I came across a recipe online many years ago for a curry of mustard greens. By chance mustard greens were in season and I bought them not for onigiri, as the Japanese use them, but for Sarson Ka Saag. Since then I’ve sampled dozens of recipes, which don’t vary much.
Mustard greens aren’t popular here, so when they come into season I buy them in bulk to freeze. I stem them and blanch the stemmed leaves from the stems separately. I prepare the dish with the tender parts of the leaves for guests and use the leftover stems for when I make it just for myself — either way, Sarson Ka Saag is a treat.
The species of mustard greens that we can purchase is less pungent than what I’ve eaten in India and the states, so unless I need to stretch the dish, I make it with only mustard greens whereas typically it’s 1:1 or 1:2 mustard greens:spinach.
Many recipes will finish the dish with a temper of onions, tomatoes, spices but if I’m making this for myself I omit that extra step because I’m too impatient to wait. However,if I’m serving them with the corn roti (that’s most popular to eat with them) I make the effort — corn and mustard greens have an affinty with each other, which is why many recipes add corn meal the curry to thicken it.
This is the recipe I most often come back to. For me, I don’t need extra spices. I wan to enjoy the the flavor of the greens as directly as possible.
Sarson Ka Saag
Tier one (you must use)
Mustard Leaves – 2 bunches (approx 3 lbs)
Spinach – 1 bunch (approx 1 lb)
Water – 2 cups
Oil – 1 Tbsp or ghee
Onions – 1 1/2 medium, finely chopped
Tomatoes – 2 medium, finely chopped
Tier two (suggested)
Ginger – 1 Tbsp, minced
Garlic – 1 Tbsp, minced
Salt – to taste
Red Chili Powder – to taste
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
For Garnishing (Seasoning):
Oil – 1 Tbsp
Onion – 1/2 medium, chopped in big chunks
Tomato – 1 medium, chopped in big chunks
Tier three (optional)
Corn meal (for thickening)
Stem the mustard leaves and blanch them in boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes, drain, cool with running water or in an ice bath to stop the cooking. When cool enough to handle squeeze them over a bowl collecting the liquid. Rough chop the mustard greens and set aside.
In a large kari, wok, or skillet heat the ghee/oil and add cumin and when you hear the characteristic pop add the hing, quickly followed by the onions. When they brown add 1/4 of water and reduce until the oil comes out. (see note here)
Add the garlic and chili paste, the green and red chilies, turmeric, corriander powder and cook for 1 or 2 minutes and add is you’re using fresh tomatoes add them now, if not add the chopped mustard greens and mix the onion mixture into the greens well. At this point add the canned tomatoes, if using, and guage the water level. The flavors need to meld so there should be enough to make it slightly soupy. Add up to 1 cup of water or some of the mustard juice you pressed out and cook for 20 minutes to reduce the liquid and bring it to the consistency you would like to serve it.
During the last five minutes add the garam masala.
One of my favorite purchases has been my Sigma 4.5mm fisheye. I take it with me as part of my kit and try to shoot with it to see what I can do — and when it’s good, it’s very good.
But what to do with all these round images?
Here are a few different ways I’ve found to express my content with the fisheye. These are from a theme park in Noboribetsu, an Edo style village. In one location are mannequins set up to approximate the way people in the Edo period used to live. Seeing the actual dimensions with figures really brought that world to life in my mind.
I have been learning exponentially. I can’t explain it, but I’ve hit a new groove which has given me confidence behind the camera.
These photos will not appear on WordPress as they appear to me because WordPress flattens out the color space from the larger ProPhoto I use on my computer to sRGB. It’s heartbreaking because the colors as they should appear are richer and more weighted. So, I invite you to check out my Flicker page to see these, and other, as I intended them to be seen.
So as you see, I’ve been learning loads. I’m actively studying composition and creating experiments so that I can better understand color. Your feedback really does help me learn. Tell me what you think.
I mentioned in my last post that I’ve taken up drinking as a new hobby. Let me explain.
For Christmas a friend sent me the book The 12 Bottle Bar. Christmas puts me in a shopping mood and I was looking for something new in 2015, so I got it into my head that I need those 12 bottles.
Mission complete, I mixed a few drinks a night, tasting things along the way. One of the first surprises was Vermouth. I’ve been using it in my cooking since I was in high school, but I’ve never drunk it. I encourage you to taste the vermouth from a FRESHLY opened bottle. The flavors are herbal and somewhat floral. I was stunned. Vermouth isn’t the kind of thing I’m going to have a glass of, but alcohol has it’s own palate of flavors I’d never taken the time to pay attention to.
So drinking is a meditative practice. 😉
When I was looking for rye whisky (to complete my bar) I came across a bottle of Coffey Whisky which I misread as Coffee Whisky. “What’s this?”, I thought and pulled up an online review on my iPad. What I read convinced me I needed to try this with soda and, OMG, it was better than a glass of wine.
I read on that Japanese whiskeys are made to be diluted as Nikka’s Coffey Whisky most certainly is. Neat, it doesn’t deliver it’s flavor profile but thinning it out with water brought forth fruits and woods while subduing all the harshness in a hard liquor. An online review equated it with the complexity of wine and I have to agree.
When I like something I read up on it. Liking this whisky I read up on Nikka and found out that their distillery was in Hokkaido, not far from where I’d be for the Snow Festival, so I decided to pay a visit — and I’m so very glad I did.
I left by bus from Sapporo to Yoichi, a 2-hour trip, with my morning Starbucks in hand. I arrived without having eaten breakfast and by eleven I was in their very busy bar sampling a variety of whiskies produced by Nikka for what you might call a very Irish breakfast.
Before December 2014, if I drank six pack of beer within a year, that was heavy consumption. For breakfast I had five glasses of whisky and an apple brandy. It was a very good morning. Very good. 🙂
Theres’s more to this story I want to share with you soon. Something I didn’t expect to find. I’ll try to write about it soon.
Fist off, I started this blog a year ago today — time flies.
I need to apologize for the unintended absence. For my birthday (on October 6th) ANA sent me a special promotion which I used to take an unscheduled, unplanned, always needed two-week vacation. When I came back I had essays up the kazoo to grade and, by chance, there was opening for a promotion.
I wanted the promotion.
I needed to prepare for the test (the first step in the application process), then for three successive interviews. I made it to the third and final group interview, but I didn’t get the job. That was at the end of November.
I sulked through most of December before getting in holiday mode — cooking, shopping, planning, and getting all my work done as our third year students graduate.
Excuses aside, I’m back. I didn’t mean to take a long holiday. Life happens — and I don’t get paid for this, so priorities. 😉
I did have time to consider what my blog means to me in the time I was away. I did start this as a means to reach out and connect with other people who share my passion for cooking and food — all things connected to food and eating. My blog then turned into a photography blog. I tried different ways to separate the two but photography was more fun to post about, however it’s not my real goal. I want to focus on my cooking and so I’m going to keep my photography in Flicker with a few here and there to liven up a given post.
I do love photography, perhaps even more than food. To take pictures and edit them require lots of time. To balance blogging and photography I’m setting a goal to post here once a week. I might post more, but I’d rather post a quality food post that’s informative than several small ones. We’ll see how it works out.
For this first week of the new year I thought I’d post about our New Year’s Osetchi.
Every year I’ve been in Japan for the New Year’s holiday I’ve spent the week it takes to make all the best dishes I can eek out of my kitchen — and it’s expensive. Two years ago I spent the equivalent of 700USD for Osetchi and it’s accompaniments (crab, sashimi, wine, etc). This year I purchased one of the many pre-made osetchi boxes available through department stores. They range in price from 2000USD to a modest 100USD. The food should be enough that it lasts for three days. I went with the Dean & Deluca osetchi box and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
I enjoy Japanese traditional foods (tray one); however, the other two trays of western delicacies blew them away. The duck confit, the home made sausages, the sea urchin mouse and on and on and on were some of the best things I’ve eaten in ages. The beef! I’ve never had beef so tender that it literally begins to melt while chewing.
So enjoy these photos of my first feast of the New Year and let me know in the comments how you’ve all been doing.
The new year in Japan.
On January 2nd the Imperial Family opens the East wing of their palace to the public. While we may not enter their residence we are allowed into the mail courtyard. The family makes an appearance at the window, the Emperor makes a short speech, and they all wave. It’s my first time attending — I’ve never been to a more crowded place in all my life (I’m tall enough to see just how crowded it was). These are a few photos I took at the event.
Early this year I walked into my bedroom showered, tired, and ready for bed. Flipped the light. Baby spider was on my pillow. We both looked at each other for a beat. I charged, it JUMPED behind the bed, and I slept in the other room. I am not an arachnophob. Not really. Unnerved. Unsettled. Proof that they live amongst us both fascinates me and puts me on edge and, yes, terrifies me.
Walking through Dejima’s orchards and gardens in the rain — umbrella in one hand, camera in the other — I dodged a few spiders perched eye level to me (because no one else walking though is 192cm/6’4″ they can spin their webs lower than I’d like) until I walked face first into one.
Instinct and expectations collided — I am a man, I can not scream!
I shuddered deeply from within, shook my head violently from side to side, managed to drop my shoulder bag on the wet ground and land my camera on top. With one self possessed step forward I practically undulated with complete and total revulsion and fear. I don’t know how I didn’t scream or completely freak out in a dance.
I couldn’t bring myself to pat myself down for a spider check so dropped my umbrella over my camera and calmly walked over to a near by gardner and told what happened. I asked if he wouldn’t mind checking if I missed any “web” on my person.
I was spider free.
I am in awe of what social expectations and a ridged idea of how one thinks they should behave can, thankfully, reign in even the primeval emotions hidden deep, deep within. Remember that the next time you get pissed at someone. 😉
And ladies and gentlemen, that is how I’ve come to post this set of pics from Nagasaki.
I invite you to think on the title. By distance I mean to draw your attention to that space between the camera and the subject, the subject and the entrance. I hope that if you notice those gaps you’ll think on the space between where you are siting and where I am posting this. I took several shots but chose this one because the flair and the doors were in alignment along the axis. I cut the flair in half to show two halves of the same thing. The emblem on the door (the Imperial crest) is also a duplicate as are the yellow lights in the distance and decorations hanging from the entrance. In the distance you’ll notice the ‘tori’, another gate to play off the gate at the center of the photo. Duplicity. What you can’t know by looking at the photo is the subject is not me, but a stand in for me. And in a way I as the photographer am the stand in for you the viewer at this event. So the title, The Distance Between You And Me is meant to be ironic in that we are one and the same.
I don’t reblog enough.
This post is inspiring in many ways. The narrative, the photography, the recipe. A lot of work went into making this. I hope you check it out.
The wedding of a widowed osteopath marrying a biochemist. He being a first timer, an amateur ventriloquist, an amputee. Creepy Church, begat an organist, a burly lass with a grimacing face, huge bouffant hair, who wore wall to wall tartan. She entered the Church carrying a large, purple velvet goat, her music case, quite obviously?
“Conspicuously absent isn’t he?” “Oh, where’s the Groom.” “There’s a wildly held belief that the Groom should be in attendance” said a loud buffoon. Another hooray heckler boomed “There’s been a misunderstanding the Groom will not be attending today’s wedding”. “He’s swiveled on his heels, sorry heel and legged it” ironically chortled another of the Am-Dram set.
The Bride, wearing an unflattering meringue-of-a-frock, arrived to the theme music from Mission Impossible, accompanied by anticipated, yet unbridled laughter. The flush faced groom popped up, grabbing the air like badly manipulated marionette from his assumed position…
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This image comes directly from my camera sans processing.
This is from Yokohama Bay. The sun had just gone down. I had a dark neutral density filter over my 12mm to increase the exposure to 30 seconds in order to bring in the best light and remove the people meandering about. This is the result. Regrettably I forgot to bring my extra battery and had to stop just two images after — it was perfect light and a full moon.
I am enjoying Lightroom for the creative control I have over my images. However with clear light, time, and a tripod processing is unnecessary.
Enjoy your weekend.
On the way home from work after the rains I glanced down and saw a rolly polly blindly make its way up a large wet brick. I reversed my lens and shot until it found its way into the soil just inches away. When I looked at the images in Lightroom I saw a creature poised between light and dark pulling its way up and saw in that a metaphor. I hope you like the image of something so small making its way up into the light inspiring.
Myself, I enjoy the day long process of tending a near boiling pot, of skimming, of straining and adding then straining again; but the Modernists have popularized two other methods for producing stock faster with less effort:
Those made with a pressure cooker and
Those made sealed in a plastic bag then cooked in a hot water bath (sous vide).
Whatever the means, the method is the same.
Step one: Balance
Stocks use a portion of bones to meat. The bones add gelatin, minerals, and a particular flavor — and body, the mouthfeel of the stock. Many argue that you can make a very good stock with bones alone. I agree. However, using science, the Modernists have been attempting to prove that flavor comes solely from the meat. One classic ratio is 3 parts bone to one part meat.
Stocks also need mirepoix, a chop of onions, carrots, celery. The classic balance is 2 parts onion for one part each celery and carrot, but let taste be your guide. How much flavor is in each ingredient? Are the onions pungent, or sweet? Are the carrots and celery bland, sweet, or flavorful? Either way, rough chop them and set them aside.
Many good stocks use a bouquet garni, most commonly with thyme, parsley stems, and a bay leaf. A few cloves of garlic and/or tomato paste are sometimes part of the flavor profile as well.
Broadly speaking you can add all of your ingredients to the pot raw or you can add them to the pot after browning them from light golden to deep brown. Kitchen wisdom is the browner the bones, meat, vegetables going in, the more flavorful the end product. Typically chicken stocks are made white and used for sauces, or browned and made for soups. Beef and pork stocks are almost always browned to bring out the flavors in the meat.
Step three: Cook under the boil
When making stock you do not want the water in the pot to move. Typically the water is between 80 – 95 degrees Celsius, or just below the boiling point. In sous vide it’s even lower; in a pressure cooker much higher (the high pressure prevents bubbles from moving what’s in the pot). When water boils the air moves everything in the pot. Eventually the water will become cloudy and the flavors will boil out, producing much less flavorful, unattractive stock. As a rule, when you see bubbles in the pot, turn down the heat.
How long to cook? That depends on whether you’re using bones. Bones add gelatin. When concentrated the gelatin adds a very specific mouthfeel to soups. That sensation in the mouth is called body. To maximize body you must boil bones preferably with either chicken feet, pigs trotters, or cow hooves — all available through the butcher. Typically you blanch them, then add them to a pot of cold water. Bring it up to the simmer — or just below the boil — and let them cook from 3 – 9 hours. The longer you boil them, the more gelatin you extract into you stock.
In my experience, the vegetables I can purchase are much less flavorful than those I grew up with as a boy. To make up for that lack of flavor I prepare two to three portions of vegetables (yes, three times what’s needed) and simmer them with the bones in stages. Placing a colander in the pot makes removing each batch easy, or you can remove them with a strainer. Either way, every three hours I replace the vegetables. I add the meat to that last batch of vegetables and cook the final two to three hours.
Step four: Strain, cool, de-fat
When the stock is ready strain it through the finest strainer you have and let the stock cool to room temperature, the refrigerate overnight. A stock with body will set like jello with a layer of fat at the top. With less to no body the fat will still float to the top. Remove it. In my experience, it has no flavor and so I throw it away.