Japan Eats

Recipe: Apple compote with red wine and vanilla ice cream

How bout them apples?

Most people are familiar with the  pear compote. A simple dish consisting of pears slow cooked in sugar, water, wine and spices, it’s a dessert which never goes out of date.

What people may not know, however, is that apples work just as well as pears. Here, we’ll be preparing a version which makes use of Japanese apples.

These come in many varieties: Fuji, Kogyoku, Tsugaru and Jona gold. For the purposes of this dish, use a Fuji apple. Its sour flavor will better compliment the sweetness of the syrup and whatever creamy goodness you serve alongside it.

Apple compote with red wine and vanilla ice cream

Apple compote with red wine and vanilla ice cream

Ingredients (serves two people)

  • 1 apple (400g)
  • 100g sugar
  • 250 ml water
  • 100 ml red wine
  • 1 clove
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 liter water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ice cream/yogurt/marscapone


Peel the apple and then slice it into 4 – 6 wedges, disposing of the core. Add the teaspoon of salt to the half-liter of water, then place the apple pieces into the liquid.

Pour the sugar into a pan together with 250 ml of water. Place the pan on a low heat so that the sugar dissolves. Next, put the apples into the pan, and gently cook for 15 – 20 minutes.

Add the clove, the cinnamon and the red wine and stir. Cook the mixture for a further 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. After 12 to 24 hours, the apples should have absorbed the red wine and changed color. When you’re satisfied the apples are ready, take them out of the pan and slice them again (optional).

Place the an back onto a low heat and warm it slowly. Once it has thickened, it can be used as a sauce.

Plate the apples and serve with a dollop of ice cream, yogurt or marscapone. Pour a tablespoon of the sauce over the apples.

Recipe: Fresh Strawberries & Japanese Whiskey Sabayon

Rachael White explains how to prepare this delicious seasonal dessert.

As an expat in Tokyo, finding recipes that make one feel “at home” can be challenging. Many recipes westerners are familiar with require the use of an oven (not a common appliance in most Japanese kitchens). This recipe for fresh strawberries with whiskey sabayon fits the bill for a dessert that is: 1) simple to make with basic ingredients that can be found in Japanese grocery stores and 2) does not require an oven.

Strawberries & Whiskey Sabayon

Strawberries & Whiskey Sabayon: All of the ingredients are commonly found on Japanese grocery store shelves. Photograph: Rachael White

If you have a stove, a whisk, and a little time, you are more than equipped to make this impressive French dessert with a little Japanese flair. Sabayon, or zabaglione in Italian, is a southern French dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and wine. The ingredients are whipped like crazy to form a light, foamy, creamy topping for fruit, cake, etc. In this case, Japanese whiskey and a touch of vanilla extract replace the wine. Sake would be an excellent substitute as well.

This time of year is especially good for strawberries in Japan. Although they can be found year round in some grocery stores in Tokyo, spring time seems to be when these ruby-red jewels are perfectly sweet and delicious. If they are purchased outside of the season, the texture tends to be hard and the inside is white and nearly tasteless. So, carpe diem and seize the strawberries, friends!

Ingredients (Makes 4-6 servings)

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup Japanese Whiskey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered


Combine the whiskey, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Put the egg yolks in a medium glass or aluminum bowl. Add the whiskey mixture to the egg yolks and whisk lightly until the egg yolks are just broken. Place the bowl over a double boiler over medium heat. *Note: If you do not have a double boiler it is OK! Just find a heatproof bowl that will fit in the top of a small/medium saucepan.

Fresh Strawberries & Sabayon

The most famous Japanese strawberries come from Tochigi and Fukuoka prefectures. Photo: Rachael White

Fill the saucepan/double boiler with about 2 inches/5 centimeters of water. (Make sure the bottom of the bowl is at least an inch away from the surface of the water. If it touches the water, the eggs will scramble.) Whisk constantly for 10-12 minutes until the egg mixture has almost doubled in volume and is light and foamy. The color should change from egg yolk yellow to a light, creamy, pale yellow color. Remove from the heat and the double boiler.

Divide the strawberries into 4 dessert bowls. Spoon the sabayon over the strawberries and garnish with mint leaves.