recipe

Japanese Scotch Egg

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First off, I haven’t actually uploaded a complete bento here in ages, so here is one! It features Japanese Scotch eggs, which you see in the near-most box. (The rest of the bento consists of cucumber slices with sea salt; a carrot and celeriac salad; onigiri with umeboshi filling; banana and mini-cupcakes. The whole bento is about 1100 calories - I intended it to be for 2, but ended up eating the whole thing by myself!)

The original Scotch egg is a British pub snack, made by wrapping a hardboiled egg in sausage meat and deep frying it. The Japanese version uses a ground beef/pork meat mix, and is either deep fried, panfried or baked in the oven. I usually bake them or panfry them, though deep frying is best if you want perfectly round Scotch eggs.

Japanese style Scotch egg is considered to be rather retro in Japan these days. They are typical of yohshoku or youshoku, Japanese-style Western cooking, where foods from the West have been adapted (mostly in the post-WWII period up to the 1970s or so) to suit Japanese tastes and available ingredients. (More about yohshoku.)

I rather hesitated to post this recipe since it doesn’t quite fit the usual criteria for recipes here. It takes some time and effort to make, so it’s not practical for a busy morning. It’s not very low in calories. And, it doesn’t really freeze well, because frozen hard boiled egg turns rubbery and hard, so it’s not even a good make-ahead staple item! Other than that though, it is quite delicious at room temperature, so very well suited for bentos. You can make a few and keep them in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Or make them for dinner and leave one for next day’s bento! That bright yellow and white egg against the brown of the meat is very cheery. continue reading...

How to make chicken lollipops

Chicken lollipops

It’s now the height of summer (at least here in the Northern hemisphere), which means outdoor bentos and picnics! Chicken wings are great finger food, but you can make them even more convenient, not to mention cute, by turning them into chicken lollipops, also known as cherrystone chicken or chicken cherries. Back in the day I used to hang around a chef who used to work in a hotel restaurant in the ’80s, where he had to turn out hundreds of these little things for banquets. He could whip them out by the dozens in mere minutes, but I take a little longer. They are a bit fiddly, but not hard to do. continue reading...

Bento filler and staple: Sweet stewed haricot, navy or white beans (Ingen no nimame)

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Nimame (煮豆 にまめ), or stewed beans, are a standby item for bentos. They are usually rather sweet, though not dessert-level sweet, and serve the purpose of a hashi yasume or “chopstick rest” (see anatomy of a Japanese meal), a little something that contrasts in flavor and texture from the rest of the bento.

While it takes rather long to cook these, like most bean dishes, this is a terrific staple item. The beans keep for at least a week in the refrigerator, and freeze well in small batches too. Tuck in a spoonful in any bento for something a little sweet, a little salty, and good for you.

You can make nimame with any kind of dried beans, but here I’ve specified white or navy beans, or haricot beans, which are widely available and inexpensive. You could use cannellini beans instead.

You’ll notice that the only remotely exotic ingredient used here is soy sauce, so anyone can make this! Yes it’s still authentically Japanese. (It’s another one of my mom’s recipes.) continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 11: Spicy radish leaves

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This furikake may not even look like furikake, since it’s wet, but it can be used in every way dry furikake can. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a week or so, or freeze it in small batches. And since it’s using radish leaves (leftover from making radish pickles for example), it’s very frugal and nutritious too. It’s a vegan variation of the first furikake recipe I posted, and just as delicious. continue reading...

Bento filler: Green beans and aburaage (fried tofu skins)

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I swear this site has not gone all vegetarian - I’ll have some recipes for you omnivores soon! Still, now that the weather is so sunny and beautiful here, and with the abundance of great produce, it just seems easier to think up vegetable recipes. This one can be used as a filler or a vegan main in a bento, and is dead easy to make - and it just uses four ingredients! The main ones are fresh green beans and aburaage, deep fried tofu skins. No oil is added, since we utilize the residual oil on the aburaage instead. This dish keeps quite well in the refrigerator, so you can make a batch and use it throughout the week. continue reading...

Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled Radish

Freebie alert: I’m giving away a copy of the cookbook mentioned here, The Enlightened Kitchen, over on Just Hungry. Deadline is Sunday, June the 7th!

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Vegetarian Bento May is over, but I still have some bento-friendly vegan recipes to post! This one was inspired by two sources: Sarah’s Curried Lentil Risotto, and a recipe for a lentil and mushroom salad in The Enlightened Kitchen, a great shojin ryori cookbook that I’ve just reviewed over on Just Hungry. The latter recipe uses both green and red lentils to come up with a bi-color effect that is very pretty, and that’s what I wanted to emulate.

The first time I tried making this, I used hard, flinty green Puy lentils, and ran into a problem: they take about twice as long to cook as the red lentils, which are hulled. By the time the Puy lentils were cooked, the red lentils had disintegrated. On my second attempt, I just adjusted the cooking times, putting the Puy lentils in the boiling water first, then adding the red lentils later. That came out quite well. The Puy lentils remain al dente and firm, while the red lentils are quite soft and starchy.

The lentil salad recipe in the Enlightened Kitchen book called for curry powder, which is a standard spice in Japanese kitchens, but I used a mixture of Indian spices instead, which I think makes for more vibrant and exciting flavors. The last of my pickled radishes fit very well too. continue reading...

Bento filler: Zucchini flower blossom-end fritters

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Zucchini or courgette flowers are beautiful things to behold at the market. The most commonly seen recipes using them seem to call for stuffing them with meat or cheese, but they are great just simply fried too.

When trying to come up with a fritter that would fit neatly into a bento box, I found that the floppy flower petals got a bit too messy looking. So I cut them off, ending up with just the round blossom ends. They look rather like giant buttercups.

These little fritters are good hot or cold. They are very easy to make, so I would suggest making them for dinner and holding back a few for your bento the next day. continue reading...

Vegan iri dofu (iri doufu) with garlic chives

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Iri dofu or iri doufu (炒り豆腐) is a simple, homely dish, real Japanese style ‘mother’s cooking’. Probably every Japanese home cook has his or her own recipe, but the base is plain tofu that is crumbled and then stirred around or gently stir fried (the iri 炒り part means that) until it resembles dry scrambled egg. In fact, it’s rather like the tofu version of iri tamago, but with more flavor and texture.

Iri dofu recipes often contain meat (usually pork), dashi or both, but here I have kept it vegan (in keeping with our vegetarian theme for May). I have added umami by including chopped dried shiitake mushrooms, miso and soy sauce. Garlic chives and ginger also add to the flavor, while the sansho pepper (also known as sichuan pepper) adds spice.

The best way to eat this is to simply pile it onto rice. Of course it’s perfect for a easy, healthy bento. continue reading...