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.

 

I now also share more (food) photos on Instagram

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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.

I now also share more (food) photos on Instagram

Banchan – Korean side dishes (part 2 of 2)

 

My banchan dinner!

In my previous post I wrote about banchan, aka Korean side dishes and shared some photos made at the Korean supermarkets (I shop at both H Mart and Korea foods @ New Malden, UK) of shelves full of banchan.

Today I want to blog about some of the banchan I actually bought during my supermarket trip. Most of these have already been eaten by the time this blog post gets posted, my meals in the last week mainly consisted of rice and banchan like the one above! Not that I’m complaining of course… 😛

Firstly the most important ones: Kimchi! It would be very unusual not to have any kimchi included in the banchan, it is such a Korean staple dish and a Korean meal without kimchi would just feel incomplete.  The kimchi in the photos below are matt kimchi (sliced kimchi) and cucumber kimchi. Cucumber kimchi is much less punguent than cabbage kimchi, mainly because of the high amount of liquid in cucumbers but also because it is hardly fermented at all. Whilst cabbage kimchi can be stored for months, cucumber kimchi is usually freshly made and eaten within a few days.

 

Another big favourite: fish cake. Fish cake is not a cake at all, but a savoury “thing” made from fish mixed with a starch and flavouring. This mix is sort of rolled into balls, or pounded into a flat sheet and can be boiled, steamed or pan fried. Rice cakes and fish cakes are also often combined together, cooked in a spicy sauce. But my favourite is bokkeum, ie stir fried with chilies. Whenever I buy this I can’t resist eating some before it even reaches the fridge at home!

 

One dish I can make myself, but it saves time to buy is Beef Jang jorim. Beef gets shimmered in a soy flavoured broth until it is tender, almost – but not completely – falling apart. The taste is slightly sweet and salty and it’s ideal for packing in lunch boxes as it can be eaten either hot or cold. Sometimes the beef gets combined with boiled eggs, quail eggs are somehow the best ones, as their creamy center works very well with the jang jorim sauce.

 

I also often buy these banchan. The bright yellow pickles are danmuji, a slightly sweet tasting yellow radish pickle. I love the refreshing crispness of these and always have some in the fridge. It is also an essential ingredient to make gimbap.

The green “sticks” are spicy garlic scape, which is basically garlic stems. I have never used this fresh, but I know that it can be used in a variety of dishes. The banchan I buy is a spicy salad one.

Next to it are some kongjang/kongjaban, soy braised soybeans with a sweet and salty flavour. I have never been a big fan of beans, often they are cooked to a too mushy texture for my liking, but these braised beans are chewy and great to eat with rice.

 

This time I also bought some never tried before banchan. The first is some seasoned pickled sesame leaves. Although these are called sesame leaves, they are actually Perilla leaves and not related to sesame at all, nor do they taste anything remotely sesame. The taste is a bit difficult to describe but slightly sharp and minty with a hint of aniseed. They are often sold as a fresh herb/vegetable in the supermarkets. This seasoned version is very nice to eat with rice on it’s own.

The other green leaves are garlic leaves with soy sauce. I had never seen this before and suspect it is quite a seasonal dish. They tasted very different to what I expected, I thought it would be vaguely garlicky or spring onions related. Instead it reminded me of a honey-mustard dressing, more a Western than Asian flavouring!

 

Lastly some seasoned Gim. Roasted – and often seasoned – seaweed sheets are delicious! It’s great to wrap around food or eat on it’s own as crisps. I included a photo to show how many different variations are on offer, and this is only about a third of the aisle! I usually buy plain roasted ones or seasoned with perilla/sesame, but I have seen versions that are kimchi flavoured or even wasabi! I also noticed that they are slowly infiltrating the crisps aisle of western supermarkets as they are a great – and healthier – alternative to more mainstream crisps!

 

I forgot to take a (single) photo of the spring rolls that are in the main photo, but basically I buy these ready made as well. Not sure if you could really consider them banchan though I have been served them one time as such in a Korean restaurant. 

I hope you enjoyed reading more about banchan. Also, I am curious to hear about your favourite banchan or Korean food, so feel welcome to share in the comments!

Soup for lunch (Slunch?)

How to call packing soup for lunch? Liquid lunch has a whole different meaning to me 😉 but not sure if Slunch sounds very appetising? I do realise that this lunch doesn’t actually look that appetising either, but that is mainly because I packed the soup (and made the photo) whilst it was cold. It does look – and taste – a lot better once I have heated it up ready for eating.

The soup that I packed is a Korean beef & radish soup called Seogogi-Muguk. I think this soup that is quite often eaten in Korea, as it is easy to make and non spicy. I really like the texture of the cooked radish, it is tender but retains a little bite and the slightly sweet flavour goes well with the beef and other seasoning (soup soy sauce/sesame oil/garlic). For this recipe it’s best to use Korean radish (Mu) but if you can’t find it, it can be replaced by daikon.  I won’t give a recipe here, as there are lots of recipes available online, this one at Maangchi is very easy to follow.

There is some more Korean radish on top of the rice, this is the yellow pickled one called danmuji. And some fruit, but I was a bit in a hurry so didn’t prepare the fruit into a container.

Looking back at the photo, I wish I could make the soup look nicer, but you will just have to believe me, google a recipe and try it out! 🙂

 

Sundubu Jjigae

Some more Korean comfort food, Sundubu Jjigae or aka Spicy Tofu Stew!

sundubu jjigae.jpg

I love this stew! So nice and comforting, especially now it is getting colder.

There are lots of different versions of this stew, with seafood (my favourite one) or with kimchi and pork, but they will all have this lovely soft dubu (tofu) in it which gives it an amazing creamy-melt-in-the-mouth texture. Hyosun on Korean Bapsang posted recently a very interesting white variation which had Perilla seeds. I quite like perilla but am often not sure how to use it, so her recipe is on my list to try out. A good recipe for the classic seafood version can be found on Maangchi, and she shows how to make the soup-broth-stock base for it.

I actually cheat a bit and use this packet:

wp-1479421800474.jpgI buy these at the Korean supermarket – where they even sell an instant version of sundubu jjigae (which is quite ok actually) – together with the soft dubu. I can’t read the instructions on the packet, but I just put it in a pan, add some water to it and some seafood and veggies.

This time I used mini corn, crab sticks and spring onion. Sometimes I also poach an egg in the stew just before serving, but that doesn’t really work for a packed lunch. This lunch was packed in my Ms Bento set, which is supposed to keep it warm until lunch time. Unfortunately, it had cooled down a bit though, but luckily only needed a quick minute in the microwave to become piping hot again. I always eat rice with this stew, and the other container had some spice garlic scape and cucumber.

Mango Sorbet

mangosorbet.jpeg

Whilst most of the UK population is enjoying the sunshine outside, I have to confess that I have been hiding indoors to escape the heat!  Don’t get me wrong, I do like the sun, but all in moderation and the temperatures that we had this week here in London are just a bit too high for me.

However, it was a great reason to use up those mangoes I had and turn them into mango sorbet.

We have a biweekly vegetable and fruit box delivery, and although there is the option to have a “surprise” box, sometimes I opt to pre-select my choices and order a custom box. So, I was a bit surprised to discover two mangoes in the box instead of the two avocados I had ordered! They were very green mangoes…so I guess the person who packed them isn’t very familiar with either….

mango

Anyway, the mangoes were very green, ie unripe, so I just stored them in the brown bag until they were nice and ripe to be used this weekend.   I have never made mango sorbet before, but a quick google learned I only need mango (✓), sugar (✓) and water (✓). And an ice cream maker….Hmm… definitely lacking an ice cream maker, but apparently you can make it by hand as well, just a little bit more work.

So, first, I peeled the mango and roughly cubed it, before blending it into a smooth puree.  The recipes I found online all indicated a 4:1 ratio puree and sugar syrup. My puree was just over 500 grams, so I made a simple syrup by dissolving 125 grams of castor sugar into 125 ml of water. Mixed up the two together, transferred to a metal bowl (to speed up the freezing process), covered with some cling film and popped into the freezer.

For the next 4-5 hours I took out the sorbet every 45 minutes or so, and stirred the mixture. For the first hours, the mango sorbet just changed from very fluid to a sort of slushy mixture, but after 2 hours it started to turn slowly into a sorbet, mainly along the sides of the bowl. In the end it took almost 6 hours to more or less freeze enough to transfer to sorbet from it’s bowl to it’s container and another night until fully scoop-able.

Lovely and refreshing!

 

Quail Bunny – and thoughts on cute or not cute food

 

Quail rabbit

A dosirakbento with rice, cucumber, kongjaban, carrot, cherry tomatoes, some smoked salmon (this was frozen when packed, so stayed cold until ready to eat) and three bunnies made from quail eggs.

Toy Box Suburban Farm commented on my previous bento that she liked that it was a bento without faces, ie an adult one. She makes herself an adult bento every day, and although she occasionally likes cute, the main aim is to have good food.

When I started blogging about my packed lunches (wow that is already 2 years ago), I also explored a lot of other bento blogs and websites for inspiration and did notice that the majority – but not all – were aimed at making food attractive to eat for children. Apparently not only can you creative fantastic and cute (kawaii) looking creations (charaben = character bento), but by presenting (healthy) food in this way, it can help make it more attractive for children to eat. By also involving children in this process (like coming up with ideas or helping to pack it), parents could also use it as tool to teach about healthy eating.

A lot of packed children lunches that I see around on the internet are either of the charaben variety, or of the healthy variety (with often emphasis on vegan/lactose free/sugar free etc etc). The flip side of the kawaii/charaben bento is – aside from the time required –  that some schools in Japan have forbidden mums to prepare these for their kids as there was lots of unhealthy school competition of who made the cutest one….

Of course, not all bento/lunch box bloggers (and makers) feel the need to make their lunch cute, for themselves of for their children. There are a lot of adult bento/lunch box makers. After all, it is the taste that counts, or the preference to bring home made food instead of going out to buy lunch, and saving costs. Or as Toy Box Suburban Farm says, it is about good food.

What about me? Well, I am an adult and I love cute and non cute food!

That does sound a bit like Bento anynomous…my name is DB, I am an adult and I love cute bento 🙂

My lunches are a mixture of cute and non cute ones. Cutting up my food in bite size portions or using bento cutters and making onigiri, not only makes it look cuter, it is often also easier to eat – especially with chopsticks.  But, although I love playing with food, I do lack the time, inspiration and motivation to do this every day. The lunches that tend to end up on this blog, tend to be the ones that look cute, as I feel that other ones are too boring for people to look at. That is also why sometimes I take a break from blogging as I don’t have any lunches to show.

Now that I am slowly restarting my blog, I have to find that balance again that I also wrote about previously (a basic DB and thoughts on blogging).
With this specific lunch, I could have added the quail eggs as they were and/or omitted the carrot flowers, but I had the time, I like bunnies and basically I could, so why not?

The question remains of course: Did my lunch taste better because it’s cute?

…..

(probably the same)

 

P.s. I just noticed that Google doodle has some bunnies today as well, leaping ones because of leap year.

Chicken Teriyaki Bento

Bento with teriyaki

Finally a bento again!

Quite a simple one, no fancy cutters or cute smiley faces, but a very nice one in taste.

I actually copied this bento from another blogger, Mr Masa (see his blogpost here). Mr Masa is a Japanese chef, sharing his (mostly Japanese) recipes with us. I love his blog, it is so well laid out, the recipes are easy to make, explained step by step with lots of photos and most importantly taste very good!

Some of his recipes are very suitable for Bento and he also gives lots of tips & trips. If you’re interested in cooking Japanese food, check out his blog.

You will also notice that the rice in this Bento is coloured. It is actually black rice, and pre-cooked-shop bought! As you know, I am a bit of a rice snob and also in love with my (Japanese) rice cooker. BUT, variety is good, and sometimes the microwave is very convenient :-).

There are lots of ready cooked microwaveable rice packs/brands on the market, I have no idea whether this one is better than others, actually I am not even sure what black rice is (mixed with white rice it does look purple instead of black) but I really like the taste of this one. The portion is quite generous for a lunch though, so I only packed 3/4 of it.

wp-1455796310583.jpg

My bento box is different than the one Mr Masa is using, plus I made a lot more of his crispy potato/carrot salad (so delicious!), so I packed it slightly different. Other small changes were replacing the umeboshi with a cherry tomato, and using thinly sliced cucumber instead of salad leaves underneath the chicken.

This blog post is part of my attempt to clean up my Blogs I Follow list

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 😛 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.

 

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).