Sunday, 25 May 2014

Hanami in the Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens

Last month my family and I went to the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens to practice the Japanese custom of hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Natalia from Smiles! Photography also came along to capture the beauty of the flowers and surroundings so I can share them here with you. 

When I lived in Japan I got a real insight into how Japanese people celebrate hanami by taking part in it with my Japanese friends and also my work colleagues. I remember the most junior member of staff had to sit under a tree most of the day to make sure we had the best spot for hanami after work. Hanami is enjoyed by sitting under a cherry blossom tree or nearby and appreciating the beauty of them while eating a packed bento with drinks. Here's a picture of our dog, Jackie enjoying hanami!! 

This is the perfect place to spend time with family or friends. I'd recommend bringing a picnic along and enjoying it on the benches in the car-park as you drive in or pack a picnic blanket to sit on the grass. We brought along a packed bento including homemade panko coated fish goujons, onigiri (rice balls) sprinkled with furikake and a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables.

- To see more about the Irish National Stud & Japanese gardens click on the link below:
- Thanks to Smiles! Photography for taking the photos of our family day in the Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens. The copyright for these photos belongs to Smiles! Photography and Fiona Uyema so please ask for permission if you'd like to use them. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine May 16th - 18th

View from Ballyhouse house taken during a visit in 2013
This Friday we're packing the car and heading to The Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine which takes place in Cork. It's one of the most talked about foodie events taking place in Ireland this year bringing together a fantastic group of food writers, bloggers, critics and journalists from Ireland and abroad. The line up includes RenĂ© Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma in Denmark who I would love to get the opportunity to speak to. Next year he'll go to Japan with his staff to learn about Japanese cuisine and culture. 

In addition to the scheduled events which take places at both Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School there's the Fringe Festival and the Big Shed which has been called the heartbeat of the festival!

Visiting Ballymaloe house in 2013

I'm scheduled to give sushi demonstrations in the Big Shed at 11am on both Saturday and Sunday (May 17th & 18th). You'll find artisan producers, musicians and lots more at the Big Shed. It's sounds like the perfect place to hang out, network or sample local produce. I might just meet RenĂ© Redzepi there!

I'm also booked into see RTE's finest cooking demo (Catherine Fulvio, Martin Shanahan and Paul Flynn) and also hope to attend the seaweed foraging with John & Sally McKenna. 

Lunch at Ballymaloe house in 2013

For more information click on the link below, tickets still available for some events. 

Related articles:

At Ballymaloe house with my son in 2013

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Tofu steak coated in Japanese seven spice flour - easy vegetarian recipe

This is a really simple meat-free/ vegetarian recipe that can be served with a salad or on top of a bowl of rice (tofu donburi).

Block of firm tofu (500 - 700g), preferably GM free
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon nanami-togarashi (Japanese seven spice)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for frying)
Chopped spring onion and grated ginger (to garnish)

1. Remove the packaging and water from the block of tofu and place on a chopping board.

2. Cut into thick slices (about 1 inch thick).

3. To remove excess water wrap each slice in kitchen towel, place on a large plate and set aside for about 5 minutes. Remove the wet kitchen towel and wrap in kitchen towel again. Set aside for a further 5 minutes depending on the type of tofu (you may need to do this for 10 minutes each time).

4. Mix the flour and nanami-togarashi on a large plate.

5. Remove the kitchen towel from the tofu and coat each tofu slice in the flour mix.

6. Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan on high heat.

7. Gently place the tofu slices on the pan and fry for a few minutes. Once nicely browned turn and fry on the other side for a few minutes.

8. Top with chopped spring onion and grated ginger then drizzle a little soy sauce over the tofu.

- Put a heavy weight (e.g. book) on the tofu slices when wrapped in kitchen towel. This will help drain the water from the tofu in less time!
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