Last year, in the sunny, pre-pandemic summer season that now feels like a dream, I had joined the Future Food for Climate Change Summer School on a special visit to the beautiful Brown’s Field, an organic farm, café, shop and guesthouse on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. After an 80km-long train ride from central Tokyo, we arrived in a sea of fresh green fields where we were greeted by happy goats and farmers Junko Kobayashi and Minto Brown, the sweet son of photographer Everett Kennedy Brown and macrobiotic chef and teacher Deco Nakajima who together had established the farm in 1999). With a focus on sustainable, slow living, Brown’s Field served as a perfect escape from busy urban life and a unique chance to immerse ourselves in a peaceful, healing space.
Our stay started with a tranquil tour of the traditional Japanese farmhouse (called a “kominka”) and the fragrant fields of wheat and rice, and plums drying in the sun. For lunch, we enjoyed “nagashi somen,” a traditional Japanese family activity where you catch slippery noodles with chopsticks as they slide down a long bamboo shoot! We engaged in enlightening talks about sustainability, learned about macrobiotic cooking, and ended the day with a soulful feast of freshly picked produce and playfully prepared dishes.
While some foodie friends went out into the field to harvest veggies, others stayed inside the cozy kitchen to help cook our final meal, which included vegan sake lees potato cream “polpetta” (Italian for meatball) with vegan white sauce. Junko had discovered this delicious vegan version at a local Japanese sake brewery, which uses the “sake kasu (lees),” (a fermented and nutritious by-product of sake production used in Japanese cooking) to give it a “umami” flavor.
Junko provided us with the recipe and the pre-made dough, which my lovely Italian colleague Claudia Laricchia and I rolled into balls and covered playfully with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). The hands-on messiness of this method sparked the making of the silliest songs, and for a few special moments, we were carefree children again! This experience, so enlivening, yet serene, exuded that pre-COVID conviviality I crave.
I trust this feeling can be revived in time and perhaps with the help of this fun recipe. I encourage you to try it at home, especially with little ones! I hope you’ll all enjoy this recipe as much as we did.
Itadakimasu / Buon Appetito!
Vegan Sake Kasu Potato Cream Polpetta
- 3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut in small pieces
- sake kasu cream sauce (100g) (See recipe below)
- salt (2 teaspoons)
- pepper (1 teaspoon)
- parsley (1 handful)
- panko breadcrumbs (500g)
- olive oil (enough for deep frying)
- Steam the potato well.
- Mash steamed potato and add sake kasu cream sauce, salt, pepper, parsley and mix well.
- Put it in the fridge.
- Once it’s cooled, roll the mixture into balls and cover with panko bread crumbs.
- Deep fry the balls in the oil for a couple minutes until brown and slightly crispy on the outside.
Sake Kasu Cream Sauce
- sake kasu (50g / about 2 tablespoons) (look for it at a Japanese specialty store or sake brewery).
- soy milk (600g)
- brown rice flour or rice flour (90g)
- salt (2-3 teaspoons)
- garlic (1 clove, minced)
- 1 onion
- olive oil (3 teaspoons)
- 1 bay leaf
- white pepper (1 teaspoon)
- nutmeg powder (1/2 teaspoon)
- Put sake kasu, soy milk, rice flour and salt in a bowl and mix well.
- Put olive oil and garlic in a pan on low heat. When garlic starts to smell good, add sliced onion and salt and stir until onion softens and smells sweet.
- Add the mixed ingredients in the bowl little by little into the pan.
- Stir until smooth.
- Add the bay leaf, stir until it gets doughy.
- Mix in white pepper and nutmeg.
- It lasts for 2 weeks in the fridge.
JULIA // Tokyo + Hong Kong