Sunday, 13 March 2011

Smoked Mackerrel + Veg Rice "Takikomi Gohan"

After the chicken battle in our modern diet and trade concerns, it's the turn on fishing industry discussed heatedly in media. (though this has been the issue for decades).As a Japanese national, I can't live without fish.. I've spent 1.5 years being Pescatorian but couldn't live without seafood, even after some stomach problems with shellfish..

My beloved mackerel is safe, still I hope, and this is one of the rare fish (along with salmon) that can tastes better in Europe (Northern) than in my native Japan.
So here it is, my recipe for the year,

Japanese "Takikomi Gohan" Smoked Mackerrel and vegetables

Takikomi means "Steamed" or "Stewed" and Gohan means "Rice" or in general, meals.
It's like Risotto, you can cook with variety of different ingredients.
If you have a rice cooker, it's super easy. If you don't, you can cook in a thick sauce pan but make sure you follow the stage of the flame, full to begin then shimmer once boiled with a lid on tightly as possible throughout the shimmer. (very important! don't peek in to check often, or at all!)

1 packet of Smoked Mackerrel 
Bamboo shoots diced/sliced
Carrot diced
Spring onion chopped (to garnish)
Rice (Sushi rice)
Water 1.5 times of rice
Sesame oil 1 tbl spoon
Soy sauce 2 tbl spoon
Dashi powder 1tbl spoon (if liquid 2 tbl spoon)

(Rice Cooker version)
1: Put all ingredients except spring onion into the rice cooker, switch on, that's it, just wait till it's cooked, and stir well. (pic 1)
2: Garnish with chopped spring onion when serving.
pic 1

(Pan version)
1: Put all ingredients except spring onion into the pan.
2: Bring to boil for 5 min
3: Turn the flame to shimmer and put a lid on, leave to gently shimmer for further 20 min.
4: Check if the water has all evaporated, then stir well.
5: Garnish with chopped spring onion when serving.


So finally I made it to Kraak Festival in Belgium this year, 5th March 2011 in Aalst.
It was small scale than I expected, of about 200-300 people in a modern art gallery building Netwerk, of 3 storeys 5 rooms, 12 acts all-dayer festival.
We got there just on time at 2pm to catch my most-expected-to-see band, France from well..France (why!!) I could not catch their unofficial second "drunken" session as we had to leave to catch a train back to Kortjik, but they completely caught my full attention and blasted away in 40 minutes set of Psych-drone piece, very very hypnotic. I'd never seen a Hurdy-Gurdy before, but apparently they way they play isn't what it normally is expected to(!) but I loved the sound and action so much. Photos are the day-time "sober" session, then video is their "drunken" session, added powerful noise, I wish I could've seen this too.. I can't wait to catch them again, very bright hidden gem of my taste at the moment.


I missed Bryce Beverlin while I was carried away with €1.5 Hoegaarden beers in the can't say anything about him.. Thomas Bloch's performance was more of a cultural lecture on strange instruments, those we all hear in films, special effect sound, it was very interesting to see how the sound was made and everyone was like keen student to his seminar. A very lovely show in between experimental gigs to relax and ponder.
Arthur Doyle and Steve Noble had a special improv session in the studio space. Doyle himself had such an aura round him that people were so keen to follow every voice/sound/move he made, while Noble's drumming was very powerful/stable to improv Doyle's sound. Later on we saw Doyle smoking away in a bar alone and noone had a gut to tell him off the smoking! but this is Belgium, in a very modern liberal place, this was a lovely scene to catch and be a small part to symbolize the festival's atmosphere.
Arthur Doyle and Steve Noble

Bridget Hayden's set was very dreamy and intimate. I saw her play as a part of Vibracathedral Orchestra before, and now she's signed to Kraak, she's pursuing more into the droney soundscape. It reminded me of Grouper, haunting echo of delayed pedal and guitar which captivates my mind while listening visually.

Mother of Fire was a band from USA, amongst my friends, we had split opinion about their music, I liked them though the singing had some strange/uneasy effect in their rather industrial/a bit goth sound. I haven't seen many bands I can't quite decide what I think or categorize or compare to, which I took it as a good thing. They will be a bit of talk of the topic soon enough if not already for some people in music, so I have to keep my eyes to catch them again.
Mother of Fire
Mother of Fire

Twinsistermoon was a lofi folk duo on 2 guitars and pedals, bowed bass from France. very sweet folk music. Singer Mehdi Amaziane (probably Iranian blood?) has very sweet girly voice and as much as I'd love to watch them play, I would really want to close my eyes and have my mind drawn in the music they take me to. He's part of Natural Snow Buildings, which is more psych-folk/post rock that I am getting into. Very very beautiful!

The venue is such a great building with many rooms within for so much potentials (I'd like a party there!) festival friendly and greatly organized with lovely audience I had very great time.
While I wasn't keen on Call Back The Giants, I explored the exhibition space on the top floor where I found myself in pitch dark exhibition room of gradual limited light being projected, a smell of weed, some naughty voice filled the darkest room, it reminded me of James Turell's light installation I experienced in Naoshima Japan. I used this tranquil dark opportunity to breathe in all this festival experiences.
I shall come back next year also! It was such a (almost hidden gem) festival for music lovers to find good artists to dig into.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Whitey "Canned Laughter" (2010) and before

After a while I am really digging some new-ish music and through Facebook fan page, I got hold of a Whitey's new album (released 2010).
I have first encountered Whitey aka Nathan J Whitey supporting Oneida in 2004 March at ICA and I was blown away by the performance. It was dark, I could hardly see what was happening on stage, but the rhythm and the obscure projection had such impact that I had to find out who it was the next day.
His "The light at the end of the tunnel is a train" album released on 1234 Records in 2005 is an album I absolutely love to this day, especially the ending album title tune is so special that I normally put this on my mixtape for the last track. It has dreamy/nostalgic quality of sound that makes me feel like I am dreaming and hearing this harp/record's needle sound as if I'm half awake/dreaming.
Personally, Whitey himself and this particular song is so under-rated (or non-rated!), but it is and will stay as one of my favourite tune of ALL TIMES.

Also "Non Stop" if I remember correctly, was used in a major TV commercial of Barclay Card. (A guy is running across the globe taking off his clothes) and another track used for VO5 hair products commercial on TV.

So when I found out, rather late, that he made another album in 2010 called "Canned Laughter", I was eager to get hold of it and although it has more electronica feel than lo-fi/pop that I love, I am completely hooked by it. Listening to one album constantly doesn't quite happen to me, only maybe 2-5 albums a year, so this is one of the rare ones.
Most tunes are electronica with some what I call a 'crying-riff" melody attached to it that it will play in my head from the moment I wake up and comfortably stay while I cycle humming the tunes.
He seem to DJ around London, but I hadn't seen him play as Whitey since the time at ICA in 2004..I passionately hope that he would play to showcase this album (as he's not signed to any label to promote shows/albums) soon.
You can listen to most of his wonderful tracks on his myspace page, and available from iTunes. Better buy than download so he can get fund to release more!
And this "Canned Laughter" available here.
There will be a v.2 version soon apparently he recorded/is recording? I can't wait!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Dream: 15.11.10

Haven't kept my dreams here in a while..
This is a short one yet very dramatic, so it ought to be remembered..
In my dream, I was freelancing for Guinness World Records like I do in reality, my friend Kay whom I cover for when she's away/busy and who organizes my job, called up and said I needed to be in the office to work.
The "office" is outer SPACE!

I along with some employees who are going there (commuting?) lined up in a circle of a rocket with all space costume in white, I just follow other people's doings, hold a bar steady..
5-6 of us are on top of the rocket, either transparent or no outer shell at all as I can see well where we are going above us. There was a count down, proper NASA style, then shoot! It is so fast I can't move or feel scared. Although I cant move or too scared to look down or up, I can feel that we're going through the earth's atmosphere, so while-blue, and in the speed of a rocket, we are traveling good 10-30 seconds, I knew we reached the area we could burst anytime with such intense pressure (is this theory right here? just like in extreme underwater scenario).
I could feel (and still remember) the very tight feeling, almost like being squeezed like a toothpaste tube, just as I thought I couldn't take it anymore, I see a spacecraft above us opening for us to land there, then we regained the normal "habitable" air environment.
There we arrived at a base "office" where people are working in costume like in Star Trek.
That was it! I have no idea why I had this dream (I was watching "Nowhere boy" beginning of the film before I went to bed, before that I attended Acid Mother's Temple etc New Japanese Music Festival at Cafe Oto, before that I was walking on muddy heath..I see no element to contribute to this sci-fi dream) yet the sense of pressure and the speed I experienced was unbelievable for a dream I enjoyed going to the outer space once in my life :)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Directorsound and Plinth Music

On a winter day where we tend to stay in and watch the small piece of the world framed by our window, our imagination flow into some far away nature, seaside, woods, fairground, fantasy world etc easily.
Here are my friends from old times who make music perfect to accompany those fantasy-driven minds. It really is so magical how these music can change the settings we are in, and the moods.

Directorsound is Nick Palmer, Dorset resident who creates magical fairy music with various instruments, accordion, glockenspiel, banjo, guitar, piano, drums and what's not! Some may feel its Silent film music, Gyspy films, old French imagery, Victorian fun fair etc.
To me, listening to his music make what I do, what I see, things around me wherever I am, turn into something with sparks, with gentle and warm feeling to otherwise-not-cared-for objects and any smallest movements such as trees moving by wind, door opening, birds flying so special... It even gives me a wicked imagination that my small rabbits, dogs ornaments would start moving to the music, as if they were centre of the unknown films!
You can listen to his albums on myspace, and see what kind of world you can be drawn into.
And here is a very beautiful video shot in Lapland for his tune, out from latest album Oct.2010 "Two Years Today" (Tona Serenad label)

Michael Tanner is another old friend, a close pal to Nick, also Dorset resident makes music under the name Plinth, sometimes Cloisters, also plays in United Bible Studies and Agitated Radio Pilot, Irish folk bands with various members.
He is also a multi-instrumentalist with the strong affinity to old things (as supposed to technology and modern world), crafts and nature, which reflect greatly in his music in which he undertakes a lengthy and painstaking recording and edit process, something we all used to do, but now easily done in minutes e.g. film printing photography, compose music on computer etc.
You can see it in his releases, he binds photos, old book pages, old wallpapers, to make limited books, CDs making every listener a special treatment of sharing his passion and inspirations.
His music is like a soundtrack to my mental imagery world. Slow motioned dreams, long shot nature scenery like tides moving, leaves falling, stars shooting etc
No wonder he picked "Decasea" film  by Bill Morrison, a film consists of old found film strips (so old and decayed, we see some illusions made by its natural decay) bind together.
Originally this film is accompanied with Michael Gordon's music "Light Is Calling" in which Michael Gordon scored its "decay" process in music with his orchestra.
I had a chat with Mike (Tanner) about Decasea and he said, "I love the film but I have a problem with the music, it's too uneasy. To go with the beautiful imagery, it doesn't have to be that.. scary!"
True, so this is his take on the film music

I would normally just use the music stream, but you'd gotta enjoy the imagery also for his music.

Directorsound and Plinth's (Cloisters) music both have a strong sentiment for long-forgotten, good ol' times, is that our way of trying to slow down this ever so rapid modernization in which we come to live in?
Aren't we all nostalgic and love to embrace memories with these beautiful music? even those memories not being our own, but our ancestors' or sheer strangers', just like flipping through old photo albums of those brown faded photo papers..

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Recipe: Bang Bang Ji Chicken with Sesame dressing

This is extremely healthy and easy dish I love.
And you can eat lots of salad, takes 15min or so to prepare, and believe me, it's addictive!
I got home late tonight, hungry, want to cook, but no time/ingredients, so I easily and happily settled on this.
If you like it spicy, just add chili oil or marinade chicken with chili before cooking.
Traditionally with chicken breast, but I prefer thigh.

Ingredients: (* if you have)

Chicken breast or thigh any amount but this recipe is 500gm
Sake (if not, White wine)
1 small ginger
Cucumber half
Ground sesame (from roasted white sesame preferably) 4 tbl spoons
Soy sauce 2 tbl spoons
Sesame oil (olive oil is ok too) 1tbl spoon
Vinegar 2 tbl spoons
Mayonnaise 1-2 tbl spoons
*Dashi stock (powdered) 0.5 tbl spoon

Steaming (of course, put the lid on!)

1: Marinade the chicken in Sake and put sliced ginger then cool in fridge prior to cooking 1~3 hours
2: Steam the chicken still with ginger thoroughly until cooked, about 20 minutes
3: Slice the cucumber and lettuce thinly and prepare on a dish
4: mix all (Dressing) ingredients, taste to your liking
5: Cool down the chicken and slice into strips
6: Arrange in the bed of vegetables and pour the dressing

You can actually skip the marinade (I did today) or if you can't get/make ground sesame, use pasted sesame such as Tahini (but try to sprinkle some sesame for topping).
You can also boil the chicken instead of steaming (still with ginger and sake)
This dressing is already a versatile dressing great for anything, especially broccoli, BBQ, grilled aubergine, grilled fish or omelet.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Avocado, Fig and Pomegranate salad recipe

Ah how I love Salad...
It started off from trying to eat as much vegetables a day, trying different kinds and I ended up becoming obsessed with dressings and seasonal veges. I even throw in some crushed crisps when I have it for crunchy flavour.
Fried onion bits comes in a plastic tub for £0.90 ish is one of my all time salad topping I always stock as well.
Today I made a salad using fig, avocado, salad onion, cress, pine nuts, gem lettuce.
The combination is up to you, but I like to throw normally 2 special things apart from usual lettuce and onion.
Recommended combination
Avocado, sun dried tomato and pine nuts
Mozzarella, basil and sundried tomato
Avocado, tomato and pine nuts
Fig and cress or Fig and goat cheese
Grilled courgettes, onion
Roasted aubergine, roasted parsnip or carrot
Sundried tomato, mozzarella with Penne pasta
Prawns and avocado
Broccoli, carrot and  crispy bacon
etc list can go on..

Ok, Fig and Avocado salad that is today...
To make one big portion/or 2 as side

Gem lettuce small 2
1-2 spring onion chopped
some pomegranate (I used less than 1/4 of one)
1 medium ripe avocado
Half of salad cress from a package
1 ripe fig skinned and slighted thinly
some roasted pine nuts

1.5 tbl spoon mild vinegar (I used sushi vinegar)
1 tbl balsamicvinegar
1 tea spoon mild Dijon mustard
1 tea spoon honey
2-3 tbl spoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tea spoon lemon juice

To make the spring onion mild, I marinade in vinegar and honey first before any other things, then followed by mustard then all other dressing ingredients. Toss all the salad in. Don't mix salad with dressing until just before you eat it, otherwise it can get very soggy.

When it comes to olive oil, I am always in search of good ones as far as my budget can catch up with that is.., any recommend?
My favourite so far is, Carluccio's Lemon Olive Oil I was given for my birthday gift from Christina (thanks for introducing!!) It is purely, heavenly, perfectly FANTASTICO! I recommend this super highly. (on salad, seafood.. anything)

Autumn day wander: Hampstead Heath and mushrooms

After many rainy days in London, it has been lovely sunny days are upon us.
No wonder I found so many different kinds of mushrooms today on Hampstead Heath when I just popped out for a walk. Within 30 minutes of looking around casually, I found and collected at least 10 kinds. I wish I was with a mushroom specialist so I know which one to pick and cook and which ones to avoid, and which ones could take me to a special place ;)
I picked this much today (I didn't dare to touch some others..)
The most amazing discovery was not the fairytale/Snow White world's red with white spots mushroom on heath (see image), but this weird white egg jelly mushroom I found. 
Fly Agaric

The most weirdest and bizzare kind.. I didn't dare touch it with my bare hand, but with a wooden stick, the egg like mushroom, looks like a big normal kind we eat commonly but without any visible stem, looks like a big round pouched egg. This egg like mushroom is very soft (like, again pouched egg) as it has this jelly inside this outer shell, then a hard white core. This, seems to grow a long asparagas looking white mushroom which is airy light and in fact looks like Aero choc bar for its bubbly texture. (See image, broken egg like base with the long mushroom take apart next to each other)
Does anyone have any slightest idea what this mushroom is?! I'm very curious..

jelly like inside
long mushroom stems from this egg like base

 I absolutely adore the heath, and it is the top 1 reason why I love my area, walking in 20 minutes through amazing shops and the feel of English country is priceless.
Brough house was closed so I had yummy coffee and chocolate carrot cake (total yum) in Ginger and White, then went for a walk on heath for an hour or so to enjoy the quiet autumn day.
perfection latte at Ginger and White

The days are getting shorter, so before I complain and moan whole winter, it is a good reason to get up early and get out to get as much sun/light as possible.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Music to check out: Paul Metzger/Bo Ningen

Paul Metzger

I just found his music online, Paul Metzger is his name.
He's an experimentalist in string instruments for truly the experimental sake.
I will sadly miss his show on Cafe Oto on 22nd October, but if anyone's around, it should blow your mind. Go!
Here are some extracts of his music. (from 2008 Locust release "Deliverance")

Bo Ningen

Also what I'm interested in music now, a new band called Bo Ningen, a Japanese band formed and based in London. They're living Can-like band and sounds very crazy, eye/mind grabbing noise/psych. They are playing in UK a lot, and I will finally catch them this Satday at Cafe Oto, only £3, don't miss out!
My beloved Ricoh camera is broken and has just started his journey to Japan to be hopefully repaired there, so I may not be able to take any photos but may write a review here soon.
They are going to be (sadly for me to use this phrase..) "the next thing" after following the same/similar footsteps of Melt Bananas, Acid Mothers Temple, Boris etc, I will check with my own eyes/feels, but I felt it when I saw a few seconds clip of their introduction on French cultural golden time TV show this Sep in Paris.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Dreams: 03.10.2010

I must have been having temperature when I dreamt this.. (I've been having mild fever and sore throat)
It was very vivid, scary and at the same time strangely beautiful. (just like dreams on nicotine patches!)
catfish (in Japanese old drawing) we say they can predict earthquakes, but here this picture shows in Edo period had a folklore a giant catfish is causing an earthquake so people are trying to calm it.

I was somehow staying in a very expensive hotel in London, right next to Westminster abbey, I woke from the bed and noticed that there were some people next door chatting and moving about, it turns out there was no door to divide the rooms, so I could see this posh family packing up in the next room.
They were middle aged couple with 2 young sons, they spoke very British and were like from middle class family.
As I was in the rare opportunity to be staying in a nice hotel, I thought about taking a good bath before leaving, but the bathrooms were shared with this next room and some more maybe, I could only see 4 shower rooms with white curtains, no much privacy more like a gym shower room, so I gave up the plan and go back to my room.
It was still night time, very dark, and I could see a huge Big Ben from the window. "How London!" I gasped, this was the closest you could get to view the Big Ben.. I try to stare at the scene.
The Big Ben was illuminated in the night lake/pond underneath it, and it was so beautiful I took my camera to take some shots, knowing this would be a masterpiece images.
One of the sons from next room comes into my room and I tell him how beautiful it is the scenery from the window. He agrees and watches with me while I get ready to shoot some pictures.
There was even a illuminated cherry blossom tree by the lake/pond which made the scene extraordinary like in a dream cinematography. I could still picture this scene by heart, it was stunning night scene.
I look at the camera screen and notice something is moving there, I noticed I was not looking at the image I took but the actual scene through the finder. I look at the water surface and there were many massive cat-fish like creatures slowly moving around. Sometimes this slimy creature would come out from the water with sharp threatening movements. When my eyes get used to the dark, I see the water was full of them moving around in a circle like a sinister ritual.
end of this dream...

Is that because of my temperature?  or is that because I am reading Kenji Miyazawa's stories before bedtime? He was a country literal who loved the nature and wrote many stories for kids but often quite dark with folklore involving animals. I strongly recommend his literatures/poems if you're interested in nature and folklore. His style is very romantic yet embraces harsh reality of incomprehensible relationship between nature and human.
Amazon has some good valued books in English here.
I a watching "Grizzly Man" by Herzog now and then will be continuing to read Kenji's short stories, so I'll see what dreams I will be watching :)
 (hopefully not get eaten by a bear..)

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Autumn day: Alfie's Antique market

Sun was shining after a few days of depressing wintery dark days where I was trying to get used to having to turn on the light even before 7pm. So I dragged myself for a refreshing Autumn walk (well, cycle that was) via Regent's canal to visit Alfie's Antique market on Church Street NW8 (near Edgeware Road/St John's Wood).
Regent's canal

This is the route I cycle to evening classes (AAT accounting) and I love the canal cycling, I have to try hard not to fall into the canal though as it has this mirroring effect to pull me there!
Off the topic, but I have a series of photos called "Kage-e" (means shadow-pictures in Japanese) here, I'm interested in perspectives in reflections.

Alfie's Antique Market was somewhere I wanted to go but hadn't, and it turned out so pretty and great place to snoop around. It's a little like how Camden market (Antique bits at the Stables) used to be until they built concrete buildings and in compensate the "mood" they just left many iron horses (well, this is because it used to be a horse hospital, but I'm not a bit pleased with how they developed and kicked out many good old dealers)

It has 4 floors full of antique clothes, lights, furniture, collectibles, even has a kitsch and cool hairdresser, if you're going out on a vintage themed nights or swing dance for a hair-do, visit them!
They have a nice terrace cafe also (this is an important point = I love places with good cafes I can daydream).
I also found a leather brown bag I was looking for for ages here, and yes I did bargained it.
One thing I missed was to visit one of the Time Out voted best coffee places here on Church Street, Indie Coffee, I couldn't find it plus it was after 3pm when they close. Church Street has many other antique shops and markets, so I'll keep this a reason to visit again soon.
Some trees are producing bright red leaves and I love this season where I walk crunching on the variety of coloured leaves under my feet.
Back home, writing this, while I wait for Nigel Slater's recipe of Blueberry and Peach cake gets baked.
Have a wonderful Autumn!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Fuyuko Matsui's Nihonga 松井冬子の日本画 

As I was just clicking away from someone's blog to another via some good findings on music, I bumped into Fuyuko Matsui's drawings and I just couldn't breathe!
I had seen her works before (on computer screen) and it left me with some owe, but unfortunately I forgot how to search anymore until it came back to me today, that I HAD TO put it up here.
She seems almost a cult art beauty figure (she stunningly beautiful) in Japan appearing on fashion magazines and TV documentaries, yet reading her interview, she is very firm about who she is, what she does, not caring what people think (some people are trying to make her a model, celebrity etc).
I feel so gutted about not making to her Paris solo exhibition I could have gone since I was there!! Arrghh...
I totally love her world of, sinister, grotesque, dark, yet beautifully seductive, enticing drawings. I am not a big fan of modern pop art with computer-made/like pieces (modern in terms of "now" than Warhol time) like Takashi Murakami, maybe I'm old?! more like because I consider art to be something appealing to our bare human senses to feel something presented in some shapes (sound, vision, experiences) by someone's mind. 
In that sense, I know very well why I am attracted to Fuyuko Matsui's world for many reasons.
Firstly, her technique of drawing is heavily influenced by Old Japanese drawings called Nihon-ga (history of it as old as 500-1000 AC) we could still see in temples and shrines, often only black ink (called Suiboku-ga) drawn on Fusuma (paper doors which divides rooms in traditional Japanese houses), this must appeal to my Japanese identity and Japanese appreciation of "delicate, simple, natural, refined" art. Secondly, I love people challenging the boundaries, some of her works depict guts, deaths and it makes us uneasy and scared. Juxtapositions of what's commonly beautiful and ugly, peace and war, fresh and decay are all done for centuries, but I love the uneasy feeling "there is something out there, watching you, but you can't see it" way of haunting piece of art like a ghost.
It's not about finding out answers, making senses, but about knowing there is incomprehensible world just beyond the square (pictures, screens, cards, heads) and knowing the existence of it and the curiosity to know/peek are the beauty of some artists can take us.

Pear tart recipe (lazy and easy version)

I had very ripe pears, so decided to bake a pear tart.
I used bought sweet tart base (usually baking section, sold for £1 or less) so not having to roll and bake the base, this recipe is super easy and preparation time is only 10 minutes.
I think this can be with blueberries, apples or plums, but pear and almond combination is the best?!
Pear cut in half would make it pretty, but mine were small, so I sliced thinly.

Butter 60 grams
Ground almond 70 grams
Sugar 60 grams
One medium egg
Corn starch 10 grams
2 pears
One table spoon liquor (I used cognac)
(for grazing)
15 ml water
15ml apricot or marmalade jam

1: Soften butter in room temparature
2: Mix sugar in 1 until white
3: Beat an egg and beat well
4: Mix in Ground almond
5: Mix in liquor then corn starch
6: Put this mixture cream into the pastry base evenly
7: Spread pealed and sliced pear on top of the cream and bake for 40 minutes in 175 degree oven
7: Boil the water and jam until thick and brush this on the cake surface when baked (I did it in microwave, easy!)

Monday, 20 September 2010

All about Coffee Coffee Coffee

When did I fisrt really like coffee?!
We in Japan since we were all kids, we would drink what we called "Milk coffee" comes in a glass bottle with a paper cap. I used to love having it after visiting a public bath where they sell milk coffees and ice creams. So maybe my roots in coffee is there.
Coffee Milk aka "Ko-hi milku"
But I never liked black coffee, can I call myself a coffee lover even when I can't drink it in black (the purest coffee form
Anyhow, I am always in search of good coffees and cafes where they serve good coffees, latte, that is as that's what I call coffee personally.
I encountered Monmouth Coffee few years ago, and since I got my small lovely coffee machine about 3 years go, I always buy freshly ground coffee every month from them.
My friend got me a coffee grinder from Krups, now I even grind it myself from freshly roasted coffee every few days, what a way of waking up to every morning, surrounded in coffee smell and the process I never compromise even when I'm in a hurry. (Grinding, steaming the milk, brewing espresso)
Here I want to list great coffees I love and great places where they serve quality coffees.

Monmouth Espresso
Very mild and irresistible smell. I always buy espresso (Colombian beans), so I should try different kinds more..

Square Mile Summer Espresso:
My new favourite, they make seasonal roast, this is my first, 2010 Summer espresso, I bought from my local cafe, Ginger and White in Hampstead.
You can also buy from Milkbar in Soho

Sacred Coffee Espresso: New Zealand's coffee company
I bought a bag of espresso (ground) but it was ground a bit too coarse, so I couldn't get the taste I normally get from the cafes, next I shall buy the beans to test again.

These 3 are my favourite coffee to buy, then if I can't get hold of any, I would go for Illy, it won't betray you and available in most supermarkets!

Here are the list of cafes I know they do great coffees (this list should be updated regularly!) for the ones I can think of for now, that is.. (in UK/London)

-Milkbar, Soho *Good to meet up or daydream in soho

-Monmouth Coffee, Covent Garden and Borough market *Cool, busy and cosy cafe

-Sacred Coffee, off Carnaby Street and Long Acre (Covent Garden) *Reliably good quality

-Ginger and White, Hampstead *Cute/at-home cafe

-Partisserie Macaron, Clapham Common *Cute and unique cafe

-Cafe Oto, Dalston *Best music venue and cafe!

-Scandinavian Kitchen, Fitzrovia (Oxford St/Goodge St) *Cute grocer (Scandinavian) and good service/atmosphere

-Fernandez & Wells, Soho *busy but reliable service!

-Macondo, Hoxton *Reasonable dish and cakes!

-Gail's Bakery, Hampstead, Portbello *Great selection of breads and cakes

-Lanka, Primrose Hill *Great Japanese-French cakes!

-Ottolenghi, Angel, Kensington, Belgravia, Notting Hill *Sheer genius cookery!!

-Ray's Jazz Cafe, Soho (inside Foyle's book shop) *Great for meeting point and atmosphere

-Sweet, Exmouth Market (Clerkenwell) *Great selection of cakes and salads

-Brill cafe and records, Exmouth Market (Clerkenwell) *Great Iced Coffee!

-Whole Foods Ltd. Across London *Simply great selected organic food retailer

This should continue with my search! Let me know if your favourite places :)
I have to admit, that of all chain cafes, you know when you can't always go for independent cafes, (when running for trains, motorways, high streets etc) I love Pret a Manger the most, they make the closet coffee I make my own out of any other chain cafes and Soya milk option is free which is lovely.
Costa and EAT come next, but the quality of coffees are varied depending on branches and who make it, so I can't quite count.

Coffee, I can drink right before going to bed and I have no problem sleeping!

Finish with the song about "Coffee Milk" by Flipper's Guitar (Keigo Oyamada of Cornelius's former pop band in 80's Japan, great music!)

Flippers Guitar - Coffee-Milk Crazy
Found at Coffee-Milk Crazy on

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Takeshi Kitano Exhibition in Paris

Takeshi Kitano Exhibition at Fondation Cartier Paris
10th September 2010
 (unfortunately this has just ended last week)
Exterior of the exhibition

Anneke in front of the gallery
I went to Paris prior to my trip to Belgium specially for this exhibition.

Takeshi Kitano is one of the most famous celebrity comedians in Japan, more known as a film director outside Japan, my Belgian friend Anneke has been a huge Takeshi fan but didn't know that he was a comedian until she met me few years ago (she was quite shocked in fact).
I have grown up watching his funny TV shows such as Takeshi's castle (now known widely outside Japan, a TV show public people compete to fight with Takeshi via lots of his traps, what? never seen it? you should watch some clips here!) and Oretachi Hyokin-zoku (80's TV series of comedy sitcom, you can watch some clips also on the link), so if I wasn't living abroad where he is regarded more as a cult film director/artist, I would be quite surprised to hear that Fondation Cartier Paris has dedicated all their lovely space entirely to his artistic dispose. It must have cost them a lot to have this happen.
French people love Japanese culture and I can see why, as we both like subtle/poetic arts/literature/films, but the scale of this exhibition shows how French adore him so much.
The gallery itself is so lovely with lots of open outdoor space and open-spaced bright gallery.
The humour sense of Takeshi is surprisingly suitable for kids audience as Takeshi himself is a big child with massive mischievous mind (see Takeshi's TV shows in Japan is good examples where he wanted to "play" with lots of people just like we did some tricks to each other as kids, but in his case, the scale is big using tanks and buses to explode, making poor comedians bungee jump with stupid costumes on, pouring hot water in a bath tub as punishment from games, using Alligator or Scorpions to scare off participants of games  etc)

Here are some images from the exhibition.
The arrangements of the exhibition was impressive! Audience can participate in it, sound pieces are there to listen then you're invited to draw pictures inspired by the sounds, you can see how instant and spontaneous art can be by looking at balls running around by the electric vibration with inks spread all over to create rather Damien Hirst-esque painting in the process, and the piece where Takeshi himself visited the gallery and made some paintings by shooting ink in a gun like a painter-guerrilla (just like a shooting practice) to animal cut-outs canvases.

My favourites are the drawings from "Hana-bi" film he made during the time he was hospitalized with serious injury he had from a bike accident (when he had his face/skull severely injured that influenced these face-less paintings), these are very special and most vulnerable pieces for him I think, here he doesn't quite "hide" his pure and innocent artistic value behind his usual black humour/sense. They are so painfully pure.

I think, to be really funny and be the one who can really laugh or have child-like imagination, it takes guts and Takeshi's take on life shows that what appears plain stupid are stone serious as well as pure silly, just like a flip side of a coin, ultimately being inseparable things. He can deliver such simple but transcendental sphere and I call it a sheer artistic talent.