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

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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Panda Bento

This is my panda bento attempt! I think it looks more like a teddy bear than a panda, probably because of the ears…. but oh well…it looks sort of cute.

Was feeling like I wanted to make a kawaii/qwiyomi type lunch as it has been quite some time that I made one, I think the last one was this Miffy bento so I guess I need to practice my skills again 🙂

The panda-teddy is made from onigiri and I filled it with an umuboshi plum and added details with nori. He is holding a carrot flower and is “standing” on some Korean meatballs I made & froze earlier this year (I pack these frozen as they will keep my bento nice and cool and will be defrosted and at room temperature by lunch time).

The other container has some tamagoyaki, more carrot flowers, cherry tomatoes and some raisins, plus there are various bits and pieces of veggies/leaves tucked in around the main items.

Will try and make another panda bento soon!

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Haemul Pajeon 해물파전 (seafood pancake)

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My attempt at making Haemul Pajeon 해물파전!

I love this Korean pancake made with green onions (pa) and seafood (haemul) and often order it in Korean restaurants. It always appears on the table perfectly golden and crispy but recreating this at home proved to be a bit tricky….

There are lots of amazing Korean food bloggers that I look at for recipes but unfortunately for this dish I found quite a bit of variations in the recipe/method, especially in which flour is used for the batter and how the ingredients are mixed/the order in which they are used.

Maangchi, often my first go-to-source, has a pajeon recipe with the shortest ingredients list. Seafood only gets mentioned halfway as an optional addition and her batter is quite plain although she does use soybean paste (and sugar) for flavouring.  There is no addition of egg and she uses plain flour whilst others seem to recommend cake flour, rice flour or a ready made Korean pancake mix.

If I understand Hyosun from Korean Bapsang correctly, Korean pancake mix can be easily made by mixing flour with rice flour/corn starch and some flavouring like garlic and ginger.  Nami from JustoneCookbook  uses cake flour which seems to be a mix of flour with corn starch .  The ladies from CrazyKoreancooking use the ready mix or plain flour  and JinJoo from Kimchimari uses a mix from plain flour with different rice flours. She also uses anchovy stock to flavour the batter and is the only one who adds seasoned minced beef to this dish (and minari).

The reason for all these variations in flour seems to be to ensure a crispy result. Apparently the gluten in normal flour can give a doughy result which makes sense I guess thinking of French crepes and English pancakes.

Aside from the flour, the other big difference is how the ingredients are mixed/ in which order they are being used.

After mixing the batter, some recipes add the seafood to the batter itself whilst other add it later. Some mix the egg into the batter as well, others add it almost to the end. The green onions go into the pan first, or on top of the batter. (It is even mentioned that you could also mix all the ingredients together instead of layering it separately).

The main ingredients all seem to be the same though, a batter (preferable to contain some rice/cornstarch), green onions, seafood, water, oil and an egg. Optional flavourings are chilies, ginger, garlic and salt.

It’s worth exploring all these different recipes and see what works out best, but as I only had limited time (and ingredients), I went ahead and used Maangchi’s and Kimchimari’s recipe as my main inspiration.

I don’t have any precise quantities but this is what I used:

  • The batter: I mixed equal amounts of glutenfree flour with water. To this I added a tablespoon of cornstarch plus an egg and mixed well until a smooth and fairly thin batter.  I also added a pinch of dried ginger, garlic and salt to it. (The amount of batter shown in the photo is way too much, I only used about a third of it).
  • Green onions: cleaned and cut to size to fit into a frying pan. I also halved them lengthwise.
  • Seafood: I use a mix of (defrosted frozen) seafood which I chopped up roughly as I prefer smaller pieces in my pancake.
  • The dish on the left has the dipping sauce, prepare this before you start frying your pancake as you want to eat the pancake as soon as possible whilst still hot & crispy! I make mine from equal quantities soy sauce, vinegar and water, a little bit of sugar and some finely chopped green onion. I also like to add a drop of sesame oil.

How did I make it?

  • Heat up some vegetable oil in a frying pan (medium to high heat) and add the green onions. Press down so that it has maximum contact with the bottom of the pan
  • Add the seafood on top of the onions, dividing it evenly
  • Poor the batter over this, make sure any holes are filled but don’t cover the onions/seafood completely. A thick batter will take longer to cook, making it tough and doughy.
  • Continue to fry, lower heat if needed, until the batter seems almost cooked on top. Turn over carefully  and fry the other side for a further 2-3 minutes until fully cooked.
  • Serve with dipping sauce!

Mine was delicious but not crispy enough so I guess I will have to experiment a bit more and make this again 😛

 

Have you made this at home? Any tips on how to get it extra crispy? Looking forward to hear from you in the comments 🙂

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Caramelised red onion tart tatin recipe

Did you know it is National Vegetarian Week? To be honest, I didn’t… until OddBox told me about it and asked if they could share my recipe for the tart tatin I made with the red onions from their home delivery box.

As some readers might remember, OddBox  provides us weekly with wonky veg & fruit, ie veg & fruit that gets rejected by supermarkets because it is odd shaped or surplus. I wrote about some perfectly fine but odd shaped beets in a previous post, and since then we have been receiving loads of funny looking but delicious tasting items like these cute strawberries.

The red onions in last week’s box were rejected because they were too small! So silly as it made them the perfect size for this amazing tart tatin. I made it on Sunday for a late lunch and it was so good, we “inhaled” it in about 15 minutes flat 😛

Contrary to baking where I measure/weigh each ingredients, my cooking is more random. I do look at recipes for inspiration/guidance but then just follow my own instincts and taste and usually it works out pretty well. Because this tart was so amazing, I did write down how I made it and am sharing it with you.

Caramelised red onion tart tatin
 
Ingredients:
  • Red onions, small to medium size.You will need as many as you can fit in your pan + 2 more.
  • Butter (generous knob)
  • Vegetable oil about 1-2 tbsp
  • Balsamic vinegar about 3-4 tbsp
  • (Golden) sugar about 3 tbsp
  • Thyme, a sprinkle
  • Water about 3 tbsp
  • Puff pastry, 1 pre-rolled sheet or 2/3 of a block (you could of course make your own puff pastry, but I can’t be bothered with all the faff. And even Mary Berry says she buys it, so if the Queen of Baking says shop bought is fine, who am I to argue with that! I do buy an all butter version though).
How to make:
  • Melt the butter and oil in a low, oven proof, casserole or oven proof frying pan on a medium heat. I use a 23cm creuset casserole but anything with a heavy bottom, flat top and suitable for hob & oven is good.
  • Peel and cut the onions in half crosswise, ie the rings will be showing. Add to pan with cut side down, make sure you cover the whole bottom pan.
  • Pan fry gentle until slightly browned, for about 15 min. The onions will shrink slightly, so this is the time to add the extra onions!
  • Sprinkle sugar & thyme over the onions, add the balsamic vinegar and water. Cover with some foil or lid and reduce heat to fairly low. Let simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Remove foil/lid and turn up heat slightly to reduce the liquid until it’s almost gone and sticky but take care you don’t burn the onions. Meanwhile also preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  • If you use a block puff pastry, roll out to a circle that is a bit larger than the pan you use. If you use a ready sheet, just cut out to size. Larger is better than too small.
  • Turn off heat and place pastry on top off the onions, tuck the pastry nicely in between the onions and around the sides.
  •  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until pastry is crips and golden
To serve
  •  Remove pan from oven and rest for 10 minutes
  • Place a completely flat and sturdy plate/board on top of the pan, take a deep breath and flip the pan over whilst holding the plate firmly against the pan.
  • Don’t worry if any onions have stuck to the pan, you can just place these on the pastry tart.
  • Optionally sprinkle some fresh thyme, feta or goat’s cheese over the tart tatin and serve whilst still lukewarm.

 

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Egg heart rice

A very simple but effective way to make your left over egg fried rice look more attractive!

I use a special heart shaped shape for it, but basically any metal cookie cutter would work. Just make sure that you brush some oil on the inside of your cutter, oil your pan carefully and fry on a low heat. I tend to buy large eggs, so sometimes the quantity of egg seems to large for a cookie cutter and threatens to spill, but I managed to solve that by adding the egg very slowly to the pan. That way all the egg stays inside the cutter and you end up with a nice thick egg.

Another way to quickly “cute” up your lunch is by adding small nori (seaweed) shapes. There are special bento nori cutters but I have found that paper punchers work equally well (as long as you keep them for kitchen use only).

The little onigiri shaped container has some grapes hidden under (gigantic) radishes.

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Dosirakbento

The eagle eyed might spot a new bento box in this post!

Yes, I know…I have loads of boxes already but still… I just couldn’t resist this one as it’s very practical for packing my lunches 😉

I am a big fan of this brand (Black+Blum) and have a few of their bento/lunch boxes. They are sturdy and practical and there are lots of different shapes and sizes for different needs. I have to confess that I am actually tempted to also buy the bigger version of this round one as I had to pack my rice separately. But I will be good and wait a bit longer until I have used it more often and know better how much food I can pack into it. Quite often the trick with packing lunches is to pack the food quite tightly together. This will help avoid that the food shifts around and the chances are bigger your lunch will still look attractive by the time you are actually opening your lunchbox and eating it. (As you can imagine, for my blog I tend to make the photos directly after packing.)

In my dosirakbento today, I packed some of the Korean meatballs I had made previously (and frozen) and some Japanese Tonpei-Yaki pieces. The recipe for Tonpei-Yaki can be found here. I also cheated and used some ready cooked rice. I had run out completely of my rice freezer stash (read more about bento preparation here) and these little tubs are a great back-up to have.

Although the rice is not as tasty as my beloved Koshihikari (see my “rice snob” post) these are quite good and especially practical when travelling etc. The brand I buy is again CJ (same as the Hetbahncups I bought last year) and they come in different varieties (plain, rice and black beans, five grains etc) but there are lots of other brands around.

 

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Happy Easter

Wishing everybody a Happy Easter weekend!
No packed lunch but just sharing this lovely Easter Cake I made last week.

It is a chocolate cake covered in fondant. The nests are made with (chocolate flavoured) fondant and all the little chocolate Easter eggs are attached with melted chocolate.

Obviously I had to do my research beforehand and test out the best mini Easter chocolate eggs to be used on this cake 😘…..

 

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