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Bento 125: Karaage, hinomaru & soy sauce belly pork

March 13, 2011

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Like most Sunday bentos, tomorrow’s lunch consist of mostly leftovers from the week. I have leftover soy sauce stew of aburaage,belly pork & hard boiled egg (divided with brocolli) with some karaage & apple slices on the other layer. The belly pork & hard boiled egg stew was from Saturday and karaage was dinner for Sunday. This bento took me 15 mins to pack and photograph; making this a great speedy bento to put together.

My soy sauce belly pork is a family favourite, sliced belly pork stewed in a claypot for a few hours in a stock made out of sweet soy sauce, light & dark soy sauce, garlic, cracked white peppercorn and other spices. I had not made this in a long time, and the smell of it simmering all afternoon drove me totally nuts! And you know what happens when you simmer belly pork long enough – the fat eventually emulsifies into the sauce and the whole pot turns into a delicious meat flavour packed zone. I usually try to get a leaner cut of belly pork, but I still trim most of the fat away before. I add boiled eggs & aburaage about 30 mins before serving, just enough to soak up all the flavour-packed sauce.

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Like most people in the world at the moment, Japan have been on the forefront of my mind in recent days. I automatically reached for an ume to top my rice with and turned it into a hinomaru – paying homage to great country that is coping so magnificently in the face of devastating adversity. Ganbatte!

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PS: If you are not already, please follow the tireless @makiwi of JustBento for most up to date news from Japan – she have been tirelessly providing the twitterverse with valuable updates straight from the Japanese media. I am in awe of her one-person news stream …

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Bento 124: Pancake Day Bento

March 7, 2011

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Happy Pancake Day/ Shrove Tuesday/ Ash Tuesday/Mardi Gras tomorrow people! Shrove tuesday is traditionally the 40-day mark before Easter, the last day before the start of Lent. Lent is the traditional period of 40 days of fasting coming up to Easter. It is meant to be the day where all the ‘rich’ ingredients are used up prior to the start of the fasting period. Most catholics I know give up one item that they like instead of going on the full fast; but I did know one who only ate very simple and bland food for 40 days – she treated it like her yearly dieting regime :).

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Even though I had never been into the fasting part, I am sure into the pancake part! I made (well, bacon made for me) two different sort of pancakes for tomorrow. I had a sweet pancake at the back with nutella for dessert (and a small pot of maple syrup for that extra sweetness) and separated with a lettuce baran. Up front, I had two savoury pancakes stuffed with onions, mushrooms and shredded mozzarella. On the side is a peeled clementine and some radishes for extra texture and colour. Not exactly the healthiest bento on earth (not enough veggies!) , but it’s one of my ‘celebratory’ bentos :). Pancakes are so amazingly versatile; and over the past couple of weeks I had seen some amazing pancakes recipes out there, from the very healthy buckwheat to stunningly colored batter of all colours of the rainbow.

Here’s to Easter making an appearance very very soon!!

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PS: By the way, do you notice my brand spanking new box? It’s a Light my Fire box that you can get right here! I first saw this at Just Bento and immediately put it on my Christmas list – and also immediately forgot about it :) . I then duly received it as a Christmas present and immediately forgot about it again :). I love the triangle shape – I have no triangle box, so it was interesting packing it :).

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Bento 123: Hinamatsuri Bento!!

March 2, 2011

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Seeing that tomorrow is is Hinamatsuri, it is only appropriate that the bento girls celebrate it with a variety of pretty and girly bentos! Hinamatsuri is ‘Girls’ Day’ (or ‘Doll’s Day) in Japan, where girls are celebrated. I read somewhere that it is customary for girls to give little tokens to their girl friends on that day, like writing paper or mini dolls. Of course the bento makers celebrate with making girly bentos!! Just check out my bento buddies like Sheri and Lia ; their hinamatsuri bentos are AMAZING!!

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Tomorrow’s bento contains one of my bento staples, rice with mapo tofu. I absolutely adore mapo tofu; it is one of the earliest dishes that I perfected back in my student days. Cheap, cheerful and tasty, this asian-styled bolognaise is a staple in my kitchen for dinner and bento. You can find my recipe here . It has been tweaked to be especially ‘dry’ = bento friendly. On the smaller layer, I had a chocolate orange jello with blueberries on it, clementine segments and a small roast chicken and pea salad. My fridge is running pretty empty again; looks like it’s time for a replenish! I topped the rice with two girls cut out from cheese and ham, with nori features.

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Happy Hinamatsuri girls!!!

The #twitterfoodparty Cakookie!!

February 28, 2011

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Every month a bunch of us over at twitter pick a food item and cook/eat/shoot it together on a Monday. It is a whole load of fun to see all the excitingly delicious and creative use of inggredient – and I always make sure that I participate if I am around. I think I missed last month’s as I was laid in bed sick as a dog, but this month it was a source of inspiration.

I have been on a crazy spate of cooking and recipe-developing recently….I have no doubt that it will stop as soon as I no longer fit in my jeans – all this FOOD is not exactly good for the ole waistline!!!! Either that or I’ll be running out of inspiration pretty soon. Coupled with bacon being on a crazy cooking spree, we are in serious need to cut down ; so by the time you’ve read this, some of the ‘cookies’ had already winged their way to family & friends.

Whilst browsing the interweb last week, I came across the crazy notion of pizookie. Invented by a restaurant from Santa Ana, CA, BJ’s have been making pizookies addicts for a long time. It is essentially a cookie – shaped like a pizza!! I had certainly not heard of it before. I guess the boring description would be a deep dish cookie. They bake it into a flat ramekin that looks pretty big (5 inches across?) and it is served with ice cream. Mmmm….yummy, but the size is slightly too big to be a personal serving. Not quite personal pizza :)

I came up with my own take on the pizookie – I changed it slightly and it turned into a cakookie. Lols. Using a simple cake-like base, the cookie still has the chewy crispy cookie top, whilst in the middle it taste slightly like a chocolate chip cake. Mmm…I likey. I used smaller ramekins, not only because they were the only ones I had, but it was probably for the best portion-wise. The best part about this was? Leaving it overnight hardened the cakookie up wonderfully;taking on the lovely chewy texture of a traditional cookie. WoohoO! Just heat in the microwave for a minute, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And maybe a sprinkle of nuts. Or chocolate sauce. YUM.

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    Cakookie

100g / 3.5 oz/ 0.8 stick of butter (room temperature)
100 g/ 1 cup plain flour, unsifted
1 egg
100g/ 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tbs baking soda/sodium bicarbonate
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

60g/ 2 oz chocolate chips
60g/ 2 oz pecans, chopped
6 pecans, whole

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Crank the oven up to 180-200C / 350-400F
Cream sugar and butter until pale (and yummy :) )
Add egg and vanilla and continue beating until well mixed
In batches, slowly add in the baking soda and flour, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go.
The batter should now be scoopable. There should be enough batter for 8 regular -sized ramekins. Do not overfill, you can fill up to 1/2 or 2/3 of the ramekins. Filling it up to 1/2 will allow enough headspace for a scoop of ice cream. mmm..

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Want to join us? Check us out on twitter!!

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Bento 122: Saba & Rice

February 24, 2011

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This seems like a weekly roundup bento – everything from here was taken from various parts of my earlier bentos in the week. The sharped-eyed might recognize saba from one of my bento earlier in the week – yup, it’s back! It does not last that long once I’ve opened up the packet, so I really needed to use it up before it goes off. The hot-smoked peppered mackerel goes so extremely well with plain white rice, the peppery smoky fishyness offsets by the blandness of the saba. I might try stuffing it in an onigiri one day – one of the best combo ever.

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In tomorrow’s bento there is also some asparagus ham roll, a mini apple (underachieving gala), some radishes and all divided up by lettuce leaves. With the white rice, I thought I would deco it abit – and that was when it fell apart. I tried making onigiris covered with black sesame seeds….but the onigiri fell apart (don’t think my rice was hot enough) . So with my rice half-mixed with sesame seeds, I thought I would jumble it all up together and just forget about the onigiri.

Then it came time to decorate. I had flowers leftover from yesterday’s bento – and thought I would add some small birds in it. Honest, it looked really bird-like when i put it on – but then it failed miserably when I took a picture of it. It f

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Can you see it? No? Gaaaah! The color on the ham was way too light to show up on pictures – I really need to start bringing my laptop into the kitchen to get direct feed from my camera to the laptop. Oh well…hey, at least it’s all tasty right? ;)

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Bento 121: Potato salad & Ribs

February 23, 2011

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Did I hear leftovers?? Woohoo! I am fast becoming the queen of leftovers, and this was what I had for dinner today. Over the weekend , we went to a local farmer’s market and picked up some bits and bobs. One of it was two packs of ribs, premarinaded and only costing £1 each pack! There was more than enough for us to have for dinner and for me to pack a handful of ribs for tomorrow’s bento.

In my bento, there are some Japanese-styled potato salad, barbequed ribs, 1/2 nectarine and a mini clementine. I love Japanese-styled potato salad – I make mine with thinly sliced radish to give it crunch & heat, potatoes, carrots, spring onions and QP mayo. It goes very well with the lettuce as well, making it into a rounded salad.

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Today’s bento feature my lovely ecolunchbox again – I am starting to get used to depth of it now. I tend not to pack fruits with my bentos as I have free fruits as work. However, it usually runs out by Wednesday – and the ecolunchbox is PERFECT for popping in a mini clementine or apple. The depth also helps in keeping the fruit whole rather than having the hack the bottom off, or slice it. I really need to get myself a LunchBots Trio Stainless Steel Snack Container; would be quite cool to pack with predivided containers.

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Bento 120: Miso Soup Hinomaru

February 22, 2011

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I cringe at calling this a leftover bento – all its element is so simple on its on it really does not require much cooking at all. Bacon had instant noodles for dinner; so I opted for my Japanese-styled comfort meal. I don’t eat this very often as bacon hates miso & tofu…so it’s an opportunity for me to indulge!

I have some store-bought sliced hot smoked peppered mackerel (saba), shibazuke (pickled cucumber/aubergine in ume), some peapods and brocollini. On top on my white rice is an ume – I have recently became addicted to the flavour of ume again, and find myself yearning for ume with all my meals. It helps preserves the rice as well and give it a light pink tinge underneath :).

Miso soup is not exactly portable, especially with the way I treat my handbag. I was going to use my Zojirushi, but could not bother about getting it out. So I deconstructed the miso soup. Yup. You heard me. I preboil the tofu, and sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds over it , topped with some sliced spring onions. I mixed in some instant dashi with miso paste, and when I am ready for lunch I just dump it all in a large mug and top it up with boiling water straight from the kettle at work. Obviously this is only going to work for people who have access to boiling water at lunch time; but I thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea for a no-spill bento :).

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This bento took less than 5 minutes to fill and is totally un-kawaii – but it’s probably about 100x better tasting than a plastic packaged supermarket sandwich. Which the last time I had one; gave me a papercut. Serves me right. It took me longer to photograph (cause I am a slowpoke with the camera). The wonderful thing about packing your own bentos is that you can have ANYTHING you like – and me, I want some ume with saba. Or ume with SPAM. Wonder what will I ume with next?

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