Monday, 30 July 2012

Bento No.16, Buzzing Bees

For the last 8 years, my Dad has kept bees in the garden. When he first suggested it, I was not happy at all. I thought they'd mean I could never relax in the garden again, and I'd get stung every other day. However, despite the odd stressful moment (such as when a whole hive of bees swarmed when I was alone in the house), all our family has actually loved having the bees there. Not only is the honey itself delicious, but their pollination makes all the fruit trees and flowers in our garden go crazy, meaning lots more plums, pears and apples for us, and a very beautiful garden. 

 Obviously I can't reap the rewards this year, but I still hear all about the bees whenever I speak to my Dad, and our family obsession with all things bee continues! So when I saw this bento, making bees from tamagoyaki, I knew I had to give it a shot! I wanted to have them on a blue rice sky, but the red cabbage didn't co-operate, so I added a little vinegar, and made purple-y pink rice flowers for them to bus around instead! Mine aren't nearly as cute as the ones from that link, but I was fairly pleased as a first attempt! 

Purple rice flowers, dyed with red cabbage water and vinegar
Tamagoyaki bees with cucumber and nori decoration
Miso aubergine
Cherry tomatoes

 I ran out of time to make this bento with bees, but I was still pleased with how neatly and colourful it turned out. I think I actually prefer it to the one above! 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Bento No.15, Mediterranean Vegan

After yesterday's bento, that was pretty but ultimately rather unsuccessful, I decided to play it safe for a couple of days! I forgot to take a photo of Fridays, but it was only tuna sushi with salad.

Yesterday's bento was another fairly simple one to use up all the veggie leftovers in our fridge. I love couscous and it's been ages since I had any, so I used that as a basis for a Mediterranean style vegan bento. It was fairly simple, delicious, and best of all, it survived until it was time to eat!

Couscous, flavoured with black pepper, coriander, raisins, sundried tomato oil and tomato ketchup
Sweet potato, courgettes, mushrooms, red pepper and tomatoes, with garlic, olive oil and herbs.
Homemade falafels

Friday, 27 July 2012

Bento No.14, OLYMPICS!

It feels a bit like the lead up to the Olympics has been going on FOREVER, but it's finally here! I feel a bit sad that I'm out of the country while they're there, but I'm still routing for team GB all the way from Japan!! And with my current obsession, what better way than with a bento?! 

Back Box: 
Cherry Tomato
Tofu with Sambal Tumis
Union Jack, made out of red pepper and pickled aubergine
Watermelon and marshmallow skewers
Front Box:
Coconut Rice
Olympic Rings, made out of white egg (kind of dyed with pickled eggplant liquid), egg yolk, nori, cucumber and red pepper

The background is the right colours, but looks a little too like a French flag for my liking!

That's better! This box was mine. It's basically the same, but with cucumber rather than edamame, and no flag.

Unfortunately, the bottom bento had a rather sad end. When I opened it for dinner, the watermelon had been crushed, and the juice leaked over everything, mixing with the Sambal sauce as it went. NOT a good combination. I think I need a box with rather more sturdy dividers before I try and mix sweet and savoury in the same box again! I just hope the Olympics end slightly more successfully than my Olympics dinner did!! 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bento No.13, Vegetarian Curry Bento

Today we accomplished something we've been meaning to do for ages...a trip to Yamadera. It's a temple on a mountainside quite near where we live, and our trip involved a 6 mile walk and lots of stairs. So we needed a good, filling bento that would give us plenty of oomph! Luckily the curry we'd had for dinner the night before gave some inspiration, and when I found the recipe for kidney bean curry on Just Bento, I knew I had the basis of my bento sorted. Plus, when headed to a Buddhist temple, a vegetarian bento seemed appropriate!

Time in the morning was short so I went for functionality over prettiness, by new panda picks added a nice element of cuteness. I did manage to make some more Welsh Cakes (not pictured) to go in the chopstick holder section of my box. That little tray is a great way to add a little sweetness to my meal. Nobody brought up by my parents could help needed some sort of cake at the end of each meal! 

Rice with garam masala
Steamed broccoli
Yoghurt Salad (dressing: yoghurt mixed with coriander, parsley, lemon juice and salt)

Everything tastes so much more delicious after 6 miles of hiking!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Bento No.12, You Are A Star

Today I had lots of time on my hands, and bento toys that were as yet unplayed with, so I decided to go to town on John's bento! I found every star related bento item I have, and used then all somewhere along the way. I'd been dying to try out making the tomato stars for ages, but the 'petals' didn't stick out as well as the other ones I've seen photos of. Maybe I need smaller cuts or different tomatoes. I love love LOVE the tuna soboro that I used to make the 'sky' and to fill my onigiri. It's so easy and delicious. There's a link to the recipe below. 

Negimiso green beans
Cherry Tomatoes
Rice onigiri
Cucumber and nori decoration

By the time I'd done all this to John's bento, we were both hungry for our lunch, so I didn't do much to mine. I'd planned a panda themed one, but other than cover it with panda picks and make my onigiri bear shaped, I didn't get very far, so no photo I'm afraid. I'll have another go at a panda one soon, because everyone loves pandas! 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Bento No.11, Pasta Love

After my messy bento effort yesterday, I decided a quick trip to the ¥100 shop was in order, to stock up on supplies! I'm so lucky to be living in Japan while I'm learning how to make bentos. All the things I need to help make lunches cute and pretty are readily and cheaply available. It's great! On my trip yesterday, I bought some more picks, a smiley face nori punch, some cute onigiri moulds and these awesome letter cutters...

...which I obviously played with as soon as I got home!

The letters they make are tiny, but so cute, and perfect for bentos! The cutters are surprisingly tough too. So obviously I had to use them for today's bento! I started out by writing 'yum yum', but then got distracted by the teeny cute hearts that my cutters also make, and made this into a heart themed bento. I do love food, so I suppose it ties in well! 

Cherry tomatoes
Spaghetti carbonara, with frankfurters and brocolli
Pepper, cucumber and frankfurter decoration

John said he wanted another bears themed lunch today. I'd already written yum yum for his too when he decided this, but I still managed to fit plenty of bears in there for him! 

I had a little spare time on my hands, so I made the outside cute too! 

It all stayed intact until lunchtime, which I was very happy with! The top left is where the chopsticks are supposed to go, but a few Welsh Cakes fitted in perfectly! 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Bento No.10, The Three Bears

For today's bento, I had some tasty tasty jumbalaya to use up (recipe here). It wasn't actually that great as a bento item...not that pretty and not nearly as tasty cold as I'd hoped. Instead of just leaving it as a boring box, I decided to utilise the random bits of salad in my fridge, along with the cutters I've recently bought, to make a Goldilocks and the Three Bears bento! It's not great, and looks a lot like a child made it, but I was pleased with it as a first attempt of a decorated bento!

Decorations made using red pepper, cucumber, cabbage and sweetcorn.

This half by itself looks a lot less childish I think! I like the grass (made using the top of a tulip cutter).

There wasn't space in John's box for a goldilocks, so the bears made another friend instead! 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bento No.9, In the Sunshine

John and I took a trip to Matsushima Bay, and of course, a day trip needed a bento lunch. Sunshine and greenery makes the photos much lovelier than usual, hence the fact there's 4 for just 1 bento. John was being very good natured, posing for the photos despite being hungry! The bento tasted really yummy, but then everything does in the sunshine after a long walk! 

Miso Aubergine (Eggplant). (The no hassle way I make it is to boil the aubergine until soft, drain it, re-add it to the pan with miso, a little mirin and a little sugar. Cook for a few minutes.)
Steamed brocolli
Rice, with Hijiki Seaweed

Bento No.8, A Middle Eastern Bento for 2

John and I knew we'd be eating lunch together this day, so for ease I put all our lunch in together. I always forget how much I love Middle Eastern food, and then I eat a lunch like this and I suddenly remember! Being in Japan has made me learn how to make all this from scratch...back home I'd never made pita breads or hummus. It's satisfying to be able to say it's all homemade, but I rather think I'll slip back into shop bought things when I get back to the UK! 

Left hand box: sundried tomatoes, olives, lemon (to squeeze over everything!)
Right hand box: FalafelsHummus, lettuce and tomatoes

Bento No. 7

I'm not very good at making bentos quickly yet. I'm trying to get better, but the fact I don't work until later, and therefore have plenty of time in the mornings, is meaning that I'm under no pressure to speed up my bento making. But a bento like this one, made with leftover pizza, came together so quickly I had loads of time left before I needed to leave. Hence the fact I bothered to make the frankfurters into flowers! 

2 Small Pizzas, one topped with pineapple and frankfurters, the other with pepper, spinach and sweetcorn
Vegetable salad, made with mangetout, sweetcorn, peppers and lettuce (all except lettuce was briefly boiled, but it would all be fine raw too)
Slightly inept Frankfurter flowers

Bento No. 6

A Chinese bento, mostly made out of the previous night's leftovers. Perhaps not my healthiest bento (too much oil and too many carbs), but it was really delicious! The prawn dumplings were OK, but most of them fell apart. I think the mixture was too sloppy for shu mai dumpling wrappers. Everything else went pretty well, and both John and I enjoyed our dinner and our bento! 

Homemade Prawn Dumplings
Sweet and Sour Vegetables (recipe below)
Plain rice (with dinner we had egg fried rice, but that was too much work/oil for my bento!)
Prawn Crackers

Sweet and Sour Veggies

4oz/100g sugar
4fl.oz/120ml apple cider or rice vinegar
6 tbsp tomato ketchup
6 tbsp pineapple juice
1 clove finely chopped garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp cornflour

Veggies of your choice (we used beansprouts, pineapple, green beans and mangetout)

Mix sugar, vinegar, ketchup and pineapple juice in a bowl.
Heat a little oil (ideally sesame) in a saucepan. Briefly fry ginger and garlic, then add ketchup mixture.
When its warmed, take out a couple of tbsps of the mixture and mix with the cornflour. Re-add to the pan.
Gently heat, stirring continuously, until thickened. Set aside.

Chop and briefly fry veggies, until as soft as you want them. 
Add sauce, heat through and serve.