Creamy Spring Buckwheat, Chocolate and Chestnut Pudding Cakes and Thinking About Japan

Today I feel lucky.

I look around and I am surrounded by my family, my children thriving, playing without a care in the world, like healthy children do. Seeing the images that come from Japan are heartbreaking. How we can lose it all in an instant. In the blink of an eye our lives can turn upside down. Such devastation.

As soon as I heard about the news on Friday, I thought of my friend Keiko and wondered how her loved ones would be doing. I tried to imagine how I would deal with such news from afar, just as she is. Then, she confirmed her family is well. A sigh of relief.

I could’t write a post without acknowledging all those people who have lost it all, but also the stories of survival and hope.

We are thinking about them.

And as for our weekend, it was quiet.

I spent lots of time writing while C. and my parents took care of the kids. I am so thankful for the beautiful weather so we don’t have to be cooped up indoors. Well, at least the kids don’t have to and that is what counts, no?

And so I continue creating and editing. Feedback from my editor has been great so there goes another sigh of relief.

M. loved snapping fresh and plump sugar snow peas out of their shell. So sweet that she ate pod and all.

J. played hard to get, shying away from my camera. He was busy flying his new kite.

And then we cooked, we cooked a lot.

Like creamy buckwheat with peas, fennel and watercress or chocolate and chestnut pudding cakes.

Not bad, wouldn’t you say?


Here is a good list of resources of how we can all help through donations.

Also, Chika is hosting a sakura fundraiser here.

I have also donated to the International Medical Corps.

I will keep updating as I hear more.

Thank you.

Creamy Buckwheat with Peas, Fennel and Watercress

Serves 4

3 cups of water
1/2 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1 shallot, thinly diced
1/2 medium fennel bulb, diced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup watercress
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
chicken stock, optional

Bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and the buckwheat. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Drain.

In the meantime, in a separate sauce pan, heat the olive oil. Sweat the shallots and the fennel until tender.

Add the cooked buckwheat, peas, mascarpone, parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper. If you feel it’s too dry, add a little bit of chicken stock to lighten it. Serve immediately.

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77 Responses to “Creamy Spring Buckwheat, Chocolate and Chestnut Pudding Cakes and Thinking About Japan”

  1. Everything so beautiful..this little girl is adorable! xx

  2. Su says:

    It is trully sad the tradegy upon Japan anda all those people.

    This recipe is just wonderfull. Rally fresh and delicious.

  3. Precious little cakes. Baked right in the teacup, right? Can you use any standard teacup for those?

    We’re putting our peas in the garden soon!

  4. Anita says:

    Beautiful pictures as always.

  5. The Grazer says:

    Your photography is beautiful. I just started my own food blog and am aspiring to your standards. Any feedback would be much appreciated. Anna x

  6. Very spring-like indeed! Gorgeous clicks as usual.



  7. Kat says:

    Beautiful pictures as always!!! I love your blog, it’s a pure joy for my eyes :) Your recipes are so delicious!

    Have a good day xx

  8. Svet says:

    Beautiful sunny pictures!

  9. Amy says:

    Beautiful pictures, as usual. Thank you!

  10. Molly says:

    Every hour or so, I stop and take a moment to think about Japan. I can’t seem to collect the write words to express exactly how saddened I am for the country and its people.

  11. juliaelmer at hotmail dot com says:

    Thanks for this post. Love the use of all those ingredients. Just got my hands on some lovely fresh chestnuts last week.

    I, too, am really bothered by what has happened in Japan. There have been so many natural disasters over the past six months or so. I haven’t seen the US news pick up on the story of the 60-year-old man who spent 2 days 15 miles out from the shore clinging to the remains of his home’s roof. There have been some “happy endings” like that one and like these: . Here’s hoping the miracles continue to occur.

  12. shari says:

    Thank you for acknowledging what is happening in Japan. I also had to post something about it… so much heartbreak that it hurts us way out here.

    I love your beautiful photos and recipes… my favorite memory is with my grandmother in Massachusetts, shelling peas together on the porch. :-) This brought me back to that time. Thank you.

  13. Ioften toss cooked barley with creamy boursin cheese and some roasted fennel – but this buckwheat version, with the peas and the marscapone looks like an amazing twist on my lunchtime staple. I can;t wait until the weather warms up a bit more and we get fresh peas up here!

  14. Your blog is such a treat. Thank you for these photos.

    I hope your friend’s family is safe. I cannot imagine sitting on edge this whole time waiting for word. The destruction seems almost unreal.

  15. Maja says:

    Trully sad what happened in Japan, we think on them all – hope they will find the missing one…
    I’m so gladfull about my familly and peace in my country!
    Beautiful post :)
    Everything looks amazing, as usual :)

  16. Your photo’s seriously make me sick… in a good way of course. You are absolutely my favorite food photographer, and your posts bring inspiration everyday!

  17. Louisa B. says:

    Where I can find the recipe for that gorgeous cake??

  18. Merisi says:

    Japan’s people suffer though a catastrophe of biblical proportions. I fervently hope that the international community and every single one of us pull together to help at least relieve the physical suffering of the survivors.

    (Regarding the 60 year old rescued at sea, I read about it either in the Washington Post or New York Times.)


    The chocolate and chestnut pudding cake sounds very tempting. Your photography is as gorgeous as ever!

  19. As usual, your photos are great.
    I love the way you take them.
    I´m following you…
    Come and visit me!

  20. Rowaida says:

    This is so beautiful from you Aran. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan

  21. Kimberley says:

    You’re inspiring me to be more daring with buckwheat. I love both of these; the savory seems so simple and comforting, the sweet so clever and intriguing. And, oh Japan. It’s incredibly heartbreaking.

  22. Hazel says:

    I agree with Jason’s comment above, your photos are such an inspiration! Beautiful post.

  23. Kerli says:

    Just adorable blog, the photos, I just don’t have words to describe it! When I tell my girlfriends about your blog, I never tell much, I just say that they should read/see it.
    As I love to give food as presents, I would like you to make a post every season about gift-food. What to make as gifts every season. Some super interesting jam or something else, they are all probably storage food, but something fresh could also be nice. Have made all kinds of truffles, cakes and biscuits, but expect something surprising from you!
    Keep posting, more, more, more!

  24. Elisa says:

    I friend of mine also came to mind when I heard of the natural disaster. She received news her family is well, (she is currently living in Indonesia). thank you for acknowledging the news and as always yummy recipes. I like the chocolate with raspberries.

  25. viveksurti says:

    A fantastic recipe! I can’t wait till the spring peas come out here in Nashville – the ones you have look great!

  26. Eléonora says:

    Toujours de bien belles photos…j’adore !

  27. Vanessa says:

    Those peas look amazing. I love eating them raw right off the vine.

  28. Junglefrog says:

    Devastating news indeed in Japan… I have friends living in Tokyo and I was supposed to go and visit them in a few weeks time. Somehow that fact makes it all even more impressive and I sit in shock everyday watching the news which seems to get worse as time progresses… My friends are ok and on their way to Holland so they will be here soon, but my thought are with all those people who have lost loved ones!

    At least your posts and photos always manage to bring a smile to my face!

  29. Pennie says:

    What a beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this immense tragedy and for reminding us to be grateful for the simple joys in our lives…

  30. Shelby says:

    Springtime! Sigh… I can’t wait for the tulips to start appearing and longer days! Thank you for sharing this refreshing post, the recipes look delicious, as always!

  31. Louisa- will share soon. :)

    Thanks all for your comments. It feels a bit unnecessary to blog about food or any trivial thing when just across the globe Japan is struggling. I appreciate it.

  32. Kim says:

    WOW! Your pictures are so amazing. This savory buckwheat looks pretty good to me!

  33. I love the material you use, it creates a beautiful effect – dreamy, fresh and romantic.

    Do you just source it from material shops or are they actually napkins?

    Devastating about Japan, living in NZ, we have just dealt with the Christchurch quake. I can’t believe whats going on in our world. I feel so luckly to be happy and safe.

    Kia Kaha Japan

  34. Skyler says:

    Your blog is lovely, inspiration, accessible and truly comforting. Thank you for sharing your love of what is good and beautiful (your food, your family) with the world.
    I have been reading through your lovely macaroon recipes, and I have a question about the science. I have a pharmaceutical grade organic lavender essential oil that i would like to use to lightly flavor my macaroons. However, i know that fat interferes with egg white’s ability to rise. Will a drop or two of oil react with the whites and render them flat?
    Thank you so much for your imput….

  35. Sini says:

    Oh those peas!

    It hurts to see those pictures of Japan and hear those news. The never ending bad news. Going from bad to worser as it seems. When is it going to end!?! It makes us sad but also gets us to appreciate all those good things in our lives. Gets us to feel lucky.

  36. ibb says:

    Gozatu gurasoak hor dituzula laguntzeko, hori da faltan botako dezun gauzetako bat…sortea dezu lanean zaudela horren laguntza izatea. Umeak gero eta haundiago daude…nola dihoan denbora lasterka.
    Eta errezetak…betiko itzura izugarria dute…liburuaren zai, hemendik.
    Muxu haundi bat.

  37. I agree that the overwhelming nature of all these natural disasters (particular the tsunami in Japan) leaves you lost for words…but if anything, it means that we should be grateful of everything that we have, as well as keeping those less fortunate in our thoughts.

    Aside from that, this is a beautiful dish, and I have to say that I also enjoy fresh peas straight from the pod :)

  38. Several food bloggers are running bake sales and fund raisers for the people of Japan. Perhaps we can all chip in by spreading the word in our food posts. A small effort goes a long way.

  39. Yo. says:

    Lovely pictures. Let’s hope they bring a little bit of sun in Japan’s hearts.

  40. Pas facile de “bloguer cuisine” en ce moment, tiraillée entre la superficialité de nos jolis billets culinaires et ces événements douloureux qui terrassent une partie du monde… Mais une chose est sûre,cela met le doigt sur la chance que l’on a d’avoir notre famille et nos enfants à nos côtés en vie, en bonne santé insouciants et heureux, c’est une chance infinie…

  41. Really kind words and a nice reminder about what is important Aran. The news from Japan the past week has been especially hard and I think it’s only going to get harder. It makes all of us hold on tighter to what we have. Thanks for this post.

  42. lianne says:

    What happened in Japan is so devastating, heart breaking..We just keep on praying..

    This is a great post!

  43. Agnès says:

    yo también pienso en ellos…

  44. Kim says:

    Thank you for this! Here in our kitchen, we are thinking of the folks in Japan, especially “our” Japanese daughter who shared a year of her life with us while studying here on Vancouver Island. We miss her and worry about her and her family amidst all the turmoil in Japan. Your pictures, recipe and blog as a whole are a delight!
    thank you for sharing!

  45. Great post, I am thinking about Japan too, every day the news are worst.
    Un abrazo.

  46. Just adorable blog as usual, your photos are great. We love the way you think it.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this immense tragedy in Japan and for reminding us that we should be thankful and happy with the little things in our everyday.

  47. Thank you for the links…it is truly a horrible and frighting. All of those suffering through this are in our thoughts as well.

  48. Oh my, your blog makes me hungry. These plates look DELICIOUS. Plus, I love how clean & crisp your photos are. =)

  49. Anonymous says:

    Wow! My first visit to your blog…delightful! Lovely photos, sweet story, and a recipe I can’t wait to try. Does it get any better?

  50. Rio says:

    I love your site, and regularly swoon over your beautiful photography, and am often jealous of what’s available at your market when it is still months away for us up in WA state.I made your buckwheat dish for dinner last night, and it was HEAVENLY.I also loved that it was so FAST to make. I didn’t have watercress, so substituted lightly steamed chopped kale which was tasty. Next I plan to try it with some tender young nettles which are our first greens here in the pacific North West.


  51. Vanessa and Ingrid- i use both, fabric, napkins and kitchen towels that I cut up. Anything that has a pop of color and texture.

    Rio- that sounds lovely as well and I’m glad you made it AND liked it. When you are in the middle of summer enjoying all your berries and great produce, we will be burried in humidity and heat and nothing will grow. We can talk then. :)

    Japan is still on my mind as I know it’s on yours. A friend told me recently that all we can do is keep putting positive energy into the world and that is what I plan to do.

    Thank you again.

  52. Angela says:

    Tutto meraviglioso, la foto di quel cucciolo di donna è bellissima.
    Se ti va ti invito al mio contest sulla cannella.
    Un bacio Angela

  53. this little girl is so cute!!!
    You’re right, we’re soooo lucky and most of the time we are not conscious of it!

  54. I so loved your thoughtful meditations on Japan and how it has made you reflect on your own life. There is only so much we are able to do here to help… and you mention some great organizations to donate to… but what we can do is learn from what has happened. And appreciate all we have around us.

    Lastly, you should know that these are some absolutely stunning dishes that you have prepared… and the children are priceless.

  55. so wonderful and thoughtful of you to place the links for your readers to help. In such devastation, it’s awesome to see nations pull together to assist. It’s just sad it takes mother nature to make people aware of others suffering, sometimes. It’s human nature to get caught up in our own worlds, and it’s very grounding to see such devastation. As always, beautiful photos and post.

  56. Valerie says:

    I love the idea of baking little cakes in a teacup. They are so cute

  57. Cassandra says:

    You have one of the most beautiful blogs I have seen! I happened upon it by chance this morning and am very happy I did! Gorgeous!

  58. elle marie says:

    I think I’m still in shock, I can’t believe what is going on around me here in Japan… but I have to feel blessed that I’m safe, and all our friends and family have been found… I used to be pessimistic but seeing so many warm soles helping us here in Japan gives me so much hope all-round.

    And…beautiful photos as well, bright and sunny, makes me happy looking at them.

  59. marius says:

    Mamma mia!:)) It looks amazing!! Lovely photos!!!


  60. Very very nice pictures indeed; I’ll try the recipe, too.

  61. Those lucky raspberries…the chocolate and chestnut pudding looks perfect.

  62. Gen says:

    C’est vrai que dans ces moments on se sent chanceux et on relativise! C’est également une belle recette.

  63. Unas fotografías espectaculares, que belleza!!! besos

  64. Miren looks very focused and springlike. Cute!

  65. I think now is a time to embrace what is truly important and I feel you do that so well xo

  66. rico plato ,saludable lleno de vitaminas ,lindas fotos te felicito,abrazos.

  67. Irene says:

    I love those cheeks and the look of concentration is delicious! We usually donate to the Red Cross and MSF (doctors w/o borders) when there is a disaster like this. They are both on the ground in Japan right now.

  68. I have friends in Japan too and I haven’t heard from them yet. Hope they are alright but I’m sad to hear about the rest.

    I love your blog by the way especially your beautiful pictures here and the girl is adorable! :)

  69. Not bad at all :) What a lovely day. A lot of cooking together with loved ones and playing in the sunshine. Bliss. The buckwheat sounds beautiful, and those pudding cakes look divine. I hope the recipe is in your upcoming book! My mother loves chestnut, I will definitely be making them for her :)
    Heidi xo

  70. Speerow says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  71. heidi says:

    Vi tu receta justo cuando la publicaste y me dije, suena genial pero ¿Dónde consigo los buckwheat groats?.

    Bueno pues, que muy a la Paulo Coelho, el Universo me escuchó y ayer que fui al supermercado los encontré!.

    Espero cocinarlos ésta noche para una cena a la luz de las velas (Earth Hour!) con mi marido.

    Ya te contaré como me fue con la receta.

  72. - Rachel - says:

    I just wanted to let you know how much of a culinary inspiration your blog is to me. I’m currently going through an elimination diet and your use of fresh ingredients and no gluten has made my job in finding foods to eat so much easier. I have already made modified versions of your leek, potato, and butternut squash soup and your rosemary plum and oat crisp. I am also located in Florida (near Kennedy Space Center) and would love to meet up with you some time!

  73. Rachel- that is wonderful. I’m happy my blog can help. Keep at it!!

  74. Rio says:

    I made the Creamy Buckwheat with peas… recipe last spring, and marked it as a favorite to try again. I hadn’t had buckwheat in years, and fell in love with it’s fragrant goodness.
    I don’t have access to watercress here, so used kale, with great results.
    This year, I substituted fresh frozen favas for the peas, and nettles for the watercress-SO delicious! Since I have mascarpone left, I plan to make it again soon, rather than waiting another year!!!! And I will definitely put up more favas, just for this recipe.

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