Can I just start by saying veggie sushi is a load of old shit. Bits of raw vegetables wrapped in nori and cold rice tastes exactly how it sounds. But it’s getting warm out there guys, freakishly warm and I need something that’s as healthy as sushi but more exciting than a salad, so what about a bento box?
“But isn’t that a bit hard?” I hear you ask.
“Err dunno… Lets try it anyway”… So I did and it wasn’t all that hard but you have to be an organised bunny about it and as I feel more elephant seal than bunny these days, I had to pull my socks up…
Now, as a Japanese food virgin I had to buy rice vinegar, mirin, miso and all that jazz but it was all surprisingly easy to find. The only thing I couldn’t get in Sainsbury’s was ‘gochujang’ (a type of Korean fermented chilli paste) but it’s not an essential ingredient, if you can’t find it then a couple of drops of tabasco should do the trick.
Anyway, after I did my shop I realised that once I’d bought the key Japanese gubbins, the fresh ingredients cost very little, making my bento my new best friend (sorry Philippa and Rosie). So over the next few months I’m going to try and add to my bento repertoire so that we have plenty to mix and match with in the future, booyah!.. Also, this is an excellent excuse to use the bento boxes my mum bought me for Christmas. I can hardly contain my excitement.
Summer Bento Box
This recipe made roughly 4 bento boxes for the week
Cucumber and ginger pickle
Takes 15 minutes / makes 1 small bowl / lasts 5 days in the fridge/ Make the day before/ Vegan
Half a cucumber
Half a conference pear (the more unripe the better)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp light soy sauce
3 tbs rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp caster sugar
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Knob of fresh finely grated ginger
1. Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and scrap out the seeds with a spoon. Slice in half lengthways again and cut into chunks. Peel, core and finely chop your pear and pop in a large bowl with the cucumber. Sprinkle with a 1/4 tsp of salt and put to one side.
2. In a small bowl add the rest of the salt, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and chilli flakes and finely grated ginger. Give it a good stir and pour over the cucumber and pears. Put in an air tight container and leave over night or for an hour before serving in the fridge.
Sesame wilted greens
Takes 5 minutes / lasts up to 2 days in the fridge / Vegan
200g of spinach, kale or cabbage
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
Pickled ginger (optional)
Small handful of sesame seeds
Pop a 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add the greens and fry for 5 minutes. Add a couple of Tbs of water throughout cooking to help the greens steam. Finish with a tsp of soy sauce and a sprinkle with a handful of sesame seeds.
Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette)
(This isn’t as hard as it looks and it doesn’t matter if it goes a bit wrong, it will still taste great). Takes 20 minutes to / lasts up to 3 days in the fridge
4 large eggs
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs mirin
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
Vegetable or sunflower oil
Chopsticks (These are handy to fold and roll the pancake but not necessary)
1. Beat the eggs in a jug and add the mirin, soy sauce, sugar and salt. Give it another good beating to make sure it’s fully combined.
2. Put a 1 tsp of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Once hot, carefully absorb up and rub the oil around the pan with a folded piece of kitchen roll. Keep this piece of kitchen roll close to hand.
3. Pour a quarter of the mixture into the pan and spread it around. Once the egg has cooked fold in the edges creating an oblong shape and then carefully roll up the omelette. Brush the free side of the pan with your oiled kitchen roll and then push your omelette over to that side, then oil the other free side. Add another quarter of the mix and lift up your omelette to make sure it goes underneath so the two omelettes can join as one.
4. Once cooked repeat the process of folding in the edges and rolling the omelette up. Repeat this a couple more times until you’ve run out of mix. Turn your omelette out and leave to cool. Refrigerate and slice.
Brown basmati rice
Takes 45 minutes
Half a cup of brown basmati rice
1tbs soy sauce
Put half a cup of rice in a pan with a 1 cup of water. Stir in the soy sauce and bring to the boil. Bring the heat down to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and leave covered with a lid for a further 20 minutes. The rice will continue to cook until you’re ready for it. Works every time.
Tofu and Tender stem broccoli
Takes 20 minutes / Vegan
100g tender stem broccoli
400g firm tofu
Small onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
2 tsp miso paste
1 tsp chilli paste or gochujang (gochujang is a Korean fermented chilli paste you can find in most Asian supermarkets. If you can’t don’t worry, a couple of drops of Tabasco should do the trick or just add a bit of fresh red chilli).
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1. Drain the tofu and cut into cubes. Bring a large pan to the boil and carefully add the tofu. Boil for 3 minutes. (This ironically removes a lot of the tofu’s moisture). Lift out the tofu with a slotted spoon and pop in a colander, keep the water.
2. In the remaining water, boil the broccoli for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
3. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, miso, sugar and chili paste and put to one side.
4. Finely chop the onion and fry it in a large frying pan with the sesame oil on a medium heat. Once brown, add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes. If it’s getting too hot add a couple tablespoons of water to prevent it from burning.
5. Add the tofu and brown for a further few minutes. Add your paste and carefully coat the tofu for the next few minutes. Add another tsp of soy sauce and stir in. Finely incorporate the steamed broccoli and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Assemble your bento box with a little bit of everything and serve with a little pot of soy sauce and a bowl of miso soup (optional).
If you’ve had a go at making my Bento Box or any of my other recipes I’d love to hear about it. @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org