There is a bit of excitement building about all things Japanese with a growing awareness of the lead up to Tokyo Olympics 2020, as well as in some of Japans traditions such as the Hanami Festival where Japan takes its celebration of spring and blossom to the next level.
Hanami is the Japanese tradition of celebrating sakura or cherry blossom in May and June. This is a sociable time with a festive atmosphere. It is the time to get out into the countryside and parks to enjoy the beauty of the short lived blossom with friends and family. People dress up and picnic under the trees, take photos and enjoy the amazing spectacle. These days much sake may be consumed as well as green tea. The festival can go on into the night in Japan when the orchards are lit with lanterns and the street food stalls may be out once the day time picnickers have packed up.
Here in Kent you can visit Brogdale in Faversham, home of the Nation Fruit Collection for their ‘Hanami Picnic’ on Sunday 14th April. The weather is currently set to be fair and tickets are still available! Whitstable Larder will be at this year’s Festival with a picnic of local food and drink along- side other local producers.
In the UK we have the Wassail tradition in cider producing areas with the aim of praying for a good harvest for the coming year. For those of us not able to head to Japan this year, or who missed their local Wassail, you could make a point of celebrating spring by visiting an orchard near you this weekend to feast your eyes on the blossom, say a prayer for the harvest ahead and breath in the spring air.
Here at Whitstable Larder Homestead I have been making sesame topped Japanese milk rolls to go with our picnic boxes. These rolls are egg and milk enriched and slightly sweetened, like a brioche. You will find the recipe below.
Whitstable Larder’s Hanami Menu for Brogdale Kent
Choose a sausage roll or vegetarian savoury from the following:
Classic Titan Pork Sausage Roll
Sweet Onion Marmalade pork Sausage Roll
Fireball Pork Sausage Roll
Bean Veggie Bake
Cheese & Onion Spicy Veggie Bake
Kentish Land Girl Homity Pies
Also in the Picnic Box:
Kentish Cabbage Kimchi & Salad
Japanese milk roll
Whitstable Larder Chutney or Mustard
We also have a selection of Kentish food and drink for you to choose from to take home
Japanese slightly sweetened milk rolls recipe
Makes 16 large or 32 small
6 tablespoons of water
6 tablespoons of milk
4 tablespoons strong flour
750g strong white flour
4 tablespoons dried milk
4 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons dried yeast
1 cup of milk
2 large eggs
First make the tangzhong by measuring out the flour into a small pan.
Make a rough well in the middle and gradually whisk in the milk. When this has absorbed all the flour whisk in the water.
Put the tangzhong onto a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon constantly. It will begin to come together into a paste. Once it has turned into a thicker even paste and you can see the bottom of the pan you can remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool.
Weigh out the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre.
Melt the butter and add the milk once melted, stir then tip them into the dry ingredients.
Add the tangzhong and the beaten eggs to the mix as well and stir everything together until all the ingredients are combined.
Knead for 10 minutes.
Leave to rise covered in a warm place for about an hour.
Shape into 16 or 32 buns. Keep the mix covered while you are doing this so that it does not dry out.
Brush with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
Place on greased tins and put in a warm place to rise until nearly doubled in size.
Place in a heated oven 180c and bake for 10 – 12 minutes for smaller rolls and 20 to 25 minutes for larger rolls until golden on top and hollow sounding when you knock.
Cool on a rack.