not japanese

Individual portion frozen shepherd's pies (or any kind of casserole dish)

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This is more of a tip than a recipe, but I’ve put it here because it’s a handy way of building up your bento freezer stash. When I make something that is baked in a casserole for dinner such as shepherd’s pie, I try to make a few individual portions in cupcake liners. continue reading...

Bento no. 30: Meatless riceless spring bento

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Bento contents:

Total calories (approx): 515 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15-20 minutes in the morning if you make everything in the morning

Type: Not Japanese, vegetarian (lacto-ovo) continue reading...

Stovetop leftover vegetable frittata

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Frittata, a thick Italian omelette, is an egg dish that’s great hot or cold. It’s perfect picnic fare, which means it’s also great for bento. The usual frittata recipe calls for baking it in the oven, but it’s hard to find the time to heat up the oven and then bake something on a weekday morning. This method of cooking it on the stovetop appeared in the April issue of kyou no ryouri (Today’s Cooking) magazine. The total cooking time is only about 10-15 minutes.

The original recipe just used broccoli, but I used a mix of steamed broccoli and the ever-useful red pepper and onion confit . You could make it with any cooked vegetable mix, so it’s a great way of using up leftovers. You could add chopped up leftover meat to this too if you like. Cheap, frugal and tasty! continue reading...

Bento filler: Green asparagus and scrambled tofu

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When I woke up this morning, it was snowing heavily! By mid-afternoon the sun was shining brightly and the snow had completely melted. Such is early spring. And speaking of early spring, it’s asparagus time! The ones we are getting in the markets here now are from Spain, which is not totally local, but at least they’re coming to us from on same continent.

Asparagus goes very well with eggs and egg-based sauces like hollandaise and mayonnaise, and scrambled eggs and asparagus is a classic dish. This is a vegan version, using scrambled tofu. Don’t scoff at it until you’ve tried it - there are some ingredients in there that make it taste creamy and just slightly tangy, a perfect foil to the asparagus.

For speed purposes, use just the tips and tender stalk parts of fairly skinny spears for this.

This is also great for breakfast, piping hot with toast. continue reading...

Bento filler: Spring greens namul (namuru)

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Namul (or namuru as it’s called in Japan) is a very versatile vegetable side dish from Korea. It’s one of the key ingredients of a bibinbap but I make namul much more frequently than I make bibinbap. Various vegetables are quickly boiled or blanched, and then dressed with a simple dressing of sesame oil and salt. It’s a great way to eat a lot of vegetables, since the boiling or blanching shrinks down the mass quite a lot. The compactness makes it a perfect bento side dish. It’s so good for you, but tastes great!

I make namul with all kinds of vegetables, including the most commonly used one, bean sprouts. But at this time of year I like to make it with brightly colored spring greens. The toasty sesame oil dressing is a perfect foil to the bitterness of many of these greens. Here I’ve used three kinds of greens that are easily available to me, but do use whatever you have around where you live. I’ve used the dark green, mildly bitter leaves of a puntarelle or catalogna (which I used to think was cima de rapa), spinach leaves, and lamb’s lettuce (also known as mâche - see more about ithere). If I were in Japan at this time of year I’d use spinach, nanohana, and maybe some komatsuna. I’ve listed some green vegetables that would work below. continue reading...

Bento no. 28: Salad thoughts

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Bento contents:

  • 1 cup vegan potato salad with extra tofu ‘mayonnaise’, 220 cal
  • Mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, 30 cal
  • 1 medium apple, 60 cal

Total calories (approx): 310 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 5 minutes in the morning

Type: Salad, vegan, gluten-free continue reading...

Curried kidney beans and vegetables

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I’m Japanese, so I love the taste of curry. (If you’ve been to Japan you’d know this makes sense.) This is a very quick and easy vegan dish that could be the main protein in a bento, or a filler. You can use any kind of beans here, but I do like the dense rather fudgey texture of kidney beans. They’re not just for eating with chili! I’ve made this quite spicy, but you can tone it down if you like by adjusting the amount of chili powder. The sweetness of the vegetables counteracts the spiciness. It tastes terrific at room temperature, and can be made in advance. It lasts for a couple of days at least in the refrigerator, though it tastes best when it’s freshly made so I don’t make a big amount at one time. continue reading...

Bento filler: Stir-fried cabbage with garlic, dried cranberries and balsamic vinegar

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The title of this recipe says it all! In case you hadn’t noticed, quite a lot of Japanese recipes use a bit of sugar to make them a little sweet. That’s fine in moderation, but I’m always looking for sugar-free methods that still have that sweet-salty taste that I love. In this one there’s the sweetness inherent in fresh cabbage (which is especially strong in new spring cabbage), the dried cranberries, and the balsamic vinegar. It tastes great at room temperature so it’s a nice bento side.

Cabbage is one of those vegetables that is so good for you and lasts for a long time in the fridge, and dried cranberries and balsamic vinegar are good things to stock in a pantry. Garlic, I have on hand all the time. So I make this when I’m low on freshly bought ingredients and need something crunchy to fill a bento box corner. It goes well with rice or other carbs, since it doesn’t taste that specifically Japanese or Asian. continue reading...