Carrot men eating my lunch…

imageHelp, my lunch is being eaten by the carrot men!

Made a very quick lunch today and thought to add some fun by punching out these little men out of some carrot disks. I have not really gotten around to make a lot of bento recently. Partly that’s because I am so busy with decorating this year’s Christmas cakes. I made 4 (!) which will all be decorated differently and although it’s fun to do, it does take a lot of time. I’m hoping to post a photo of them all before Christmas. Currently no 2 is finished and have started on no 3….

Another reason why I haven’t been making a lot of bento is because I have been eating a lot less rice in recent weeks. Since winter has started, and temperatures dropping, I have been craving lots of comfort food like stews and oven dishes. Although I did make some Korean comfort food like Sundubu Jjigae, most other food has included potatoes and pasta. My taste buds seem to work that way, some months can go by without me eating any pasta at all, but than suddenly all I seem to want is spaghetti, macaroni cheese and lasagne! The same for potatoes, for the last weeks I’m yearning for mash, mash and more mash!  At some point my taste buds will call out for rice again, but for the moment I am indulging them.

However, even potatoes can be turned into a lunch, and I have packed them in the past, like with this Gamjajorim dish. Today’s lunch had potatoes in the form of a tortilla, always easy to make,  it can be prepared in advance and you can use up any left overs you have.

Recipe: Heat some oil in an non stick, oven proof, frying pan and add your filling of choice. I used onion, potatoes and garlic sausage. Fry for a few minutes until lightly coloured, whilst stirring regularly, and until potatoes are halfway cooked. Preheat oven or grill. Beat 2-3 eggs with some seasoning and add to frying pan, making sure the filing is evenly distributed. Fry for a minute more until slightly set and finish off under grill/in oven until firmly set. Can be eaten warm, tepid or cooled down and cut in pieces for your lunch 🙂

 

Avocado salad and corn fritters recipe

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Today’s lunch was another healthy one… at least… until I mixed in the goat cheese and bacon 😛

The Sistema lunch box was used again again, and the big compartment holds an avocado salad. Very simple, just cubed avocado with sliced cucumber and scattered with crispy bacon and some goat cheese. Delicious! I also added some radishes, blueberries, tomato and some corn fritters to my lunch.

I quite like corn, especially corn on the cob with lashings of butter and salt, but often forget about this vegetable. I guess it’s because – other than the corn on the cob when in season – you don’t really see fresh corn in the shop, mostly it’s tinned or frozen. I keep tins, cans, unopened packets of flour, pasta and such in our utility kitchen, so I tend to overlook these when cooking. The other day I had to rearrange the shelves (to fit in another few kilo of flour for all my baking..) and discovered 4 tins of corn, so I thought up these corn fritters to make.

There are probably plenty of corn fritter recipes out there, I didn’t really look any up but just sort of guesstimated a recipe/method. Basically I blitzed 3 small tins of corn in the food processor, together with some green onions, 2 eggs and 2 heaped tablespoons of SR flour into a rough batter. I added another tin of corn to this mixture and seasoned it. Then I just fried large spoonfuls of the batter in a lightly greased frying pan and that’s it. Quick and easy.  The mixture made quite a few so I froze several ready for packing in my lunches.

These can be eaten hot, cold or at room temp. You could also pack them frozen (it will keep your lunch cool) and just reheat in the microwave. Anyway, not really a recipe but you sort of get the gist of how these were made. All kind of variations are possible, adding herbs, or maybe some chili peppers would be nice, something to try out next time 🙂

 

Mango Sorbet

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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….

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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!

 

Happy Easter (cake)

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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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Comfort food: Kimchi guk

Kimchi Guk

Some days you just need come comfort food!

I don’t know why, but I find a lot of Korean food qualifies as comfort food. I guess it’s all the soups and stews, and of course the Bibimbap!

This Kimchi Guk (Kimchi soup) is very simple to make, it only needs 3 to 5 (+ water) ingredients and I can eat bowl after bowl of it. It’s also a great way to use up old kimchi, or to be more precise it needs old kimchi as it just doesn’t taste the same if made with fresh kimchi.  Ideally you use that half pot of kimchi that you have lurking in the depths of your fridge and that is a week over date or so 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of well fermented, old kimchi + juice.
  • 300 grams pork belly
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 1 block of firm tofu
  • optional: gochujang
  • optional: green onion

Method:

  • Chop up the kimchi. I find it easiest to just take some scissors and chop it up in the pot itself.
  • Put kimchi and the kimchi juices in a heavy bottomed pan.
  • Slize the pork belly in bite size pieces and add to pan.
  • Add 4 cups of water.
  • Optional: depending on how spicy you like your soup, you can add a table spoon (or 2) of Gochujang.
  • Bring to the boil and cook for half an hour or so.
  • Cube the (drained) tofu, add to the soup and heat through for further 10 minutes.
  • Optional: add some green/spring onion.

If the kimchi is extremely sour, you could also add a little bit of sugar, or if it’s too fresh and not sour enough, you could add some vinegar instead.

Serve with steamed rice.

Chocolate Crunchie Cake

More cake!

I know. This blog was initially set up to show my Korean-Japanese food inspired lunch boxes, but recently I have been doing a lot more baking.  Plus, I had some of this cake for lunch 🙂

The cake was made for a colleague’s birthday last month, and I knew he likes Crunchie bars, so I wanted a cake that was inspired by those flavours: honeycomb and chocolate.

This was the first time that I made  honeycomb, and even though the recipe looked very simple… the reality was a bit scarier. It took ages for the sugar/syrup to melt, and I was afraid to turn up the heat, in case it would burn. Luckily it turned out fairly ok, a bit less crunchie than I had hoped, but still very good 🙂

How I made this cake:

First I made a Chocolate Victoria Sponge: I tend to use a very basic recipe with equal quantities egg, sugar, butter and self raising flour (225 grams, 4 large eggs) but I replaced 50 gr of the flour by 50 gr unsweetened cacao powder.  Divide equally over 2 round tins and bake for 25 minutes in preheated (180 degrees) oven until springy to touch. Cool down.

Make Chocolate Ganache. I actually still had some in the freezer from the month before which I defrosted…can’t remember the quantities, but I always use equal parts double cream and good quality dark chocolate. If you make from scratch, you can read some good guidelines on how to make chocolate ganache here. Just cool down until thick but still spreadable.

Make honeycomb: I used this recipe from BBC Good Food. Instead of buttering a tin, I used magic non stick liner / reusable baking liner which I had greased very very lightly with neutral oil. Don’t use normal baking paper, I read that it will just stick to the honeycomb. This recipe makes quite a lot, and I only used about half of it for the cake …not that I minded…I just ate the rest 🙂

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Make Honeycomb buttercream: 125 gr soft butter, whipped until creamy. Add 200-225 gr icing sugar to it and continue to mix until pale and fluffy. Add honey comb dust, which you make by blitzing 100 gr honeycomb in a food processor until you have a mixture of dust/crumbs. Do this just before you mix it into the buttercream as otherwise your dust will all clog together.

Ensemble: please make sure the cake and ganache have cooled down!

  • Take one chocolate cake for the bottom layer (I “glued” mine to the board with some ganache to avoid it moving during transport)
  • Pile on the buttercream, you can see it has become a bit golden coloured because of the honeycomb mixture
  • Carefully add the top chocolate cake layer
  • Spread the cake sides and top with the chocolate ganache
  • Decorate with some chopped up crunchie bars

P.s. the photos which also show the fruit were made by a colleague of mine, although another colleague remarked she couldn’t understand why we even had bothered putting fruit next to the cake….

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Caroline from Shrinking Single. The theme is Treat Yourself.

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Watermelon feta and black olive salad

watermelon feta olive saladAfter Hello Kitty enjoying some watermelon (in my previous post), I thought to turn some of the remaining watermelon into this refreshing salad.

My recipe is based on Nigella’s (see link here), but I made a few minor changes.

Ingredients

  • banana shallot, in thin slices
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • approx 750 watermelon, cubed
  • 150 grams feta cheese, cubed
  • 75 grams pitted black olives
  • 1/2 bunch mint, large leaves roughly torn, smaller leaves whole
  • black pepper

Method

  • Marinate the shallot in the lemon juice and olive oil.
  • Carefully toss watermelon, feta and olives together.
  • Add the shallot/juice/oil with  juices plus the mint and mix again, very gently so it doesn’t break up.
  • Season with black pepper.

My changes:

Nigella’s recipe has larger quantities, so I roughly halved the ingredients. She also uses limes instead of lemon, but I only had a lemon and didn’t want to go to the shop for just one ingredient. That’s also why I omitted the parsley from her recipe. Finally, I felt that the olive oil detracted a bit from the “freshness” of the salad, that’s why I mixed it with the shallot and only used 1 tablespoon, but you can of course up that according to your taste.

I packed the salad in my lunch box and added some a tomato, mini bread rolls and cherries to it. The green container holds some red wine chorizo slices.

Salmon salad & salmon crisps

Salmon salad bento

Didn’t fancy any rice in my lunch today and opted instead for a salad with cooked salmon.

Whenever I see salmon fillet on offer, I will buy it. If we don’t have it for dinner, I will either turn it into salted salmon (see this recipe from Just Bento) or I will oven cook it. Both ways I will portion it up for the fridge/freezer and future use in my lunchbox.

I find cooking salmon in the oven the easiest method, just pop it onto a non-stick tray, with a smidgen of vegetable oil, and oven cook it for 15 minutes in preheated oven at 200 C. (Depending on size/thickness of fillet you might need a few minutes more or less).  Plus it has the extra advantage that you can turn the skin into crisps! More about that later..

My salmon salad has loads of veggies in it, there is some shredded iceberg lettuce hidden underneath, (cooked) green beans and broccoli, some cucumber and carrots and a few radishes. Plus of course loads of cooked salmon. And I made a very simple, but incredible delicious dressing: 2 tbl soy sauce mixed with 1 tsp each of sesame oil, apple vinegar and sugar. I only mixed the salad & dressing together when I ate it, and it really made the whole salad come together! Will definitely make this more often.

The other container was filled with some nice summer fruit, the raspberries are actually from our garden! Neither of us is very green fingered but somehow the raspberry bushes manage to survive our clumsy skills 🙂

To off-set all that healthy food, I turned the salmon skin into crisps. Salmon is supposed to be quite healthy isn’t it, but I guess that applies more to the fish flesh itself and not to the skin… I think that here in the UK a lot of people don’t eat the skin of fish, maybe partly because of the way it is prepared, ie the skin is not crispy. But I find crispy salmon skin delicious and it’s so easy to make.

  • First oven bake the salmon (see above).
  • Once the salmon is cooked, it’s very easy to remove the skin from the flesh. Use the salmon flesh itself for something else and pop the skin back on the same oven tray.
  • Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and optionally a drop more oil (depends on the quality of the non-stick tray).
  • Up the oven temp to 220 and bake the skin for a further 5-10 minutes until crispy.
  • Let is cool down and cut into bite size pieces. It’s easiest to use scissors.
  • Enjoy!

salmon skin crisps

P.s. I once had salmon crispy skin sushi roll, can’t remember where, but it’s delicious. I guess it works quite well because of the texture difference, but you will have to eat it freshly made otherwise the skin will go all limpy again.

Shrimp burgers

shrimp-burger-recipeYou might remember that I made some mandu last year (see previous post here), and as I really liked the filling, I made the filling again this time but shaped it into burgers without bothering with mandu skins.

This is such a lovely burger, so I wanted to share the recipe with you but of course I forgot to take photo’s during the process. It’s really simple though,(and based on this recipe) from Misty Yoon.

Take A:

  • 12oz raw large shrimp, peeled and de-veined: chopped up (I prefer not to use a blender, as I like to have small pieces of shrimp in my burger, plus you have less chance it ends up “rubbery”)
  • 3 oz Korean chives: washed and chopped finely

Mix in a bowl B:

  • 1 table spoon sake
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, I use Korean Gochugaru
  • 1 table spoon of sesame oil
  • optional: 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, finely grated

Mix A + B

  • Add A to B and mix well. Add 2 table spoons of cornstarch and mix again.
  • Oil a non stick pan very lightly with vegetable oil and put on medium heat.
  • Divide the shrimp mixture into 8/9 burgers, I portion it up with an icecream scoop, but you can use two tablespoons.
  • Place each burger into the pan, lightly squash it down and fry on medium heat on both sides for approx 6- 8 min each until the middle has cooked through. As you can see, the burgers have that slightly rustic, home made look 🙂
  • Turn up the heat and fry for a final minute on each side until nice and golden brown.
shrimp burger

Shrimp burgers frying

Serve with:

  • rice
  • dipping sauce: 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon (apple) vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • steamed green vegetables

Dakbokkeumtang (Korean spicy chicken stew)

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As we’re heading from Autumn towards Winter, I feel more and more the need for warm, spicy comfort food like soups and stews. The other day I bought some chicken thighs, and was looking for a recipe to use them when I found one for Dakbokkeumtang.

Dakbokkeumtang (or dakdoritang) is Korean spicy braised chicken, and the perfect dish as it’s easy to make, I had most of the ingredients at home, it can be made in advance and (re)heated up, and it’s just so yummie & comforting!

My version is  based on the recipe from Maangchi, which you can find here. (I just saw this recipe on Beyond Kimchee, which also looks great)

  • 1 kilo of chicken thighs or drumsticks or a mix of this, cut into smaller pieces. You can use skin on, but be prepared for some fat floating on top of the stew if you do. I used chicken thigh, skinless and halved these.
  • Mix in a bowl: 1/4 cup Gochugaru (red pepper flakes), 1/4 cup Soy sauce, 1/4 cup Gochujang (red pepper paste), 1/4 cup minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  • Add the chicken pieces and mix together.
  • Add 2-3 onions, cut in largish pieces, mix together and transfer to a large pan.

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  • Add 2 cups of water, bring to the boil and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, lid on, stir one or twice.
  • Meanwhile, clean 3-4 large potatoes and cut into largish pieces. I didn’t have potato but used sweet potato instead, which made the end result slightly sweeter as well. If you use potatoes, try to use waxy ones that will keep their shape.
  • Add to the stew and cook on medium heat for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Maangchi recommends adding 2 chopped green chillies at this point as well, but a) I didn’t have those and b) I think it’s spicy enough without.wpid-20141111_112513.jpg
  • After the second 20 minutes of cooking, take off the lid and boil for another 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit.
  • It is now ready and Maangchi recommends adding some chopped green onions just before serving.
  • However…I wanted to pack in a few more vegetables, so I chopped up some boksoi and added the stalky bits to the stew to cook for a few minutes.
  • I added the greener leafy bits of the boksoi and some green onions just before serving.
  • Enjoy! Jal meokkesseumnida!

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P.S. the rice that I’m eating with this stew is the JFC Yumenishiki. This was the European grown Japonica rice as recommended by Just Hungry.  (I wrote about trying out different brands of rice in this post). This dish doesn’t really need rice, but on the other hand…no Korean meal seems to be complete without it 🙂

The Yumenishiki rice looked very round, almost like a risotto, arborio rice when uncooked, but once cooked, the grains looked more like a medium grain rice. The taste is very clean, quite neutral and the grains stick together in a nice way. But again…It still doesn’t taste as nice as Koshihikari, the Yumenishiki missed that sweet, nutty flavour the Koshikari has…. The rice journey will be continued…