Sketchbook notes from the drifting spaces

Working on Tenzo Zen Cooking Notes…

In the last couple of weeks, with the kitchen work still fresh in my mind since being up at Ardfern with the Zen Group, I started getting some notes jotted down to help others on the practice of Tenzo, and particularly in terms of the preparation, timing, various kitchen duties and roles, that sort of practical thing. It started off as a few pages but with the recipes, plus creativity and images coming in, is snowballing already into a bit of a project! Even managing to squeeze in a bit of old waka poetry from Dogen and the Edo mountain-poet-calligrapher monk Ryokan too.

seven gems
with both hands
I ate what was
given by somebody

(Waka, gift of seven Zakuro pomegranites given to Ryokan)

Tenzo materials

Ardfern Zen Retreat – a few recipes from the Tenzo…

Ardfern Zen

Here are a few recipes and images (many thanks to Ylva Champion for her photos) from the kitchen during the retreat. Huge thanks to all that helped with the food prep.

Ardfern 2Ardfern 3Ardfern 4Ardfern Zen 5Ardfern Zen 6Ardfern Zen 7

TOFU TERIYAKI (bit tricky as delicate, side for 4)

1 pack of tofu – carefully removed from packaging using scissors and wrap up with kitchen roll for 10mins to take off excess water. You can add a weight delicately to help this.

Cut into half longways then opposite way into rectangular shapes and carefully spread out on big plates or a dry chopping board, and cover lightly with corn starch over each bit.

Mix a sauce in a bowl: soy sauce 2 tbsp, sugar 1.5 tbsp, mirin 2 tbsp, sake 1 tbsp. Fry a little vegetable oil on high heat, add tofu, and the sauce to coat the tofu, simmer for a few mins until becoming golden.

Carefully put in bowl with sauce. Garnish with a few spring onions finely chopped and some mayo. Tip, you can other proteins (chicken is a typical meat for this sauce) instead of tofu.


Means Morning Pickles. Basically chop up a mix of 2 or 3 few veg bitesize like chinese leaf, carrots, cucumber, aubergine, and put in a sealable bag or a bowl with a good bit of salt. try 1 tbsp sea salt with a cucumber for instance. Squeeze mix for 5 mins, seal bag and set aside for a few hours or overnight in bag or with something heavy on top. Taste and if too salty wash off salt until the right saltiness.

Another option which is pretty tasty and quicker too (takes about 10-20 mins to pickle) is to add some dashi fish stock and a little soy sauce (shoyu) and sugar too and chopped chilli when you mix everything up with salt at the start. You can tell you haven’t used
enough salt if liquid doesn’t come out from the veg.


Kabu white turnip x 3, sweet potato x 1 large, chop wagiri (thick coins) and put in pot. Add soya milk 200ML, dashi stock 0.5 tsp with bit of water 50ML, so the veg is almost covered by the liquid.

Boil, then add miso 2 tbsp, simmer until veg soft and soup is reduced to half. Tip: you could also use other potatoes or radishes

Tokyo and Toyama Washoku (Japanese Food) Excerpts

From the quirky dishes of the lively Izakayas in the East side of Tokyo to Toyama’s famous salty Black Ramen and fish for sushi and sashimi from the rough seas of the Toyama Gulf (Japan Sea). And the fantastic Gyouza button for service at Oushou…

Japanese restaurants