Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on September 2012
The first things that capture your attention in this country cookbook are Kenji Miura’s photos of foody farm life. The design includes a motif of traditional blue and white Japanese textiles, giving it a rustic feel—a perfect setting for this compendium of much-loved recipes.
“Authentic Japanese farm food is uncomplicated and intuitive, with a limited number of easily learned methods,” writes Hachisu. After mastering just a few techniques, readers are equipped to prepare food in a multitude of ways. A few dressings in your repertoire, and suddenly salads and sides have a new life on the table. “Japanese farm food is both logical and simple to execute,” says the author, with many of the recipes including just a handful of ingredients. This is perfect for the novice in the Japanese kitchen but also refreshing for the seasoned cook.
One chapter defines these ingredients, including unusual items like shottsuru (Japanese fish sauce) and onigurumi (black walnuts). The glossary of Japanese produce includes tips on handling, substitutions, and serving suggestions.
The tsumami (snacks) chapter casts light on popular bites such as home-cured salmon roe, half-boiled eggs, and young scallions with miso. Hachisu’s husband, Tadaaki, includes a recipe for pickles where cucumbers are cooked three times for extra intensity.Perhaps the best lessons come in the vegetables section. A combination of sesame seeds or walnuts, miso, and rice vinegar quickly becomes a dressing for spinach, eggplant, and other vegetables. There are simple recipes for seafood as well, such as simmering in sake—especially good with sea bass.
A chapter on dressings and sauces includes household favorites like the versatile miso vinaigrette. The country-style ponzu can accompany many different nabe hot pots (also in the cookbook). There are also recipes for condiments usually bought, such as Japanese mayonnaise, and yuzu kosho for the ambitious.
Unlike most Japanese cookbooks with a slim sweets selection, this one is filled with a dozen ice creams and sorbets. A simple brittle made with sesame and sugar is a star when mixed with ice cream.
Even those who don’t cook much will be entertained by the farm-life anecdotes that dot the book, regarding cleaning chickens, rice planting, and such. And for the kitchen-philes, Japanese Farm Food will be something to go back to again and again.
Japanese Farm Food (Andrews McNeel Publishing, 386 pp., ¥2,623). Buy here
See here for a Metropolis profile of Nancy Singleton Hachisu