Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shoki-shoki Azuki Bean Salad

Azuki bean is the second most important legume in Japan after soybean. The presumed wild ancestor of cultivated azuki bean is V. angularis var. nipponensis (Yamaguchi 1992). This wild species is distributed across a wide area from Japan, the Korean peninsula, and China to Nepal and Bhutan (Tomooka et al. 2002).

Recent Studies by Xu et al. (2008) could demonstrate that the origin of azuki bean domestication lies in central or western Japan due to the fact that the highest level of gene diversity belongs to the Japanese variety of azuki beans. The  level of genetic differentiation is proportional to the length of bean cultivation, therefore, the higher the genetic distinctivness, the longer its history of cultivation/domestication.. Xu's genetic data could be confirmed by early finds of azuki beans in Initial Jomon sites (Tomooka 2007 and Yoshizaki 2003).

Awazu, a shell midden site near Lake Biwa, delivers the oldest evidence of carbonized cultivated azuki beans, dated to 6000 BP (Initial Jomon). The Initial Jomon period is characterized by the increasing dependence on plant and marine resources. Plant processing tools like grinding stones and mortars are frequent, as is the earliest occurence of weevils as early as 9000 BP (Obata et al. 2010).

The first evidence of azuki beans in Korea is not earlier than 5000 - 3000 BP (Nam River Site and Daundong Site, South Korea, cp. Crawford and Lee 2003). In China cultivated azuki beans do not appear before the Late Neolithic (Liangchengzhen, 4000 BP). Tomooka compiled a map with sites at which archaeological remains of azuki bean have been found on google maps.

Now that we have seen that azuki beans are of utmost archaeological importance we can go over to actually make use of them. I don't know how Jomon people prepared azuki beans, but I made a salad from cooked azuki beans and quinoa and I am sending this to MLLA 33 (My Legume Love Affair) which this month is hosted by Ammalu's Kitchen.

My Legume Love Affair is a monthly cooking event celebrating legumes created by Susan from the Well-Seasoned-Cook.

Before we get to the salad, a short story about a little monster which sits near the river and washes azuki beans.

While it washes the beans -which, as the beans are moved around in a bowl of water, makes a sound like 'shoki shoki'-  the little monster sings his song:
小豆とごうか、人取って食おうか ショキ、ショキ
Shall I rinse red beans or catch a human and eat it *shoki shoki*?
However, it can also be a helpful little monster, bringing his washed azuki beans to poor farmsteads who can't afford to buy them for their wedding rice (the red azuki beans colour the rice red which is a symbol for good luck). Therefore I called this salad recipe 'Shoki-shoki Salad'.

Shoki-shoki Azuki Bean Salad


1 cup cooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups cooked azuki beans
1/2 cup radish sprouts
1 courgette (zucchini), julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1 small red onion, cut in half and then sliced
1/2 cup raw (!) sauerkraut
oil for cooking

3 tabelspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ume su (plum vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Julienne the courgette and carrot, pull apart the sauerkraut and if necessary cut it with scissors. Half the onion lengthwise and then cut into slices. Heat the oil in a pan and add the carrots and sauerkraut. Stew a couple of minutes until carrots are tender but are still firm to the bite. Mix all the ingredients for the salad in a bowl (no need to let the carrot mixture cool down, this salad is delicious when luke warm).

In a bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing (careful with the vinegar and salt, it depends very much on the sauerkraut which can be quite salty and/or sour). Spoon the dressing over the salad and gently mix.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Archaeology on this blog? - NOT!

You might be interested in the peopling of Northern America, or in late Pleistocene/early Holocene burials or just in any old things, but I won't bugger you with this kind of material on this blog anymore. You have to go to my archaeology blog if you want to read a review of a recent article about a child cremation in Eastern Beringia. For my German readers: there is a German version here.

(c) Ben Potter
There is an interesting video about Upward Sun River Site on EarthSky including interviews of Healy Lake Tribe people, go and check it out:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chocolate fund-raising campaign for Japan - Schokolade für Japan

Today's post will be in German since it addresses a fund raising campaign from a Swiss chocolate factory and it appeals to German speaking blogs (does it?).

Barbara von Barbara's Spielwiese hat mich heute mit einer (virtuellen) Tafel Schokolade bedacht gott sei dank ist sie nur virtuell, denn mit Schweizer Milchschokolade hätte ich so meine liebe laktoseintolerante Müh' und Not). Eigentlich mag ich keine Produktwerbung wie auch immer auf meinem Blog. Aber da es sich um eine Wohltätigkeitsaktion handelt, Schweizer Schokolade ja doch die beste auf der ganzen Welt ist, und der Spender My Swiss Chocolate offensichtlich hochwertige Schoko mit Bio-Zutaten anbietet, wird heute eine Ausnahme gemacht.

My Swiss Chocolate  spendet eine 'Schoggi Spende' and die Schweizer Organisation "Glückskette", die mit Schweizer Hilfswerken zusammen arbeitet und die das gespendete Geld an Japanische Hilfswerke weiterleitet (na ja, und sind wir mal ehrlich, etwas product placement betreibt sie damit auch noch ... zwei Fliegen wenn man so will).
Eine persönliche Spende ist daher nicht erforderlich (viele haben ja eh bereits gespendet) was natürlich nicht davon abhalten soll falls noch jemand zusätzlich spenden möchte. My Swiss Chocolate spendet pro Blog der über die Aktion berichtet 2 CHF, mindestens aber 1000 CHF (maximal 10,000 CHF).

Hier sind die Blogs denen ich auch eine Tafel Bioschokolade zukommen lassen will:

Wagashi Maniac

Schlemmen ohne muh und mäh

Tichiro - knits and cats

Die Lorbeerkrone

Schöner Tag noch



Hefe und mehr



Monday, March 21, 2011

Kitchoan's Wagashi - Kurihoka (Bean Jelly) Review

In a recent post I told you about my shopping in London's Kitchoan, a Japanese shop specialising in wagashi, Japanese traditional sweets. Today I want to show you one more wagashi I bought at the shop. It is called Kurihoka:

Ingredients: Water, granulated sugar, sugared chestnut, red bean, trehalose, agar-agar, salt, colour (gardenia), sulfite

The taste was ... well, ok. I had eaten better chestnut and red bean based sweets in Japan. It was not really bad though, but not exciting either. The centre was a sugared chestnut with a sort of rough red bean mash engulfing the chestnut.

 But now to the 'natural ingredients'. I guess you could call sulphites 'natural', and it is most certainly used to keep the chestnut from discolouring. On the other hand sulphites do pose health risks. Sulphite sensitive people and people suffering from Asthma, are prone to reactions similar the one caused by food allergies. Is it really unavoidable? No, ascorbic acid would have done the trick and with no ill effects.

The second point is trehalose. Why on earth did they put this novelty sugar in it? This time we can't speak of a natural ingredient. Although some fungi, insects, and bacteria do possess natural trehalose, the one put in our food is not: "Hayashibara started manufacturing trehalose by activating two enzymes, the glucosyltrehalose-producing enzyme that changes the reducing terminal of starch into a trehalose structure, and the trehalose free enzyme that detaches this trehalose structure. As a result, a high-purity trehalose from starch can be mass produced for a very low price." (Wikipedia). The product trehalose seems to be safe from a health aspect, altough it is not even yet known how many people do indeed possess helase, the enzyme to split the double sugar and digest it - after all we are neither fungi nor insects. There may very well be the same risk of intolerance as when adding lactose to food products. Furthermore the two main enzymes "were not evaluated completely to JECFA standards for general food safety. The Committee VNV agrees with the first assessor that the applicant should be strongly encouraged to submit the enzyme preparations for formal evaluation." Meaning there is still enough uncertantity about this novel food.

Do we need it for a good (or in this case mediocre) wagashi? Definitely not!

If you want to go for your own version (and I cannot encourage you enough), there is a chocolaty version on E-recipe and a kind of 'deconstructed' version on cookpad.com.

Azuki Soup-Karee

Azuki beans are small wonder beans. Rich in proteins (dry beans contain about 20% proteins and 9 essential amino acids) and iron (one cup contains 4.6 mg - a lean steak contains 3-4 mg) it is something vegetarians should put on their menu more often.

I knew azuki beans mainly from anko, a sweet paste from cooked and mashed azuki beans. My experience with whole azuki beans were restricted to sekihan which I knew from the many bento I ate in Japan. Thus, when I read about the challenge from No Croutons Required I thought it would be a good idea to give this little bean the appreciation it deserves from a nutritional point of view.

Therefore I'm sending my azuki soup-karee to No Croutons Required. The theme for this month was to create a soup or salad featuring whole azuki or mung beans.
 My soup-karee is a Japanese soup-like curry favoured in Hokkaido, although I had my first soup-karee in Tokyo :) It is based on a recipe from cookpad.com. My first attempt in cooking the azuki beans was not very succesful, the beans were bleeding out and ended up in a slightly pink mass. Then I found the tip to first blanch the beans for 5-6 minutes, discard the water and cook again with fresh water. Funnily, this really helped and my beans kept a nice coloration, as you can see in the picture.

Azuki Soup-Karee

Ingredients (for 4)

oil for frying
a 2-cm piece of fresh ginger root, finely chopped
chiliflakes to taste
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 laurel leaf
1 hokkaido squash (roughly 20 cm diameter), cut into 3cm cubes
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups cooked azuki beans
1 cup unsweetened soymilk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

What to do

Half the onion and cut in thin slices, fry in hot oil. Add ginger, sqash, curry powder, chili flakes, and laurel leaf and stir until covered with oil. Add the vegetable broth and let simmer until sqash is nearly done but still firm. Add azuki beans and let simmer until squash is done. Take from the heat and add soymilk (do not boil anymore or the soymilk will curdle), season to taste.
Serve with brown rice and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Torwen’s quick and easy hummus

Torwen’s quick and easy hummus

I'll never be a proper food photographer :( Can you see the breadcrumbs on one side and the lumps of paprika on the hummus? Yes very sad, but that's what I am, a bit of chaotic, a bit with lumps and bumps.
I hope you will nevertheless enjoy the recipe!

This recipe started from the hummus recipe in Rose Elliot’s book Vegan Feasts, London, 2000 but changed according to my preferences over the years and now became my very own recipe (since I don’t need a written recipe for it anymore ^-^ ).

1 can (425 g) chickpeas

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons white tahini

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

herb salt to taste (about ½ a teaspoon)


1 tablespoon olive oil


koriander or Italian parsley

Drain the chickpeas and put them together with the garlic in a blender. Blend to a rough purée. Add tahini, lemon juice, salt and oil and blend until it becomes white and fluffy. You may have to add some preserved cooking liquid or mineral water. Season againwith salt and lemon if necessary and blend again. Spoon into a bowl, garnish with the olive oil, koriander and paprika. Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sorry, food again it is: Roasted Yam Soup

Although I am quite a bit horrified by the terrible earthquake in Japan and my heart really goes to the people strucked by this very strong earthquake and tsunami, at the end of the day you have to eat something. This might be quite selfish, thinking that hundreds have lost their lives and others their homes but still ....

Since I am all alone today, I had some time to browse through my favourite blogs and my eye caught a lovely soup made from roasted yam and carrots. The recipe comes from Katy who posted it on veganblog.it. And since I had a yams lying around I couldn't resist to immediately recreate her recipe.

Onions, garlic, carrots, and yams are mixed with berbere spice mix and olive oil and roasted in the oven (for proper quantities please go to the page on veganblog.it):

Then you put everything in a blender and mix it up, season with salt and pepper and voila, a really delicious and hearty soup:

Thank you Katy, you made my day :)

Wagashi and a bit of history

Wagashi are Japanese traditional confectionaries. When, during the Meiji period, western style sweets (洋菓子, yougashi) were introduced into Japan, traditional sweets were re-named Wa-Kashi  (和菓子, wagashi) in order to distinguish them from the western ones. The Wa refers here to the oldest name for Japan, already mentioned in a 2300 year old text from China.

Although an often cited 'cookie' is known from the Jomon period, the Jomon cookie had nothing in common with today's wagashi sweets. It consisted of chestnut and walnut flour, meat and blood of wild boar and deer, and wild bird eggs (Imamura 1996, 99). You can rather look at it as a savoury patty. Carbonized 'cookie' remains have for example been found at the middle Jomon site of the Okinohara site 沖ノ原遺跡(Niigata pref.) about 4000 to 5000 BCE.

A roundhouse from the site of Okinohara 沖ノ原遺跡

Jomon carbonised 'cookies'

Thus during the Jomon to Nara period Okashi consisted probably of fruits which is also suggested by the Kanji 菓 in the name of wagashi,  which simply stands for fruit. Sugar was only introduced during the Tang dynasty, when a monk imported it from India via silk route to China and from there to Japan (Nara period). During the Qin Dynasty sugar cane rock (crystallised cane sugar sap) was traded extensively along the silk route, but still used as a precious luxury good. Only during the Edo period sugar became more available and the production of wagashi began to flourish. Although many recipes originated from Chinese sweets, together with the art of tea ceremony, wagashi became much more refined and new varieties were invented for this purpose.

But enough of history lessons :) let's have a look at a contemporary wagashi, bought at Minamoto Kitchoan in London:

This wagashi is called Yuka and is basically a citron jelly. Sounds simple but is a perfect balance of ingredients and tasted lovely in combination with our flowering tea. Main ingredients: Sugar, water, kidney bean, citrus fruit and agar. If you want to try your hand on it ... a similar lemon sweet can be found at Wagashimaniac's blog (Remon-kan).

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Mardi Gras - Shroves Tuesday - Fastnacht Day

In Germany it is tradition to eat jam doughnuts on Fastnacht Day, the day before Ash Wednesday.
In England this Day is called Shroves Tuesday. To shrive means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and doing penance. In the Uk this day is also known as Pancake Day and up to today, pancakes are baked in many households on this day. Even the royal-bride-to-be, Kate Middleton, tossed around pancakes (sorry but I, too, have to cover the royal wedding *hehe*)


So I stayed traditional, too, in an English way with lemony pancakes:

Unfortunately they crumbled a bit while attempting to roll them up :(  Vegan pancakes are a bit more brittle than eggy ones. Although this didn't affect the taste of course. Here is the recipe:

Vegan Shroves Day pancakes

 175 g flour
1 tablespoon muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
300 ml almond mild
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
safflower oil for frying

cinnamon - sugar mix
lemon juice

What to do:

First mix all the dry ingredients, than pour in the almond milk, mix well and add the sunflower oil. Heat the safflower oil and when hot pour in a quarter of the batter. Even out the batter in the pan. Fry both sides, turning carefully with a spatula or flip it in the air if you dare :)

Roll up pancakes and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mix. Drizzle over the lemon juice. Devour :)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

London - British Museum and 'The Heretic' by Richard Bean

Although I have been in the British Museum on several occasions, they diligently rearrange their exhibitions, so it is always a joy to discover items new on display and re-discover old friends.
Therefore, to not bother you with too much archaeology, just a couple of photos from this year's most delectable objects on display.

First some old friends which might be new to you. First the Franks Casket:

It has nothing to do with the Germanic tribe of the Franks but rather got its name from Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, an English antiquarian who from a mere assistent in the British Museum soon became responsible for acquiring for the British Museum. Since the Eton student was not very poor himself he donated a lot of objects to the British Museum. One of them is the whale bone casket from Northumbria. On its left hand side, which you can see here, a scene from the discovering of Romulus and Remus is depicted, which stands as a symbol for the Roman Catholic church since the twin brothers were founders of the city of Rome.

The next old friend is a detail from the Sutton Hoo helmet.

The Sutton Hoo helmet comes from the early 7th century ship burial in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk. Now if you think 'I knew it, the Vikings did have horned helmets' I must dissappoint you. Sutton Hoo, although being a ship burial is Anglo-Saxon and definitely 150 to 200 years prior to the first Vikings in Britain (which is officially 793, starting with the raid on Lindisfarne).

A third well known object is the Ringlemere cup, a gold cup found on Ringlemere farm in Kent. In comparison with the other five existing cups in Europe we can assume a date of 1700 to 1500 BC whereas the burial in the barrow itself is dated to approximately to 2300 BC suggesting that the cup was either a later votive offering or from a burial which was made into the old barrow which was pretty much ploughed down.

Of course I can't miss the opportunity to show you this rock carving. It's from the Val Fontalba, France and just shows how consistent in their topics rock art of the alpine arc is. A couple looking at it couldn't see the depicted cattle without a bit of help, can you?

How different in style is in contrast the depiction of a long-horned cattle from Sudan. The rock boulder was rescued from inundation due to the new dam at the fourth Nile cataract by the Meroe Dam Salvage Project.

The most impressive object however was the antler mask from Star Carr. Star Carr is an early Mesolithic site in North Yorkshire. The site was located at the former lake Flixton and the peat building preserved a lot of bone and organic artefacts. The lake was used for extensive deposits which is not uncommon in prehistory (nor is it in recent times, just think of the coins that are thrown into wells and fountains). Among these deposits was the famous antlermask from Star Carr.

We believe that it belonged to a kind of shaman and was worn similar to the head gear of this Siberian shaman, well that is if you turn the antler mask upside down *hehe* even museum curators are not perfect.

This statue was called 'Pan riding a panther' although I can't see him ride this little panther. It is from the 2nd century and was made in Thapsus, Tunisia (modern Ras Dimas). You may know the place from the Battle of Thapsus where Cato and Scipio fought against Cesar.

And to add a further Roman statue I give you the marble statue from the great court of the British Museum, a first century statue from Rome itself, the youth on horseback (which actually makes sense this time, but riding a horse is disproportionally easier than riding a panther)

Since you get very hungry from watching all these objects I went to Mildreds, a small vegetarian restaurant near Piccadilly Circus. I had borlotti bean and sunblushed tomato sausages served with pumpkin and sweet potato mash, broccoli and apple cider jus together with a apple-beet-and-ginger juice. It was awesome which you can't see because I've got only one of my infamous mobile pics:

I finished the day with 'The Heretic', a play at the Royal Court Theatre. The woman next to me didn't like the play at all, but I think it had a very important message that will stay topical for some time. It might even be promising in becoming a classic despite the fact that the second half of the play was a bit weird and chaotic.

The play is about a climate researcher who published an obviously not politically correct article about the Maldives where she couldn't find a sea level rising. Ill-reputed as a climate-change-denier she gets bullied and eventually suspended because she refuses to follow her superior and ex-lover's university's policies.
'I'm a scientist. I don't believe in anything' is her motto and she stays with it unwavering. In the end she discovers together with him that a collegue at a different university abused statistics to produce the desired results.
Most reviews think it's a play about climate change but actually it isn't or rather climate change was just used as one example to show the inability of whole nations to rationalise. Instead people find it much easier and socially rewarding to 'believe'. Therefore we can find this in politics, religion, prejudices, racism, and and and. The list can go on. Instead of looking at the facts and making up our minds ourselves, we just 'believe' anybody. It's easy, doesn't need a lot of courage or backbone. The play ended hopeful and jovial, whether it will end this way with the rising number of fundamentalistic believers is doubtful. In my opinion a deep play. Deeper than most critics look into, but then, most of them are believers anyway.

The Heretic (Royal Court Theatre): the discovery

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A culinary tour around the world - seventh and last stop: Nigeria

A German saying describes mixed feelings as 'one eye smiling and one eye crying'. That's exactly how Joan's culinary tour around the world is going to end. One eye is crying because I tremendously enjoyed wandering around in different cultures and trying out different spices, ways of preparation and so on. The other eye is smiling since, as Joan put it so appropriately

"...my tastebuds are longing to return to my more familiar FOODalogue fare."
Especially M will be glad that he will be having a bit more tradtional food again. He was hit hardest, or at least he believes he had to suffer most. He isn't very fond of Asian food nor does he like vey spicy dishes. But I did enjoy it from the first to the last second.

But for now let us turn to our last stop on this tour: Nigeria. I have never been to sub-saharan Africa and so it was difficult to imagine how traditional food would be in these countries. Do African people have easily access to a variety of dishes? Do they have fast food? I read that Nigeria is so productive that they export a large amount of vegetables, fruits and processed food to other countries. So this is probably not a really adequate picture of Nigerian food production.

Although the Portuguese arrived in Nigeria in the 15th century there seems to be not too much influence on the traditonal cuisine. So the internet became a huge asset again. Bypassing ox heart, tripe, and goat's heads I decided on something not too time consuming, since I just returned from England and are already packing suitcases again to attend a conference in Halle, Germany.

In the end I decided on bean patties with peanut sauce, accompanied by a cauliflower salad with Nigerian curry sauce.

The bean patties (recipe from http://www.theofel.de/plog-archives/2010/06/bohnenbaellchen-mit-chilisauce-rezept-aus-nigeria.html)  were very tasty, I would use more chili next time though. Although I have never been very fond of peanuts, this sauce was really lovely (even if it looked a bit like puke; Richard Hammond from Bitish 'Top Gear' calls something like this 'refried sick' but he would certainly love to eat it, since he doesn't like goat's head either).

It is from Chefkoch.de (http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/658951167725747/Erdnuss-Suppe-aus-Nigeria.html). Here is a translation with my adaptions to make it a proper and vegan sauce (the original recipe was meant to be a soup):

Peanut Sauce

1tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, choppped
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup unsalted peanuts (husked), finely chopped (the finer you chop, the less it looks like p*** )
1 cup almond milk or unsweetened soy milk
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a pot, fry onions until translucent, add tomatoes and stir until coverd in oil. Add flour and stir for a roux. Pour stock and bring to boil while stirring until mixture start to thiken. Add peanuts and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add almond or soy milk. Heat up the sauce but don't let it cook anymore. Especially soy milk will curdle if cooked.

This was my favourite: a very spicy currysauce that harmonised beautifully with the blanched cauliflower (http://www.kochmeister.com/r/31111-currysauce-aus-nigeria.html).

Nigerian Currysauce

1 small onion
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (adjust to taste; you can use more, the original added 3 tbs)
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the onion finely, add pressed garlic clove, mix wll with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle over blanched cauliflower.

It was a splendid virtual tour. Thank you so much Joan for taking us on this trip. But we should never forget
Dream-dinners aren't any good; and we can't share them (from Tolkien's 'The Hobbit')
the most important thing about cooking delicious food is sharing it with others. So, friends, cook good food from your comfort zone or from any country you fancy. Just remember, sharing it is the most important thing about it.