Harumi Kurihara is to Japan what Martha Stewart is to Americans, Donna Hay is to Australians and Nigella and Delia are to us Brits – that is to say she’s a hugely successful cookery writer with over 20 bestselling cookbooks, a quarterly recipe magazine, popular television shows, a line of kitchenware and even a chain of shops, restaurants and cafés under her belt.
Despite her immense success, Kurihara, known affectionately by her fans as Harumi K, still sees herself first and foremost as a housewife – indeed she is fêted in Japan as a karisuma shufu (charisma housewife) – and is committed to cooking at home for her husband every day. Her cookery books are aimed squarely at helping others to prepare tasty and enjoyable food in the home.
Everyday Harumi is the third of Kurihara’s books to be published in English but it’s the first book she has researched and written in England; she wanted to understand the British way of shopping, eating and cooking to ensure that her recipes were realistic and accessible for non-Japanese cooks.
After a foreword in which Kurihara talks a little about her background, how she came to write the book and how healthy and enjoyable a Japanese diet can be, the book begins with a list of store cupboard essentials. These are the ingredients Kurihara deems to be at the heart of Japanese home cooking and each one appears in many of the recipes in the book. This chapter introduces each ingredient in detail and includes instructions on cooking rice and making dashi stock; it also provides recipes for sauces and pastes such as ponzu, mentsuyu, sesame paste and miso paste that are referenced later in the book.
Recipes are grouped by key ingredient, such as; type of meat or fish, rice, noodles, eggs, tofu, miso, ginger, sesame and various vegetables.
Although her recipes are clearly Japanese, Kurihara is not a slave to authenticity for the sake of it; many of her dishes simplify ingredients and techniques and some blend washoku (traditional Japanese cooking) with yōshoku (Western cuisine). This is not a sop to her foreign audiences, however – in fact it reflects the reality of how many Japanese now cook at home, eagerly incorporating ingredients and influences from around the world. Above all, these dishes are very well suited to tasty mid-week evening meals, when speed and simplicity are a priority.
Flicking through the book between recipes such as Steak in a Miso Marinade, Tsukune with Teriyaki Sauce, Scallops with Nori Seaweed, Udon Noodles with a Minced Meat Miso Sauce, Tofu Salad with a Sesame Dressing, Egg Drop Soup, Lightly Cooked Spinach with Soy Sauce, Japanese Coleslaw Salad and Aubergine in Spicy Sauce it becomes clear how much variety can be achieved by combining the essential ingredients in different ways.
Photographer Jason Lowe illustrates every recipe with bright and beautiful colour images. In each, the food is shown off in a wonderfully varied selection of crockery – Kurihara has a particular love of collecting unmatched pieces in which to serve her food. There are several cheery photographs of Kurihara cooking too. Recipe instructions are straightforward and easy to follow and it’s particularly gratifying that my own attempts turn out just like the pictures in the book.
Whether you are new to Japanese cooking or are looking for further inspiration, Everyday Harumi offers an immensely approachable and appealing range of simple Japanese dishes to enjoy with your family and friends.
Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara is published by Conran Octopus. The hardback version, published in 2009, is currently available on Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20). The newly published paperback version is available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99). Prices correct at time of review.