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Feel good food: pumpkin soup

January 11, 2016

When I was in 8 or 9 years old, I attended a cooking club at school. One afternoon, we made a delicious, German-style potato soup and I brought home the recipe. As I really liked that soup, my mother started to re-cook this potato soup for my brother and me every now and then. The soup turned out to be a little different each time, depending on what kind of vegetables were available here in Japan and which selection and balance of spices my mother felt like using that day – but delicious it was, always.

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Recently, I started making pumpkin soup on a frequent basis, and like my mother’s potato soup it turns out to be slightly different each time. According to my flatmates, it’s always tasty nevertheless and to me, the soup is comforting feel-good food every time. Although the ingredients can be varied depending on your taste and what you have on hand, the preparation method is always more or less the same, therefore I would like to share the basic recipe with you.

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Note: amounts of ingredients are approximate and can be varied according to taste or availability, optional ingredients may be but do not need to be included.

Pumpkin soup
makes one pot of soup
Ingredients:
1 large or two small squashes (I like to use hokkaido pumpkin or butternut squash, but feel free to use whatever edible squash you like!)
1-2 onions
celery: either a good piece (200g?) of celery root or 2-3 stalks
1 stalk of leek
2 carrots
parsley or parsley root
up to 1 L oat milk
a piece of ginger, ground or finely chopped
salt, chile flakes, nutmeg
2-3 tbsps. vegetable oil or vegan butter (I always use)optional: cubed potatoes, an apple, pinch of cinnamon, white wine, ground coriander, ground cumin, curry spice mix

toppings: pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil

  • Chop all the vegetables roughly.
  • Heat oil and/or vegan butter in a large pot.
  • Put chopped vegetables into the hot oil and let fry while stirring continuously for up to 10 minutes.
  • If using white wine, deglaze the vegetables with a good dash of the wine, if not, continue with next step:
  • Fill up with desired amount of oat milk and water until all of the vegetables are covered.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for around 20-30 minutes with closed lid, until all of the vegetable cubes are tender.
  • In the meantime, peel the ginger and grate or chop very finely. Add ginger at the end of the cooking time and stir until combined.
  • Puree the soup and season with salt, chile flakes and nutmeg. If desired, add additional spices like ground coriander, cumin or curry.
  • Serve topped with pumpkin seeds and a splash of pumpkin seed oil and enjoy!

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How to survive as a vegan in Japan

January 2, 2016

This christmas break I spent at my family’s in Japan. Already months before I arrived, they started to worry what I would be able to eat – A: because that’s what they always do, make a huge effort to let me eat all the most delicious things they can find (^-^ lucky me!) – and B: because this was my first time as a vegan coming home to Japan.

Although japanese cuisine includes a lot of vegetables, nearly everything contains dashi, fish based broth. Konbu dashi, based on seaweeds, is also available, but most of the time, katsuo or other fish-based dashi is used. So basically, as my step-mother jokingly suggested, if you want to survive as a vegan in Japan, the easiest way would be to quit veganism – but that was not an option for me. And after spending two weeks here by now, I figured out that it is also possible not to starve as a vegan in the Tokyo/Yokohama area, even though you need to read ingredient lists very carefully. As there are not so many guides about japanese everyday vegan nutrition in English available yet (especially for Yokohama), I thought I’d sum up my experience and tips in this blog post.

Japanese foods that should be “animal-free” in general are

  • a couple of tofu dishes: for example tofu topped with grated ginger, leeks and shoyu, or yudofu (cooked tofu, I ordered it cooked with vegetables only and in vegetable broth, they probably used konbu dashi)
  • some mochi dishes: Yakimochi (Mochi grilled with nori = sea weeds and served with shoyu), Odango (mochi balls available in different varations, eg. topped with sweet bean paste or a sweet soy sauce glaze)
  • several otsumami (snacks served along with drinks): tsukemono (pickled or fermented vegetables), hiyashi tomato (cooled tomato) if eaten with salt and without mayonnaise, morokyu (kyuri = cucumber, with miso) and edamame
  • a few traditional sweets: yakiimo (baked sweet potato – delicious!), kurikinton (a paste of sweet chestnuts), youkan (sweet bean paste available in different variations for example with green tea), other sweet bean paste desserts

Vegan restaurants in Tokyo/Yokohama

There are already a couple of very nice guides for vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Japan, for example here and on Happy Cow, so I do not want to repeat everything, there is just one addition, which is Natural Harmony Coa in Yokohama.

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Curry lunch plate (vegan) at Natural Harmony Coa

Located in the basement of the North Port Shopping Center in Center Kita, Tsuzuki-ku, this small restaurant serves organic washoku (japanese dish) style food of high quality. Their menu always varies a little bit, depending on the ingredients available, but they always offer several vegan menus and also some fish or meat menus. I went there twice with my family, and as they’re omnivores it was the perfect place to go to, where vegans as well as non-vegans can get super delicious food.

Eating in “standard” japanese restaurants

A few general tips:

  • miso shiru (miso soup) and all kinds of sauces and soups are mostly made with fish broth (katsuo dashi or other fish-based dashi), be careful with those.
  • if in doubt: ask! Ask whether the dish contains any kinds of “doubutsu kei” (animal derived) things, for example dashi

Noodle restaurants (soba or udon): ordering with daikon oroshi and shoyu (grated radish and soy sauce) or shoyu and wasabi instead of the normal sauces is a very tasty option as the standard sauces usually contain fish broth. For ramen, there are a few restaurants serving vegan ramen, for example T’s Tantan and Kyushu Jangara in Harajuku/Omotesando.

Sushi restaurants: aside from kappa maki (cucumber rolls) and inari sushi (fried tofu bags filled with rice), several sushi restaurants also offer kampyo (a kind of gourd, called “calabash”), ume shiso (sour plum with shiso, a herb) maki, oshinko maki (oshinko refers to all fermented vegetables but for sushi, usually takuan, fermented radish is served), and once I even found nigiri with nasu no tsukemono (fermented eggplant). So at sushi restaurants vegans can find quite a selection of vegetable based traditional sushi and as these are not considered the sushi specialties, they’re most often rather cheap.

Yakiniku (Korean BBQ) restaurants are certainly not the best choice to go to for a vegan, but if you happen to be accompanied by omnivores like me, it is also possible to eat vegan there. Usually they offer “namuru” (korean  pickled roots and vegetables) and different vegetables you can put on the grill. As the tare (sauce) with which the vegetables were seasoned contained some animal-derived products, we simply ordered them separately and they were so kind to even offer me some vegan dipping sauce options (shoyu and wasabi as well as shiodare, sesame oil with salt). I also ate bibimbap without meat and egg, basically rice topped with namuru, nori (sea weeds) and gochujyang (korean spicy seasoning paste) which was also quite delicious as a vegan version.

Eating on the go & grocery shopping

Eating on the go a.k.a. buying something from the convenience store is rather tricky in Japan. Sandwiches and baked goods more or less always contain dairy or meat/fish products, and japanese snacks like onigiri are filled with fish most oftenly. Sometimes you can get onigiri with konbu filling, but be careful and check the ingredient list (scroll down for a short kanji guide) as the filling might contain katsuo dashi or other fish-derived ingredients. Another option can be inari sushi, if they’re available. For drinks it is a little bit easier as you can always find different teas and also plain coffee, and I even spotted matcha soy latte from the muji brand in some family marts, but for sure those cannot be found in every single convini.

Grocery shopping can also be quite complicated in Japan when it comes to vegan specialty products. There are several soy products which contain animal-derived ingredients unexpectedly (like gelatin in soy yogurt), so be careful to check ingredient lists here as well! Two products I’ve checked and have been buying frequently are this soy milk and soy yogurt:

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Vegan to-nyu-gurt (soy yogurt) and to-nyu (soy milk)

For soy milk, most supermarkets offer quite a big selection, although I have not tried a lot of those products yet.

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Soy milk drink selection at a supermarket

All in all, grocery shopping for the basic foods in the Tokyo/Yokohama area is possible, just make sure to always check the ingredient lists.

For foreigners who cannot read kanji very well, I made a short, very basic list of what to avoid:

肉 niku – meat
牛 gyu – beef
豚 buta – pork
鳥 tori – poultry
牛乳 gyu-nyu – milk
魚 sakana – fish, also avoid every kanji that involves the sakana-hen, the left part being the sakana sign (for example like 鰹 katsuo = bonito), as these kanji usually are names of specific fishes.

Hope this helps vegans when travelling in Japan. All in all it is possible to eat delicious food, also traditional dishes, if taking a little care and if in doubt – asking. (You might get some funny looks, as vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is not as common as in western countries yet, but they’ll probably forgive anyone that looks foreign :)).

Have a happy new year and lots of delicious food in 2016! :)

Announcement: kawaii kitchen pop-up bakery

September 11, 2015

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kawaii kitchen will hold its next pop-up bakery tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 12th) and next week Saturday (Sept. 19th) at Lindener Markt in Hanover (8 am – 1 pm)! If you’re craving something sweet, come along for some vegan cupcakes or cookies :) Tomorrow I’ll offer:

Pear and Rosemary Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Plum filling and (vegan) “cream cheese” frosting

Raspberry Chocolate Cupcakes

VEGO (hazelnut and gianduja) Cupcakes

my favourite Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The most refreshing lemonade

September 3, 2015

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Hey everyone, today’s post and recipe is only a very short one, but it’s good – believe me ;)

It has been one of my favorite recipes of this summer. Lemonade, made from fresh limes and mint – not too sweet and not too sour, perfectly balanced, rehydrating and refreshing on summer days is how I would describe it. The PhD student I was working with during my internship introduced me to this simple drink, which is a wonderful alternative to pure water as a drink on hot summer days. Her husband was so nice to take pictures of the lemonade when we prepared some during a cooking and baking session a few weeks ago, so credit for most of the pictures in this post goes to him – thank you, Kosta!

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Actually, this lemonade also inspired the Mint-glazed Lemon Cake, which I posted recently, and accompanies this cake very well :) So if you’re craving something super-quickly made and refreshing to enjoy on the last hot day’s of summer, this is the thing for you to try!

Mint and Lime Lemonade
recipe from Angelina
makes around 1L
Ingredients:
1 1/2 limes, peeled
1/2 cup mint leaves, cleaned
500mL cold water
50mL agave juice + more to taste
200mL ice cubes
  • Put limes, mint leaves and water into a blender and mix until combined.
  • Add agave juice and ice cubes and blend again. Have a sip, and if desired, add more of the agave juice to sweeten. Blend again and enjoy!

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Mint-glazed Lemon Cake

August 22, 2015

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It’s been a while since my last post … again, I know. To those of you who are interested why: most of my time I was working in the lab during the past year and therefore did not have so much time to spend on baking and especially taking pictures and writing down recipes. Now that I got my Bachelor’s degree and finished my internship in another lab, I have a few weeks of free time until continuing my studies with a Master’s program in Berlin. Yep, that’s right, I’m moving to Berlin and I am freaking excited about it! Living in a big city again after nine years since I moved away from Yokohama is something I am so looking forward to!

But more importantly, I have more time to spend in the kitchen again! In fact, I am sitting in our flat’s kitchen in this very moment as I am finally typing a blogpost again. And next to me, there is this beautiful cake standing on the kitchen table, waiting to be devoured …

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For my Farewell-Party at the Institute I baked a few things – no big surprise here probably – and one of these things was this delicious mint-glazed lemon cake. In my opinion, this is the perfect summer cake (apart from fruit tarts maybe), with it’s tangy citrus notes and refreshing coolness of the mint. On top of that, it’s super simple to make, only a little grating of lemon zest, adding a handful of other ingredients, glazing the cake after baking and that’s it! As some of my former colleagues really liked this cake, I baked it again for my flatmates (and for taking some pictures :)). Being worthy of a blogpost, I considered this cake, so here it is – the recipe for you, if you want to bake and enjoy a bite of this treat as well :)

Mint-glazed Lemon Cake || vegan
recipe adapted from Bored But Busy
makes one 20cm loaf
Ingredients:
100g vegan butter (I like to use organic Alsan) + a little more for greasing the baking pan
160g cane sugar
250g wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 medium-sized lemons (if using very large lemons, 1 1/2 should be enough: the zest and juice of one lemon for the cake, and juice of 1/2 lemon for the icing)
140g icing sugar
2 tbsps. mint liquor
15 small to medium-sized mint leaves + more for decoration
  • Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease your baking pan and set aside.
  • Grate zest of 1 1/2 medium-sized (or 1 large) lemons into a measuring cup, add juice of the 1 1/2 (or 1 big) lemons and fill up with water, then put aside.
  • Mix flour and baking soda and set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl whip together the vegan butter and cane sugar until creamy. Add vanilla and vinegar, mix in.
  • Add dry and wet ingredients alternatingly to the butter-sugar-mixture, stirring after each addition and mix until combined.
  • Pour batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for around 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. To prevent burning of the surface, cover the cake with aluminium foil after 15-20 minutes of baking. After baking, let the cake cool for around 5 minutes, then remove from cake pan carefully and let sit on a rack until cooled completely.
  • In the meantime, prepare the icing: for the white lemon icing, mix 60g powdered sugar with 1 1/2 tbsps. lemon juice from the remaining half lemon, and if desired, add more liquid until desired consistency is reached.
  • For the mint icing, mix 1 tsp. chopped mint leaves (I used about 15 small to medium-sized leaves), 2 tsps. mint liquor and 80g of powdered sugar together. Add more liquid (lemon juice or water) if necessary until desired consistency of the icing is reached.
  • Pour both icings on top of the cake, decorate with more mint leaves and lemon zest if you like :)

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Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies (vegan)

February 22, 2015

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I’ve been looking for a good vegan cookie recipe for ages. Chocolate Chip Cookies are such a simple, wonderful treat which one could expect to be foolproof to make.

Well – wrong expectations, I had. Ever since I started eating mostly vegan, I tried a LOT of chocolate chip cookie recipes which all turned out to be not so nice. Rock-hard cookies, crispy but not chewy ones, chewy but not crispy ones, … not satisfying. Until finally, I found this recipe here by chance. It’s a recipe for double chocolate chip cookies with cocoa-dough and chocolate chips. As I prefer vanilla-scented dough with chocolate chunks, I changed the recipe slightly – and those cookies turned out to be perfect (at least for my taste). Slightly crispy at the edges, chewy in the middle, a sweet hint of vanilla and big chunks of bittersweet chocolate.

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If that’s your idea of a perfect cookie as well, you should try baking these. They’re super quick to make and really satisfying when you’re craving something sweet to accompany your coffee :)

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies || vegan
(recipe adapted from VITA)
makes about 20 large cookies
Ingredients:
400g raw cane sugar
a pinch of salt
300g vegan butter (at room temperature)
about 2 tbsps. vanilla
50g soy milk (unsweetened)
500g flour
17g baking powder
200g good quality vegan chocolate, chopped roughly
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line two (or more, if you have) baking trays with baking paper.
  • Put raw cane sugar, salt and vegan butter into a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Add soy milk and vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Add flour and baking powder and mix until the dough is homogenous and there are no big butter chunks left. Fold in chopped chocolate.
  • With a cookie dough scoop (or ice cream scoop) put equally sized portions of cookie dough onto the baking trays, leaving lots of space between each cookie as they will spread out while baking. (With my cookie scoop I can fit 6 cookies on each baking tray)
  • Bake each batch for around 15 minutes or until the cookies start to get brown and crispy on the edges. Transfer the cookies on the baking paper onto a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before piling them up on a plate or into a storage box. Enjoy! :)

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Restaurant Day – Valentine’s Edition

February 19, 2015

As part of the latest Restaurant Day, kawaii kitchen had its second pop-up bakery at Lindener Markt in Hanover last weekend. Again, it was a blast. Lots of planning, baking and not so much sleep – and then a cold but wonderfully sunny, beautiful morning at the market. This time, I served Macarons au Chocolat, Macarons a la Vanille and an assortment of vegan Cupcakes:

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with (vegan) cream cheese frosting and plum filling, Lemon and Rosemary Cupcakes, Hazelnut Gianduja Cupcakes, Chocolate Mint Cupcakes and just in time for Valentine’s Day, Rose & Marzipan Cupcakes.

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Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me, so all I can show you now is a few snapshots my boyfriend (or I) took in a hurry with my cellphone, sorry about that!

It was another great experience, it made me really happy that several people remembered me from last Restaurant Day and came along for some sweet treats again! But there were also a few (vegan) people complaining about my non-vegan macarons. Making vegan macarons is something I’ve been trying for at least half a year now, unfortunately without any success. I searched the internet and tried several recipes including meringue made from flax seeds or a mixture of starches and plant protein, but nothing really worked out well so far. Do you have any idea how to make vegan macarons? I’d be really glad about some helpful comments :)

Hopefully I can serve vegan macarons on the next Restaurant Day! Until then – hope you guys had a nice Valentine’s Day as well!

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