Japanese Cookery with Naoko Kashiwagi

At Philleigh Way, not only are courses led by resident chef, the gorgeous George, we’re also lucky enough to work with other incredible tutors, all of whom are experts in their field. Since last summer, we’ve been running short, half-day sushi and sashimi courses with the delightful Naoko Kashiwagi. As they’ve been so popular, this month we’re launching a new, full-day Japanese cookery course.

Designed to provide students with an overview of traditional Japanese cookery, during this hands-on course you’ll learn how to create delicious dishes such as delicate California roll sushi with tempura prawn, okonomiyaki (traditional savoury pancake), lightly seared tuna with yuzu sauce, teriyaki chicken, Namban Zuke (Japanese escabeche) and more!

As well as using some of the finest, locally sourced Cornish fish and meat (what else from a Cornish cookery school?!), you’ll also be using traditional Japanese ingredients sourced by Naoko.

Born in Tokyo, Naoko has been living in Cornwall with her family for three years after being re-located here through her husband’s work. A cookery teacher in Japan, we spoke to Naoko about her favourite Cornish suppliers, what she misses about Japan, and why she is loving working with Philleigh Way.

Naoko, in your own words, tell us who you are and what you do.

I was born in Tokyo, Japan but lived in various parts of the country due to work, moving with my father’s job. My family loved to travel and we had many holidays in different regions of Japan, and these exciting experiences inspired my creativities, especially when it came to learning different regional recipes.

My mum always cooked for our family from when I was a child and I learnt all of my basic cooking knowledge and skills of Japanese cookery from her.

As a child, I was also so passionate about art, especially drawing pictures and oil painting. I was fascinated to spend my time appreciating arts in various art museums in Tokyo.

I love to combine my passion and joy for art and cooking by making my food look like art on a plate. I want to express my love of food and art, by making dishes that people can indulge with their eyes and taste buds!

Who or what inspired you into cooking and into becoming a cookery teacher?

That would be a Japanese chef who used to work at a Michelin starred hotel in France. After she came back to Japan, she started to run cookery courses in Tokyo. She ran traditional French cooking classes but with a slightly more plain style. Her cooking was simple but breathtakingly flavourful and delicious. I clearly remember how much I was knocked out when I experienced her food and cooking methods for the first time. I learnt cooking from her in the evenings after working at my day job, (office work in marketing), and she gave me huge inspiration and enthusiasm for cooking.

What inspired you start up Naoko’s Kitchen?

When I had my first baby, I made a decision to quit my job as a full time office worker because I wanted to be more flexible for my family. I knew well that I had a passion for cooking deep in my heart like a magma.

I found running cookery lessons in my own home kitchen was popular in Tokyo. I pondered about what was best for my family and myself, and I made up my mind to be a self-employed cookery teacher.

I then began running cooking and baking courses from my own home kitchen in central Tokyo.

Sushi and Sashimi and Japanese food have become hugely popular in the UK and worldwide, why do you think this is?

I think that one of the reasons is the healthy image of Japanese food.

Actually, Japanese food was originally based on Buddhism principle and that was vegan food. Also we value seasonal fresh ingredients above anything else, and use less fat and oil than other cuisines. So I think these aspects are matching with the trend of worldwide healthy tendency.

What do you think makes sushi and sashimi and Japanese food so interesting and tasty?

Most of traditional Japanese condiments like Miso, Soy sauce, Sake and so on are made of various fermentations, so they have deep flavours. To season with these condiments can create deep flavours and very distinctive/unique tastes.

What is your favourite fish to work with when making sushi and sashimi and why?

Squid and Scallop. Their raw taste is subtle, but I also quite like the cleaning and curing steps for them as well. Also I can’t resist squid’s nice chewy texture and scallop’s sweet taste when we savour them with soy sauce.

What do you love about Cornwall?

Beautiful beaches, shining green countryside, huge sky and most of all, I love people in Cornwall who are so kind and friendly to each other.

I haven’t felt any loneliness in Cornwall where even I didn’t have any relatives, because a lot of kind people befriended me soon after I moved to Truro.   Now Cornwall is my home.

What is your favourite Cornish food product?

Pasty (especially steak one) and fish & chips! If I don’t have fish & chips over 10 days, I would suffer from withdrawal!!

Who are your favourite Cornish food suppliers?

Fish: Matthew Stevens & Son, Wing of St Mawes -I can’t do anything without their kind supplying. Their products are really fresh and reliable.

Meat: Brian Etherington Meat -> I love their fresh and clean meat

Japanese vegetables: Newlina Eco Gardens -> their Japanese vegetables, Mizuna, Chrysanthemum and so on, are all hand-picked and reliable.

What is the one product that you still cannot do without that you still have import/source elsewhere for your cooking?

That is a black cod (Candle fish). This is a species of deep sea fish common to the North Pacific ocean at depths of 980 to 8,860 ft.

Their meat contains distinctive fat and is soft-textured and mildly flavoured.

My most favourite dish for this fish is grilled, sweetened, miso-marinated black cod.

Are there any ingredients that you cannot find in the UK that make you miss Japan?

Eel rice bowl. We enjoy grilled eel fillet on rice with sweet soy sauce. Their taste is smoky, sweet, savoury and so richly fatty. This is a very traditional meal for a special occasion.

Favourite family friendly place to eat?

Duchy Cornwall Nursery near Lostwithiel. They deal Asian plants and also I love their cafe in their spacious garden. And another of my favourites is Cardinham wood café. Good food and perfect surrounding of nature for children.

If you were on death row, what would you request for your last meal!?

I can answer this without hesitation, that is row fresh oyster!

I love their creamy sweeten flavour and also silky, dense texture. To eat row oyster is quite popular in Japan.

Favourite place in Cornwall?

Watergate Bay in Newquay, Carbis Bay near St. Ives, Sennen beach, and Penrose National Trust near Helston

Why do you enjoy working with Philleigh Way?

All members are so friendly and kindly understand and respect my will for cooking. Most of all I can relax with these wonderful open-minded members who have warm hearts. I Love Philleigh Way so much!!

What’s the best bit about the Japanese & Sushi and Sashimi cookery courses?

We proudly selected all dishes for sharing that are very traditional and popular Japanese food.

Every dish is what I highly recommend you to try in Japan if you visit Japan.

You will be able to experience the ultimate Japanese taste with us in Cornwall!

The first full-day Japanese cookery course is taking place on Wednesday 19th April.