Scattered summer sushi

Late to the party again… here I am with scattered summer sushi in October. To be fair, I did come up with this recipe in May, but also, you can eat this any time of year, whether the weather’s sunny, or not. It’s the kind of dish that works better when it’s hot, but it’s still pretty nice around here even in autumn…

And yes, I did get carried away with decorating this, but it was worth it. So pretty! And not too much hassle to prepare, in the grand scheme of things.

Scattered summer sushi

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Japanese rice (around 430g)
  • 6 tbsp sushi rice vinegar (or check label)
  • 1 tbsp sake (optional)
  • 1 piece dried konbu (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • Large pinch salt
  • Pinch sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 Carrot
  • Handful mange tout (cooked)
  • 4 tofu pouches (optional)
  • 16 large prawns (shrimp)
  • 1/2 cup edamame beans (cooked)

METHOD

  • Make your sushi rice – I recommend you buy a rice cooker, as it takes all of the guesswork and stress out of cooking rice. Mine cost me about £10 three years ago and is still working fine. Firstly, wash the rice thoroughly and leave it to soak for half an hour. Then, drain and add your sushi rice to the same quantity of water in your rice cooker. Add the sake and konbu if using, then switch on and leave to cook. Once it has finished, leave it to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Turn the rice out into a damp, flat container (like a Pyrex oven dish) and add the sushi rice vinegar. Using a damp wooden spoon, turn the rice gently to coat it in the seasoning. At the same time, fan the rice to cool it and help it to absorb the dressing. Continue until no visible steam rises from the rice, and place it under a damp kitchen towel.
  • Make thin Japanese omelettes by combining the eggs, egg yolk, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the cornflour dissolved in 4 tsp water. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and add enough oil to coat the base. Thinly cover the pan with the egg, and heat until almost set. Then, turn the omelette over to finish it off. Do not allow it to colour. Continue until all the egg has been cooked, then roll the omelettes up and shred them finely.
  • Prepare the carrot by peeling it and cutting it into thin discs. Then, using a flower-shaped cutter, cut the discs into flower shapes.
  • Use your cucumber to make a pretty garnish. A simple method is to cut the cucumber thinly on a diagonal, cut through it to the middle, and then twirl the ends in opposite directions (see picture).
  • If you’re using them, drain the tofu pouches and shred finely. Cut the mange tout at sharp diagonals.
  • Divide the sushi rice into four bowls. Scatter over the shredded tofu, omelette and edamame beans. Finally, arrange the carrots, cucumber and prawns.

Nikujaga bento

Nikujaga is Japanese comfort food – the sort of thing cooked by mothers for their children in winter. It’s not usually served in bentos, but you can always reheat it the next day for lunch – or eat it cold! It has a sweet, salty taste which is absolutely delicious.

Nikujaga bento

To make this bento, you need carrots, tomatoes, soy sauce eggs, edamame beans, a piece of rolled omelette, cooked Japanese rice, furikake and nikujaga, made with the recipe below. You also need an onigiri shaper, a vegetable cutter, two bento cups and a two-tier bento. About an hour before you make the bento, prepare the quail eggs by hard boiling, peeling and soaking them in some soy sauce.

Place a small amount of drained nikujaga in a bento dish on the bottom layer of your bento box, and fill the remaining space with an onigiri rolled in furikake. On the top layer, place your rolled omelette in a small bento cup, and place pieces of carrot along the side which have been cut into little shapes with your cutter. Then, alternate the soy sauce eggs with tomatoes, and fill the remaining space with boiled edamame beans, sprinkled with a little salt.

Recipe for nikujaga

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g thinly sliced beef brisket, cut into small pieces
  • 700g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 small white onions, peeled and cut into small wedges
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 600ml dashi
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • Chives
  • Seven-spice

METHOD

  • Heat the oil and cook the potatoes for two minutes. Add the meat and onions, stir well and cook for another two minutes.
  • Add the dashi, sugar, soy sauce, mirin and sake and simmer the mixture with a drop-lid on top until the potatoes are cooked though – this should take about 15 minutes.
  • For a bento, allow to cool before straining off most of the liquid and placing in your bento. Cooling the mixture in the liquid allows the flavours to deepen. When eating, you can have it cold or reheat it. Nikujaga is far from traditional bento food, but you just might find you like it cold the next day!

Note

If you don’t have a drop lid, you can make one by using a lid which is slightly smaller than the inside of your saucepan. Or, use a piece of greaseproof paper with a small hole cut in the middle for a vent.

Fruit, rice and nikujaga bento

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