Friday, June 27, 2008

Wari-Koudai Totoya Chawan

This is a pretty strong (visually) chawan. Another work by the Japanese ceramist Deishi Shibuya. The photographs don't do justice to this bowl. The white glaze is amazingly bright. It's really a nice piece of work. Definitely a keeper.

The shape is called Totoya, which means “fish dealer” in Japanese. In the sixteenth century a wealthy fish dealer from Sakai (Osaka) imported a bowl of this shape from Korea. The famous tea master Sen no Rikyu discovered the bowl in the shop front of the fishmonger and used it for his powdered tea. Or so the story goes...

I have to do some more digging to find out whether this story is true.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spaghetti Carbonara

Many people know this Italian dish as a creamy spaghetti sauce. However, Spaghetti Carbonara doesn’t contain any cream.

Just 7 ingredients:

Spaghetti (400 gram)
Pancetta (better: guanciale)
Egg (2 for 400 gram)
Pecorino romano, grated (40 gram)
Parmesan, grated (40 gram)
Garlic (crushed)
Black pepper and salt

The egg is the sauce. Fry diced pancetta in olive oil, add crushed garlic. Boil spaghetti. Put spaghetti in a hot bowl, add hot pancetta and oil but remove the garlic. Add half the cheese.

Break one egg, or egg yolk, per person over the spaghetti, add the rest of the cheese and mix. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the egg. The egg and cheese will form a cream like sauce. Garnish with parsley.

Even more authentic: use half Parmigiano-Reggiano, half Pecorino Romano. The prefered meat is not pancetta but guanciale, if you can find it outside of Italy.


This famous Aztec dish has just 5 ingredients:

Ripe avocados
Minced tomatoes
Black pepper and salt
Lime or lemon juice

Mash in mortar and pestle. The garlic and black pepper provide enough taste, but you can add red chili. Don't use it a as a dip for supermarket nacho's, but toast some good bread.

And hey, it's vegan! Restaurant critic Jay Rayner Eats leaves and shoots ... himself

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Weingut Debus Riesling Eiswein

I finally made the splurge just for myself: Eiswein from Weingut Debus, region: Rheinhessen, Germany. Grape: Riesling. Should be drunk very cold, around 4 or even 3 degrees Celsius. I drank a sparkling wine from Weingut Debus, which was really excellent. I will look out for more wine from this producer. [Update: The color is the most amazing color I have ever seen in a drink: a deep golden amber. I decided to drink the Eiswein on a hot evening on my rooftop terrace. Despite a bucket of ice, it was difficult to keep the wine cold enough: an uphill battle. The difference in taste between the first cold sip and the last warm sip was enormous. Eiswein is best drunk near a refrigerator. Also: cool the glasses beforehand. It’s a very sweet potent (taste wise) wine. Works fine with white grapes. I also bought some dark chocolate, but the sweetness of the chocolate killed the wine.]

Eiswien is made from grapes which are harvested after frost, at least -8 degrees Celsius, in December or even January. Eiswein has an increased concentration of sugar as a result of freezing out water.

Prabi Bianco 2006

Prabi Bianco 2006, Italian white wine. Producer: Cesconi, region: Trentino Alto Adige, Dolomites, Northern Italy. Grapes used: Manzoni Bianco, Riesling (5%), Pinot Bianco (15%). Good with fish. [Excellent wine, highly recommended. Also excellent without food]

Manzoni is a grape made by crossing Pinot Bianco and Riesling Renano (=alternative name used in Italy for the German Riesling grape).

Fish stock

For my own reference, to be accessed from my mobile phone when shopping:

1 kg fish bones, heads etc.

1 onion
1 bulb fennel
100 gr. celery stick (sliced)
100 gr. carrot
25 gr. mushrooms (champignons)


3 leeks
1 bulb fennel
3 carrots
large handful fresh parsley
175ml. dry white wine

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Watanabe Blade Wa Gyuto

I just knew sooner or later I had to buy a gyuto made by Shinichi Watanabe. He is famous for his high quality hand forged kitchen knives. After using high end kitchen knives for a couple of years now, I have learned which types of knives are best for me. I could live with just two knives: a 210mm gyuto (Japanese version of the chef’s knife, or French knife) and a deba knife (Well, and a cleaver which can cut through chicken bones. That makes three knives). I now have three gyuto:

A Ryusen 210mm Blazen, powdered steel, stainless. Light as a feather, sharp like a razor.

Shinichi Watanabe
... and my brand new 210mm Watanabe wa-gyuto (link shows 240mm version) made of Blue Steel with keyaki wood octagon handle. The above photo shows the 240mm version. I’m so impressed by this knife. It’s made from carbon steel, which is not stainless. A wa-gyuto is a gyuto knife with a traditional Japanese handle.

Takeda Hamono
I own another gyuto made by Takeda Hamono, a 240mm gyuto. This gyuto is a little long for my taste - and cutting board - but very usefull for big vegetables like cabbage. I will keep my Takeda because prices of Takeda knives have shot up since I bought mine. It’s a good investment. I also have a Takeda nakiri bocho and a small Takeda banno kobunka bocho. All my Takeda’s are made from high quality Aogami Super Steel (AS), or Blue Steel #2, from Hitachi Metals, at the core, layered between softer, low carbon steel.

Deba bocho
The other indispensible knife would be a Japanese deba knife. You can’t really cut bones or hard food with a gyuto - the edge is too delicate - so here comes the deba in play. Of course they come in a variety of shapes. A thinner mioroshi deba is used for precision work like filleting fish or deboning meat. A heavy Western deba (double bevel) can be used to cut through chicken bones like butter.

Watanabe deba
I have two Watanabe deba from the cheaper standard series. These knives are made from White Steel and have crappy cheap handles. Other than that, they are of very high quality. I have a 150mm Watanabe kurouchi (=rough surface) deba, White Steel (Hrc62 to Hrc64) laminated to a wrought-iron back, and a 165mm Watanabe mioroshi deba, White Steel.

Because these knives are so hard - at least Hrc62 - they can't be used to cut bones other than fish bones. The edge will easily chip. I’m thinking of replacing the handles as an upgrade. Update: The Epicurean Edge charges 25 USD for replacing the handles + the cost of the wood. My deba knives are going on a trip to the USA.

What is the difference between White Steel and Blue Steel? Click here and scroll all the way down. See the complete manufacturing process (website Moritaka Hamono).

Oops. I forgot my Franz Güde breadknife. It's a monster, blade length 32 cm. Olive wood handle. It's indispensable .. and almost half a meter in length.

Bread salad. Panzanella

This Italian dish from Tuscany is somewhat similar to gazpacho being in essense a bread salad. Panzanella is also a perfect leftover salad. Throw in anything you like. As long as you use: bread, tomatoes, basil, salt, vinegar and oil.

The base is bread, traditionally stale bread, but fresh will do. Use ciabatta, or any other type of bread. I used pretty heavy sourdough rye (rogge) wheat bread, which worked perfectly. I sprinkled the sliced bread with olive oil, fried it in a pan, then diced it. You can also bake the bread in an oven, toast it or use stale old bread. Good quality bread is essential for this dish. Don't even think of supermarket bread. Ever.

Put the diced bread in a bowl, add canned tuna, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion in chunks. At this point you are free to use anything which is suitable: black olives, capers, diced potatoes, hard boiled egg. But remember: less is more!

Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and make sure the bread soaks up the vinaigrette.

I didn’t have any basil, but fresh basil leaves are an important addition. I did use the pine nuts I had left over from the pesto. Blanched almonds will also do nicely.

Good thing this salad doesn’t need any lettuce. I’m not much of a lettuce fan. It doesn’t keep very well and it’s impossible to eat with a spoon.


This recipe for panzanella, as it is known in Italy, comes from Hiro
Sone, the very talented chef/owner of the restaurant, Terra, in St.
Helena, California. Hiro's is, hands down, the best version of this
Italian classic we know.

Ingredients (makes 6 servings)

1/2 small baguette (about 12 inches long)
1 large garlic clove, mashed
Olive oil for brushing
6 medium to large California tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1/2 medium onion chopped
3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh basil
4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven.
Split the baguette lengthwise. Rub the cut side of one half very well
with the mashed garlic. Brush liberally with olive oil. Cut the
garlicked half in half again lengthwise, and then cut these strips
into 3/4 inch pieces. Place the croutons on a baking sheet, crust
side down. Bake 30 minutes, until dark golden.
If croutons are made in advance, put the California tomatoes in a
large mixing bowl a bit before you intend to mix the salad, then
drain off and discard any juice that may accumulate.
To serve, add the croutons, onion, and basil to the California
tomatoes. Whisk the vinegar and oil for the vinaigrette. Pour over
all and toss.

Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng (literally: rice fried) is a well know Indonesian dish, especially in The Netherlands. It’s great for leftovers (rice, meat, vegetables). You have to use old rice, which has been cooked the day before. I use brown basmati rice. And you really need a wok.

The base is an onion-spice mixture. Most people buy a weak spice mixture from the supermarket (Nasi goreng mix). Forget about that. Making your own spice mixture is so much better! And it only takes 2 minutes. Really.

Sauté a thickly sliced onion for three minutes in a hot wok. Add:

1 tsp trassi (Indonesian shrimp paste)
1 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 tsp sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis) or dark soy sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
3 tbsp thinly sliced fresh green chili peppers, deseed

Stir fry the onion-spice mixture for a minute, then add the cold rice. Keep on tossing until hot. This will only take a couple of minutes. While tossing the rice you can add almost anything you like: pre-fried shrimps, chicken, ham, egg (make a thin omelet and slice into strips), pre-cooked or raw vegetables (cut into very small cubes) and mushrooms. Rick Stein uses flaked mackerel, which seems like a good idea.

Guinomi, sake cups

I don't drink much sake because it's a rather expensive drink in Europe. Of course there is Gekkeikan sake, brewed in the USA, and easy to find. Unfortunately, the cheaper Gekkeikan is not tokutei meishoshu but futsuu-shu. I'll order some 180ml. sample bottles from and keep track of the names and quality.

More information on John Gauntner's

In the meantime I bought two sake cups on eBay.

An ONI-HAGI WARA-HAI-YUU GUINOMI (rough sand straw-ashes glaze sake cup) made by Deishi Shibuya. KOUDAI (=the foot) of this cup is WARI-KOUDAI (cut KOUDAI), often seen on Hagi ware. Hagi ware is excellent for sake. Even five days after use the cup still smells of sake. I guess this cup should not be used for anything else but sake.

And a GUINOMI (sake cup) with black iron glaze by Seigan Yamane. The glaze contains a lot of iron. The clay is HIME-HAGI-TSUCHI (fine-grained Hagi). Works very well with Nigori sake. Visually that is.

GOHONDE-Yunomi, Seigan Yamane

Another winner. A GOHONDE-Yunomi made by Seigan Yamane. The colorful spot pattern is called GOHONDE or HOTARU (firefly). This pattern is also called "Fawn spots". Either way, it's a beautiful cup to drink from.

"Gohon wares originated in Korea and were order-made for Japanese tea masters and the daimyo class in the late 1500s. Orders were sent to the distant kilns via a design book, the "honorable book" (go hon), thus the name.

The "gohonde" technique's characteristic orange or pink spots appear only under the most precise kiln conditions - a narrow window where oxygen is sapped out of the ash slip during reduction firing." source

Shira-hagi Mentori Tsutsu chawan, Deishi Shibuya

I bought this Shira-hagi-te Oni-Hagi Mentori Tsutsu-maccha chawan (white HAGI camfering pipe type powdered-green-tea teabowl ONIHAGI type) made by the Japanese ceramist Deishi Shibuya.

'Tsutsu' means for winter use, at the moment of writing I’m already breaking this rule because I’m drinking from it now (maccha of course). 'Mentori' means 'camfering pipe', which refers to the shape. I'm not 100 percent sure, but the name 'Oni-Hagi' refers to the demon Oni. I also read that the term Oni-Hagi refers to the distinctive cracks in the glaze. Hagi is the origin of the clay. The New York Times has an old (1988) article on Hagi ware: The Where and Ware of Hagi

The motif of this chawan is the famous old cherry tree "USUZUMI SAKURA".

Moretum, the origin of pesto

“A single colour, not entirely green

Because the milky fragments this forbid,

Nor showing white as from the milk because

That colour's altered by so many herbs.”

- Moretum

Moretum is the proto pesto. Vergilius (70 BCE – 19 BCE) mentions a moretum recipe in the poem of the same name. His moretum does not contain any basil, but a mixture of parsley, cress, endive and colewort. However, all the other elements (salt, garlic, olive oil and hard cheese) are there, more than twenty centuries ago.

The proper ingredients for a modern pesto Genovese:

A bush of fresh basil leaves, at least 50 gram just the leaves.
2 to 4 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano (minimal 24 months old)
2 to 4 tbsp Pecorino Sarde (Pecorino Romano is too salty)
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp salt
2 gloves of garlic
200 ml. olive oil, Ligurian preferably.

First crush the salt, pine nuts and garlic in a mortar. You need a big mortar, an electric kitchen machine will do, but after reading Vergilius’ poem, how can you not use a proper mortar and pestle? I bought a heavy granite stone mortar and pestle from Thailand for 25 euro.

Seperate the basil leaves from the stems. Cut the basil leaves with a sharp knife, so you don’t end up with whole leaves in the mortar, do not crush the leaves at this point!

In the mortar rub the basil leaves together with the salt, nuts and garlic, add the very finely grated cheeses in a 1:1 ratio (or more Parmigiano Reggiano than Pecorino Sarde). Carefully mix in the olive oil while rubbing the mixture with the pestle. Do not mash.

Never cook pesto. When heated basil gets bitter.

Friday, June 6, 2008

White HAGI, Kazu-Chawan, Deishi Shibuya

I won another object, a White HAGI, Kazu-Chawan (tea bowl for tea ceremony), made by the Japanese ceramist Deishi Shibuya. His trademark is a thick white glaze, unevenly applied to show the rough clay beneath the glaze. The inspiration for his unusual style is the old huge cherry tree "USUZUMI SAKURA", listed as a natural treasure in Gifu Prefecture. The glaze is made with straw ash and took Deishi 30 years to develop.

'Usuzumi' apparantly means ‘pale ink color'. This is the tree.

An explanation of the term ‘Kazu-Chawan’ (copied form the seller's website): "KAZU-CHAWAN is the work made in the form where it is intentionally the same so that the teacher of the tea ceremony can carry many teabowls in piles." That explains why this chawan was relatively cheap: 31 euro.

More photo's here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

White HAGI Yunomi, Seigan Yamane

After using my tea ware for over one year I thought it was time to add some new pieces to my collection. I buy them on eBay. Last week I won the above White HAGI yunomi (=tea cup, not used for tea ceremony) made by the Japanese ceramist Seigan Yamane ( 山根清玩). It's perfect for mizudashicha.

It’s a piece of Hagi ware (萩焼); soft clay, which easily absorbs water. Because of this Hagi ware ages as time progresses. This process is called ‘Hagi no nana bake’ (7 changes of hagi).

Over the years Seigan Yamane developed his own special glazes, like his trademark Seigan Blue glaze. This yunomi has a white glaze, with a blue hint. ‘Like beautiful snow’, according to the seller. You can see more photo's here, here, here and here. I'm not sure what the market value is of this piece - probably the starting bid 19.95 USD - I paid 26 USD (17 EUR).