Couscous salad

couscous salad

A very simple but delicious salad!

After my previous post about “thoughts on blogging”  & all the lovely comments & likes received, I don’t feel guilty at all for showing you this lunch, which isn’t even in a lunchbox!

I actually forgot to make a picture of the same salad I took to work for lunch, this is a picture of the salad eaten at home :-)

Somehow, I never manage to make this salad in a small quantity,  so I have been eaten this twice for lunch now and once for dinner…plus there is still a bit leftover…

Basically prepare some couscous by following the instructions that are on the pack. Most will tell you to add boiling water to couscous, let is stand for a few minutes and fluff it with a fork, but some require you to cook the couscous for a few minutes.

I always use the easy, almost instant version and instead of plain boiling water, I use vegetable stock with a table spoon or two of olive oil, some lemon juice and salt. If you add more liquid (in the form of olive oil /lemon juice) just make sure you add a little bit less water, otherwise you end up with very soggy couscous.

After fluffing and cooling down, I mixed in the other ingredients, in this case cucumber, tomato, spring onion, black olives and feta cheese.

 PS some readers might have noticed that I changed the design theme of my blog.This was mainly because the old theme had problems with categories and archives. I hope it works now but please let me know if not. 

Not that I can promise to solve it…(without changing design theme again)… I‘m learning/struggling to learn about the technical side of blogging on the go and welcome all advice! For example does anybody know how to get ALL my widgets together instead some of them on the side bar & others lurking somewhere deep down the page…they seem to be all over the place depending on what  device you read my blog on…????

A basic Dosirakbento and thoughts on blogging

Basic dosirak bento

A basic dosirakbento

A few days ago I was talking with a friend about my blog and she remarked that my recent blog posts have received a lot more likes than before. We tried to pinpoint the blog post where my “followers” and “likes” count suddenly started to go up, but couldn’t really decide when it happened. After that conversation, I actually went to have a look at my stats and saw that in July the numbers trebled from 522 (June) to 1465 views (July)!

But my stats are not the reason why I wanted to bring up the subject “thoughts on blogging”. Because during that same conversation I said something along the lines of “well, yes, I’m very happy that I have new followers and likes, but I do sometimes feel obliged to make sure I create nice and interesting looking lunches / blog posts”.  Her response was to ask ” But why do you blog? And for whom? Yourself or your readers?”

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about this question, because I actually wasn’t sure how to answer it.

I started my blog  in February of this year with this Bunny Bento post  and this About Dosirakbento post. The last post explained the difference between  dosirak / bento and also my reason for blogging (to keep a photo diary of my lunches). The Bunny Bento post was my first, actual lunch photo blog post.

This might be familiar to other new bloggers, and other bento makers, but the first few weeks, well maybe months, of blogging I got sort of “taken over” by my new hobby. I couldn’t stop talking about blogging, connecting with other bloggers, showing off my blog to friends, family and colleagues and in general being a nuisance about it. I also spent a fortune on bento and dosirak accessories.

Now, about 5 months later, it has slowed down. Not  stopped though. I still buy the occasional bento box but don’t order any longer for lots of ££’s at my favourite shops. And I continue to love blogging and reading other blogs (especially about food, Korea and Japan but not limited to those subjects only). But I stopped talking non stop about my blog.

However, having a blog did “take me over” in another way.

The more likes I received, and the more followers I gained, the more I felt I had to offer creative, well written, blog posts showing different lunches, new recipes, kawaii (cute) character lunches, food art, explanations on what I make, and why, and how, and so on. I have been pondering about getting a proper camera so I could make better food pictures.  I have been feeling guilty about not taking the time to properly thank for (and accept) the nominations I received from some lovely other bloggers  (HotDish, MsWuKitchen and lefthandedchopsticks, please accept my apologies. I truly appreciate your nomination, really).

Basically I have been lured into the thought of not wanting to disappoint my readers.

The questions “Why do I blog? And for whom?” from my friend, made me realise I need to go back to the beginning. And that is  going back to why I started blogging: keeping a diary of the lunches I make. Enjoy playing with food in a box. Learning about Japanese and Korean food.  And to enjoy blogging.

That doesn’t mean that I will stop making occasionally kawaii bento or trying out new dishes.  I will still do so, but only because I want to, not because I feel I “have to”.

And I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t like having new followers and receiving likes :-).  I will  always try to visit back the blogs of my followers, like back (when I truly like it) and respond to your comments.

I also love finding new blogs and reading the stories shared by other bloggers or being inspired by recipes and ideas.

But I won’t accept Awards. I do appreciate being nominated, but just don’t have the time to truly accept and reciprocate the appreciation in the spirit these Awards are being meant, given and passed on.

I will stop worrying about the quality of my photo’s and whether my punctuation is right or my writing style interesting, constructive or good enough.

Finally, and most important, I will stop feeling guilty for posting a picture of a “boring” daily dosirakbento such as the one above.
Because this is how most of my daily lunches look like. Nothing fancy, nothing creative, just rice, veggies, protein. OK, and a cute food pick. Those ££’s spent on Bento accessories shouldn’t be wasted after all… ;-)

I’m not sure if the above makes sense to anybody other than myself, but I’m sort of glad to at least have said it (written down).

Courgette Salmon Blinis

courgette salmon blinis

 Too be honest, I am not sure if Blinis is the correct term for these!

But I don’t know what else to call them, and they do resemble a savoury blini. However, there is no flour in them. The recipe is very simple and has only 3 main ingredients: courgette, smoked salmon and egg! I am not quite sure of the exact quantities, I sort of mix and see, but it is roughly this:

Grate 1 medium courgette into a sieve/colander and sprinkle with some salt. Let stand for few minutes, meanwhile cut about 50-75 gram of smoked salmon in tiny pieces.

Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the grated courgette. I find that the easiest way to do this is to literally take a handful of the courgette and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze. It is surprising how much liquid comes out (and a good exercise for your arm muscles :-) as well).

In a large bowl beat the egg, add the smoked salmon and courgette and mix all together. Add a bit of pepper if you want but limit any additional salt as the courgette has been salted already and smoked salmon is salty as well.

Oil a non stick frying pan very lightly and add the mixture in small blini size portions (about 1,5 tablespoon) to the pan. Press the mixture carefully down so it is even, and pan fry at medium heat on both sizes for about 3 minutes each side.

I sometimes serve these as a starter and add a yoghurt/mint dip to it, but as you can see they are great for a lunch as well! I have added the mangetout between the courgette salmon blinis to avoid them sticking together. There is also some mini corn, some Korean egg roll and a clementine.

Sushi

sushi roll bento lunch box

I just love sushi!

But I am not very good in rolling it, my maki rolls always seem to end up a bit wonky or with the filling falling out. Would love to learn how to make Sushi roll art, like this Japanese artist does here . It looks amazing, but would require so much patience (something I lack).

Anyway, when I feel the need for sushi (which is quite often..) I tend to make a deconstructed version or just buy it, but this time I grabbed the sushi mat and gave it another go.

Actually, I think it does look pretty ok and it certainly tasted more than just ok!

The sushi roll is filled with crab(sticks), omelet, cucumber and avocado. I added the left over cucumber sticks, some radishes and loads of gari (ginger) in the top compartment. Also some more wasabi (I spread some wasabi on the rice as well before rolling it) and of course some soy sauce.

(I ate this lunch at home, so no faffing around early in the morning)

Dosirakbento

dosirak bento carrot flower

 I have been trying to add some new Korean dishes to my repertoire (like the Gamjorim from my previous post) but some days it’s just quicker and easier to make up a lunch from the stashes in my freezer.

And still working my way through some of my salted salmon and Jeon stock… so a very simple Dosirakbento this time.

The freezer is almost empty now, have to think up some new dishes that work well for lunch.

This Dosirakbento is completed with salad, cucumber, tomato and some carrot/green bean flowers…simply but tasty!

First time potato Dosirak!

Actually there are 2 firsts in this Dosirak!

It’s the first time that I have included potato for my lunch & it’s the first time that I made this potato side dish: Gamjajorim!

dosirak bento lunch with gamjajorim potato side dish

Gamjajorim is a potato side dish, it can be eaten warm, tepid or cold and once made, keeps for a few days if stored in the fridge. The best potatoes to use are firm, waxy ones, as these keep their shape better. Also, make sure that you cut the potato cubes the same size to ensure even cooking.

Recipes can be found here at Maangchi or at Aeri’s Kitchen , they are both very similar. Maangchi uses olive oil though and adds onion. I wasn’t sure about olive oil, so I substituted this for sunflower oil as I think the taste is better suited. I also left out the onion and followed the quantities in Aeri’s recipe for the corn syrup.

Here it is, freshly made:

gamjajorim korean potato side dish

I prepared this yesterday, so this morning I only had to add the other elements, which are some sweet chicken pieces, salad, carrot, radish and some corn on the cob. I also added 2 apricots.

It all just fitted in my lunch box, it’s a good thing the lid of  this box closes very tightly…

Will definitely make Gamjajorim again, it’s very easy and delicious!

Fruit and freezer clean up

  I made 2 (!)  lunch boxes this morning, one with fruit to eat during the morning

colour ful fruit bento

grapefruit, cherries, raspberries and blueberries

&

one with savoury food for my lunch

dosirak bent with jeon pancake and tamago

 

The last one is a Dosirakbento filled with lots of Jeon (seafood and courgette) and Tamago. The little container holds dipping sauce for the jeon (soy sauce/apple vinegar/dash of mirin /dash of sesame oil).

I called it a freezer clean up because when rummaging through my frozen dosirakbento stash, I noticed this container of Jeon lurking in the back of the drawer….So, lot’s of jeon but no rice.

There aren’t a lot of veggies either, just some radishes and carrot flowers, but with all that fruit, I think I have enough vitamins to get me through the day!

 

 

Ochazuke Bento

Ochazuke Bento, simple but delicious!

ochazuke chazuke bento

Ochazuke

Hilary of the JapanCAN(ada)Mix blog reminded me the other day about this very simple, but brilliant dish. And when, on that same day, Nami of Just One Cookbook, posted a recipe for Ochazuke on her blog, I just knew I had to turn it into a Bento!

Ochazuke literally means submerged tea, and it’s a simple Japanese dish made by pouring green tea over cooked rice with various toppings. You can buy ready made packets of toppings at Japanese grocery stores, they come in different flavours and you just need to add hot water instead of tea, but it is very easy to make your own.

The first time that I ate this dish, was when my sorority was given a Japanese cookbook by a visiting sorority and we cooked a dinner for them using some of the recipes. I can still remember the stunned faces when I produced a tea pot and started to pour tea over the cooked rice. As I was completely new to the dish myself, I wasn’t at all sure how much tea was needed, or how it was going to taste, but it was surprisingly good.

I am very happy that Hilary and Nami reminded me of this dish, and whilst I have never made it into a Bento before (I usually eat this as an easy quick meal late at night or when I am too lazy to properly cook something), it is actually very suitable for a packed lunch.

Here is my Ochazuke Bento when packed:

ochazuke bento

As you can see, I used my Black + Blum Bento lunchpot. It’s very practical for this kind of lunch because you can use it in the microwave. The larger compartment holds cooked rice. On top of the rice, I placed a small container with some cooked salted salmon and spring onion. The smaller compartment has all the dry ingredients: some nori cut in small strips – I used the Korean flavoured version as this adds some extra flavour to the dish. There are also some sesame seeds, and a pinch of wasabi powder. I kept the rice cracker packed, but next time I think I will pre-crumble it as I had crumbs all over my desk…. There is also a little bottle of soy sauce and of course green tea! No Ochazuke without tea!!

I packed it up in the morning. When I was ready to eat it, I just took out the salmon container, heated up the rice in the microwave, and put all the toppings on top of the rice. Finally I made the green tea and poured it over the rice :-)

Itadakimasu!

Ladybird Bento

Is it Ladybird or Ladybug? Well, there are 4 in this picture!lady bird bento made from tomato and nori with a nori egg dice

 This is made using my new lunch box (see previous post)

The body of the ladybird (it’s ladybird in the UK, but ladybug in the USA)  is made from a tomato, with nori details.  I made the head from some rice with nori and added two food picks for the antenna. I also had some ladybird food picks and decoration that added some nice detail.

Ladybirds are identified by the number of spots, and I seem to have read somewhere that the spots are always symmetrically. This new variety :-), the Tomato Lady bird has 12!

I used the left over spots to create a dice from a hard boiled square egg (using my egg cube shaper). The rest of the bento contains some chicken, salad leaves, carrot and cucumber flowers.

Salad & new lunch box (preview)

The last few days have been so hot & humid (between thunderstorms) that on some days I just made a very simple salad for lunch.

Eggs, cucumber, tomato, carrot and cress:

image

The picture doesn’t show it clearly, but I used the Sistema salad to go box (see also here),  but without the insert this time. The bowl is quite deep, so this was quite a large (if boring) salad.

I also want to show you a new lunch box that I found in Paperchase! I’m addicted to buying  lunch boxes and bento accessories my collection is growing!….

I tend to buy most of my Bento accessories online (Bento & Co is great, so is CasaBento and JapanCentre also has a selection) or at the Korean supermarket, but sometimes I find Bento stuff in other shops as well.

It seems that large stationery chains such as Paperchase are stocking more and more lunch boxes and related things, aside from the one I bought, they also had a 2-layered one, but I didn’t like the pattern on that one.

I chose the swallow snack box because it has a clip & close lid, which should make it leak proof (haven’t tested it yet) and also because it has a divider and came with cutlery on a little tray (the little tray insert rests on the ridge in the box (if that makes sense).

And of course because I liked the colour and decoration!

I will soon make a Bento using this lunchbox ;-)

new lunchbox

Please note that I have not been asked nor paid to mention any of these companies