Adventures in Japan – Osaka

on Food, Motherhood, Travel  

A home style cooking class was one of our highlights in Osaka. We caught the train out to meet Osaka local Naoko, who was inspired by a cooking class in New Zealand and now shares the techniques of everyday Japanese cooking from her home.

Mum, dad and baby in stroller with tofu seller at market
They make tofu here early each morning
Man and woman cooking in kitchen
Cooking in Naoko’s kitchen

Rice balls, fried lotus, grilled salmon and konyakku

Mum, dad and baby in front of table of Japanese food

2 okonomiyaki on hot grillJapanese woman holding crying babyMochi and green tea

We first visited her local market (sadly growing smaller as more people choose to shop at supermarkets) for lotus root and handmade tofu. We then went to Naoko’s apartment to make okonomiyaki and various accompaniments. Unfortunately Felix was not keen to nap in the spare room or the travel pram as planned, so we spent most of the lesson and a good part of the meal trying to get him to calm down. But at least the food was great!

Other things we did in Osaka

Seeing whale sharks and jellyfish at Osaka Aquarium.

Mum, daddy and baby in carrier in front of whale shark displayBaby in carrier held by dad, in front of an aquariumWhale shark in aquarium

Eating street food at Kuromon Market and Dotonbori.

Sashimi platterRed baby octopus on a stickMum with baby in carrier, holding a stick of mochiTakoyakiMelon bread with matcha ice creamGiant moving crab in DotonboriBusy Dotonbori street

Going on quests for a decent latte (my fave was Mill Pour, which is also next to a nice bakery; Jeff liked Brooklyn Roasting Co; we also went on a big detour one day to Mel Coffee Roaster which great and very popular!).

Outside of small coffee shopA lovely latte

Catching up with a friend in Amerikamura for lunch and strawberry dessert.

The inside of a cafe with strawberry themed decorStrawberry sundaeTwo women, one holding a baby in a carrier

Admiring Osaka Castle (and eating curry).

Dad holding baby in front of Osaka CastleOsaka CastleA plate of curry

We managed one day trip during our stay in Osaka – a quick one in Kyoto, up next.

Adventures in Japan – Tokyo

on Food, Motherhood, Travel  

So the last post was about the logistics of travelling Japan with a baby – here’s some things we actually did!

Tokyo

We arrived at Narita airport early in the morning after an overnight flight, and although the journey had gone well we were exhausted! After catching the train on to Tokyo we went for lunch to kill some time before checking in to our hotel, then just crashed. Jeff got some dinner from the local konbini and we ate it in our small hotel room in darkness and with whispered voices whilst Felix slept. At this point I was having serious doubts about whether this trip had been a good idea, but it was a bit late to turn back!

Sunrise view from the planeTired mum with baby in carrier at airport

On our first proper day in Japan we visited TeamLab Borderless, an interactive digital art exhibition in Odaiba. I was skeptical about it being worth the very long line, but once inside it made a lot of sense. Inside, we had to stow our pram in a holding area, which made sense as we walked into the exhibition (with Felix in a ring sling). The multi-sensory displays were beautiful, dizzying, fascinating rooms of moving lights and shapes; it felt like walking into Wonderland. This was pretty much the only thing we ended up managing to do in Tokyo, and I don’t regret it.

Psychedelic display of projected flower lights
Can you see us?

Crowd in light displayLights projected onto a field of suspended discs

The next day we were off on the bullet train to Osaka. We did intend to return to Tokyo for a few days at the end of our trip before flying home, but had to cut our time short due to Typhoon Hagibis. We did however get to experience the insanity of Shinjuku station during the peak hour morning commute whilst trying to get to the airport, which I do not recommend!

Boozy Fruit Mince Pie Ice-Cream

on Food  

I love making ice cream – aside from having to prep things a day or two in advance, it’s something I can make with relatively little effort and not have to rush around cooking at the last minute. My little home ice-cream maker came with a recipe book but I mainly start with the simple (eggless) vanilla ice-cream recipe and adapt from there – I’ve tried the proper custard style and it somehow never turns out as nice!

When looking for fruit mince pie ice-cream recipes, most of them suggested buying vanilla ice-cream, buying fruit mince pies, and then putting them together. Unsatisfied with that approach, I went for a spiced ice-cream base with brandy soaked dried fruit and shortbread cookies (instead of short crust pastry) crumbled through. The result is a bit like a brandy version of traditional Rum Raisin ice-cream with extra cookie crunch and seasonal spice. I may have overdone the brandy (hence ‘boozy’ in the title), but you could always omit for an alcohol-free version.

I haven’t tried making ice-cream without the machine in a long time, but alcohol, sugar, fat content and frequent stirring can help produce a smooth ice-cream without large ice crystals if you don’t have one to use.

Scoop of fruit mince pie ice cream

Fruit Mince Pie Ice-Cream recipe

I’m not the most disciplined cook so this isn’t a proper recipe, no quantities here – just eyeball it and adjust to your taste.

You’ll need

  • An ice-cream maker
  • Mixed dried fruit
  • Brandy
  • Vanilla ice-cream ingredients (recipe here)
  • Mixed spice
  • Cinnamon
  • Shortbread cookies (recipe here)

Method

  1. Soak some mixed dried fruit in brandy overnight.
  1. Take a standard vanilla ice cream recipe, reduce the sugar and add in some mixed spice and cinnamon, chill overnight.
  1. Bake or buy some shortbread cookies – you’ll end up with too many to put in the ice cream, but extra cookies is never a bad thing.
  2. Churn the ice cream and brandy-soaked fruit according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions, then crumble and stir through pieces of shortbread.
  3. Freeze for another hour or two to firm up, and remove from the freezer five minutes or so before serving.