The transportive nature of cooking takes everyone by surprise. A taste or smell and unbidden we’re whisked to foregone times and faraway places.

I spend more time than I should tinkering with comfort foods to re-create childhood contentments. A well-remembered recipe can connect me to places I have already been, but it’s just as important for us to cook for where we wish we could be.

So, where would you like to gastronomically vacation? Southern hemisphere seasons are reversed, and as a New Zealander in Hokkaido I can’t help but crave the fresh fruits that bend boughs and fill farmers markets at this time of year.

This week’s recipe for preserved lemon butter mochi (rice cake) fortifies a Japanese-sounding Hawaiian classic with citrus umami. A tropical treat with preserved punch to teleport us island-side with minimal effort or expense, and a welcome addition to any holiday spread.

While I preserved my own lemons two months ago, fear not, throughout recipe testing I also used the premade variety with success. Preserved lemon lasts forever and if you have extra, it is a wonderful addition to dishes such as hummus, or anchovy butter pasta. Happy holidays to all.


Makes 16-36 piecesPrep: 15 minsBake: 65 mins.


2 large eggs

50 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

225 grams granulated sugar

350 milliliters coconut milk

100 grams shio-lemon paste

225 grams mochiko (glutinous rice flour; shiratama-dango flour also works)

15 grams baking powder

75 grams icing sugar

½ lemon zest and juice (15 milliliters)

20 grams toasted thread coconut


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Line the bottom of your cake pan (20×20 centimeters) with baking paper and lightly butter the sides.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale.

4. Continue whisking while pouring in the coconut milk, melted butter and lemon paste.

5. Mix in the baking powder and mochiko until smooth. Don’t worry, you won’t overdo this, rice flour is gluten free.

6. Drop the bowl onto the bench once or twice to release air bubbles.

7. Pour the batter into the lined and buttered pan and place in the oven.

8. Bake until crackly and golden, for one hour (+/- five minutes). It will rise then sink.

9. Mix together the lemon juice, zest and icing sugar and spread over top, finishing with the toasted coconut.

10. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to four days.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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