Sunday, 12 June 2011

Forgotten how to cook.

Not Okaasan.

Next month I've invited students to an English Tea Party in my garden.
Roses, tea, cake, scones...maybe cats.
It's something I wanted to do last year, as a "thankyou" to students who'd stood by me while I underwent various personal crises...but what with the knee and the ovaries...and the England sagas...I couldn't garden and I didn't have the energy to invite anyone to anything.
English Jungle Instant Coffee Party doesn't have the same appeal.

So. July 3 it will be.
Pretty rash really. I haven't cooked scones for 30? 40 ? years?
As readers of this blog may have guessed by now - cooking isn't my thing. I'm the daughter of a busy working mum, she was good at 70s style dinner food like vol au vents filled with chicken and I think dinner cooking was mainly done by my work-at-home step-father.

I was never the bake-a-cake type.
Thought I should practice today.

Hmm.. That opened up all sorts of quandries...seeing as I don't have anything for baking and haven't done it since I was just old enough to see on top of a kitchen counter.
Throw in the uncertainties of ingredient hunting in a Japanese supermarket.
Add a pinch of improv - and scary Internet recipes ("scones are said to be the easiest home baking, but actually can be as frustrating to get "right" as meringues"....) and I was all set.

15 minute shelf staring in the supermarket : IS ordinary flour with baking powder the same as self-raising flour?
Is a coffee mug of flour the same as "two cups"?
What IS a "stick of butter", where in the world does butter come in sticks?
Is an empty umeshu bottle ok as a rolling pin?
Will one of Okaasan's Japanese teacups be ok as a dough cutter?

Have I gone mad?
Results: didn't rise much and the left over lump of dough looked better than the teacup-cut circles...but tasted ok...not very cakey and not very sweet....hmmm....ANYONE got any advice??

I'm much better at gardening. Got it all going on strong now.
Yesterday and today I've done a lot out there - planted out some seedlings I've grown on the computer room table, weeded down to bare earth, banked up the potato plants, given the sad little cucumber a second chance by surrounding it in plastic...did I mention weeding?

Cat-eye view from 2nd floor living room. The HUGE peony bush is center, left are the flowers and right are the vegs. (laundry stand is that ugly green/silver thing).

Lot of weeding results.

Far row - potato plants; center - remains of spring flowers; Right - plastic sheet coddling the cucumber; Foreground: Tomato plants. Left - stick like thing is the green pepper that survived another winter in the classroom.

My Dad's dog carving with a shock of pink.

Foreground - seedlings; Background - the tall pink plant I aspire them to grow into!

Okaasn is fine. She's been downtown to look at the Yosakoi dance Festival. Came home just as we'd finished dinner. But cheerful. She even came OUT into the garden in her nightdress mid-morning today to look at flowers with me. She took in laundry for us when it rained.
She seems to be doing fine....


  1. You're garden is lovely. My friends here all swear by recipes are in Japanese but you should find something that has ingredients easily found in Japan. I'm sure the students will love it. Good luck!

  2. if you are using american recipes, i suggest converting everything to grams and ML to make it easier. buy yourself a kitchen scale (you can even get them at the 100 yen shop) and then you'll be good to go.

    as for flour, if the recipe calls for all-purpose, just mix 'strong' (bread) and 'weak' (cake) flour, 1:3 is preferable but you can tweak it a bit.

    for converting, i really like this site: just scroll down to cooking.

    as for a stick of butter, that's about a half (american) cup, maybe 110 grams? i can't remember exactly, but the conversion site will help!! good luck!

  3. You poor thing! I heard someone say putting lemonade in the mix makes them light and fluffy (at least that's what they do in Aus).
    I'm sure your readers will be able to offer some help, maybe Vicky can guide you? :)

  4. Oh luv - a good first attempt on scones but a few things...

    1. a mug is not a good substitute for a measuring cup. Scones are finicky little things and need love and attention. Measuring (or better yet, weighing) ingredients gets you the proper "lift". a quick trip to Daiso for a set of measuring spoons will cost about the same as a ruined recipe. So pony up and grab a round cutter while you're there. Ha Ha
    2. a stick of butter equals a half cup (113 grams) of butter. that's an american thing, I've never seen butter in sticks anywhere else...
    3. if you can, avoid using a rolling pin too much. The trick to high rising scones is not mucking about with them too much. I do the "pat into a big circle, cut into 8 wedges" methodology.
    4. if you bought regular flour, add 1 teaspoon of leavener (usually baking powder) and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
    5. As for the sweetness factor - as I don't know how much you added the first time, I don't really know how much more to recommend you add. but don't hesitate to add a few more tablespoons if you like a sweet scone.

    I really hope this helps, here are the link to the recipes I use most! If you want, add a handful of currents, or a zest of a lemon, or a handful of whatever dried fruit you like. add it with the flour before you add the liquid.

    I like thyme and a sharp cheddar in a savoury scone - just don't forget to leave the sugar out! I've made THAT mistake before...

    Sorry this is so long!

  5. I had to laugh... I usually get into trouble cuz of the conversions. The US doesn't use the metric system like Japan & the rest of the world... But a lot of your questions sounded familiar... scary! My apologies for not knowing a thing about scones... not much help!

  6. You lot bowl me over!!! Thankyou!
    lemonade? measuring spoons? scales? sticks of head is a Facebook friends are leaning to the "why don't you just buy them from COSTCO?" argument...but that is my last resort...i'll try again...

  7. Good luck. I haven't made scones for ages either but you've inspired me, especially as I got given some homemade strawberry jam and happen to have a pottle of cream in the fridge. Yummmmm, scones for afternoon tea one day this week I think.

  8. OOPS! i made a mistake. for the flour, you want strong to weak 3:1 (more bread flour than cake).

    good luck with your scones!!

  9. Thankyou! I did wonder about the kind of flour to use...cake vs bread flour...there seem to be only that choice in Japanese the Bread flour what I would think of as "self raising flour"???
    maybe yes!