Hosomaki – thin sushi roll bento

hosomakiRolling sushi is not my best culinary skill, especially in the morning, but I was so happy that I finally had a perfectly ripe avocado, that I couldn’t resist making some quick hosomaki for my bento today.

Hosomaki are thin sushi rolls, with only 1 ingredient. I made avocado and crabstick hosomaki, with some wasabi added for the crabstick ones – hence the greenish rice. I didn’t have much time left over to pack my bento, so just added some cherry tomatoes, little soy sauce bottles and a small container with gari (pickled ginger).

This bento box comes with it’s own chopsticks and chopstick rest, cleverly hidden under it’s top lid.

And maybe I am being very silly….but I wish they were able to produce square – and always perfectly ripe -avocado’s! Can you imagine how much easier it would be to cut  for your sushi filling… :-)

 

Roast Chicken Blunch with Jerusalem Artichoke

This Blunch is dedicated to Bentolily from Einfach Bento.

roast-chicken-blunch

Last week I put out a challenge to my readers. Never having cooked with these before, I asked my readers to come up with suggestions on how to use Jerusalem artichoke in my lunchbox (read more here) and promised to dedicate the resulting lunch to the reader who came up with a workable suggestion.

Well, Bentolily came not only up with one suggestion, no, she made lots of different suggestions and even sent me a recipe of her favourite way to use Jerusalem artichoke (aka topinambour or sunchoke) as a spread for bread.

One other reader (Ad – no blog, so I can’t link back) also suggested cooking them sous vide, with a bulgogi or kimchi marinade. Although I liked the idea of trying out the souse vide (never done that before either), I felt that an bulgogi or kimchi marinade might be too overpowering for the slightly sweet, nutty flavour of the Jerusalem artichoke.

Aside from the spread,  Bentolily also suggested that roasted slices might work best for a Bento, and that gave me the idea for this Roast Chicken Blunch.

Here in the UK one thing that the British cuisine is known for are their Sunday Roast lunches, served with “all the trimmings” ie roast potatoes, roast veggies, cooked veggies, yorkshire puddings (with beef only). As it’s just two of us, I don’t often bother with a huge beef or lamb roast, instead we opt for the roast chicken with the bonus that I can use the leftovers for my lunches :-)

So yesterday I duly roasted a chicken, carefully saving the drumsticks for today to pack into my Roast Chicken Blunch. –  I am calling it a blunch = aka boxed lunch, as it doesn’t contain Japanese or Korean food. It was a great excuse though to pack it in my lovely shokado bento box, a very traditional box that you often see in use at Japanese restaurants. I bought mine at Japancentre – . I also saved some of the roast potatoes & carrots. I roasted some J. artichokes separately, very simple with just some olive oil, garlic, rosemary and salt and kept some of this for today as well. I didn’t peel the J. artichokes, and with hindsight, next time I might as the peel was a bit chewy to eat, think I will have to experiment a bit more with this vegetable.

Today I sliced the left over J. artichokes in 1 cm thick slices and steamed these. After steaming, I used my flower cutter to create the flowers, adding a pea for the heart. I also steamed some more veggies and reheated the roast potatoes and chicken drumsticks, arranging it all in the bento box. Finally I added some redcurrant jelly in the smallest compartment and parsley to decorate.

And as traditional with a Sunday Roast.. – even if it’s Monday – I ate my boxed chicken roast lunch at lunch time! :-P

P.s. Bentolily also warned me about the flatulence inducing capacity of Jerusalem artichoke (caused by the inulin it contains). Luckily it is a Bank Holiday today, so no need to expose my co-workers to this risk ….. :-)

P.s.s. BentoLily has a great blog called Einfach Bento (Simply Bento), and the only reason why I hadn’t found her blog previously is probably because she writes in German. But – like me – she makes Bento for herself, ie an adult not for children, and the subtitle of her blog says it all: Ausgewogene Bento für Erwachsene (Balanced Bento for adults). Her Bentos look balanced in ingredients, colours and healthy, but more important very attractive!

If you don’t read German (luckily I am reasonable ok with German), don’t worry Google translate is your friend :-). It’s definitely worth checking out her blog!

Kimchi & Onigiri Dosirakbento

kimchi-onigiri-dosirak-bentoThis actually might be the sort of lunch that my blog is all about: Korean and Japanese food inspired lunchboxes! The Korean dosirak is represented by the Kimchi and the Japanese bento is represented by the Onigiri :-)

It is not a fancy lunch, nor is it gwiyomi/ kawaii (cute) with funny details, shapes or made using special tools or packed in a pretty bento box. But it is the kind of food that I love and like having in my lunchbox.

The onigiri was shaped by hand (whilst I was -not so- silently cursing because of the hot rice), I added lots of veggies (and colours) and the kimchi is home made. The only extra thing I did was adding a little silicone mould for the kimchi and that is only because it would otherwise stain the container.

I filled the onigiri with spicy salmon: left over cooked salmon with wasabi. I also have to tell you that the home made kimchi is actually not home made by me….but by the local sushi shop :-)

Huh? Sushi is Japanese isn’t it? Yes, but my sushi shop is quite small and owned by a Korean family. I am such a regular customer that they greet me by name, sometimes offer me miso soup whilst waiting (no pre-packed sushi here, only made to order) and I often end up chatting quite some time about Korean food and K drama…

I was there yesterday evening to treat myself to some sashimi and one of the guys had brought in home made Kimchi for himself, and very kindly gave me some to take home!

mat-kimchi

It is Mak Kimchi: ie chopped up / lazy  / easy kimchi and if you want to make it, Maangchi has a good recipe here.

This was a delicious lunch :-P even if it lookes a bit plain…

As most of my readers know, I pack my lunches early in the morning, before going to work, so I don’t have much time to go crazy & creative. And although I also like making the cute lunches that you have (and will) see on my blog, it’s often a question of finding the time & inspiration for it.

I guess it’s all a matter of balance :-) … as are most things in life!

*****

P.s. Have you read my Jerusalem artichoke challenge? In my previous post I asked readers to inspire me to cook with Jerusalem artichokes for my lunch box…you can read more here…. To be continued…

P.s.s. If anyone living in or nearby London and is interested in K-cuisine: the Korean Culture Centre is currently organising some lectures on K-cuisine. Unfortunately I missed the first ones, but I will be going next week (featuring Bibimbap) and next month (Bulgogi). More info can be found on the website of KCC.

 

Jerusalem artichoke, a lunchbox recipe challenge!

In my veg box yesterday:

image

Jerusalem artichoke!

I have eaten them before, mainly roasted or in salads and love the taste, but never cooked with them….

So I thought it would be fun to put a challenge to my readers and ask you: what should I make with these? :)

Suggestions should (ideally) be something with a Japanese or Korean twist AND/OR suitable to put into my lunchbox. Plus of course it should be something that I would like….. 😜

(At Hilary: NO that doesn’t mean a mayo-based salad…)

If one of my lovely readers/followers comes up with a great (and for me workable) idea/recipe, I will dedicate the resulting lunchbox/bento/dosirak to you & will link back to your blog (if you have one)!

Please put your suggestions in the comments box and I am curious to see what you’ll come up with!

Sheep in the hills

sheep-bento

The last few weeks have been hectic, it’s very busy at work plus I had several trips and visits. My lunches are looking boring, usually just some rice with leftovers from dinner (quickly squashed into a container & definitely not photo worthy) or shop bought sushi or salads.

And although I don’t think that all my lunches have to look pretty or cute, they should look at least attractive enough to appear on this blog :-)

But hooray, today I had some time and even more importantly, inspiration for a cute bento! The title: Sheep in the hills, is inspired by the trip I made last month to the Lake District.

(Lake District = plenty of hills & plenty of sheep, the cucumber slices represent the hills. Sheep are made from crabsticks, ham, olive and nori, and the other container holds some shrimp dimsum and veggies. Rice is under the cucumber)

The main reason or better said, instigation/motivation/inspiration for this visit were the tweets by HerdyShepherd (@herdyshepherd1) (hope this links to his twitter account). I am very new to Twitter and totally clueless how it works, but this guy tweets a lot of pretty (and honest) photo’s about his life working a sheep farm. His tweets have been gathering lots of followers, I think he has more than 60,000 followers now (or in his word, more than any other sheep farmer in that area….of course he doesn’t add that he is probably the only sheep farmer in that area that tweets…) and not only are the photo’s stunning, but he also gives a lot of information, answers questions, shows the good and the less good (read challenging) sides of sheep farming and has a great SOH!

He has also written a book, The Shepherd’s Life, which has been in the top charts for several weeks if not months, and I can definitely recommend  reading it! I actually read it back on the train after my visit – having bought it during the holiday, but wish I had read it on my way up as I would have appreciated the beautiful and historic landscape even more.

It was my first visit to the Lake District and WOW, I just can’t describe how pretty it was, but maybe these photo’s will give you an impression (all made with my phone, the reality was even more stunning!)

 

Freezer rice Bento

Freezer-rice-bentoThis is what happens when you go away over the Bank Holiday weekend, return, want to pack a lunch and forget that your fridge is empty…., you end up with freezer rice bento :-)

Actually, the carrots are fresh. I never seem to be without carrots; they keep well, are versatile and healthy, add a bright colour and I like them! Enough reasons to give them a star shape in my bento today.

The main part of the bento is made from my lunch-food-items-supply-in-keep-in-the-freezer. Firstly mixed vegetable rice: basically I took some rice and mixed this with peas, corn and edamame beans whilst reheating. The veg made it quite bulky, so I used a largish box, and packed it on both sides, separating it with some tamago. There is less veg-rice in the left part of my box, as I topped that part with salted salmon (quickly pan-fried).

Lastly some soy sauce and seaweed snacks. Hooray, still an attractive bento!

This week my sister is visiting with her daughters, so whilst I shall not be making any dosirak/bento for myself, we might have an impromptu onigiri party & go wild with my nori punches to create some cute faces :-).  Not sure if I will have time to post about it, so I will leave you all with some links to show you what I mean… (clicking on the photo should take you to the relevant blog post)…

Boy and Girl

Boy-loves-girl

Onigiri bunnies and faces

 

Going green

Going-green-dosirakbentoNo, I am not referring to anything environmental, or political (lol) but just to how much green food I could find to put into my dosirak today.  I was actually hoping to put some avocado in it as well (instead of two portions of spinach salad) but the avocados that I bought more than a week ago are still not ripe! Grrrr… I have packed them in a brown bag, with and without ripe bananas and pears…but not luck..

So, this dosirak has Korean spinach namul (salad with garlic, sesame oil, sesame), some cucumber and broccoli and stir fried fishcake – with green pepper. I did also think about putting some green edamame beans in the little gap in the middle, but the orange cherry tomato forms a nice contrast and was exactly the right size :-)

To make it look a bit cuter, I added face details to the quail eggs (nori and black sesame seeds) and of course I used lots of green food picks!

Fish cake Gimbap

Today I made fish cake Gimbap (Korean Seaweed roll, aka kimbap)!

Fish cake kimbap

Although I love gimbap, I don’t make it very often because I never manage to make just 1 roll! You need quite a few different ingredients, especially if you are making it from scratch, so I  usually end up with at least 2 if not 3 or even 4 rolls…and subsequently am eating gimbap for lunch and dinner and snacking!! I have a few shops nearby where I can buy  just 1 roll of ready made gimbap, but I prefer to have home made, as I can choose the ingredients and adept to my taste. Luckily now, thanks to Kimchimari, I finally know what to do with left over Gimbap, eat it hot!

My gimbap today has a fish cake filling instead of beef. Fish cake is a seafood product made from fish, starch, sugar and vegetables. In the Korean kitchen, it is often used as an ingredient, for example in soups and stews, or as a side dish. You can also find it as street food, served on a skewer in broth. I really like Eomuk Bokkeum: spicy stir fried fish cake with vegetables and am always very happy when they serve this as a side dish :-)

As you can see, the fish cake in my gimbap has “leaked” a bit of sauce into the rice, but I guess that just make the rice even more tastier :-). The other ingredients for the filling are spinach, egg, danmuji, burdock and carrot.

I made gimbap before, and you can find loads different recipes & tutorials on internet. Websites that I use a lot (for Korean recipes) are Maangchi, Crazy Korean Cooking and of course bloggers like Kimchimari, Beyond Kimchee and many many others!

My dosirak was completed with some pretty orange cherry tomatoes, and raspberries and blueberries. I am so happy that the berry season has started. Have been checking our local PYO farm but will still have to wait until at least June before I can start picking strawberries. Until then I just have to buy them in the shops or market but at least they are a bit more available (and affordable).

ActiviTEA (product review)

Just before Easter I got send the activiTEA by Adagio to review but as you know, life got in the way and I took a bit of a blogging break, so I didn’t get round to writing up a post about it until this weekend.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to write a review post. Of course I love a free product and I am a huge tea drinker, have even used green tea in my Ochazuke bento (see post here) so anything tea related is a big hit with me. But I was, and still am, a bit doubtful, whether it would fit in with my blog (after all my blog is mainly focused on lunches, not at tea) and whether my readers would like or not like me to review products. I know I have written before about products, but those were products that I use regularly to make my lunches, and I had always paid for them myself (with the exception of the book I won).

Anyway, I gratefully accepted the free gift and did check that I could write my honest opinion, so here we go :-)

The activiTEA is a portable tea tumbler, with which you can enjoy loose leaf tea on the go. It consist of 4 parts: a double walled container/tumbler, a holder (with strap), an infuser and the lid. It holds 300ml. Although the instructions on the box doesn’t indicate it, there is a video on the website which tells it’s dishwasher proof.

It came securely packed in a box with instructions on it, and it looks very pretty, a bit sleek & modern and size wise it fits very nicely in my hand. Adagio also very generously sent me lots of tea samples, including favorites like Earl Grey, Jasmine Pearls and Green Tea varieties.

The first tea I tried out was a Citron Green which smelled gorgeous when I opened the packaging. It is a green tea mixed with lemon and lime and the smell is both soothing and refreshing. All the tea samples that I received – and I thus assume all their loose tea- were packed in a resealable package and have the appropriate steeping instructions on it. However…those instructions said 180°… eek… I suspect they meant 180F, which google tells me is 82.22°C…. :-)

Luckily my kettle has different temperature settings, so 82 it is…(or at least as near to 82 as I can get…). I filled the tumbler with water, measured 1 teaspoon into the holder (fitted with the infuser) screwed that on, closed with the lid and turned it all upside down to steep. Upside down! Yep, because the infuser is quite shallow (unless other infusers, this one doesn’t “descend” in the water), you have to “bring” the water to the infuser by turning it upside down.

I didn’t screw the canister and lid tightly enough and it leaked a bit….. Oops….so I quickly remedied that and the tea steeped merrily upside down until it had reached my desired strength (the packaging also gives instructions on quantity and steeping time, but of course this may vary according to your taste. I like my teas quite weak).

After steeping, I turned the whole thing up again, removed the canister bit (you can see how much the tea leaves have swollen), and screwed back on the top lid. Drank the tea :-)

I later did the same thing over again, but tried a black tea, the Earl Grey Bravo, and this time I measured the tea first, and poured the water through the tea into the tumbler. (The instructions on the box says first water, than holder with tea, the video says first holder with tea, then water…). The upside is that your tea steeps quicker, the downside is that you need to pour quite slowly to avoid over-drowning the opening.

Lastly I tried using the activiTEA with the Phoenix Jasmine Pearls. Jasmine Pearls need quite a lot of space to unfold and to properly infuse the tea, and I just felt there wasn’t enough room for that in the infuser/holder, so I put the pearls directly in the tumbler and use the infuser to strain the leaves whilst drinking. I always tend to drink multiple cups from just 3 pearls so this way I just kept topping up with water.

The teas I received were all delicious. I especially liked the Citron Green as it has a very nice refreshing taste without the citron being too overpowering. (Apparently it can also be drunken cold, so will have to give that a try.) And I love the Phoenix  Jasmine Pearls! The smell is just gorgeous and I love how you can make multiple use of the pearls without having the tea turn bitter! I am actually drinking another cup of this tea whilst writing this post :-)

Adagio sells a lot of different tea varieties, or as they call it “artisan loose leaf teas”,  divided in categories such as black, chai, herbal, green, masters etc and both as a loose tea and in tea bags. They also sell teaware, including something called ingenuiTEA which looks actually quite clever, and pretty teapots and mug/infusers. Their website doesn’t tell much about the company, but I did found this article with some background information on them.

So, what are my thoughts on the activiTEA?

Pros:

  • It looks very good, it has a sleek and modern design.
  • It also feels very comfortable in your hand and the outer wall doesn’t get too hot (when using 100°C water)
  • Tea keeps longer warm than in a regular mug.
  • Once you know how it works, it’s very simple to use.

Cons:

  • I am not sure if I would use this for travelling. Although it feels pretty robust and is leak proof (if you screw the lid/canister on properly), it’s still glass…
  • The holes in the infuser are quite large, so it wouldn’t be suitable for all loose teas, as finer tea leaves slip through.
  • Also, the tea doesn’t really have much room to expand & infuse, so you could consider user the infuser the other way around, as a “sieve” to avoid drinking the leaves, but probably only for non black teas (as I did with the Jasmine Pearls).

Would I recommend?

Hmm, maybe not as a travel mug, although it looks sturdy, I wouldn’t want to risk taking it on the London underground! But as an loose tea infuser to use at work, or at home, definitely yes. As said, it is very pretty, keeps your tea warm and once you know how it works, it’s easy to use.

It would be great if it there were different infusers that fitted in the holder, with different sized holes, for different teas, or even an deeper infuser that wouldn’t have the need to turn it upside down. I also missed a little drip holder for putting your holder (with the wet tea leaves in it) once you have finished steeping.

I think that most reviewers give an end score, so my score would be 8 out of 10. Good, but not perfect. Yet :-)

Just to point out again, I was sent this product free of charge in exchange for writing a review on my blog. The above is my true and honest opinion of the product. 

Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori Sandwiches

Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori

Do you know Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori?

I had never heard of them before until I started making bentos and encountered these cute little characters.

Apparently Rilakkuma means “bear in a relaxed mood” and he mysteriously appears in the female office lady Kaoru’s apartment one day. He is a soft toy bear who has apparently decided to take up residence there.  He was first seen in a series of picture books called Rilakkuma Seikatsu produced by San-X but since has become equally popular as a soft-toy character.

Rilakkuma is often accompanied by Korilakkuma “a mysterious white bear cub” . Kiiroitori fictionally named her Korilakkuma because she looks like little Rilakkuma (“ko” means a little child in Japanese.). She also mysteriously appeared at Kaoru’s house.

Kiiroitori is a yellow chick who lives at Kaoru’s house. Kiiroitori means “yellow bird” in Japanese.  (source Wikipedia)

My Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori characters are made from bread and cheese sandwiches, with cheese, carrot, nori and strawberry face decoration. I “glued” some of the parts together with a tiny bit of mustard, or you could use mayo. Rilakkuma turned out slightly smaller than Korilakkuma, because I cut the bread first before toasting it, not realising that this actually shrinks the bread!

Below you can see how I packed it into a bento, adding some more strawberries. This bento lacks vegetables, but I packed some cherry tomatoes separately, just forgot to include them in the photo.

Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori bento