Five Spice Kabocha, Brown rice and Tofu Salad

Can you see a wee theme going here. This one is definitely a take on a post from yesterday. Yup, I loved that mushroom salad so much I wanted to make a variation. Grilled and roasted veggies are soooo goood.

This one is similar but different, if that makes any sense

The main component is Kabocha. The five spice seasoning adds that extra dimension to the flavourful vegetable. All of the other flavours in the dish compliment it without over powering it. The varitey of beautiful textures from the soft tofu to the brown rice with bite are utterly satisfying and extremely healthy and wholesome.

My image, again, doesn’t do the dish any justice, but it gives you an idea at least. Just ignore the flash of light to the left.

Here you go…delish!!


  • 1/4 kabocha cut into thin slices (be careful, using a very sharp knife makes this easier, but also pretty dangerous)
  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
  • 150g firm tofu (drained)
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sprinkle of cracked salt and pepper
  • A bunch of spinach roughly cut
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 umeboshi


  1. In a small bowl add the sliced kabocha
  2. Splash a little of the olive oil and add the five spice then mix evenly (with your hands, I find is best)
  3. Add to the grill pan – the rack.
  4. Perform the same method to the aubergine using the rest of the olive oil, then add to the grill tray along with the kabocha
  5. Grill on a medium heat turning frequently
  6. In the mean time, wash and chop your spinach. Drain and dress with the lemon juice and sesame seeds
  7. Cut the tofu into cubes and add to the spinach.
  8. Allow your rice to cool a little before adding to the spinach and tofu.
  9. Mix through with a little salt and pepper
  10. Dress your plates with the salad
  11. When your veggies have cooked through, place on top of the salad
  12. Serve with umeboshi or a pickle of your choice.
  13. Enjoy 🙂

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili.

There goes another weekend.   Here’s what happened;

A short bike ride took us to Akaoka Beach for lunch, but the wind was insane…

Something had to be done about that, so we stopped in at our favourite cafe, where they make the most delicious baked cheese cake I have ever eaten.  Just look at it! mmmmm…

Sat night was spent in a really good izakaya. My images don’t do the food any justice, but believe me, it was mouth watering.  Only one problem, there wasn’t enough.  However, the umeshu (plum wine) quickly satisfied me. 

On Sunday, I woke up ridiculously early considering I didn’t get home until a little after 3am.  Luckily there wasn’t much of a hangover, but still, I needed to freshen up my head and make the most of my Sunday.  That’s where my trusty mamachari (my bike in the image above) came in handy.  We went for a 25km or so bike ride to this beautiful park out in the country side.  despite it being a really hilly ride, it was one of the most beautiful routes.  My poor wee body is suffering a little now, but it was worth it.

Whilst munching on some very deserved lunch, more Japanese was studied.  I like to believe it’s getting better, but I can’t seem to find the confidence to speak it much unless I’ve had a few.  I suppose the same can be said about speaking in general actually.

A healthy and hearty meal followed in the evening.  I have never made a vegetarian chili before, in fact I’ve never even eaten one, but wanted to give it a go.  It wasn’t as spicy as I usually like it, but it was really satisfying.   I served it up with genmai (Japanese brown rice)…beautiful.

I have so much left over, so tonights dinner is an easy one.

Perhaps I’ll make a tofu and avocado guacamole and serve it up with warmed wraps and a fresh, crunchy salad.


  • 1/2 small kabocha/squash
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 can chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans / 2 cups dried(is what I used)
  • 1 tsp chili powder/ 1.5 tsp dried chopped chilies
  • 1 tsp toasted and crushed cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 fresh chili (chopped)
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 300 ml water/ Dark Ale (I used water as Andy can’t have yeast)
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar


  1. If you are using dried black beans, soak them over night for quicker cooking.
  2. The next day cook every cup of beans with 2 cups of cold water
  3. bring to the boil then cook on a low heat for an hour to keep the beans in their Jackets.
  4. Cut the pumpkin/squash into 1/2 ” cubes.
  5. Pour olive oil into a large pot over a medium – high heat
  6. Add onion & saute until soft and translucent (around 3 minutes)
  7. stir in the tomatoes, pumpkin and spices then bring to the boil
  8. cook for 25 min or until the pumpkin becomes tender
  9. Sir in the pepper and cook for a further 4 min
  10. stir through some fresh coriander saving some for garnish
  11. serve up with rice and a little yogurt or sour cream

Sweetpotato, pumpkin and onion mash

The weather is becoming cooler by the day and the last of the momiji are parting from their branches. Winter is approaching fast and the thought and excitement of winter deliciousness is beginning to excite my taste buds.
The thought of this yum also frightened my waist line, or what’s left of it anyway (I bake cakes way too much) so this past month has been filled with the need to get back in shape. Yoga every day has started me off to a decent start. I also bought this genius little application for my ipod for strength training. It’s basically a game where you battle other users to beat their score. The ipod scores you on your form and control. such a genius piece of equipment. Impressed. Anyway, only just started using it and my body is feeling tender…I didn’t realise how out of shape I became!
Let’s just hope the motivation lasts longer than a week.

As for food, this week I wanted a wee change from our usual rice and veg, so decided to pick up some fresh fish fillets, leafy herbs and of course pumpkin and sweet potatoes and created this delicious dish.


    • 2 cups sweet potatoes
    • 1 cup pumpkin or butternut squash
    • 1 cup celery
    • 1 cup red onion
    • 1 tsp powdered stock/ vegetable or konbu dashi
    • 1 clove garlic
    • fresh ground black pepper
    • a dash of olive oil
    • a dash of soymilk


  1. Cut the pumpkin and sweet potato into cubes and boil until tender
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onion, celery and garlic for a couple of minutes until translucent. You want to have a bit of crunch to the vegetables.
  3. When the potato and pumkin is tenter and crumbling slightly, drain and return to the pot
  4. mash with the powdered stock, soy milk and a little olive oil
  5. mix in the sautéed onion, etc.
  6. sprinkle the black pepper
  7. To accompany the mash I served mixed herbs with a lemon dressing and cherry tomatoes.  I grilled a fillet of white fish and placed on top of the mash.

This dish was gorgeous on the plate, but even better in my mouth.

Pumpkin & Coconut Soup

This soup is one I picked up from working in a bistro a few years ago. It is an absolute favourite of mine. It’s deliciousness is 5 star. You have to try it to see what I mean.

Half a Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) or 1 squash
1 onion
2 pints of vegetable stock (I used 2 sachets of Konbu dashi)
200 ml Coconut milk (1/2 tin)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
1 scallion (garnish)
1. Cut up the Kabocha/squash and cook it in the stock until the pumpkin becomes soft.
2. In the meantime chop up the onion and sauté in a pan with a little olive oil.
3. When the pumpkin is cooked add the onion, spice, and coconut milk.
4. Spoon half of the soup into a blender and blend until smooth then transfer back to the pot and reheat.
5. Quarter the lemon then squeeze the juice into the soup and stir.
6. Serve with your garnish.
Day 2 soup = Pasta sauce!!
Brown pasta mixed with pumpkin soup, 1 small eggplant, a cup of spinach, 2 scallions, 1 big juicy tomato, 1 tub of firm tofu(diced)…. basically all the leftovers in my fridge
Nice, quick and very satisfying : )

Tofu & pumpkin burgers

Photo to follow….in too much of a rush to get them on the table hot.  Got all excited and we gobbled them up too quickly before taking a photo for you all to be tempted by the beautifulness!!   I’m obviously going to make them again.
It was my first attempt at tofu burgers and oh my…too delicious for words!!  I was on the search of a good recipe off the internet, but no such luck.  I was also short on some ingredients and some looked too eggy or too plain.  I also wanted to use my ingredient of the month – PUMPKIN!!
I made 6 burgers, 3 for me and 3 for Andy 🙂
I served them up with a nice mixed salad of spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, shaved carrot, umeboshi (pickled plums) rasins, soy nuts and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.


(makes 6 burgers)

0.5 cup soy beans
1 cup pumpkin finely copped
1 cup onion minced
1 300g tub firm tofu (drained)
1 small bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp mirin
1tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp kombu dashi granules (bullion powder would also work)
0.5 cup oats
1 oat cake
1 egg
1 tblsp crushed sesame seads
Dusting of corn flour

[next time I’ll probably add a little fresh herbs]

1) To drain the tofu cut it into four even pieces wrapping each peace in doubled over kitchen roll. Set aside for 30 mins.

2) Finely chop the onion, pumpkin, garlic, pepper and mix together with the soysauce, mirin and kombu dashi granules.  Mash the soy beans then add to the mixture

3) Heat up a pan with a little olive oil then cook this mixture until all the ingredients come together and the onions begin to brown and the liquid has dissolved.
When satisfied transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and mix through the oats, scrunched up oat cake and sesame seeds.

4) Mix the tofu in the food processer or blender then scrape into the oaty mixture and mix through.
Lightly beat the egg then mix together with everything else.

5) lightly dust a plate with corn flour spoon a little of the mixture onto the flour turning and forming into a small or medium sized pates.

The flour gives the burgers a delicious crunchiness so don’t miss it
out : )

Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
This mixture may feel a little unstable but it really comes together when you cook them in the pan.

6) Heat a little olive oil in the pan and cook through.   Roughly a couple of minutes on each side should do.
Serve with your favourite salad and enjoy!!

Curried Barley & Pumpkin

When starting this blog, I hadn’t really experimented much in the way of using recipes. I would only look through cook books, take ideas and make up my own dishes, but always forgetting what I used exactly in the way of quantities or method of cooking. This would make the same dish taste different every time. Not such a bad thing, but it can become a pain when you want to cook something quickly, something that you know is good for friends visiting.
From posting my fave dishes here, forces me to note down what I did, therefore opening up a new world of cooking.
I’m also always open to new ideas, especially ones which are easy to make, take little time, taste outstanding and of course are healthy.
I love it when friends are also interested in cooking, as this opens up new tasty doors. Jules, a friend of mine from New Zealand is a keen cook and always has great ideas in the kitchen. Being a yoga fanatic vegetarian and interested in healthful ingredients has possibly made her more experimental. I turned to her first because one of the first dishes of hers I tasted was right up my street. Curried barley and pumpkin. A really delicious side dish so full of flavour and very aromatic.
Sadly Jules had to leave Japan to return to New Zealand so no more sampling of new dishes that I can steal and no more yoga afternoons 😦 . Thankfully the power of the internet helps keep things close, so I asked her to send me some of her favourite meals, the ones she turns to most often. Luckily she sent me the Curried barley and pumpkin recipe I have been trying to copy for the past 6 months.
Tonight I followed the recipe for the first time and tried my best not to ruin it by adding extras before I’d even sampled the original recipe. The results, were just as I thought, super delicious. I served it with a tofu and edamame mixed salad and pickled cucumbers on the side (a new favourite of mine. Thank you Chisako for introducing them to me). I have sooo many left overs too. I doubled the batch as Andy is a huge eater and always worrying if he eats enough. He said he’d eat it again, however the only suggestion he made was to serve it with a saucy dish as it wouldn’t work as a meal by itself. I feel that this dish as a meal by itself, wasn’t the intention and works amazing with a crunchy salad and tofu. The quantities of spices were spot on and the sweetness of the pumpkin and the mirin pull out the spicy flavours. I loved how making this dish filled my apartment with mouth watering aromas.
I have no need to change anything, but I’m happy to hear what your opinions are.
Thanks Jules for this one!! x


1 cup barley
1 cup chopped pumpkin
2 teaspoons toasted and crushed cumin seeds
2 teaspoons curry powder
1-2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 teaspoons kombu dashi
1-2 cups water


Put all ingredients in to the rice cooker and mix together. Set the cooker to cook and let the rice cooker do the rest. Enjoy the smells and wait for the beep.

Simple 🙂


This month I have chosen to use pumpkin in as many dishes as possible.  I want to find new ways of using it so if you have any suggestions please post them my way.  Jules has offered one of her delightful recipes which I look forward to trying now that I have all the necessary ingredients.

Japanese pumpkin (Kabocha) is in season this month which is every reason why I want to cook with it.  Fresh is always best. This pumpkin is beautifully sweet and it’s colour is a brilliant orange.  High in bita carotene a powerful antioxidant which converts into vitamin A in the body.

This anti-oxidant has been shown to help improve immune function and can reduce the risks of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  Not only that, pumpkins also contain many other vitamins and nutrients including: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, C and E.  Furthermore One cup of pumpkin contains 3 grams of fibre and only 50 calories.   It is high in carbohydrates so can be a healthy substitute to pasta, rice or potatoes.

Kabocha is traditionally eaten in celebration of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, when people lack the nutrients found more commonly in summer vegetables. Kabocha is often enjoyed as tempura or boiled in sugar and soya sauce resulting in a soft, sweet dish.
For this blog posting, pumpkin cake is first on the list.  Pumpkin has an amazing texture perfect for baking with and will make your cake beautifully moist and colourful.

It was my day off yesterday and was on the lookout for something easy to make and using the ingredients I already have. That’s when I thought a pumpkin cake would be the ideal choice.  I did want to wait until I received my mums amazing squash recipe (which I have to add to this blog when I get it.  It is perhaps the only cake you can’t resist to scoff, even if it has fallen and broken into peices on the kitchen floor – ah the memories) however I felt a bit impatient and thought I’d make one up myself.  I didn’t want to be too experimental with this one so I thought the best thing to do was to work with something which was already a bit of a success, the banana cake.    The results were even better than expected.

Again, like the banana cake, this pumpkin one is a must try.  I wouldn’t have put it on here otherwise.  Very moist and flavourful.  You can’t really taste the pumpkin, but it gives this cake a mouth watering texture. You may find it also beats the banana cake in the tasty stakes.  I didn’t think this could be possible, but the proof is in the pudding!! 🙂


  • 100g Butter or Marg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup All purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin (if you are struggling to get it into a creamy mash add a little soy milk)
  • a big handful of crushed walnuts
  • 1 cup raisins (boiled in 1 cup of water – drain)
  • tsp heaped cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg powder


1.  Grease the rice cooker bowl/pan with butter or marg

2.  Mash the cooked pumpkin with a sturdy fork or blend in a blender with a little soy milk

3.  Cream the butter and sugar together and mix in the eggs

4.  Mix together the mushy pumpkin

5.  Mix in the sieved flour and spices

6.  Mix in the  raisins and crushed walnuts.

7.  Scrape into the rice cooker and bake for 60 minutes on the cake function. If you don’t have that function switch to on then check the mixture when the setting finishes with a chop stick.

8.  If it comes out clean you are in the clear and can let it cool on a rack then eat if not put it on for a further 20 mins.

9.  If you want to make this in the oven the directions will be the same as in the banana cake recipe I found.

10.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let it cool before cutting.

Remember, the steam in the rice cooker cooks the cake so don’t look until the timer has beeped.