May 30, 2010

a family weekend

pouring refreshing cups of cold brew green tea with some sweets for the folks who were busy at work out in the orchard up in the mountains...

we took the shinkansen super express train up to nagano to join my family for the weekend. at the heart of a big time apple growing region, the mountainous towns and villages were all covered in leafy apple trees - and looking over them from the top of a hill was quite something. weather wasn't perfect, but still very pretty. and the chilly mountain air only made us appreciate the onsen hot spring afterwords even more - not to mention the huge dinner and a seemingly countless bottles of booze that followed.

we cooked and devoured big platefuls of mountain vegetable tempura for dinner, and emptied a large potful of miso soup in the morning, both along with home-grown rice and lots of other home-cooked dishes. I had almost forgotten what it was like to have a large table full of food, all shared by a large (extended) family, sitting elbow to elbow. it seems to make even the simplest meal the most delicious, doesn't it?

overall, we didn't do too much (certainly I didn't) but just chilled - but it's not every day that all of us gather, and that made it a very special weekend for us. the pretty view of the lush green mountains was a bonus. it was a weekend that i wished it didn't end.

well it did, unfortunately, but here's hoping the new week will be a wonderful one for all of us. have a good one! -cx

May 24, 2010

a rainy monday

waking up to a dark, rainy morning isn't the best way to start a week, but things seemed to look slightly sunnier with a cup of freshly-brewed tea with fresh chamomile... and a glass full of fresh chamomile flowers alongside.

i'm not really crazy about chamomile tea made with dried flowers. but if it's from fresh chamomile, it's another story - the sweet, soothing, refreshing smell of the flowers shines through as they brew in hot water. we don't find fresh chamomile too often around here, so when i saw large bunches of the flowers, i was super excited!

i enjoy fresh chamomile tea as is, but adding a few sprigs of fresh mint to chamomile tea can make it even better suited to drinking in the morning, with mint boosting the wake-up factor. in the evening, chamomile tea may be known as a bedtime brew as it is, but i also like to make it with milk instead of water. it seems to make the tea taste mellower, and even more calming.

because i had a large bunch, i decided to make something other than tea (with or without mint and/or milk), but couldn't bother to go out to buy ingredients in the rain. so i threw things i had at home together into a pan - and out it came: apple and white peach poached in chamomile tea.

sliced apple was gently cooked in fresh chamomile tea along with juice of lemon and dessert wine until tender, and a sliced white peach was added at the end before removing from heat so it'd get only slightly cooked. there i tasted the cooking liquid and thought it was sweet enough, but i was told otherwise so i added a bit of honey. a few chamomile flowers were thrown in as the fruits cooled, then got chilled before serving.
cherries were optional but added a bit of nice crunch to the bowl of soft fruits. a dollop of lightly whipped cream, creme fraiche, or even yogurt would have made a nice accompaniment, too.

so all in all, it wasn't too bad a monday - and the rain eventually stopped, even. i'm hoping this is going to be a good week - i know it is set to be a special and rather sad one for us as it is to wrap up our three-month stay in kyoto. but for now, let's hope a wonderful week for you and us all! -c x

May 7, 2010

a golden week

boy, what a week, what a week. we've just had (or in a way, are still in the middle of) what is called golden week in japan, and this year we had a five-day "weekend" from last saturday to wednesday. that's when everyone travels and everywhere gets busy, and it's normally when i stay in to avoid the crowd. but this year, being in kyoto has made me far more active than normal, and i found myself going out almost every day, north and south. the gorgeous, warm (or dare i say hot, even?) weather certainly helped, too, especially after the unusually cold and wet march/april (that's what everyone told me).

and before I head deep into another weekend that's come sooner than normal (yay!) with another few places to check out, i thought i'd post a few shots from this past extended weekend...

- at a bustling "handmade" market

- picking up some organic vegetables, at a handmade market

- lemons with leaves (and flower buds!) on, from a handmade market

- a salad of sauteed chicken with a lot of leaves (and arugula flowers!), mostly organic, from a handmade market

- at a park

- at a vintage/antique market

- taking a break in the shade with an iced coffee, at a vintage/antique market

- making rhubarb & apple crumbles with cherry blossoms; the fruits were lightly scented with a sakura flavoring while the crumbles had chopped salted cherry blossoms and leaves mixed in. thought i'd already been done with cherry blossom baking for the year? yeah, so did i!

- another treat with rhubarb that i'd bought and brought back from my short trip back in tokyo: rhubarb and white chocolate trifle, a recipe by the lovely trish deseine, featured in the newly-launched waitrose kitchen magazine (formerly known as waitrose food illustrated)

- getting ready for a traditional mounted archery ceremony at a shrine

- scored!

- another day, another horse-riding ceremony, at another shrine; two judges on duty

- it's a horse race (in medieval costumes)!

- a fruit parfait after hours of being in the sun. phew!

- and river bank that were covered with pink cherry blossoms a few weeks ago are now in all lush green, dotted with azalea in full bloom. everything glows in the sunshine from now until the monsoon hits in june - i feel extremely fortunate to be in a one of the most beautiful places in the country at one of the most beautiful times of the year.

i hope you are enjoying a glorious spring (or autumn if you are down under), and you all have a wonderful weekend! -c xx