Not an egg roll

Bento with egg

Didn’t know what to call this bento today.

That’s the thing with blogging, not only coming up with ideas to pack for my lunch that are “blogworthy” (looking a bit pretty in a box) but also writing a blog post about it and coming up with a title. Sometimes I have a title or blog post in my head before even making the lunch but often it’s the other way around.

Anyway, my bento today doesn’t have an egg roll in it but it when I was rolling up the green beans in omelet strips it did make me think of egg rolls somehow. Not sure how my brain was working this morning… The egg roll that I was thinking off this morning are the savoury, deep fried ones, stuffed with bean sprouts or vegetables but I just googled egg roll and according to wiki, here in the UK an egg roll can also refer to fried egg in a bread roll. Isn’t language funny?

Aside from the “beans-in-omelet-roll”, I also packed another egg. This one is hard boiled, and you might not be able to see it properly but I “squared” it in my nifty egg cube shaper before cutting it in half to fit into my bento box. I don’t often have fruit in my bento, usually pack/eat it separately but am eating lots of black grapes at the moment and they fitted in nicely. The compartment with rice looks a bit small, but I compressed the rice quite tightly and managed to squeeze in quite a lot.

Although not very pretty, this is one of my favourite bento boxes because it’s so practical.  It has lots of lovely compartments – which makes it easy to pack lots of different items – and they can be taken out to use the box in different ways. And of course the handy chop sticks in the lid.

I posted a long time ago about all my different bento boxes (I have loads – see this post...) and if you are interested in bento boxes, I also wrote a few blog posts about specific boxes in my collection. If you select “bento box review” in the categories you can read more or click here and here.

Happy bentoing!

 

P.s. I just looked back at my post of October 2014 with my bento box collection and I have been quite good! Good in the sense of using most of them regularly and not adding too many new boxes. I did get a few large bento boxes  that are more suitable for a sit down lunch or dinner than for packing lunch, and also one or two other ones. Am currently dithering about whether to get a Monbento one or not. They look pretty (I love the limited edition food battle or floral one) and practical  and have good reviews but am just not sure how much added value they would bring to my collection (size and shape wise) …

Hmm… to be continued:-)

 

Roses for the weekend

It is May Bank Holiday this weekend here in the UK, Orthodox Easter in some countries and I am sure there are other holidays or special days all over the world. Thought it would be nice to “give” you some flowers for whatever occasion you might celebrate/enjoy this weekend!rose-smiley

(I learned this week how to create these sugarpaste (fondant) roses.)

Am away for the weekend so there won’t be a lunch blog post on Monday, but am planning one for Tuesday.

French Macarons

macarons

Some more baking. Not sure if anyone noticed but I changed the subtitle of my blog to better reflect what I am blogging about. Next week it will be back to bento lunches again:-)

Sometimes I can get a bit obsessed with something and macarons has been my latest obsession. I just wanted to be able to make them, not for any particular reason, but they look cute, they are ridiculously expensive to buy and of course because I love eating them.

So I googled and read lots about French macarons, Italian macarons, eggs aging, whipping, over-whipping, folding, over or under folding, feet, hollow shells, cracks and ….sigh…it got all very confusing. Lots of websites and bloggers seem to have their own fool-proof recipe but unfortunately lots of them also seem to be contradicting each other…

Anyway, I thought, let’s just give it a try and made some a few months ago…total failure. Never mind, try again… and again failure (luckily the good thing is that even failures taste very nice)…I think the problem, or my problem was, that although I followed a recipe, I didn’t make proper notes of what I did – and consequently of what went wrong (no feet, over-baked, cracking all over).

Last week I had some time off, and dedicated a full day (!) to macaron making. A friend of mine gave me two very useful links  (here and here) and her own recipe, and with a few small twists, I managed to make some pretty perfect macarons! There are still a few bumps, some pointy tips and a few cracked shells (obviously I chose the prettiest ones for the photo) but they have feet (!), are nicely risen and evenly sized, and they taste good!

I made three small batches, noting down for each batch the ” what/how/how much/temp” which resulted in those lovely macarons of the photo.  The ones with stripes was the first batch which coloured a bit too brown in the oven. For the second batch I added some food colouring to make them light pink and for the third batch a bit more), to make them pink(er).

I can’t promise this recipe works for you (or whether it will work for me next time*), as everyone’s kitchen, equipment and technique will be slightly different, but this is what I did:

  • Blitz 60 gr ground Almonds with 115 gr icing sugar in a food processor (use pulse option to avoid overblitzing) and sieve. Repeat this twice. With the last sieve, discard the big lumps.
  • In a spotless bowl, whisk (I used the balloon attachment on my hand mixer) 70 gr of egg white (I used pasteurised eggs at room temperature) with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar for 30 seconds on low speed until frothy. Up the speed to medium high for 2 minutes whilst slowly adding 35 gr castor sugar. If you want to add colouring, add now. Whip for a further 3 or 4 minutes until stiff peaks.
  • Add your almond/icing mixture to the egg whites and fold in carefully with a spatula. I added the mixture in 4 batches and used about 10 folds for each batch plus a few more until the batter drops like lava from the spatula. Under mixing is better than overmixing! Read my notes on folding further down.
  • Transfer to piping bag with a 1 cm round tip and pipe your macarons on your baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Using a template is recommended, it’s much easier and makes even size shells… I used the one provided here.
  • The recipe above makes for 40 shells, so I piped 1 large sheet with 32 and a smaller sheet with 8.  (I baked the smaller sheet first, this helped me to check the oven temp and timing).
  • RAP/TAP those sheets. Whack the air out of your shells by rapping/tapping your baking sheet against a flat surface. This helps to get rid of air bubbles.
  • Rest your macarons. Whilst resting the macarons (until the tops are no longer tacky) I preheated my (fan)oven to 140C.
  • I baked the macarons for a total of 15 min, on the lower rack.  First I baked them for 8 minutes, then I turned the sheet around and baked for a further 7 min.
  • Remove from oven and let them cool down on the baking sheet for 10 min, transfer to a rack for further cooling down.
  • Fill with filling of choice…and wait….
  • and wait…
  • Unfortunately, after all that work, macarons are at their best if you let them mature with the filling for at least 24 hours. (Best to do this in an airtight container in the fridge).
  • When you want to eat them, take them out of the fridge and let them get at room temperature.
  • Enjoy!!!

Some notes:

  • I couldn’t seem to get my egg whites whipped until super stiff peaks, mine kept being a bit “droopy”. I read somewhere that this is partly because of using cream of tartar which apparently stops over-whipping. I whipped until the egg white had semi stiff peaks and “clumped” in my balloon whisk;
  • Colouring macarons. My first shells coloured slightly brown, so for my second batch I added a heavy baking sheet on the top rack, which seemed to help. Better yet, I added some food colouring paste to my second and third batch. I am happiest with the colour of my third batch, they turned out really pretty.  (After baking, I used some raspberry coulis to add some colour stripes to the first batch of shells).
  • Folding: I felt this is the trickiest part. Make sure you watch a few videos to see what the consistency should be. I found the description and video of Joy of Baking very helpful.
  • Filling: I filled mine with raspberry buttercream. Just make a plain buttercream but instead of using milk to “loosen up”, add some raspberry coulis.
  • Maturing and storing: macarons taste best if you let them mature with the filling for at least 24 hours… They keep very well for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge and you can also freeze them.
  • I didn’t make many photos during the process but below a few photos of the  “peak” and “clumped” stiff egg whites and of the mixture when ready for piping. (I just noticed I made the photos at different batches so the colours don’t match..)

 

* I actually made 3 more batches after this day, with mixed results. For one batch I doubled the ingredients and I used a non stick liner instead of baking parchment. Both were not a good idea. Firstly, despite doubling the ingredients it made less shells, partly because it was more difficult to handle the fuller piping bag. And non stick liner…perfectly fine for other stuff but my macarons shells stuck! They were still nice (filled with chocolate ganache) but not photo worthy.

The other two batches I made were better, although the Violet food colouring I used faded a bit whilst baking and the shells didn’t want to rise fully, but the pink batch turned out perfectly. I packed some of these in a gift box I made for friend.

Piggies on a picnic

pig onigiri bento

Felt like making some cute onigiri today and created this piggy family going on a picnic.

I made these onigiri piggies before (see my step by step tutorial); they are very easy to make although it helps if you have the pink sushi rice colouring (I buy mine from Japan, but you could use natural food colouring like beet).

The picnic the piggies took with them was: some salmon – hidden inside themselves:-), edamame and green beans, mini corn,  flowers made from carrot and omelet and some pickled radish in soy sauce (나래 오보채). Also for dessert a choco pie.

It is quite a lot of rice, so I packed it in one of my larger bento boxes.

To make a maki

maki roll

Making maki rolls are not my strong point, especially when in a hurry. I know “practise makes perfect”, but I am an impatient girl and I need my maki, now!

To avoid getting into a trantrum (never good when hungry), I bought myself this nifty plastic maki roll maker thingie. They come in slim and fat (I am sure they have more appropriate names, but can’t recall them – o yes, hosomaki and futomaki) and as I prefer futomaki, I got myself the fat one.

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It’s very simple, prep your rice and fillings as usual. Instead of using a bamboo mat, you just rinse the plastic mould – which comes in two parts-  in water (this helps the rice from sticking to the mould).

In the bottom part, you first add a layer of rice and distribute this evenly. I found it helps to sort of follow the round shape and have a bit of a groove along the center to allow for the ingredients. Place the ingredients and top with a second layer of rice. Make sure you also add some rice on the sides before pressing with the top part of the mould. You should now have a tidy roll which you can flip over onto your nori sheet and roll.

The only reason why my futomaki doesn’t look perfectly round in the top photo is because I forgot to wipe the knife with a hot wet cloth between each cut, so it dragged a bit. The fillings this time are pretty simple, avocado, egg roll, crabstick and cucumber.

I bought mine at the Korean supermarket but you can buy (thin and fat ones) at the Japan Centre, see here.

돌솥 비빔밥

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After an exhausting week (we moved office this weekend – and guess who was the project coordinator…) I treated myself to Dolsot Bibimbap at one of the many Korean restaurants in New Malden.

The bowl (dolsot) was even hotter than usual, which made for lovely crusty rice. I actually had to immediately stir the rice after taking the above photo otherwise it would have burned!

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Although a lot of Korean food is about sharing, I don’t mind going (sometimes) for lunch on my own. It means I get to eat all the banchan 😋

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Fancy some extra fancy?

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As most readers will know, I tend to eat mainly Jaiponica rice and my favourite type so far is Koshihikari.

But I wanted to try out some Korean rice instead, however as I am pretty clueless re Korean brands I just grabbed a bag that looked good to me.
This bag drew my attention, mainly because of the new crop sticker and the “Extra fancy” text on it. Plus I liked the bunnies 😊, I think they are pounding rice for rice cakes.

This type rice seems to be called Hangawee by the brand Wang and is produced in the USA. I only bought a 10lb bag to try out but the Korean supermarket also sells it in 20lb and 50lb bags, so I guess is pretty popular here.

No clue what the other text says, but the instructions on the back all seem to be the same as with other rice: ie measure, wash, add water and cook. Oddly enough it doesn’t give any instructions on how to cook it in a rice cooker, but as I can’t seem to cook rice in any other way than in my beloved Zojirushi, I’m sure it will work out fine.

wp-1457946519481.jpgDoes anyone know this brand? Did you like – or maybe I should ask – did you fancy it?

Or can anyone recommend a Korean rice brand (that is available outside Korea)? Other brand names I have seen here in the shops are Arirang and Kyong gi. Are these any good?

Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

A quick dosirakbento today

Bento

After a very lazy Easter (with lots of chocolate), just a very quick lunch today.

Pan fried some bulgogi pork slices which I had marinated & frozen before. Added some rice (also from freezer), cooked veggies and few cucumber slices.  I also used some of the bulgogi marinade to pan glaze the carrots and give them extra flavour.

I have written before on building up a freezer stash and also how to pack pork bulgogi for lunches. Because of this, it only took me 10 minutes to make and pack my lunch today.

 

Happy Easter (cake)

easter cake

Made this Easter Cake this week for the office.

It is a standard Chocolate Victoria Sponge – my non fail recipe uses 225 gr butter and 225 gr castor sugar creamed together, with 4 large (UK size) eggs, 175 gr selfraising flour, 50 gr Dutch cacao, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder added. This cake mixture is divided over two 8 inch baking tins and baked (in preheated oven 180C) for 25 min.

To turn it into a Easter cake, I choose some chocolate finger biscuits*, mini chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and of course those two cute chicks.  I also made a double batch of vanilla buttercream (300 gr butter, 600 gr icing sugar, 1 tbs vanilla essence). This I divided over two bowls, approx 2/3 left plain, and to 1/3 I added a few drops of green food colouring.**

After the baked cakes had cooled down properly, I used the plain buttercream to sandwich the cakes together and to crumb coat the cake. Crumb coating is done to seal in any crumbs, usually before adding a fondant layer but even when not using fondant, I feel it makes it easier to decorate the cake further. I let this crumb coat “stiffen” up a bit in the fridge, before adding a second layer of buttercream to the sides of the cake, which I used to attach the chocolate fingers. Once the cake was completely surrounded, I tied up with a little ribbon.

For the grass I used a special grass piping nozzle (Wilton 233). I can’t pipe buttercream and make photos at the same time, but it’s pretty simple a matter of placing your filled piping bag at a right angle to the top of the cake, squeeze and lift – with releasing the pressure on the bag whilst lifting. Make sure you vary the “length” of the grass a bit for a natural effect (i.e. like someone was too lazy to mow the lawn…).

Finally I added some mini chocolate eggs and bunnies. Initially I was going to put the bunnies on top of the cake as well, but the container I used for transporting this cake isn’t deep enough, so now the bunnies are standing “guard” outside the cake – attached with a little left over butter cream.

They were rather useless guards though as they got eaten… as did the cake:-)

 

*alternatively you can use Kit Kat. I used Cadbury’s chocolate fingers, 2 1/2 packs were needed for a 8 inch cake.

** this makes a lot of icing! You can store leftover buttercream in the fridge for a couple of days, or even freeze it. I used the leftover icing for another cake I had made for OH’s office.

 

Oh, and this is how the cake looked when cut

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Song of the shrimp

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“I saw three shrimp in the water, two were old and gray
I swam a little bit closer and I heard the third one say

Goodbye mama shrimp, papa shake my hand
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’

He showed his mama and papa the shrimp newspaper he read
An invitation to all the shrimp and this is what it said
Free ride, New Orleans, stay in grand hotel
Big Creole gal who help you come out of your shell
Big Creole gal who help you come out of your shell

If I should live to be ninety, I will never forget
The little shrimp and the song he sang as he jumped into the net

Goodbye mama shrimp, papa shake my hand
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’

Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’ “

– Elvis Presley –

I used to have this boyfriend, and every time -yes every single time- we ate shrimp or prawns, he would sing this song. He sang it with a proper “Lousiana” accent and the first few times it was pretty amusing, but after several repetitions the record got old. Anyway, long after we split up, this song still comes to mind every time I eat shrimps -and I guess it will if I should live to be ninety!:-)

In my lunch today the shrimp have definitely come out of their shell, instead it has been replaced by a crumb coat. Not by a “big Creole gal” but by a -probably Korean- staff member at the supermarket I bought them.

To off-set the greasiness of the breaded shrimp, I added some pickled radish (danmuji), and some seasoned garlic stems. You don’t see garlic stems (also known as garlic scapes) in the British supermarkets but you might be able to find them -during Spring- at farmers markets or in Asian supermarkets. They are rather good, a bit like spring onion but chewier and with a hint of garlic. I found this farm on the Isle of Wright that grows them and apparently you can easily grow them yourself by planting a garlic bulb.

I also added some mini corn and edamame to make it healthier and packed it all in the bottom tier of my pretty pink lidded box. It was a bit of a squeeze, and I did put some foil on the garlic stems to avoid spilling as this box is not really suitable to be transported as single tier (it doesn’t have any inner lids), so I had to secure the lid with a bento band. I also made sure it had cooled down completely before I packed it to keep the breaded shrimps (which I had reheated in the oven for 10 minutes) crispy.

Now off to Louisian’…