Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - O-zoni お雑煮 - Rice Cake and simmered vegetables with fish paste cake


 O-zoni お雑煮 - Rice Cake and simmered vegetables with fish paste cake
Picture by Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)

One of the quintessential dishes of the samurai cuisine is O-zōni, a meal originally thought to have been prepared in field battles consisting of mochi, vegetables and dried foods. This meal was once exclusive to samurai and so it became an essential dish to include in the Crown Tourney feast.

In the Muromachi period, O-zōni was considered an essential dish for welcoming guests to a honzen ryori (a formally arranged dinner) meal. Today, this soup is served traditionally at New Year's. The soups may differ from region to region, but one ingredient is essential--rice cakes also known as mochi. The soup that was served at feast features square rice cakes called kaku-mochi in a clear broth. These rice cakes were common in the Edo period.

According to Eric Rath, the "rice cake soup in Ryōri Monogatari calls for a stock made from miso or clear stock (dried bonito flakes, konbu and salt) and [white/yellow] rice cake, taro, and daikon, [black] dried sea cucumber intestines (iriko), abalone on skewers, large flakes of dried [red] bonito (hiragatsuo), and green shoots (kukitachi)--enough varied ingredients to suggest a five color combination.

28. ATSUME JIRU あつめ汁 (GATHERED BROTH)

It is good to add dashi to nakamiso. Alternatively use a suimono. It is good to put in such things as daikon, gobō, imo, tōfu, bamboo shoots, skewered abalone, dried fugu, iriko, and tsumi’ire (fish ball's made from pilchard, horse mackerel or saury). There are various others.

Creating this soup requires multiple steps.  I must admit, I did "cheat" a little bit and completely bi-passed making the rice cakes in favor of purchasing already made kaku-mochi from the Japanese market where I did most of my shopping.  Each step is easy to do, and the finished product is beautiful to look at.  Bonus is that many of the ingredients can be made in advanced and store well. 

Because I wanted this dish to appeal to most vegetarians, I chose to start the dish with making a vegetarian dashi broth. 

Vegetarian Dashi ベジタリアンだし

4- 2-inch squares kombu (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 quarts cold water

Combine the kombu, mushrooms, and water in a large container and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours. It gets stronger as it sits, and the taste can vary depending on what type of kombu you use, so with a few rounds you’ll find your preference. If you plan to let it stand for more than 4 hours, place it in the refrigerator, lidded or covered with a piece of plastic wrap.

Alternatively, bring the water to a bare simmer in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the kombu and mushrooms, and let stand for 30 minutes.

Discard the kombu (alternatively, chop it up and use it as a nutritious addition to salads and bowls of rice and other grains or to make homemade Furikake (ふりかけ) seasoning to top rice). Pick out the mushrooms and trim off and discard the stems. Reserve the mushroom caps for another use. You may want to strain the dashi through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth if there are small pieces of kombu left behind (I didn't do this)

Vegetarian dashi can be stored in an airtight container for 2 or 3 days.

Kamaboko Fish Paste Cake かまぼこ - makes 2 rolls ~ 18 ½” rounds

1 pound fish fillets (traditionally catfish but I used whiting)
1 egg
½  tbsp. ginger paste
2-3 Tbsp. cornstarch (note: you can substitute arrowroot or rice starch)

Grind white fish in a blender with a little bit of water until it forms a smooth paste.  Add egg, ginger and starch and blend well. Divide fish paste into halves. Coat aluminum foil with vegetable oil and shape the fish paste into logs about  2” in diameter. Roll up and seal both ends of the foil. Steam for 30 minutes over high heat. To test for doneness insert a bamboo skewer into center. If skewer comes out clean, it is done. Refrigerate until cool and then slice into 1/4" rounds.

To color the paste, remain part of it and add juice of young ginger or food coloring. I used pink.  Using a sushi mat covered with plastic (placing it inside of a gallon zipper bag works very well), spread the white fish paste in an even layer over the mat, then spread the colored fish paste above it.  Roll as if for sushi and steam as above.

Kaku-mochi - Rice Cake - 角餅

Glutinous sticky rice
Potato or Rice Starch
Water

Coarsely grind the rice in a food processor and soak for one hour in enough water to cover. Drain the rice and cook in a rice steamer until soft. Allow to cool for about five minutes. Wet your hands and transfer some of the rice to a mortar and pestle. Pound the rice for ten minutes or so until if begins to form a large sticky mass. Add small amounts of water so that the rice does not stick to the sides.

Sprinkle rice starch onto a clean fat surface, transfer the mochi onto the surface and begin to knead until the mochi is no longer sticky. Divide it into smaller portions and continue to knead until smooth, adding more rice starch as needed.

O-Zoni Soup お雑煮

6" length daikon (white radish)
1/2 bunch spinach
1 medium carrot
1 cake kamaboko (fish cake)
4 cups dashi
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
Rice cake

Pare the radish into hexagonal shape and then cut into slices about 1/4" thick. Parboil in lightly salted water until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. (Hexagons make up the tortoiseshell pattern. The tortoise is a symbol of longevity.)

Peel the carrot and cut into 1/4" rounds. Cut into flower shapes. Parboil in lightly salted water until almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Slice the fish cake into 1/4" half rounds.

Bring the dashi just to a boil in a pot. Turn down heat and keep at a simmer. Then stir in salt and soy sauce and season to taste.

Arrange spinach, single carrot slice, single daikon slice, mochi and fish cake in soup bowl. Ladle hot broth into bowl. Garnish with sprigs of mizuna.

Note: Substitute for Mizuna - arugula, young mustard greens, or tatsoi in equal amounts.

How to make Puffed Rice to be used as a garnish (not used at feast)

Oil heated to 425 degrees
1 cup rice (any rice)

Once oil is heated, pour in a cup of rice--rice will puff up in about 10 seconds. Drain through a metal sieve, season to taste, use as garnish.

Furikake (ふりかけ) is a dried Japanese seasoning which is sprinkled on top of cooked rice. Ingredients include a combination of dried fish flakes, dried egg, dried cod eggs, bonito flakes, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed and other flavorings.

½ oz reserved kombu (from making dashi)
1 oz reserved katsuobushi (from making dashi ;slightly wet)
1 Tbsp white toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp black toasted sesame seeds
nori seaweed
1 tsp sugar (add more to your taste)
2 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt) (add more to your taste)

Gather all the ingredients. Make sure the kombu and katsuobushi are well drained.

Cut kombu into small pieces.Put kombu and katsuobushi in a saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until katsuobushi becomes dry and separated from each other.Cook on medium-low heat until the liquid is completely evaporated.Cook on medium-low heat until the liquid is completely evaporated.

Transfer the furikake to a tray or plate and let cool. Once it’s cooled, you can add toasted/roasted sesame seeds and nori seaweed. You can break katsuobushi into smaller pieces if you prefer.

Put in a mason jar or airtight container and enjoy sprinkling over steamed rice. You can refrigerate for up to 2 weeks and freeze for up to a month.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - Shiobiki (塩鮭)/ Himono (干物) Grilled dried fish


Himono (干物) Grilled dried fish
Picture by Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)

Iemitsu banquet in 1630 contained the following items on the first tray of food that was served:

Main Tray

Grilled salt-cured fish (shiobiki)
Octopus
Fish-paste cake (kamaboko)
Chopsticks
Fish salad (aemaze)
Hot water over rice (yuzuke)
Pickles
Fish flavored in sake (sakabite)
Fermented intestines of sea cucumber (konowata)
Salt for flavoring (teshio)

Many of the dishes from this banquet were served at Crown Tournament feast because I wanted to preserve, as much as possible, the flavor of that historic banquet. The kamaboko was served in O-Zoni soup. The aemaze (affectionately dubbed "fish shooters") were also served in the first course. The yuzuke, hot water over rice was moved to the second course. Pickles were served in their many varieties throughout the feast, either as individual dishes or as garnishes for the food. Salt was on the table as well as chopsticks. The two dishes that were not served were octopus and the konowata.

The Shiobiki, grilled salt cured fish, was served as part of the first course and it is solely the work of one of my assistant's known in the SCA as Miguel Mono De Hierro. He also made the turtle soup, and was responsible for the beautiful plating of the aemaze and keeping the head cook (me) semi-sane the day of the event. Keep an eye out for this man--he will do GREAT things in the SCA.

The story behind the creation of this dish goes something like this. After several days of researching Shiobiki recipes and consistently coming up with salmon, and knowing that I was going to serve a cold smoked salmon as a garnish on one of the dishes I contacted Miguel.

"Hey you, I think I found something that you might enjoy doing that will help immensely with feast and you can take the summer to do in your own time. Interested?

Him: "What is it?"

"I would like to serve some salted and grilled fish at the event and it calls for Lake fish. So, we have nine tables that we will be serving on and I was wondering if you might be interested in possibly catching some fish that we can use to salt and grill and serve at the beginning of the meal? The salting process is very easy as is the drying process better that should be done within a week of feast so it will be a lot of last minute marinating and carrying the fish for 24 hours to hang out and dry.

Him: "Can the fish be frozen before hand?"

Me: "Absolutely"

At which point I called him and plans were made and great things ensued.

Shiobiki specifically is grilled salt cured salmon, however, the Ryōri Monogatari, contains a list of fish found in the rivers in Chapter 3: Kawa Uo no Bu (川魚の部) River Fish. Carp and Catfish are on that list, but after some discussion we decided that we may not be able to catch enough of either fish to be able to serve whole, which is one of the things we wanted to do. We settled on bluegill, I find it rather Karmic. Bluegill is an invasive species that was introduced to Japan in the 1960's. It was brought to Japan by Emperor Akihito with hopes that it could be raised as food. The fish has since wrecked the ecosystem and wiped out several native species in rivers and lakes.

The preservation method that we used for the bluegill can be traced back to the 10th Century. The Japanese word himono (干物) refers to "dried things". 



Grilled salt-cured fish - Himono - dried and grilled fish

1 quart water
4 tsp sea salt 
3-4 whole fish
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup  soy
Handful of shiso leaves

To start you will want to clean your fish, split it lengthwise, removing the guts and leaving the fish as whole as possible.  Make a brine from the water and salt, add the fish and brine it for at least an hour, overnight is better.  Remove fish from the brine and pat dry. 

You can spread the fish skin side up on  a wire rack and refrigerate overnight.  Alternatively, you can hang the fish to dry in the sun.  While the fish is drying you will want to heat up your grill.  The heat should be "intense but distant".  

Mix the remaining ingredients together to create a sauce for the fish. Mix together mirin and soy, and chiffonade the shiso leaves adding them to the brine. Place the fish skin-side down on the grill and cook for approximately 3 minutes, basting the fish with the sauce every few minutes while it cooks.  Turn it over and cook about 4 more minutes continuing to baste.  When the fish is well cooked and the skin brown and crispy serve.  

For more information see the following links:

Himono: Cutting, Drying and Grilling Fish The Japanese Way


Monday, January 13, 2020

Pot Ash Leavening - AKA Cooking with Ashes

I remember a rather lively discussion on a facebook thread about cooking with "Lye".  I ran across this little adventure today and thought I would share it.The thread was concerned with the use of the  word "leyes" in the interpretation for "blaunche perreye".  I can remember when first interpreting this recipe that the phrase "fyne leyes" gave me fits.  After several days of research I concluded that fyne leyes referred to fine lees or fine sediment found in wine. But the question remained, could lye have been used in period as a cooking agent?

The idea of using wood ash lye held merit and I felt that I needed to spend some time researching the use of lye, or rather, potash in cooking.  Using potash in cooking has its roots in Mesoamerican cooking.  The Aztecs and Mayans used potash and slaked lime to break down the outer layer and endosperm of ancient corn to soften it and make it edible. This had the added benefit of increasing the nutritional content of food prepared this way.

Prior to the invention of baking soda in the 1800's, leavening was done through the use of yeast.  Native Americans can be credited with the discovery of the first chemical leavening agents. According to Michel Suas in his "Advanced Bread and Pastry" book "In 1750, the first chemical leavening agent was used.  Known as pearl ash (potassium carbonate), it was created from natural ash of wood and other natural resources.  Before potash was available, cake textures were dense.  Ammonia was used also as a leavening agent.  A solution of water and ammonia was made and a drop of that solution was inserted on top of the cake batter. The center of the cake would rise as in  Madeleine's. Yeast was also commercially produced from the late 1800s, and was relied upon more and more over perpetuated natural starters. Additional chemical leavening agents (potassium bicarbonate and sodium bicarbonate) were created by the turn of the 19th century, but it wasn't until the 1850s that these inventions were widely accepted and used regularly (Meyer, 1998, p. 10)."

What makes wood ash so special? Wood ash contains alkaline salts, which create a chemical reaction  when mixed with something acidic. This reaction lightens and raises batter by creating gas pockets.

Yeast is an example of a leavening agent. It converts carbohydrates into alcohol creating carbon dioxide. It was not commercially available until the 1800's. Prior to the 1800's the use of yeast as a leavening agent was dependent upon wild yeasts.  Platina reminds us that leaven needed to be introduced to flour, water and salt to create bread.
Original recipe from Platina pp. 13-14 (Book 1):
"... Therefore I recommend to anyone who is a baker that he use flour from wheat meal, well ground and then passed through a fine seive to sift it; then put it in a bread pan with warm water, to which has been added salt, after the manner of the people of Ferrari in Italy. After adding the right amount of leaven, keep it in a damp place if you can and let it rise.... The bread should be well baked in an oven, and not on the same day; bread from fresh flour is most nourishing of all, and should be baked slowly."
Pot Ash (potash) and Lye originate from wood ashes. This is because wood ash contains both potassium hydroxide (lye)  and potassium carbonate (potash, pearl ash, saleratus). The production of lye is the first step in producing potash. The following set of instructions for making lye can be found in "A Treatise on Domestic Economy For the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School, 1845". 

To make Ley. Provide a large tub, made of pine or ash, and set it on a form, so high, that a tub can stand under it. Make a hole, an inch in diameter, near the bottom, on one side. Lay bricks, inside, about this hole, and straw over them. To every seven bushels of ashes, add two gallons of unslacked lime, and throw in the ashes and lime in alternate layers. While putting in the ashes and lime, pour on boiling water, using three or four pailfuls. After this, add a pailful of cold soft water, once an hour, till all the ashes appear to be well soaked. Catch the drippings, in a tub, and try its strength with an egg. If the egg rise so as to show a circle as large as a ten cent piece, the strength is right; if it rise higher, the ley must be weakened by water; if not so high, the ashes are not good, and the whole process must be repeated, putting in fresh ashes, and running the weak ley through the new ashes, with some additional water. Quick-ley is made by pouring one gallon of boiling soft water on three quarts of ashes, and straining it. Oak ashes are best.
Slaked Lime (Calcium Hydroxide) was added to the ashes in order to increase the strength of the lye.

Once the lye was drained off, the sludge left behind could then be boiled down to make potassium rich potash also known as black salt. To refine, it was then heated in a kiln to burn off impurities and create a white salt which was commonly known as pearl-ash which could be used in cooking along with something acidic to create carbon dioxide bubbles and lighten baked goods.

Want to make your own ash water to cook with? The method is quite simple--boil a half cup of clean ash with 2 cups of water.  Once it has come to a boil, remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to settle.  Pour off the clean liquid and strain it. Use this water as your leaven.

To answer the original question--could "fyne leyes" refer to fine lye? No, it was not used in period as a leavening agent.

For more information on cooking with wood ashes and ash water visit the following link: 5 Acres and a Dream

Additional Resources:

An Experiment with Period and Non-Period Leaveners

Cook's Thesaurus: Leavens

First Night Design | Melomakarona (Μελομακάρονα) Traditional Greek Treat

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Japanese Basics -Dashi (だし, 出汁) or Dashijiru (出し汁) & Furikake (ふりかけ)

Dashi is the foundation of Japanese food and without a good dashi broth, many of your dishes will be flat and lacking the unique umami flavor that is expected in Japanese food.  Unlike stock which requires a multitude of ingredients and can take hours to make, a good Dashi is made from a small number of ingredients and can be ready in as little as 20 minutes.

It is believed that Dashi was first produced as early as the 7th century, and many texts refer to it.  It was in common use in the Edo period. The recipe that was used at Crown Tournament can be traced directly to the Ryōri Monogatari.

4. DASHI だし (BASIC STOCK)

Chip katsuo into good size pieces, and when you have 1 shō worth, add 1 shō 5 gō of water and simmer. Sip to test and should remove the katsuo when it matches your taste. Too sweet is no good. The dashi may be boiled a second time and used.

Japanese recipes are usually measured by volume not weight.  The system uses “gō ” and “shō”. 

1 gō is 180 ml, and 10 gō is 1 shō. The traditional big bottle of sake is 1 shō (1800 ml) and the half size is 5 gō (900 ml). I must confess that MOST of my cooking for feast was measured in an empty sake bottle for feast. However, if you are looking for easier measurements see the table below. 

Metric Equivalents

1 Gô (合) = 180ml = 6 ounces

1 Shô or Masu (升) = 1.804 liters = 60.8 ounces

1 To (斗) = 18.04 liters = 608 ounces = 4.75 gallons

1 Koku (石) = 180.4 liters = 47 gallons

Unit Conversions

1 Shô or Masu (升) = 10 gô (合)

1 To (斗) = 10 shô or masu (升)

1 Hyô (俵) = 1 "bale" or "bag" of rice = 4 to (斗)

1 Koku (石) = 10 to (斗) = 2.5 hyô (俵)

More Conversions!

1 shô = 1.804 Liter = 1.906 quarts = 60.8 ounces = 7 3/4 cups

1 gô = 180ml = 6.08652 ounces = 3/4 cup
4. DASHI だし (BASIC STOCK)

Chip katsuo (bonito) into good size pieces, and when you have 1 shō worth, add 1 shō 5 gō of water and simmer. Sip to test and should remove the katsuo when it matches your taste. Too sweet is no good. The dashi may be boiled a second time and used. 
Interpreted Recipe
~ 4 pounds bonito
90.8 ounces of water

Add your bonito to your water and simmer until the broth matches your taste.  

In deference to modern taste, you may also want to add kombu (dried kelp) to your dashi.  

Dashi II

Yield: 6 cups =  12 servings at  ½ cup per serving

6 cups cold water
1 ounce dried kombu (kelp)
~1 cup dried katsuboshi (dried bonito)

Bring water and kombu just to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Remove from heat and remove kombu. Sprinkle bonito over liquid; let stand 3 minutes and, if necessary, stir to make bonito sink. Pour through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a bowl.

Dashi III (Overnight Dashi)

4 cups water
10 x 10 cm square dried kombu (kelp)
1 cup of katsuobushi (bonito flake)

Pour the water into a container. Place the kelp and bonito flake into the container. Leave it over night (about 8 hours or more). Strain the kelp and bonito flake.

Storing Dashi Stock

Use straight away or leave in fridge for 1 day or in the freezer for about 3 weeks.

Bonus Recipe

What do you do with the left over bonito and kelp? Create furikake seasoning to go over your rice. 

Furikake (ふりかけ) is a dried Japanese seasoning which is sprinkled on top of cooked rice. Ingredients include a combination of dried fish flakes, dried egg, dried cod eggs, bonito flakes, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed and other flavorings.

Servings: 1 cup

½ oz reserved kombu
1 oz reserved katsuobushi slightly wet
1 Tbsp toasted white sesame seed
2 tsp toasted black sesame seed
Nori Seaweed
1 tsp sugar (add more to your taste)
2 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt) (add more to your taste)

Gather all the ingredients. Make sure the kombu and katsuobushi are well drained. Cut kombu into small pieces. Put kombu and katsuobushi in a saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until katsuobushi becomes dry and separated from each other. Cook on medium-low heat until the liquid is completely evaporated. Cook on medium-low heat until the liquid is completely evaporated.

Transfer the furikake to a tray or plate and let cool. Once it’s cooled, you can add toasted/roasted sesame seeds and nori seaweed. You can break katsuobushi into smaller pieces if you prefer.Put in a mason jar or airtight container and enjoy sprinkling over steamed rice or a seasoning for fish, chicken, soup, popcorn or whatever you fancy.  

This seasoning can be frozen up to a month, or refrigerated up to two weeks. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - えだまめ - Edamame (Soybeans)



The earliest documentation of soy foods in Japan can be found in the Taihō Ritsuryō (Taiho Law Codes), written by Emperor Monmu in 701 CE.  This document also references "misho" the precursor to miso which appears later in 901 CE in the Sandai Jitsuroku. The first mention of Edamame, is found in a letter written by a Buddhist Saint to one of the parishioners of his temple, thanking him for the green vegetable soybeans in pods in 1275.

This dish was very simple to prepare.  Simply steam your soybeans until they become tender and sprinkle with salt.