated.jpgc

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.

Recipe

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.

IMG_9324

IMG_9327

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

2 Comments »

Mini felt sugarcraft

IMG_9042.jpg2
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?

IMG_9038

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!

IMG_9045

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?

IMG_9056

IMG_9047

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.

IMG_9053.jpg2

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

http://thecraftys.com/work/sewing-felt-2/

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.

http://thecraftys.com/work/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!

Leave a comment »

Birthday cake idea

My handmade birthday party with felt fabric

IMG_9316.jpg3

My older son just turned 18 this Monday. I can hardly believe it. Suddenly I feel very old.

But every day is a gift. I am very happy to see him becoming a confident young man.

Upon his request, I baked a Castella cake which I am going to share the recipe here soon. It is a traditional Japanese sponge cake originated in Spain.

We do not decorate Castella and enjoy the texture and the flavour of its own. Since the cake was rather plain looking, I decided to do another cake; a Sushi cake!

I cooked 600 cc of Sushi rice and used about 1/3 of it to make the cake. I rolled with fillings the rest.

To make Sushi rice, you need,

Serves 4

600 cc uncooked short grain sushi rice, cooked according to the package instructions
4 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

You can mix the vinegar, sugar and salt and set it aside for a while or, heat very gently to dissolve sugar and salt. Do not boil it. Add the mixture over cooked rice while the rice is still very hot.

You can also get sushi vinegar mix in a bottle at supermarkets.

The idea of the Sushi cake is simple. Line a cake tin with cling film and layer rice and filling of your choice.

This time, I made fine scrambled eggs, place that in the bottom, add the first layer of rice, placed tuna mayonnaise salad and topped it with another layer of rice. Press firmly and leave it for 30 mins or so. Flip the cake over carefully.

I placed mini sushi rolls all around. I also made roses with strips of smoked salmon and placed them on top. You can decorate it however you like. Cherry tomatoes, steamed mangetout or sugar snaps, cooked carrot slices… you can be creative.

I think this is a great idea if you are trying to avoid sweets. You still get to celebrate a birthday with a cake.

And voila, my Sushi birthday cake!

IMG_9330

Oh, you can enjoy a felt cake, too.

IMG_9306

Leave a comment »

Mini knitted ocean

My photographer and designer collected props from the beach on a chilly rainy day.

IMG_9159

We didn’t know what to call this book, but it seems the title has been set:Mini knitted ocean.

We had a photo shoot session recently again at the Search Press studio.
For this book, I hand dyed many pieces of fabrics of different materials. I also tried Shibori tie dye. Because it is all about sealife, there was a risk of the photos becoming a little boring. We did not want the same blue back ground all the way through. We tried to throw in different colours as much as possible.

I also made some props for my designer.

IMG_9071

A treasure box, a boat with a keel and a cage.

We wanted a treasure box for the scuba diver scene. I made the box with cardboard, painted with acrylic paint and glued a gold ribbon.

The boat with a keel is to shoot from the bottom of the sea, looking up the surface.

The cage was to go with the shark scene, but unfortunately, we didn’t use this one.

See, I did my homework.

I created these knitted creatures thinking of my father.

After my mother was diagnosed with her illness, my parents had to give up hiking and mountain climbing that they enjoyed very much. My father bought a large fish tank and started collecting little tropical fishes.Growing up near the ocean, I guess he always loved sealife.

But after the large earthquake in 2011, he decided to give it up, too. So, I am dedicating the book to him.

The photo session was challenging, and sometimes, we spent over an hour on one project. The composition is not right, the balance of the colours is not right, the proportion is not right, the figures at the wrong angle….

IMG_9169

Lots of hanging with wires and threads, too.

IMG_9171

It will be a colourful book. I was excited to use all the bright coloured yarn in my stash. And the photographer is very good at bringing them up of course.

IMG_9183

And you will have a little bonus.

A knitted Yellow Submarine.

Not just the submarine in yellow, but “The Yellow Submarine”. My editor spent months to get the permission to use it in the book.
Sadly, we did not receive a permission to use four guys to go in it, but I am sure readers can make their own.

I am not showing the submarine here yet. When the cover is ready, you will see.

3 Comments »