Would you like a body like Madonna or Sting when you’re over 50? Well, they’re moneyed celebrities with personal trainers and private chefs, so good luck with that. Kidding! You can eat just like them (they’re fans of macrobiotic cooking) and feel like a rock star. This month, KA Mom, Heidi K, gives us the low down and a sample menu. Go ahead, you deserve it.
I first learnt about macrobiotic cooking five years ago when a close friend invited me to a class. Macrobiotic is a Japanese style of wholefood cooking which uses organic, locally grown, seasonal produce, with a strong emphasis on using the best ingredients possible. It is not a vegetarian diet, but in general animal products, and also processed foods are avoided (for more details see wiki).
In this class, one of the dishes we were being taught was “kinpira gobo” so I began peeling the gobo as I normally would, only to be promptly scolded by the teacher. I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the key principles of macrobiotic cooking is to use the whole vegetable: peel, stalk, roots and all. I don’t want to do more than is necessary in the kitchen so this certainly appealed to me!
Secondly, I was struck by the lack of sugar in the seasoning, something I was not a fan of in standard Japanese cooking. Macrobiotic recipes use traditional Japanese condiments such as soy sauce, sake and miso to help enhance the natural flavour of the food, and bring out it’s own inherent sweetness or bitterness. I much prefer this to the tendency to drown it all in a thick treacle of soy sauce and sugar.
And finally the principles of eating local and in accordance and the seasons made a lot of sense to me, both nutritionally and financially. So I decided to give this style of eating a go and even with my half-hearted efforts I feel healthier and am more attuned to what my body needs.
There is a whole philosophy of macrobiotic which describes the yin and yang qualities of foods, and how to maintain a harmony between these, and for purists it can be very interesting. But in the most part this philosophy is simplified, and a typical meal would usually consist of brown rice, miso soup, and a few seasonal vegetable dishes.
If you are interested in attending a cooking class either in English or Japanese and can get to Chiba, please let me know (heidikarinoATgmail.com) and I will be happy to give you details of the classes I attend.
Macrobiotic menu for late winter/early spring (as shown in the photo above):
Kinpira Gobo (sautéed and simmered burdock root)
Renkon Dango (lotus root balls)
Kabu (turnip) & Apple Salad
Serve with brown rice and tofu-wakame miso soup
*All vegetables are used unpeeled except for the onion in the carrot puree.
1 Gobo （ごぼう）(burdock root)
1 Carrot （にんじん／人参）
1/2 Renkon （れんこん／蓮根） (lotus root)
2 Tbsp Soy sauce （しょうゆ／醤油）
Sesame oil for frying （ごまあぶら／ごま油）
1. Slice gobo and carrot into thin sticks.
2. Cut renkon into quarter and slice thinly.
3. Heat sesame oil in a saucepan then add gobo and cook until fragrant.
4. Add carrots and renkon and continue to saute for a few minutes.
5. Add water till all veg are covered, turn heat down low and cover. Leave to simmer slowly until gobo is softened.
6. Add soy sauce 1 tbsp at a time. The trick is to add it in a circular motion and allow one tbsp to be soaked up before adding next.
7. Cook until all liquid is reduced.
RENKON DANGO WITH CARROT PUREE
RENKON BALLS (makes 12)
1-2 Renkon （れんこん／蓮根） (lotus root)
1/2 Carrot （にんじん／人参）
30g Hijiki sea vegetable （ひじき）(weight after soaking)
Genmai (げんまい／玄米) (brown rice）(cooked weight 30g)
Salt (しお／塩）a pinch
1. Grate renkon and carrot into a bowl.
2. Finely chop hijiki and add to bowl.
3. Add flour, rice, and salt then mix all ingredients and shape into balls.
4. Deep fry in oil for a few minutes till golden.
Olive oil (オリーブオイル)
Garlic (にんにく) (crushed)
1 Carrot （にんじん／人参）
1/4 Onion (たまねぎ／玉葱）
1 tsp Sesame paste (ねりごま／練り胡麻) or White miso (しろみそ／白味噌）
1 Tbsp Vinegar (す／酢) or Ume vinegar (うめす／梅酢) or Lemon juice (レモンジュース)
In a frying pan heat some olive oil and crushed garlic, then add thinly sliced carrot and onion. Once softened, puree or mash and add sesame paste or white miso, and a splash of vinegar (ume vinegar or lemon juice is ideal).
KABU & APPLE SALAD
2 small Kabu (かぶ) (turnip) (with stalks attached)
1/4 Apple (りんご／林檎）(sliced)
1/2 Lemon (レモン)
1/2 tsp Salt (しお／塩）
2 Tbsp Olive oil (オリーブオイル)
1. Cut stalks into bite sized lengths and rub with salt.
2. Cut kabu into quarter then thinly slice.
3. Thinly slice apple.
4. Toss all ingredients in the dressing.
COMING UP: BENTO SPOTTING AS THE 2014 HANAMI (CHERRY BLOSSOM) SEASON AND SCHOOL YEAR KICK OFF