Teriyaki Burgers: Red Tractor Week Blogger Challenge

Here’s yet another Japanese recipe for Red Tractor Week – just because the produce is British, doesn’t mean the recipes have to be! I’m taking part in a challenge to share my favourite recipes containing Red Tractor products, and I picked up some beef mince from Lidl with the Red Tractor logo so I could share this recipe with you. The Red Tractor logo on your food means that the product has reached the standard set out for animal welfare, food safety, traceability, and environmental protection. Plus, it can be traced back to British farms! (See the website here for more info.)

I love making these little burgers using pork and beef mince, although you can just use beef if you prefer. As you can see, they work really well in bento or lunch boxes, but equally you can have them for dinner. I like to serve them with rice, but you can also serve them with potato wedges for a more western-style meal.

Hamburger and pepper egg

Continue reading

Advertisements

Bento post! Yaki udon recipe

It might be the depths of winter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t brighten up your lunch time with a tasty dish of yaki udon. Thick Japanese noodles are combined with veggies and a savory sauce to make a great alternative to sandwiches – or, you can serve hot for dinner!

Yaki udon and inari sushi

Yaki Udon Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 portions cooked udon noodles
  • 60g thinly sliced chicken thigh
  • 4 spring onions
  • 2 leaves white cabbage
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • ½ green pepper
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

METHOD

  • Cut the chicken into small pieces. Cut the spring onions diagonally in small pieces. Thinly slice the mushrooms. Chop the cabbage roughly and julienne the pepper.
  • Stir fry the chicken, then add the spring onions, cabbage, mushrooms and pepper and fry until tender. Add the cooked noodles and fry for a minute, then add seasoning, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
  • You’re done!

This serves two adults, for a hearty lunch or dinner!

Tomato and mange tout scattered sushi recipe

Scattered sushi is a nice summer dish for the bento as the vinegared rice helps it to stay fresher for longer. But, you can eat it any time of the year! Here the rice is covered with chopped, deseeded cherry tomatoes from the vine, chopped, blanched mange tout, and toasted sesame seeds. In the top part of the bento is teriyaki chicken, salted edamame beans and soy sauce eggs (with some vinegar and sugar added to the mixture to preserve and to cut through the strong soy sauce taste).

There are some great scattered sushi recipes (including this one) in the book Sushi: Taste and Technique by Kimiko Barber.

Scattered sushi bento

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of raw Japanese rice
  • Konbu
  • Splash of sake
  • 4-6 tbsp sushi seasoning or rice vinegar
  • Packet mange tout
  • Packet cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted

METHOD

  • Place the raw rice in your rice cooker as usual, and add the konbu and sake, along with the required amount of water. This should make enough rice for two bento boxes.
  • When the rice is done, allow it to steam for 10 minutes, then remove and place it in a dampened, flat container. Sprinkle over the sushi vinegar, then fold and fan the rice (using a wet spatula) until no more steam rises from it. Cover with a damp towel and leave to sit until cool.
  • Blanch the mange tout and slice thinly on the diagonal. Deseed the cherry tomatoes and chop them into wedges.
  • Spread a mixture of the mange tout and tomatoes over the top of the rice, then sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

Spicy Thai mince recipe

Who would have thought that Narita airport would be full of tempting bento boxes? On a trip to Tokyo, I was resisting the urge to buy hundreds of new ones until I spotted a branch of Mono Comme Ca in the airport’s shopping complex, which had a fairly large range of bento boxes. I picked up this black onigiri box and the red chopstick holder you see here, plus a black chopstick case and a pink two-tier box. These boxes are really high quality, though a bit on the pricey side. I honestly can’t remember how much they were, though!

Mono Comme Ca

Inside my bento I’ve packed three onigiri with different furikake, a spicy Thai mince with lettuce leaves, and some lovely strawberries. The spicy Thai mince is delicious – for a party, make canapes or starters by pouring this mince into small lettuce leaves (Gem is the best!).

Recipe for spicy Thai mince

INGREDIENTS

  • Cooking oil
  • ½ inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 red chillies, deseeded and julienned
  • 500g turkey mince
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 fresh, shredded lime leaves
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Little Gem lettuce
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 extra lime for cutting into decorative slices
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

METHOD

  • Heat a little cooking oil in your pan and fry the ginger, garlic and half the chillies for one minute, or until they become fragrant.
  • Add the mince and break it up as you cook, continuing to stir until it is slightly golden.
  • Sprinkle over the sugar, and add the fish sauce, lime juice, the shredded lime leaves and the rest of the chilli, saving some for a garnish. Cook for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved and has made a sticky sauce. The mince should be dry when finished.
  • To serve, pour the mince into a bowl lined with lettuce leaves, topped with the shallots, coriander, lime slice and some reserved chillies.

Note
Like many of my recipes, you can use this to make around four adult bentos, or cook half for dinner and save the rest for your lunch. The mince is equally delicious hot or cold.

Spanish Omelette Bento, with recipe!

This bento is packed with leftover Spanish omelette from dinner the day before. It’s just as delicious cold the next day, and I love it with dill pickles.

Spanish omelette bento

Here’s the Spanish Omelette recipe!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large potatoes
  • 200g ham
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 50g oak smoked / sundried tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cheddar cheese

METHOD

  • Peel the potatoes and slice thinly. Wash to remove the starch, then fry vey lightly in olive oil to ensure the potato is slightly sealed and won’t stick.
  • Then remove to a microwave dish, cover and cook until tender. This is the cheat’s method for getting your potatoes completely soft without creating a crispy crust or sticking together and breaking apart. That way, they’ll be soft and melt into the egg when you bite into it.
  • Crack the eggs into a jug, then add the chopped ham, tomatoes and peas. Mix.
  • Add the hot potatoes to the egg, mix around, then return to the pan.
  • Once the bottom is well set, grate some cheddar cheese onto it and pop it in the oven on a low temp until set.
  • Then remove, leave for a few minutes and slice.

This will serve two for dinner with a portion left over for a bento, or will make around four large bento portions.

Omurice

I’m one of those weird people who gets all funny about ketchup. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but I have certain rules about it – which I’ve never really examined in too much depth, to be honest. For example, it is never to be squirted onto food – makes it soggy. Better to go on the side, by itself, so it can be dipped into. Also, it is never to be mixed in with things to create some hideous Frankenfood of soggy ketchup and ‘other stuff’. That’s just wrong.

So, with that in mind, it’s very strange that one of my most favourite and comforting foods should be omurice: the dish that breaks my cardinal food rules and somehow manages to rise above its offence:

Omurice bento

Omurice is basically rice and veggies cooked with some ketchup, then coated in an omelette and served with another drizzle of ketchup on top. It’s comfort food for children, which makes it all the more weird how strangely nostaglic the dish is for me, a 28-year-old woman who has never lived in Japan… But nevertheless, there’s something very universal about its combination of starchy carbs, eggy protein, and lashings of tomato sauce.

This recipe makes four portions:

INGREDIENTS

  • Butter
  • 2 chicken thighs, boned
  • 1 onion
  • 50g carrot
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 4 cups cooked Japanese rice
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp sake
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 eggs
  • Ketchup to serve

METHOD

  • Finely chop the onion, carrot, mushroom and parsley.
  • Debone the chicken and remove the skin. Cut the thigh into small pieces, around 1cm in size, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 1 tbsp butter in a frying pan and sauté the onion until slightly softened. Add the chicken and fry until the outside has gone white. Add the carrot, pepper and mushrooms and cook until soft. This could take as long as ten minutes. You need to ensure the carrot is tender, as it will not be cooked again. Add the parsley and remove from the heat, reserving the mixture and wiping out the frying pan.
  • Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a frying pan and add the hot rice, stirring well. Add the fried mix along with the ketchup, sake and Worcestershire sauce. Season if needed, and keep warm. Do not over cook as this will dry out the rice.
  • In another, shallow frying pan, heat 1 tsp butter. Beat two of the eggs, season with salt, then pour into the frying pan, spreading to cover the base. Put a quarter of the rice in the middle of the pan while the egg is still slightly raw. This helps to stick the rice mixture to the omelette.
  • When the eggs are slightly set, wrap the edges over the top of the rice and turn out onto a warm plate. Don’t worry if you pierce the egg as you do so, as the edges are tucked under. Using a paper towel, shape it as in our photo, then squirt tomato sauce on the top. Continue with the rest of the eggs and mixture until you’ve made four omelettes.

You can also keep this for the following day, and serve it in a bento ala the picture!

Christmas bento

Although there aren’t many recipes for holiday bento treats from Japan (unless you count fried chicken and cake!), you can adapt western style ideas to Japanese cooking methods, like with these festive gyozas. They’re filled with caramelised onion, turkey and sage and onion stuffing, and are just right for getting in the festive spirit.

Christmas bento and furoshki

To make this bento, you’ll also need to make star shaped onigiri, topped with star shaped ham and cheese, pigs in blankets (chipolata sausages wrapped in streaky bacon and baked in the oven) and stuffing balls, and get rocket leaves (erm… to look like holly…) tomatoes, and cranberry sauce for a dip. A dipping container and food picks (penguin and star shapes were used here for the Christmas bento theme) are useful too. You can also fill a foil-lined side dish container, as here, with glazed biscuits, minced pies, and your favourite fruit and nut mix.

Recipe for festive gyozas

INGREDIENTS

  • Small box sage and onion stuffing
  • 2 medium onions
  • 40g butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Olive oil
  • 150g raw turkey breast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 26 gyoza skins
  • Oil

METHOD

  • Mix up your sage and onion stuffing – you need to keep 70g of it for the gyozas and the rest can be made into stuffing balls.
  • Finely chop your onions, then cook on a very low heat with the butter and sugar until they go a golden brown. This could take an hour or more, but you don’t have to stand over it and stir it the whole time, thankfully!
  • Shred the turkey breast with a knife so you end up with meat that’s finely cut but has a bit more texture than mince (and is leaner).
  • Once you’ve done that, mix the caramelised onion, the raw turkey breast, 70g of stuffing and the salt and soy sauce together.
  • Fill your gyozas by placing a small amount in the middle of a dumpling skin, wetting the edges and folding it in half, pleating the edges. It’s easier to do this with a gyoza press.
  • Once you’ve done that, heat some oil in a pan and add six gyozas. Pour water into the pan until it reaches a third of the way up the sides of the gyozas, then cover and cook until the water has evaporated. Once that’s done, remove the lid and fry until the bases are crispy.

Note

You can freeze these gyozas and cook them from raw.

Christmas bento

This recipe originally appeared in 501 Bento Box Lunches, published by Graffito Books.

Carrot and onion rice

This recipe is a pretty good ‘un, in my opinion (I know, I know, who asked me?). Not only does it taste good, but it’s got veggies in it and it’s a way of naturally colouring your food without using chemicals. Now, there’s no way anyone could suggest I’m not up for dying food whenever I get the opportunity, but somehow it seems wrong to dye savoury food. Don’t know why! When you introduce sugar, all the bets are off…

Also, once you’ve softened your veggies, you bung the whole lot into rice cooker and let it cook. Easy! Obviously, you don’t have to eat this in a bento – it makes a great addition to a hot meal, too.

I really like this bento box – I have a thing for single tiered boxes. I also love Animal Crossing. I don’t know if the box is still available, but I bought it from J-List. (If you click that link, you’ll be taken to the J-List site, so if you buy anything, it earns me pennies to buy new bento stuff! Thank you!)

Teriyaki burger and carrot and onion rice

Recipe for carrot and onion rice

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups raw rice
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ onion
  • Butter
  • Splash soy sauce
  • Seasoning

METHOD

  • Process the onion and carrot until they are finely chopped, then sauté in butter until softened – but not browned. This will take around five minutes. Season and add the soy sauce.
  • Add to a rice cooker with washed rice and an equal amount of water, and cook as normal.

Egg cup

This is such a simple recipe I haven’t even put quantities in. You can adjust them according to what you like, how many you’re making and so on. This recipe was originally created for the bento box, as you can cook the egg cup directly in a silicone cup cake case, but you could also make this in a frying or saute pan and finish it off in the oven. I cook this at home so often for dinner, only for a main meal, I would add in cooked, sliced potatoes.

Egg cup

Recipe for bento / lunch egg cup

Fry onions, peppers, courgette and peas (or any veggies of your choice) together with olive oil and salt over a gentle heat until softened.
Add mixture to beaten eggs when still hot, then pour into a silicone cup, which has been greased with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried thyme and bake on a baking sheet for 10 mins at 180c. Check the cup has cooked by squeezing it – if it’s firm, it’s cooked. Allow to cool at room temperature, which will help the egg to set.

NOTE:

You can also use this recipe to use up cooked leftover veggies – saute them until they get a little colour and continue as before.

As a general guide, I would estimate one to two eggs to every person eating. The egg isn’t so much part of the meal, but a way of binding the ingredients together.

Bento cups

Bento cups are one of those cute bento accessories that I have a lot of but never seem to use up. Maybe because I just love buying them so much…

Assorted dividers

As you can see, bento cups come in loads of different shapes and sizes. Sadly, all those cute patterns you see inside get hidden once you pack your bento box, so, although it’s hard, try not to select your cups on the basis of the bottom! Much better is to look at the top centimetre of the edge, as this is usually all you’ll see of your bento.

Oval dividers

When it comes to types of bento cups, there are five main kinds. There’s your standard paper bento cup which has a wax/plastic lining to stop food leaking. You need to throw these away after you’ve used them though, which is a shame. There’s your silicone bento cup which is actually heat proof and reuseable, which are massive bonuses – however, the drawback is that they don’t have patterns on them and are always solid colours. They will bend to the shape you want them to – within reason – so they’re very handy for slotting into your bento. There’s hard, rigid plastic cups which usually come in a particular shape, like a tulip flower or an elephant head or something like that. They can be difficult to fit, and there’s the same drawback with silicone cups of not having patterns on them. Unlike silicone, they’re not heat proof, but you can reuse them. There’s also foil bento cups, which you can use to heat food in. They’re disposable and I’ve found also pretty flimsy. To be honest, I’d always rather go for a silicone cup than a foil bento cup, because they’re sturdier and reusable. Then there’s your makeshift bento cups – the type you might fall back on if you can’t get hold of any bento supplies. Cupcake and muffin cases make good substitutes, and you can get some really cute ones. However, unlike bento cups, if they’re going to have any kind of coating to prevent leaks, it’ll be on the outside of the cup, instead of the inside as with real bento cups. You should save cupcake and muffin cases for food which isn’t soggy at all.

 My creation

Here you can see some bento cups in action. The left hand side shows two rigid bento cups being put to good use on some soggy side dishes. Silicone would also do great here, but you can have mishaps with it sometimes as it’s so pliable. On the top right hand side, you can see a corner-shaped bento cup. See what I mean about the top edge? If you can, before you start packing, try to pick bento cups that match your bento box – whether it’s a complimentary colour or a contrasting one. It’ll definitely make a difference to the finished bento. On the bottom right, you can see a silicone cup which has been used to cook an omelette-type mix of eggs and veggies. Very handy things, silicone cups!