Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In the Pumkin Patch (Day 2 of 2)

After the rain yesterday, today was a gorgeous autumn day.  Bright and early, the film crew and I headed to the studio kitchen in the town of Nakagawa in Tochigi Prefecture, which is also the home of the farmer's markets where we procure the seasonal produce that we feature in the show, "Ian's Kitchen" (website for the show HERE).

A beautiful day in Tochigi Prefecture!

This episode featured pumpkins, and in the three dishes we used four different varieties of pumpkins, including the organic green pumpkins grown by Mr. Negishi (whom I met at his farm yesterday HERE).  We also used other autumn staples such as sweet potatoes and apples.  

A cornucopia of autumn's bounty

We always spend the morning of the shoot going through each of the recipes so that the three cameras can be set up for the right shots and so that my assistant chef, Daichi, and I can practice making each dish.

Ian and assistant chef, Diachi

After lunch, the cooking and filming begins!  There are usually lots of mistakes, like me getting one of my lines in Japanese mixed up, or Daichi and me having such a fun time chatting about differences in Japanese and Western-style cooking that something gets over-cooked and we have to start over.

Ian and Daichi do a final check before filming.

We always have a hilarious time filming and somehow each of the dishes always seems to somehow work out.  In this episode, we made:

1. Boiled Green Pumpkin with Glazed Minced Tofu, a common Japanese dish, except I made 'fake-meat' minced tofu to substitute for the usual minced chicken.

2. White Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Apple Soup, a hearty soup great for when the weather gets cold.

3. Orange and Dark Pumpkin Custard Steamed Pudding, note the crossed out bit (!).

One of the funny 'accidents' that we had today involved the steamed pudding.  The recipe is actually my grandmother's recipe for Pumpkin Custard I found in a book of family recipes that my sister curated.  I did some arranging to make it Japanese-style, including using a special unrefined mineral sugar from Okinawa (the islands in the south of Japan) instead of white sugar, using local honey rather than corn syrup, and adding soy milk in place of cow's milk.

However, when it came time to bake the custards in a hot water bath in the oven, I realized that the pan I had brought to the studio wouldn't fit in the oven!  I thought about my options: I could start over and leave out the eggs, then serve the dish raw (since the pumpkin was already cooked), but I wasn't sure that the consistency would be right.  Then suddenly, as I thinking about what else I could do, a large steaming pot used to make Chinese steamed puddings and buns caught my eye.  Without a second thought, I tossed the custards into the steaming pot and 25 minutes later (and with some script and menu description changes) we had steamed puddings!  

It was just another example of how you have to be quick on your feet and roll with the punches when you're cooking.  Now that I think about it, that's kind of how you have to be in life.

Boiled Pumpkin (top), Pumpkin Soup (left), Pumpkin Steamed Pudding (right)

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