Monday, 31 October 2011

Kimono de Jack Autumn ( Den Haag - The Netherlands)

Last weekend I went to the Netherlands to visit the Dutch version of Kimono de Jack,
near The Hague at the Clingendael park, after Kornelia invited me to come.
The Clingendael park is open to the public, except for the Japanese garden there, which is only open to the public twice a year for a few short weeks.

 We were very lucky : lovely sunny autumn weather.  The trees around the main house and in the whole park are already showing off their beautiful autumn colors.

What better place to hold a Kimono de Jack Autumn ?
It turned out to be a big success : fourteen people showed up in kimono.

On their way to the Garden : Linda , Amy and Amy's friend, Jeffrey.

 From left to right, Youandi , Ben (Kitty-chan's friend) , Stephanie and Kitty-Chan.

The Japanese garden is built around a small pavilion , complete with two red ornamental bridges, lots of Japanese lanterns, sculptures, etc.. bought in Japan and brought over by boat by one of the former owners. 

The garden really looks authentic, with the two bridges , all the mossy banks of the pond, the maples and the lanterns and rock arrangements.

Too bad it's not open in the evening and at night : it'd be a nice place to hold a tsukimi (moon viewing) and drink a a chilled daiginjo or even a Sake spritzer while contemplating the garden in the moonlight.

Everyone gathered at the pavilion for a chat and some lunch.

 Mei-ing , Linda and Kornelia. Lovely green. Reminds me of the one Hong made to wear at the 2010 Matsuri , but that fabric was definitely an even darker green.

Amy checking if her friend has a fever  ^^.

Charissa ( the girl in the purple hakama ) joined us at the pavilion.

The group photo at the pavilion. Very nice but I prefer the one below :)

Lots of people wanted to pose by the red maple tree : here's Berber.
 Kornelia and Stephanie.

 Together with Youandi.

 Kornelia opening the sliding doors in seiza pose :)

 Stephanie in seiza pose too : very nice, but hey, where's the tray with my chilled sake ?

After having fun with the sliding doors , they posed at the corner of the pavilion.

Same shot, with extended sleeve.

I liked the shot above so much, I asked Anne and Berber to pose in The Corner too.

And also Kitty-Chan and Ben from Belgium.

And Mei-ing and Linda. 

Kornelia , Stephanie, Anne and Berber showing their musubi.
I missed getting Riga, Tulay, Amy and Youandi for a "corner-shot" , but by that time everyone started leaving the Japanese garden. 
An impressive group, considering it's just the second Dutch Kimono de Jack.

Tulay, Amy and Riga. Up till now, I thought only miko wore red hakama ^^ , but I really like how the brown and red go together in Amy's outfit. Tulay ( on the left ) made the obi with the two cats herself !

With everyone's back turned , I could get hold of another musubi-shot : Kitty-chan, Tulay, Riva, Linda and Youandi.

 Amy and Charissa showing off their hakama outfits.

Stephanie and Linda in a pensive mood , ^^.

The Kimono Club's signature shot : the zori / tabi rosette.
 I didn't get that shot myself, but I got a few nice little details ^^ :

 Tulay's red and black zori with a lovely embroidery of a pink... thingy with a string.

 Linda's embroidered neko with a bell . Kawaii, desu ne ?!

Charissa's hair ornament. Hmm , a kanzashi would have been nice too.I know a Kitty in England who can come up with just the one that'll suit her.

At the Dutch garden , everybody gets ready for the group shot on the ornamental staircase.
We'll need longer staircases if the Kimono de Jack NL keeps growing.

The showing of the sleeves ( from left to right : Berber, Mei-ing, Anne, Tulay, Charissa, Stephanie,
Kornelia , Riga, Amy, Linda, Kitty-chan, Ben, Youandi. ) Lengthwise, I reckon Charissa comes out ahead with Riga and Amy a close second ^^ .

Thanks everybody for a nice day and for posing so nicely : I can't wait till the next KDJ comes around.

( to download pictures here don't save them directly , they're small from here, click on the picture , it'll open a slideshow and then on the Show Original , right-click that and save it.)
I can make HiRes jpg of every photo ( I always photograph in RAW mode ). If you want anything else in Hires, just ask.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sushi training

I learned the proper technique to make thin sushi rolls ( hosomaki ) and reverse sushi rolls ( uromaki) in London with Ikeida Atsuko quite a while ago,so  I decided a few weekends ago that I'd practice my technique. I cooked about 4 cups (600 grams) of rice.
(Big mistake , I had to make so much sushi and  because I also took photographs I spent more than 3 hours in the kitchen , haha ! )
( click on the pictures to see a larger version )
While the rice was cooking , I prepared strips of avocado ,cooked thin asparagus, strips of carrot, lightly cooked in a little water till they were done but still firm , strips of cucumber and strips of smoked and fresh fish ( tuna and salmon ) and surimi (aka imitation crab sticks). Too much of everything, but you can always eat what's left :)

I also used strips cut from a fillet of smoked herring , because I like the flavor.

The warm rice is put in a hangiri (wooden tub) which has been rinsed well with water so the rice doesn't stick to it. Mine is about 40 cm wide.
(I had already used half the rice, before I took a picture.)

Then I add a mixture of 2 parts rice vinegar , 1 part sugar and a little salt ( for 600 uncooked grams of rice : 8 tablespoons rice vinegar, 4 (unheaped) spoons of white sugar and a teaspoon of salt ), using a spatula to fold it through the rice , while fanning it to cool down.

Fanning makes the rice nice and shiny. At first it usually appears too soggy and I used to worry that I put too much mixture on it, but I find it always absorbs the mixture. Keep the hangiri covered with a clean cloth or dishtowel to keep the rice from drying out.

To roll the reverse rolls (uramaki) you definitely need to cover a makisu (bamboo mat) with clingfilm, to keep the rice from sticking to the bamboo.
One uramaki , just made , on the clingfilm covered makisu.

For hygiene, I wear latex  gloves when making sushi ( I need XL size cause my hands are so big : I buy these from an industrial tools shop in town : most supermarkets only have S, M and L)

Traditionally hosomaki are made with one ingredient or at most two, but you can make them with three like me. These are from top left to right  tuna with carrot and cucumber and three with pickled herring and cucumber.
The uromaki underneath are salmon with carrot and cucumber and roasted sesame seed on the outside.

A hosomaki ( thin roll ) and an uromaki ( which traditionally is made square ). I'm still practicing on the squareness, even though the ones I see in Japan Center aren't that perfectly square either :)
Did you know you have to let sushi rolls with nori on the outside sit for several minutes before cutting them ? The nori absorbs some of the moisture of the rice , sticks better to the rolls and make it easier to cut.

Hosomaki with crab stick carrot and avocado. I used to use my very sharp sashimi knife to cut the rolls, but I found a very sharp deba (shown underneath ) is even better. I use Japanese Suehiro waterstones of 1000 and 6000 grain that let me get a razor sharp edge. If you're not used to sharpening and honing knives , have them sharpened. It's not easy to do it properly.

Two more uramaki rolls , the top one covered in sesame seed, the bottom one in fish roe.

The important thing about uramaki is that you have to keep wetting your hands : the rice sits on the outside and is very sticky. It's easy to forget and before you know the roll comes undone.

Not all my sushi works out though. I really like the rather large and beautiful rainbow trout caviare ( I use it a lot when making sashimi ), so I made a thick roll with rainbow trout on the outside. It still looked OK when in a roll, but when I cut it ,

all the eggs fell off : they didn't stick to the rice. Nothing to do with the rice, it was sticky enough.
Also, there was a bit too much filling.

I'm sure the Japanese have had the same experience with salmon roe, so I cut strips about 1 inch wide and 8 inches long. Out of a small golf-ball sized lump of sushi rice I shaped a flat round shape .,wound a strip of nori around it , leaving a little bit of nori around the top end to hold the roe.
A small dab of wasabi on the rice , arrange a coffee-spoon of roe on top.

Voila, my very first gunkan sushi ( battleship sushi) : the perfect solution to hold my beautiful caviar.

I liked them so much I immediately made four more.


You can wash the commercial packaging of sushi you buy in the shop in the dishwasher at 50 °C ( put the transparent tops flat, or they'll deform, the bottom are much stronger ) and package your sushi to take away.
These are thick uramaki with sesame on the outside ( 2 strips carrot, 2 strips raw salmon, 2 strip cucumber). They're harder to slice , because the rice isn't held together by a nori sheet on the outside. Use a sharp knife and clean it on a wet towel between each cut.

A few more  thick uramaki ( salmon, cucumber and carrot ) 

 Needless to say, I spent that evening and the next day eating LOTS of sushi !