My books....News and Reviews

ZENBU ZEN (released october 2012)
Author - Jane Lawson
Publisher  - Murdoch Books
Designer - Reuben Crossman
Photographer - Cath Muscat
Location Photographer  - Jane Lawson

March 2013

While it is wonderful to receive such fantastic reviews from the media - one of the most beautiful things about writing a book from your heart is the feedback from strangers -ie. those who don't know me - but read my book and connected to it anyway. Ultimately, without wanting to sound all preachy,  I hoped there would be a message in Zenbu Zen for those who were meant to receive it.  

Since Zenbu Zen published in October I have had the most amazing response from the public. Many generous souls have contacted me privately to thank me for writing the book and shared some of their own stories.  A couple of them have agreed to share their kind words.  The words that had me blubbering. The responses that make the work, energy, time & money spent (and the worry of not having very much of it at times throughout the process) all worth while.  Thank you to everyone who has contacted me to share a little of themselves too. 

Jane x

"Hi Jane, 

I hope you don't mind me private messaging you. I have never contacted an author before and feel slightly embarrassed to leave a post on your page. I received your book as a birthday gift (I suggested it) and I spent a whole day in bed reading every word and pouring over all of the photos. I wanted to tell you that this is seriously the most perfect book I have ever read. You are an amazing writer, your recipes are incredible and the photos! The photos blew me away. I honestly feel like the book has changed my life. Sounds incredibly corny when I write that but it is true.  I am inspired to change my life because of your book and for that I will be eternally grateful to you. 

I sincerely hope that more people discover your book. I know I will be telling everyone I know about it. Thank you for sharing your story and for changing my life. 

Kind regards, 

“Dear Jane,

Merry Christmas!

I’ve just come back from my very first trip to Kyoto and in desperate need of a Japan fix, bought Zenbu Zen at the bookstore today.

I loved it.

I sat and read through the entire book this afternoon, as I was so drawn in by your story and the evocative images. And all the wonderful memories of the destination came flooding back. It made me want to return again!

I especially empathised with your journey, as I feel I was in the same place you were when you went to Kyoto.

I currently work in PR and had been toying with leaving the industry for the same reasons, but it was my visit to a ryokan in Japan that has actually set me firmly on the path. I had a spiritual moment while taking my first Japanese bath in a tiny little bathroom in the 200 year old ryokan. I can’t describe the sensation, but I knew what I had to do, and so, reading about your experience in Zenbu Zen felt like it was meant to be. I just had to write to you to say thank you.

You’re so incredibly lucky to have the chance to live in such a beautiful, calm and tranquil city. I know I will be back, and in the meantime, have signed up to your blog to get my Kyoto fix!

Thank you so  much again Jane, and have a wonderful new year!”

                --------------------- --------------------------------------------------------
"Dear Jane, I am 110 pages into reading your new book and have scoured a few of the recipes along the way. I just wanted to let you know that I am absolutely enthralled with your new book and am loving the journey it is taking me on. I am devouring the experience with the subtle intensity I am sure it was meant, and have had a couple of belly aching laughs at some of the references along the way eg. your description of the cold yam soup. HAHAHAHAHHA. So can’t wait for the physical Japan experience. I shall keep reading....

Well, just finished Zenbu Zen.....I LOVED IT!!! Such an incredible journey Jane, thank you. I have really enjoyed being separated from ‘life as I know it’ and being drawn into the life of Kyoto which I have found fascinating. You are such an incredibly talented person Jane. and I truly believe that your life will consistently be drawn towards happiness because your core beliefs and strength are now clearly guiding you. I found myself again laughing out loud at certain points in your book, but more importantly found myself contemplating the messages of your book through the individual scenarios. I also now have a burning desire to experience Kyoto in person. The timing is incredible ‘Go-en’. Can’t wait!! Thank you Jane, ever so much.
Chris xx"


WOW!!! (April 2013) - KYOTO JOURNAL
I am absolutely honoured to be reviewed in the prestigious Kyoto Journal and blown away by the generosity of the reviewer. Thank you so much!!  
Here's the link  -

And here's the review:

Zenbu Zen: Finding Food, Culture & Balance in Kyoto by Jane Lawson. Sydney: Murdoch Books, 288 pp., $64.95 (cloth).
Feeling out of her depth in a high-powered, high stress, publishing job, Jane Lawson took a sabbatical, hoping to regain her sense of purpose and redefine her goals. She packed her bags, headed to Japan, and began to rekindle a love affair that had begun more than 20 years ago.
Kyoto was the obvious choice for a woman with Lawson’s sensibilities. Kyoto is the epicentre of culture in this ancient nation and Zenbu Zen takes us through Lawson’s personal experiences there: her transformation, and also the food and culinary wizardry that were central to it. She enables us, with simple recipes and explanations, to join her in her Japanese feast.
The seasons in Kyoto are distinct: as they change, life changes, people change, dishes change, and Lawson changes, too. She keeps a food journal over the five months she spends in Kyoto, chronicling her wanders through immaculate food halls in department stores as well as the ancient Nishiki markets originating in 1310 and known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” where she feasts on simple treats, and buys traditional ingredients, fundamental to the dishes she learns to create.
Lawson arrived in Kyoto in December, found her feet and started to fill her tiny apartment with homey smells, recipes like: wagyu with King Brown mushrooms); duck and leek hotpot (perfect for the chill in Kyoto that time of year), and splendid croquettes — trust me, one is never enough! Lawson enters January, a time for family, renewal and affection with two dishes that are traditional in the New Year festivities: Toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles) and Ozoni soup. Both are necessary to start the year well.
February is Kyoto’s coldest month. A deep chill means cold and flu are rampant. Everyone is hankering for hot dishes and warm drinks. Zenbu Zen has a great ginger tea recipe to soothe the chill and also a recipe for the best Green Tea Latte. Pair it with a sweet like kinako and white chocolate truffles and you will be in heaven!
A major component of Japanese lifestyle and cooking is seafood. Whether served up in a hotpot or as sashimi the simple fish dishes the Japanese eat and serve nightly in their homes are unbeatable. Lawson’s selection of seafood dishes such as tender simmered octopus) and simmered Japanese Yellowtail and daikon, along with some more adventurous dishes like rice gruel with snapper and yuzu will help her readers share this pleasure.
In addition to her own cooking, Lawson also introduces some of Kyoto’s more exclusive restaurants, the sort where one needs to be introduced by a regular. In those restaurants she explores some of the more exotic Japanese dishes, tackling, for example, shiokara (sea slug) mixed with salt. She picks up a few tricks like how to prepare restaurant-quality pork cutlets at home.
The book features easy step-by-step guides to quintessential Japanese dishes; even those who fear the kitchen will want to break out the apron and give them a try. Some ingredients may be a little hard to find outside Japan but if there’s a decent Asian grocery nearby, you should be able to find most of what you need. Mirin, shoyu and dashi are in practically every dish and are easy to find just about everywhere. Lawson has provided a fantastic Ingredient glossary that should answer your questions about more arcane ingredients.
Zenbu Zen is beautifully written, and filled with sound advice and unpretentious tips on how to enjoy food and life in Japan. It is also, thanks to the design and photography that grace it, a beautiful object, one that will have a place not only in your kitchen but also on your bookshelf. For anyone interested in Japan, design, photography, or food Zenbu Zen is a fantastic book. It is a visual delight and a beautiful souvenir of one of the most amazing cities in the world.

Ela Blogs 
Translated from Portuguese
 For those who plan to meet Japan and is still researching scripts, the book "Zen Zenbu - finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto" (Everything Zen - finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto), publisher Murdoch Books, offers great tips. Written by Australian chef Jane Lawson, the book is the result of a sabbatical year the author spent in Kyoto, one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. Stressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the girl quit his job and his country and went to get in temples, ancient alleyways and especially the food of Kyoto a little peace. In addition to reporting their spiritual journey, it lists typical food recipes, from the most basic homemade tofu secrets of the kitchen of the Buddhist monks. 


Jane Lawson Zenbu Zen: Finding Food, Culture & Balance in Kyoto
Absolutely fresh and gorgeous Japanese food recipe book from the author of several cookery books and a big admirer of Japanese culture Jane Lawson. She describes her arrival in the culinary capital of Japan, Kyoto and gradual immersion into the gastronomic culture of the country. In the book, more than 60 recipes for traditional Japanese cuisine, detailed product descriptions and great photos.
Russian site - Books without Borders


KANSAI SCENE - review by Sally McLaren - December 2012
Burnt out after a stressful life as a book publisher in Australia, Jane Lawson escaped to Kyoto to immerse herself in Japanese culinary culture. A chef-turned food writer, photographer and blogger, Lawson had already travelled to Japan more than 20 times since she was a teenager. She’d written two books on Japanese food, but had never lived in Japan for more than a few months at a time.
Zenbu Zen (literally, “Everything is Zen”) is Lawson’s story of moving to Kyoto and immersing herself in the ancient capital’s food culture. “Kyoto is a city of hidden life,” she writes in the book. In person, Lawson emphasises it’s also the layers of hidden knowledge in Kyoto that fascinate her. “It’s a privilege to have people open up and share things with you,” she says. Lawson intersperses her journey into Japanese food culture with more than 60 recipes. “There are no teriyaki or sushi recipes here,” Lawson laughs while explaining that her book is intended to educate an international audience on real Japanese food. “It’s amazing how much flavor you can get out of a few key ingredients, and how much food is connected to the rest of Japanese culture,” she says. “I want to share that information.”
The books starts with the savoury – a variety of dashi (stock) recipes – that Lawson says is “the most important element required to cook authentic Japanese cuisine” and ends with something simple and sweet – how to make the red beanfilled soft cakes called dorayaki. There are recipes for home cooking-style dishes, street-food snacks, as well as helpful tips on making tricky items such as nama yuba (soy milk skin) and toshikoshi soba (year-crossing buckwheat noodles). Lawson says her aim is for “more people to eat and experience Japanese food themselves.”
As balance is one of the themes of the book, Lawson has also detailed her frustrations and stomach upsets. She has suffered greatly (and more than once) from eating sea slugs and becomes “tired of paying exorbitant prices for averagekaiseki.” For foodies intent on having a quintessential Kyoto culinary experience, Lawson recommends you do your research, “if you are not discerning enough…food in Kyoto can become rather repetitive.”
The period of Kyoto life that Lawson describes in her book ended one day before March 11, 2011, when she flew back to Australia. Acknowledging the damage to Japanese food culture caused by the natural disaster, she hopes more foreigners will start to embrace Japanese cuisine and cultivate its unique ingredients. Zenbu Zen is a snapshot in time, Lawson says, but she hopes it also inspires people to visit Kyoto. “Even after 27 years spent pacing between my two ‘homes’, I have really only begun to scratch the surface of Japan’s incredible culture,” she says.

The New York Times  - February 19 2013

"Anyone who has experienced chanoyu, the way of tea, can attest to its transporting effect. "The ceremony is a slow, exquisite art in itself," writes Jane Lawson in her new book on Japanese cuisine, "Zenbu Zen:Finding Food, Culture and Balance in Kyoto" (Murdoch Books).  At a formal tea gathering (chaji), you enjoy two types of green matcha- first koicha, a thick tea with a creamy consistency; then usucha, a tea often whisked until frothy. But before partaking of the deep-green elixers, guests are offered tea sweets known as wagashi;beautiful bite-size confections made with ingredients ranging from red bean paste to green tea itself. "This important step, on the physical level, helps mellow any bitterness in the tea that follows," Ms. Lawson explained, "but on a spiritual level, it enables one to taste both the sweet and bitter of life." "

 Stephanie Wood (Sydney Morning Herald ) 
13 September 2012

The author’s track record? Kyoto-based Jane Lawson started her career as a chef before moving into publishing (you’ll find her blog here). Her books include Snowflakes and SchnappsA Little Taste of Japan and Grub.
And the book? I’m a sucker for anything Japanese so my critical faculties are low when it comes to a book such as this. Lawson, who is also the very talented photographer of the book’s lovely images, starts the book with the chapter title, “The Realisation” or “Genjitsuka”. As a cookbook publisher she was dealing with crazy hours, ridiculous stress levels and a medical student’s textbook of ailments, from anxiety and allergies, to vertigo, weight gain and a hacking cough. Quitting her job and moving to Kyoto was her escape clause. I’m dead jealous already. Zenbu Zen (that “ultimately everything is Zen, and it will all be okay in the long run”) starts with December and her move into a Kyoto apartment and recipes for the foundation of Japanese food — dashi. From there she moves through the months of her stay (January, February, March and April) with appealing recipes and stories of her time in Kyoto (“There were new textures and patterns at every turn and I wanted to transport it all home with me: from the roof tiles to wooden slats, manhole covers and stone walls, to the fine variegated points of a dark red momiji (Japanese maple) leaf, and even the desiccated shell of a once-robust flower).
Design bang for your buck? It’s beautiful, with a wrap-around dust-jacket that folds out into a poster. Wonderful photographs including dishes, still-lifes and beautiful snatches of Kyoto life.
Recipes that turn my head? Grilled tofu with sansho miso, “year-crossing soba noodles”, slow simmered pork belly with shoyu and black sugar, chawan mushi, rice gruel with snapper and yuzu.

Here's the link to Stephanie's review of my book and a couple more fab titles! 

Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine 

"Australian Jane Lawson moved to Kyoto looking to restore balance and happiness to her life. The prolific author delivers her personal best with this book, which showcases her deep love of Japanese cuisine and the culture in which she's immersed herself. She begins with a recipe for dashi - one of the simplest yet most central ingredients in Japanese cooking -and from there takes us on a journey through the laneway restaurants and garden parks of Japan. Discover restoration in a bowl of toshikoshi soba or a dish of tsukemono, Japanese pickles. 

Why buy  - For the delicate and Zen Japanese cooking
Perfect for - Anyone in need of a little miso soup for the soul

Here is a link to AGT's website!

ABC RADIO’s The Main Ingredient programme -  interviewed by Kelli Brett. This article on the Radio National website introduced the show.
"Jane Lawson is my kinda woman. Finding herself stressed and overwhelmed with life and all of its needs and expectations, Jane decided to take time out and headed for the calming, peaceful and traditional Japanese city Kyoto. Lucky for us Jane is a chef and passionate food writer so while there she used her time not only de-stressing but also writing 'Zenbu Zen'. This week on the Main Ingredient Jane tells us about her full immersion into Japanese culture, her wonderful journey into the food that is eaten in the average Kyoto home and available in the bars and restaurants that the locals frequent, and the special way that the Japanese have of just being... Zenbu Zen. She talks about the incredible contradiction that is Japan. The complex simplicity, the quirky humour and the stories behind the food." 

Christopher Hayes – Eat and Drink Website – his review on Facebook directly below then one from his website

FB: This beautifully presented book by Jane Lawson combines the story of finding a lifestyle of sorts in Japan (well Kyoto which is more traditional, old-world Japan) and recover from the stresses of life in Australia with a collection of recipes for dishes encountered in these wanderings and investigations of culinary Japan.
The former will hold various degrees of interest to readers but – with some evocative photography – tells of a Japan not seen by most tourists, even foodies, and worth the few hours it takes to read.
The latter are a collection of deeply researched, clearly & explicitly detailed, and enticingly described recipes that are also beautifully photographed. Many even very good Japanese restaurants in Australia could gain greatly from this book.

Eat and Drink Website
Sub-titled "finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto", the text is the story of the author's breakdown of health in Sydney, and her re-vitalisation from a prolonged visit to Kyoto, while investigating the food and the culture. It's an interesting insight into an Australian's immersion in local culture as far as that is possible, and should inspire many who read it to visit this part of Japan.
The serious part is a collection of recipes from the food experience, and these are beautifully photographed and described in explicit detail, while keeping them accessible and achievable for the home cook (although this may involve some serious shopping at a specialist Japanese or Asian food store - the best of which can be found under Food Outlets in Eat & Drink) . The value may be even more for any serious Japanese restaurant attempting to achieve something above the ordinary.

CHUBBY HUBBY Holiday Gift Guide 2012
Zenbu Zen by Jane Lawson. Of all the cookbooks I've read this year, the one that stood out the most was Jane Lawson's Zenbu Zen. Not only does it feature food that I love (Kyoto Cuisine), it's an amazing book to actually read through. The story that Jane tells is highly personal and very moving. And because of that, this is so much more than just a cookbook. Of course, as you would expect from veteren cookbook author Lawson, the recipes are spot-on and the photos simply stunning. Perfect for foodie friends and loved ones. 

Bare ingredients site for foodies
"This book takes the reader on a journey. Beautifully presented with stunning photography and over 60 mouth watering recipes including making your own noodles and tofu. Other recipes include: slow simmered pork belly in shoyu and black sugar, prawn an taro dumplings, Yuzu and saikyo miso ice cream. Unlike many Japanese cookbooks, recipes are undaunting but still enticing, allowing even the novice a chance to enjoy preparing this delicious food. This is not just a cookbook but a personal insight  into the people and culture of Kyoto. Jane Lawson is an amazing writer with her own very unique style that flows so well. This is a fabulous book not only for those with a passion for Japanese regional cuisine but also those interested in the country itself" 


How I found my food Zen
By Claire Fox


When life gets hectic, all too often our diets and wellbeing suffer. While we know exercise and good food is the best way to combat stress, when we feel at the end of our tether, it becomes harder than ever to take care of ourselves. It’s a cycle that Jane Lawson, 44, became all too familiar with when she found herself under extreme pressure a few years ago.‘I was working in Sydney as a publisher for a growing company and I ended up working 14 hours a day, seven days a week,’she says. ‘I hardly slept for two years and was living on adrenalin and coffee. I stopped exercising or eating properly, put on weight and was so run down I was getting sick all the time. I ended up physically and mentally exhausted.   

After a lot of soul searching, Lawson realised something had to change, and she hatched an escape plan – a trip to Kyoto in Japan, a place she had associated with relaxation since her childhood holidays there. It was a journey that was supposed to last a few months, but it turned into the best part of two years. She immersed herself in Japanese culture and food and, by finding a new way to eat, discovered a new way to live.

‘I had always been intrigued by the Japanese people’s seemingly innate ability to quieten their minds – particularly within the confines of big-city madness,’ she says. As well as scheduling periods of mindfulness into their everyday lives, Lawson found that the way the Japanese eat and drink also lends itself to a calmer existence.‘The soothing, ceremonial preparation of tea is a slow, exquisite art in itself,’she says.‘It providesa real stop-and-smell-the-roses moment.’And when it comes to food, Lawson says the Japanese
eat with their eyes first.‘There is a moment of appreciating the food visually,while everyone talks about howit looks,’she says.‘And they tend to order two or three small dishes, which they will eat and appreciate before ordering a few more. It all works to slow you down as, of course, does eating with chopsticks. There’s a sense you don’t have to rush food down. It’s there for our enjoyment and it’s good to take a moment. It’s great for us physically as well as mentally because you digest your food better when you slow down and are in a happier, calmer place. It’s completely changed my perspective on how I want to eat.’

Lawson says another major lesson was the importance of cooking with fresh, seasonal produce.‘The Japanese are really into ingredients being eaten at optimum freshness,’she says.‘As well as being more nutritious, it also means you don’t have to add lots of flavourings
because the vegetables are already sweet and flavoursome. In Kyoto, they are proud of their vegetables. Markets spring up all over town and growers come down from the mountains with barrows full of fabulously fresh produce,’says Lawson. 

Giving up her old life was a huge step, but Lawson says it has changed her completely.‘I’ve discovered a more spiritual side to my personality and learned how to look after myself,‘ she says. Now back in Sydney – combining writing full-time with consultancy work – Lawson has turned her story into Zenbu Zen – part diary, part recipe book. So try some of the recipes on the following pages and bring a touch of Zen to your own cooking.

Australian Masterchef Magazine
Jane Lawson is a woman of many talents - chef, writer, editor and photographer. Her latest book is as much a paean to her Current home, Kyoto, as to Japanese cuisine and its traditions. $70, Murdoch Books

Qantas inflight magazine
 "Jane Lawson lives in Kyoto. Bless her and Zenbu Zen (Murdoch, $AUD70), which ventures beyond Cookbookland’s usual borders."

Food and wine writer Max Veenhuyzen (via twitter) "Bravo @janelawsonfood for a spectacularly evocative work. Kyoto and general Japanese flashbacks coming thick"

AUGUST 2012  - American EXpress Departures Magazine 

Franz Scheurer 

Food writer and Japanophile Jane Lawson uses her own life story as a basis of demonstrating the restorative power of Japanese food. ‘Zenbu Zen’ (ultimately everything is Zen) basically means that everything will be ok in the long run. Retreating to peaceful Kyoto, she seeks and finds balance and equilibrium in her life. The book is about the story, the food and illustrated exquisitely by Jane’s own location photography and food photography by Cath Muscat. It you are looking for a little corner of peace in your hectic life, this is the book for you.

The sell all sorts of, well books and patterns for creative people of course - here is a link to their website

"All weekend I have been immersing myself in a gorgeous new title and by coincidence I tried Japanese food for the very first time on Thursday evening.

It was ordered-in for me, so I actually have no idea what I was eating apart from knowing one dish featured chicken skewers and another beans; I was told to discard the skins and just eat the bean. It was delicious!

A frequent traveler to Japan (past 30 years), food writer and Japonophile, Jane Lawson has released an amazing cookbook through Murdoch Books. Finding herself stressed out and unhappy Jane retreats to peaceful Kyoto to seek balance and equilibrium in her life.

It is a personal story that offers insight into the artistry of Japanese cuisine and explores the concept of …Zenbu Zen – ‘Everything is Zen’ – that ultimately everything is Zen and it will be okay in the long run. The ups, the downs and the in-betweens are all part of the glorious ride.

Jane after working for many years as a chef in Sydney moved into the world of publishing, combining her love of cookbooks and cooking. Living in Kyoto she works as a consultant for a variety of food publications.

The Japanese year is divided evenly according to the lunisolar (moon-phase) calendar, into 24 sekki (small seasons) that mark subtle changes within the four main seasons. These 24 smaller seasons are celebrated in some way, shape or form and of course food is in line with the seasons!

The Japanese observe nature’s bounty like no other nation and you will discover healing, predominately healthy cuisine that is also highly visually appealing.

After reading through this amazing title and admiring the stunning imagery, both photographed and imagined, of Kyoto I hired ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ from the video store – I have since watched it twice!

I had been meaning to see this film for a long time and this title was the inspiration that reminded me. Thanks Jane, I love your new title! It’s an extensive read, not just recipes, more like a captivating food / personal journey diary from which I discovered so much more than I first thought I would.


Meet the author - Jane Lawson(UK Murdoch Books Blog)

As a bestselling author and book publisher, Jane Lawson had her dream job.  She was surrounded by inspiring and creative people and thrived on the buzz of her fast-paced life.  But after years of constant travelling, meetings and networking, it all came to a halt.  With virtually no life outside work she suffered from ‘burnout’.
Ordered by her doctors to take time off, Jane made the drastic decision to leave behind her life in Australia and escape to Japan to regain some balance or 'zen'.  
In her beautiful new book Zenbu Zen, Jane explores the country she fell in love with and shares the amazing recipes she picked up along the way.
Here she gives us her top tips on Japanese cooking and explains it’s not as difficult as it looks!

What first drew you to Japan?
Japan always felt like a second home.   Japanese was one of the languages we were taught in the first year of high school.  In those classes we talked about culture and food and I was instantly smitten. 
What would you say are the staples of Japanese cuisine?
Dashi (an umami-rich stock) is used in almost every Japanese dish, forming the base of miso soup,  simmering hotpots, noodles in broth and dressings and sauces.  Rice and noodles play an important role,  as do vegetables which are served fresh and pickled. Seafood is popular in Japanese cooking and they use small quantities of excellent quality meat and poultry - particularly pork, chicken, beef and sometimes duck. Tofu and other soy milk products are enjoyed across Japan but are particularly loved in Kyoto.
The basic Japanese flavourings are miso (a fermented soy bean paste), shoyu (Japanese soy), mirin and sake (both alcohol made from rice), rice vinegar, sesame, ginger and spicy wasabi - which is incredibly good when its grated fresh from the root. 
As a Westerner, did you find it difficult to take on the Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques?
It's funny because I'd  always considered myself reasonably skilled in Japanese cookery due to many years I have spent travelling around the country  - but when I lived in Kyoto I felt as though I was learning to cook all over again.   I learnt so much, most importantly that Japanese food is about simplicity. There are far fewer ingredients needed than in most other cuisines – it’s more about getting the balance right with the flavours and textures.  Once you set up your basic pantry you can make a huge variety of dishes from just a few simple ingredients and flavours. Choosing your fresh ingredients at the peak of the season will make a significant difference to your cooking -  it is the best way to achieve maximum flavour and texture for minimum effort. 
A lot of people are daunted by the idea of cooking Japanese food for themselves.  What are your top tips for approaching Japanese recipes at home?
Don't overthink it. Japanese food often looks complicated because of the beautiful way it is presented but in fact you only find that kind of dish in a high end restaurant.  In reality Japanese homestyle cooking is very simple. Think simmered, grilled, steamed or blanched and quickly tossed in a light dressing, perhaps deep fried if you are in the mood... (the Japanese are master fryers - light, crispy, never greasy).
The recipes in Zenbu Zen are very achievable - I really want people to understand how easy it is to prepare and enjoy delicious, healthy, Japanese food.  For cooks who seriously want to throw themselves into it I've included a few "from scratch" recipes which require a little more work and attention - such as soba noodles, tofu and pickles. 
Importantly when planning a menu, remember to choose a few different dishes to serve together for good balance.  Think about the flavours, colours, textures and types of ingredients you are presenting together.
What are the most unusual Japanese foods you’ve encountered?
Well, raw squid or seaslug guts fermented in salt is something I don’t think I’ll ever acquire a taste for but I am partial to the winter delicacy - shirako (fish sperm).  It took me a while to get my head around that one but it’s really no different from eating fish eggs.  It really can be quite delicious depending on the breed of fish it originates from and how it’s cooked. 
If you had to choose a ‘dessert island dish’ what would it be?
Gosh that is a difficult one...  Probably gomadofu (sesame 'tofu').  It’s not actually tofu but resembles tofu.  It's a gorgeous dish made from a base of ground sesame and has to be eaten to be believed.  You can enjoy it hot or chilled depending on the weather.  I'll admit a juicy Tonkatsu (fried  pork cutlet)  was the first thing that popped into my head! It is a wonderful comfort food but I wouldn't want to eat it every day!

Robyn Lewis from Visit Vineyards!

"Jane Lawson was once a chef, later a publisher of cookbooks and author of several successful titles, including the beautiful Snowflakes and Schnapps, an exploration of the culinary legacy of northern Europe. But what seemed to be an idyllic lifestyle led her to near burnout.

Finding herself stressed and unhappy, Jane took time out, drawn to Japan’s Imperial capital, Kyoto, where she sought to unwind and to explore the rich culture of old Japan.
She had lived briefly in Japan at age twenty, and had always wanted to return. Two decades later she found the perfect excuse: executive stress. With her background in food – which by nature is in tune with the seasons – Kyoto seemed a perfect choice. In many ways Kyoto is the food capital of Japan, and has been a cultural and spiritual mecca for centuries.
In Zenbu Zen, she describes her arrival in Kyoto, where she quickly found herself immersed in the beauty of small things, the glorious detail that enriches life almost everywhere you look in Japan.
Her mind distracted by the new sensations that awaited, from the food halls of the local department stores, Jane recounts being able to sleep for eight hours straight for the first time in seven months. It was an auspicious beginning to her four-month stay.
Jane arrived in December, the twelfth month traditionally called shiwasu, ‘the month of priests running’ (doing their end-of-year errands). The seasons in Japan are far more divided than those in the West, reflecting nuances of the climate that that we are perhaps too busy to notice.
Although it was winter, Jane quickly felt at home. She settled into her accommodation rented over the internet, made new friends, and began to absorb the local culture. Of course this included Japanese food.
Despite her burnout, she had had the germ of an idea for a book in her mind, but for the time being taking ‘time out’ took priority. However she kept a diary of her food finds from day one, and as she unwound, her love of food and writing clearly took over. (I suspect Jane will always be a workaholic).
Jane is also a very talented photographer, and her vignettes and landscapes (along with food photographs by Cath Muscat) make the resulting book a work of art. For anyone contemplating visiting Kyoto and with even the slightest interest in food and design, Zenbu Zen is a must. It is a visual delight and a beautiful souvenir of one of the most lovely small cities in the world.
Its title is Zenbu Zen, meaning in Jane’s words that “ultimately everything is zen, it will be all okay in the long run. The ups and downs and in-the betweens are all part of the glorious ride”. Go with the flow and enjoy the journey; life will take care of itself.
December sees her enjoying food treats such as Wagyu with King Brown Mushrooms, Duck and Leek Hotpot and Korokke (croquettes) which are so popular all over Japan that there are small stalls solely devoted to them. Clearly there is a lot more to Japanese food than we see in the West. Jane notes however that Japanese deep-fried food is nice and crisp, never greasy.
After a month, Jane was regenerating and felt “safe and happy, cocooned by the loveliness and ‘gentleness’ of Kyoto”. She was invited to “restaurants that you cannot access unless you are a regular, or accompanying a regular, establishments with a very long history which have developed their craft over an extended period and only desire patrons who will appreciate the technique, presentation and effort behind the beautiful food.
This usually means ‘no gaijins’ (foreigners) allowed. Connoisseur diners will attend and sit very quietly, never under the misguided notion they are ‘there for a good time’. It is about serious consideration of the atmosphere, cuisine, ceramics and other antiques serving ware – and the sake, which is sipped slowly and appreciated.”
January is called ichightsu, or mutsuki. It is the month when friends and relatives visit, a month of harmony and affection. In Kyoto it began that year with a temperature of -11C, which as Jane noted did not deter thousands of Japanese from an early visit to a shrine, often bearing gifts of food.
Fish and seafood plays an enormous part on the Japanese diet, and Jane explores dishes such as Tender Simmered Octopus, Simmered Japanese Yellowtail and Daikon, and Satsuma-Age (Fish Paste Cakes), along with New Year treats such as Yokan (Red Bean Confectionary).
Jane notes that with the breakdown of extended families, many are losing their knowledge of traditional ingredients and cooking techniques, but as in Australia and elsewhere there is a return to the appreciation of local foods.
However unlike Australia's adventurous home cooks, “most ... in Japan rarely stray from cooking their national cuisine, and only prepare Korean Chinese or ‘Western’ cuisine on rare occasions”.
The phrase ‘small is beautiful’ must have been created for Japan, whose people possess an appreciation of things that are small but often momentous. This is perhaps because their country is so crowded, the houses and urban spaces so small by our standards that anything large can seem out of place and disproportionate, almost jarring to the senses.
Thus food servings are also usually small – you may be served just a single piece of sushi, with the aim of appreciating the technique of the master who prepared it – and many meals consist of a sequence of small, carefully prepared dishes.
This perhaps makes the recipes in Zenbu Zen somewhat difficult to apply to home cooking in Australia, where servings are larger and we have less time for food preparation, particularly for a number of dishes in one meal. However you can dip into them – perhaps as a central point or for a lunch – and they are certainly authentic and inspirational. For those with the time to spend in the kitchen and the ability to source the ingredients (there is a good glossary), many delights await.
Jane’s stay extended through the height of winter in February, or Kisaragi, the ‘month of wearing layers’. She supplies us with many winter warming recipes like Ginger Tea, at and Kinako and White Chocolate Truffles, and Steamed Savoury ‘Custards’ (more like a soup).
Surprisingly for winter there are also a range of ice creams. As Jane says, “while seaweed, soy, charcoal, wasabi, salad, garlic, curry and cypress may seem tame enough, the spectrum gets a little challenging at the other end: fried chicken, eel, squid guts and raw horse meat (complete with chunks) would not even tempt my adventurous palate”.
During the months of March (Yayoi, meaning new life) and April (named after a spring flower), Jane also travelled around Japan, visiting other cities and rural areas. It may surprise many that Japan has extensive forested areas, which are meticulously managed and maintained, preserving the beauty as well as providing a timber resource. These provide a scenic background to many landscapes. Their leaves are often used as garnishes in traditional dishes, always reflecting the season.
There are spring recipes for Grilled and Drenched Asparagus, Bitter Leaves in Miso, and Marinated and Grilled Fish, but perhaps thankfully Jane spares us recipes for raw sea slug guts mixed with salt to form a thick, slimy, pungent sauce, and seaweed soup with a consistency of raw egg white, tastes to which even she did not become accustomed. One recipe that can be served in either summer or winter and may have broader appeal is Green Tea ‘Latte’, made with matcha, which is delicious.
At the end of her stay, Jane was refreshed and had regained her perspective on life. She returned to Australia for a period, then back to Kyoto to collate and edit her beautiful book. By this time she had also restored her soul.
The result is insightful, and exquisite – not perfect, but then in the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, it does not need to (nor should) be. Wabi sabi is the kind of ‘quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered’, the ‘beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete… modest and humble’. Zenbu Zen is all those things, and more.
Being a time-poor working mother, I am unlikely to have the time to fully enjoy the sixty recipes in Zenbu Zen, but as an insight into another culture, of which we in the West are only given occasional glimpses, it is unbeatable.
Buy it to relax, to savour, and to dream, and one day, hope that you too may be able to visit Kyoto and enjoy its beauty. And if you can’t, may it also restore your soul."

 PAT CHURCHILL of Cooking Down Under 

Here's a link to the site for more cookbook reviews!.

'Jane Lawson found herself up to her ears in stress and decided to take time out. Her energy was spent and it was time to resign from life as it was. She'd visited Japan numerous times and elected to make her hom in Kyoto for a while. "I knew time spent in Kyoto would be medicine for both body and soul and an opportunity to get reacquainted with myself so there was no option but to swap my daydreams for reality."
Her first shopping expedition was to a tiny local supermarket to pick up some essential ingredients and set to producing the stock that is the cornerstone of Japanese cuisine Katsuo dashi. Her journey had begun. 
As Lawson separates herself from her stressful life, her body and soul begin to regenerate and she leads the reader through a delightful collection of recipes that look ultimately more helpful than a medicine cabinet full of pills and potions. 
Lawson has taken many of the beautiful lifestyle photos that illustrate the book while Cath Muscat has done the food photography.
Lawson's Kyoto experiences are punctuated by the recipes which in turn make this a fully functioning cookbook, as much at home on the kitchen bench as on the coffee table. It's certainly a book to cook from. 
Zenbu Zen is definitely one to put on your Christmas wish list.'

I am VERY excited to be included in Visit Vineyards TOP 12 Food and Cookbooks for 2012!

Here's what they had to say about my book:

"Firmly in the food travel category is the glorious Zenbu Zen, by cookbook author and former publisher Jane Lawson. 

If you're a foodie and have ever been or want to visit Kyoto, this is the book for you. The photos - most taken by Lawson herself -of the detail of Japanese life and cuisine are exquisite. You can immerse yourself in Zenbu Zen for hours. 

There are sixty recipes for quite specialised Japanese food, but for me, buy it for an insight into another culture; to relax, to savour and to dream, and one day - if you have never visited - hope that you may be able to enjoy the beauty of Kyoto and savour its food in person. "

I must say I am in very good company and am particularly chuffed with this list as I worked closely with several of the authors - developing the concepts for their titles - Ben Shewry's 'Origin', Matt Wilkinson's  'Mr Wilkinson's Favourite Vegetables', Darren Purchese's 'B&P Sweet Studio' and Rosa Mitchell's 'Rosa's Farm'.  Go out and buy all of em!! Go on!

For the entire list please see the link below. 

MY OTHER TITLES... more soon...

Jane Lawson
Murdoch Books
Designer - Reuben Crossman
Photographer - Brett Stevens
Stylist - Lynsey Fryers

Following review by RABELAIS Fine Books on Food and Drink (in Maine, USA via their Rumblings blog)

I was a bit too young to engage in the best parts of the 70′s apres ski culture, but I do remember lodges with sunken circular booths in front of a blazing fire, lots of cool clothing you wouldn’t be caught dead in back home, and specialized, wintery foods, like fondue and flaming cocktails. The ski lodge was a glimpse into alpine/nordic/winter styles; styles which are apparently one way of dealing with long, dark winters and months spent primarily indoors.
Jane Lawson, the author of Snowflakes and Schnapps and previously of far-ranging books including Grub, Cocina Nueva and Yoshoku, channels the wintery styles into a cookbook that is at once useful and beautiful. The recipes are drawn from a variety of cold-climate cultures: Scandinavia, Northern Russia, The Alps of Austria, Switzerland and France, and Central and Northern Europe. But these don’t claim to be ‘authentic’ representations of any specific cuisine, just a series of delicious recipes inspired by the need to stay warm and cozy and out of the snow. My favorites so far include ‘Meatballs with a Vodka, Dill Cream Sauce’, ‘Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with Janssen’s Temptation’, ‘Veal with Beetroot, Spaetzle and Herbed Cream’, ‘Pot au Feu’, and ‘Juniper-Dusted Venison Fillet with Gjetost Sauce and Beetroot Relish’.
The desserts are equally warming and evocative, ‘Prune-Filled Crepes Baked in Caramel with Spiced Cookie Cream’ and ‘Pumpkin-Seed Marzipan Pastries with Glace Pumpkin’ pretty much do it for me. Warm fruits, creams, seeds, and gingerbread all make repeat, and welcome appearances. There is also a section of inspiring drinks to heat you up, like ‘Buttered Balsam’, ‘Elderflower Gin and Lemon Sipper’ and a ‘Honey and Saffron Liqueur’.
All of this is delivered in what I think is the best designed cookbook of the year (and there were some real contenders this year). Every aspect of Snowflakes and Schnapps invokes the textures of wintery living: shag carpet on the endpapers, dark horsehair felt blankets for the jacket flaps, cloud-filtered grey-blue light of the out-of-doors and intimate, candlelit tables for the food images within. The design is full of smart details which are a pleasure to discover, so I won’t go into them here, but I’d like to see just one American-published cookbook come even close in 2011. And if the recipes within can be as engaging as what Jane Lawson gives us here, I’m sure it will be on next year’s list.

June 2013 - Erin Dunn
"my grandmother was a fabulous home cook, but very competitive (bless her!) and never shared her recipes! Everything was in her head and she didn't write anything down. So when she passed away back in 1998 she took all those recipes with her. Grub reminds me so much of her and the food she used to make, especially the pikelets, passion fruit sponge cake, corned beef and steak Diane! So grub is very special to my sister and I. Our copies are covered in food and handwriting! Our favourite cookbook!"

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