Wallabi's Farm: The English Hototogisu Bakery and Farm Blog

Hello, my name is Sara. In 2005 my husband and I bought an old farmhouse in Okayama, borrowed a few fields and set to building ourselves a pleasant rural life. Now, several years on, we have fields a-plenty, what was until the end of 2012 a wheaty bread bakery and is now prepping to be a gluten-free space, and have incorporated our efforts into the Hototogisu Bakery and Farm. Welcome!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The rice (almost) a'drying in the sun

Sataa Andagi Recipe

Oops! The recipe got left off the last post there, and these are so good, and so easy, I wanted to share it.

The rough recipe:
1 egg
1/3 cup raw kurozato sugar or dark brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder

Mix the egg and sugar first, then add the flour and baking powder. You may need to adjust the flour amount to get a stiffish batter - you want to be able to drop it by the spoonful into oil and have it hold it's round shape (tip: a wet spoon or small ice cream scoop will work best). Fry in 160 C degree oil until done through (this may take a good 8 minutes or so). Drain on paper towels and enjoy!

My breakfast today: 3 of the donuts in the above picture, plus an orange, yogurt and coffee. A balanced meal, no?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sataa Andagi Okinawa Donuts, Gluten Free

We have all these eggs now (a good 30 a day), and in an effort to use them up, Shuzo and Midori (assistant baker - wonderful woman!) have started a whole line-up of sweets, including Okinawan donuts called sataa andaagi (or sataa andagii, or sataa andaagii, or...). Not being able to eat those ones, I have been having donut envy, but no more! I have succeeded with my gluten free version, by the simple expedient of using a blend of roughly half and half tapioca flour and brown rice flour. See?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Eggs, eggs and more eggs (or, more about the chickens from Fukushima, their eggs and safety)

The new Henriettas are settling in in earnest now, and we are netting roughly 30 eggs a day now. A quick bit of math - I can be counted on to eat two a day, Shuzo and Ai combined eat one or two, the other bakery family seems to be averaging one a day - and you can probably imagine how many eggs are piling up.

As these chickens moved here from Fukushima prefecture, we had them tested for cesium just to be sure. The results came back last week (by phone, we are still waiting for the paper in the mail). Our eggs at present (or rather, nearly two weeks ago) registered 9 becquerels per kilogram. The government standard is 500 becquerels, more than 50 times the level in our eggs. I have been eating the eggs since the chickens got here, following the example of the rescue volunteers (who themselves had the eggs tested), and now that the official results are in, we are ready to begin selling them!

(And now, onto the difficult bit, where I discuss the radioactivity in our food issue, in general and in the context of our egg-laying feathered friends from Fukushima)

The issue of contamination of the food supply following the nuclear accident in Fukushima is one of the most stressful day-to-day issues troubling those of us in Japan but not displaced or living in one of the radioactive hot spots.

The most widely publicized problems so far have been contaminated beef and milk, both the result of cows having been fed hay contaminated with radioactive cesium (which, in case this is not common knowledge outside of Japan, has a half-life of up to thirty years, depending upon the particular isotope). Cows consume huge amounts of hay, concentrating the cesium into levels beyond what is considered safe. Un- or insufficiently-tested milk and beef made their way to the market (and were consumed) before the contamination was found (or, at any rate, revealed). The result of this and other similar episodes, plus past problems with food tracking and labeling in Japan has made it very hard for people to be certain whether the food they are buying is safe. Add to that the very nature of the risk - radioactivity from a nuclear disaster - something that hasn't (thankfully) happened often enough for the dangers to be well understood, and it is no wonder people are worried. Even I find myself worrying when contemplating purchases at the grocery store although I am really quite safe, with the vast bulk of my diet being supplied by fields I can see from my home. All of which brings some folks to ask why on earth we would bring these chickens to our hither-to cesium-free farm.

Well, the first reason is this: the poor creatures needed a home! Flight with 80 chickens was a difficult (or rather, impossible) proposition for the farmer who, before the disaster had kept these chickens on his (presumably) peaceful farm-home-of-many-years. And it is very clear that even if in a few years he is able to return to his home, there will be no chance of returning to his farm. These chickens, then, needed a home and thanks to the hard work of the JEARS volunteers, were kept alive long enough for another (wonderful!) volunteer to think of us. Wanting to help, and also feeling that we are almost certainly one of very few places in the country able to take this flock of 80 slightly radioactive chickens, we welcomed our new friends, Henrietta, Henrietta and (more) Henrietta(s).

Second, we decided to make a space for these chickens knowing that the amount of cesium they carry is limited, and will diminish in time. The chickens lived in a closed coop, which would have limited both their initial and on-going exposure. The (wonderful!) volunteers who found and cared for the chickens brought clean food and water from outside, which helped keep them safe. The cesium the chickens have ingested will leave their bodies over the coming months, as they continue to eat clean food and water and breathe clean air, and we expect to be able to share a "no cesium detected" repot before too many more months. Indeed, the level now, at 9 becquerels, less than one fiftieth of the government safety limit, is low enough we feel fine about sharing the eggs.

So you see, the only reason we mention the level, and the fact that the chickens moved here from Fukushima, is because we feel strongly that everyone has a right to make their own decisions about what they eat and feed their families.