Wonky Veg & Fruit box – cake…

Just a quick post to show (off 😉) the wonky veg & fruit box cake I made for Oddbox’s Supper Club last week.

The cake itself was a chocolate cake and all the decorations were edible 😋


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Mr and Mrs Panda

A bit of an improvement of the last Panda bento I made!

Hadn’t made tamagoyaki in a very long time and fancied it so made some to pack with the onigiri. The onigiri are filled with umeboshi, and I completed the bento with some vegetables.

I love this  Russian doll bento box, should use it a bit more often as it comes with it’s own bento bag and has a matching set of chopsticks (you can see the bag in this post). So cute! The only downside is that it is quite small, more geared towards a child than an adult.

Meanwhile, I am busy preparing the cake I am making for the Wonky Supper Club later this week. The design of it will be vegetable & fruit inspired and today I started to create some of it. I will share some photos later this week, either here or or on Instagram

Books and brains…

Warning … the photos below can cause some squeamishness… but it is a long post and the photos are way way down at the bottom of it 🙂

I can’t remember when I learned to read but as long as I can remember, one of my favourite ways of spending an afternoon is curled up with a book and and a big mug of tea close by.  I don’t think a day goes by without me reading at least a few pages and I usually have several books on the go, dipping in and out of them whenever I get the chance. Or sometimes (ok, quite often) I get so carried away by the story that I don’t want to put it away and I have been known to read through the night to finish it. As a child I used to keep one ear out for any parents coming up the stairs, and quickly put out my bedside light, or hide under the duvet with a torch…

I have also been known to fall asleep whilst still holding the book or worse, being woken painfully by the book (or since moving to kindle the Ipad) falling on my nose, ouch! My OH is used to gently trying to remove a book from my hands (not always easy), and a good friend still laughs when she recalls a holiday together where she found me deep asleep in bed but still with my glasses on and holding the book upright in front of my face and closed eyes.

My interests are quite varied, I like the classics, contemporary/historical fiction, chick-lit, detectives or biographies. I do struggle with some writers though, I have never managed to master Proust’ “In search of lost time”, and I struggle with the Russian classics but that is mainly because I find it so hard to remember (and keep apart!) the names of the characters. I also noticed that I tend to prefer British writers over American, unless translated. Not sure why, and I’m not saying I don’t read any American writers just not so many.

When I’m tired and just want to wind down with a book, I often grab a detective, one of the Queens of Crime, Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham, usually I have at least one of them in the book pile next to my bed. I don’t mind rereading the story, given the quantity of books I read, I often have forgotten the clues or who the murderer is by the time I get around to reading the book again.

But I also think it’s good to try out new books/authors and to add some variety to my reading list. Luckily that’s where my book club comes in. The good thing about a book club is that one gets to read a book that you might never have picked up yourself. Some turn out to be good choices, some great and some are rubbish. For a book club the best books are actually those which divide opinions, this usually leads to a good discussion about why we liked or disliked the book or to insights/realisations you wouldn’t have noticed by reading the book just by yourself.

Not that we are a very serious book club, we all enjoy reading and we do enjoy a bit a chit chat about the book, but it’s also just a good occasion to have a chat, a drink and something to eat with friends.  Usually, the hosting gets circulated and whoever hosts provides the food and drinks, and if possible the food will have some relation to the book. For example, with a novel taking place in Japan, we will eat sushi. A story in France, lots of French cheeses and so on and on.

Well…last week I was hosting and the book we read was about brain surgery! We read “Do no harm“,  stories about life, death and brain surgery written by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. Not really an obvious choice and definitely not something I would ever pick out myself. Having said that, it was actually quite an interesting read – although I admit skipping over some of the detailed bits …

As a host though, it was difficult to find any food that could relate to the book, There was not much mention of food in the book itself  – I guess it doesn’t help that the patients all had to be nil by mouth prior their operation – only a brief mention of hot cross buns and slightly longer mention of Ukrainian smoked eel which never got eaten and neither of which was readily available to serve during book club night.  I didn’t really fancy serving up black pudding and blood soup so instead I resorted to my other favourite hobby, baking, and made a brain cake!

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Disclaimer: no human was harmed whilst making this cake

So what do you think? Looks pretty cool doesn’t it? I had great fun making it and it was a bit creepy actually how quickly it did start to look like a real brain. Not that I have ever seen one in real life, but I googled some photos and used that as a model. I actually googled some photos of brain models as I was a bit too squeemish to have a photo of an actual brain in front of me whilst yielding my cake carving knife!

How did I make it? It’s quite simple and hopefully the photos below will show the steps, although I forgot to make some of the bit where I turned the “brain” upside down to add the cerebellum-).

I first layered the cake (I used 2 x 8″ and 1 x 7″ vanilla sponge) with butter cream and raspberry jam and let this firm up a bit in the fridge. I then started carving the shape, making sure to carve a groove all over to separate the two hemispheres of the brain. Once I was happy with the shape, I covered the cake in more buttercream, firstly to crumb coat it and a second layer to make sure the sugar paste would stick.

 

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I had precoloured some white sugar paste with red and green to make it flesh coloured and started rolling sausages that I stuck to the cake in curly, wonky shapes.

I first covered the bottom part and then turned the cake up side down to make sure the “brains” reached towards to bottom of the cake. I did this to make sure the cake would look nice rounded but unfortunately it doesn’t really show well in the photo. I also made the cerebellum out of some slightly darker coloured sugar paste and placed the cake the right side up again before covering the top half.

The biggest challenge was making sure the “brains sausages” covered the cake well, that the two hemispheres were kept separate and that they wouldn’t look symmetrical.

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The back of the cake with the cerebellum.

After covering the whole cake, I finished it off by brushing some blood (aka as rapsberry coulis) all over the cake and adding some syringes!

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What do you think? Yuk or yum?

 

 

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Wonky Supper Club

Oddbox Wonky Supper Club

Most readers will know by now that I am a big fan of our Vegetable & Fruit box delivery service, called Odd box. You can read more about them in this blog post here and on their website here, but basically they help fight the war on food waste by rescuing F&V that gets rejected by the supermarkets.

Readers who live in London might be interested to know that Oddbox is now organising their first Wonky Supper Club to be held on 12 July, location The Grosvenor Arms, SW18 4ED (Earlsfield). Aside from sharing an enjoyable (vegetarian meal) with fellow wonky V&F supporters and foodies, you will also get to try out a cake made by yours truly!

I don’t want to give away too much info, but I can say some wonkyness will be involved … 🙂

If this sounds like something you would like attend (yeah, come on of course you know you want to!) head to their website and save your place!

Looking forward to see you on 12 July!

 

Sushi or kimbap?

Technically not sure whether this is sushi or kimbap! I usually make my kimbap with a beef filling but I have seen kimbap with crab stick as well.

Anyway, let’s say this is a fusion roll 😁 It has crab stick, cucumber, burdock and danmuji in it. 

I don’t often pack sushi/kimbap for lunch as it can be a bit time consuming to make but I recently changed job location and now can leave the house 30 minutes later. So more time for packing lunch (or another snooze in bed….) plus I was organised and had prepped all the ingredients the day before.

Packed it in my handy snack box with the usual garnished (ginger, wasabi and soy sauce) and some peach slices in the container.

Am busy this week making a “brain cake” for my book club, will try to post a photo of it once ready….. 

Trying with Tofu

wp-1488793508547.jpgWhat? Tofu Chocolate Pudding? Does that work? My initial thought was, hmm, I like tofu and I do like chocolate, but not sure about mixing those together…

And to be honest…I am still not sure.

I had a pack of silken tofu left – the one I normally use for sundubu jjigae) but no sundubu mix – so I googled some ideas on what I else could make with the tofu and came up with this recipe, a sort of mix of these two recipes.

So, how is it made?

Melt au bain-marie 120 gr dark chocolate with 60 ml water, 30 gr cocoa powder, 3 tbs sugar and 1 tbs brandy, rum or coffee liqueur, stirring occasionally . Meanwhile blend 350 gr silken tofu until smooth. Once the chocolate is all nicely melted, add the tofu and stir until all mixed. Divide over 4 glasses and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight, in the fridge. Serve with some chocolate shavings.

But how did it taste?

Well, it did taste chocolately, but the whole texture was, hmm, a bit odd. I think that was partly because I used a hand-mixer instead of a blender for the tofu, I guess a blender would have made it a bit silkier. It was certainly edible, but not a complete pleasure if you get what I mean. And I do think that puds should be pleasurable so not sure I will try making this again.

Btw, I just love this Droste Cocoa packaging with the nurse holding a tray with a packet of cocoa with a nurse holding a tray and so forth (sorry the photo isn’t better, but check out the image here). Apparently the effect of a picture appearing within itself is known as mise en abyme in art, also known as the Droste effect. It was named after Droste for this illustration. Plus it is pretty good cocoa for baking!

Have you tried any sweet recipes with tofu and were they successful? Looking forward to hear your experiences in the comments!

 

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Dakbokkeumtang

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Korean spicy chicken stew!

This is one of those dishes that it’s so easy to make at home, although it needs to cook/simmer for an hour, the ingredient preparation will only take a few minutes.  I often eat it in the winter as it’s spicy and comforting but I was suddenly craving some so made it this week.

There are lots of recipes available but this is how I made it

  • In a casserole / heavy bottomed pan, mix the seasoning:
    • 3 tbsp gochugaru  (Korean red chili pepper flakes) with 3 tbsp gochujang (Korean red chilli paste).
    • Add 5 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbs sesame oil and 1 tbs brown sugar or honey.
    • Add 3 minced garlic gloves or a tbsp of garlic paste
    • optional add 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • Add your chicken pieces to this mix. You can use a whole chicken chopped into pieces or even fillets only, but I like to use drumsticks and/or thighs. You will need about 1 kg
  • Add 2 medium onions, roughly chopped and 1 liter water
  • Stir and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes
  • Clean 4 medium potatoes and 3 carrots and cut into large pieces. Add to the pan, bring to the boil again, reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Add some chopped green/spring onions just before serving with rice.

(If you prefer it spicier you can add more gochugaru or some chopped chillies)

My banchan (side dishes) were very simple but did include some home made cucumber kimchi!

 

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Snack box

snack-bento

Not really a lunch as such, this is more a snack box to help me get through the day 🙂

I am not very consistent with what I eat for dinner or for lunch. I have a lot of likes (cake yeah) and dislikes (aubergines, peppers bleh) and I often get bored with eating the same kind of food regularly.   Meal planning doesn’t really work for me,  I will have bought some chicken thinking to have it for dinner the next day, but on the day itself, I have changed my mind and want fish or beef instead.

So the chicken gets eaten the next day, or more often, I turn it into a meal to be frozen for another time. Also, the OH doesn’t always like the things I do and vice versa. This week we had some peppers in our veg box (yuk), so I will make a pasta sauce with that for him and freeze it. He can have that on an evening when I’m out, or when I fancy something spicy which he dislikes. The freezer is full of such home made ready meals  to be used at later dates or with leftovers to be packed in bento lunches.

I do have always some standard staples in the fridge/freezer/cupboard, there is always rice, eggs, cheese, bread, crackers, ramen and chocolate. And there is usual plenty of fruit and vegetables.

So when I don’t know what to pack for lunch, I can always pack myself a snack box like the one today. In it are loads of fruit, veggies, a small tub of walnuts, some cheese and a piece of almond-fig bread. I might buy a bread roll to go with the cheese, but basically this snack box should help me avoid having to buy something.

 

 

 

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Chicken teriyaki lunch

 

Back to bento.

Some leftovers for lunch today! I usually cook a bit more at dinner and pack the rest away ready for lunches, so easy to do and saves me lots of time in the morning!

This is a very quick and easy lunch, just some chicken teriyaki, rice and veggies. The rice has an umeboshi plum, a Japanese pickled plums which taste very salty and quite sour. When I first ate an umeboshi, I really had to get used to the taste, but now I quite like it.

The most simple bento is a Hinomaru Bento, and consist of rice with a single umeboshi placed in the centre, without any side dishes. This is quite a symbolic and patriotic bento, not only represents it the Japanese flag* but it is also alternately a symbol of poverty and of wealth. During times of peace and plenty, it was a symbol of poverty, if you could only afford rice and not much else, an umeboshi would help eat down the rice.  And after the war, when most rice was imported, being able to afford a hinomaru bento  with “real Japonica rice” was a luxury  (read more about this at Just Hungry/Japan Times).

Aside from being patriotic, poor or wealthy, another reason to pack umeboshi is that the salt acts as a preservative for the rice and will inhibit bacteria. It is also claimed to help digestion.  Nowadays, a bento typically consist of much more than rice and a single pickled plum but the umeboshi is still packed quite often for it’s taste and benefits. It has even reached the emoji list 🙂 If you look up bento in the emoji list on your phone, it will show a bento emoji with an umeboshi in it 🍱

 

Have you tried umeboshi and do you like it?

 

*The word for Japan, Nihon, means “the root of the sun”, or more poetically “the land of the rising sun” and the sun is very much linked to the national Japanese identity (The Emperor is said to be a direct descendant of the sun goddess).  Hinomaru which means the sun’s circle, is used as Japan’s national flag, a red ball symbolizing the sun on a white background, so in a bento this would be the umeboshi on white rice. Eating a Hinomaru bento is like making Japan part of you, it’s eating a symbolic national icon and making it part of your own body.

 

 

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No bento today

I had actually written a bento blog post to be scheduled for today, but now I don’t really feel like posting it. Although I keep my blog a-politic and neutral,  and will continue to do so, I didn’t think it right to completely ignore what has been happening in recent days.

As the majority of my readers know, I live in London, and luckily no-one I know has been affected by the latest attack. Not physically that it. Most of us are affected emotionally.  It affects our daily lives, it colours our activities and thoughts.

But at the same time, life goes on as usual. It has to. We will not let them win.

Take care and keep safe.

DB

 

 

 

 

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