Tag Archives: bento

YotB Part Twenty-Five: Remember When I Made Bento?


It seems a long time since I posted any bento, and I do feel quite ashamed that the project I was so devoted to initially fell so hard by the wayside. I still love my bento box and accessories, but I’ve changed my lunchtime habits and somehow that changed how I saw bento making and eating. This may be a temporary state of affairs, or it may not; I’m not going to give myself a hard time over a packed lunch, that’s for sure.

 

Before my bento adventures tailed off, I made this one, with the rather striking component of Yucatan-style slow roasted pork. Here is the bento in its entirety:

I kept the other ingredients in the bento simple, because the pork is  so strongly flavoured, and had mini pulled pork pittas with a side of asparagus and a fruit salad (which was just banana and kiwi fruit) for afterwards. Here is a closer shot of the pork so you can begin to really appreciate its colour, though sadly I can’t share the gorgeous (and yes, garlicky) aroma.

 

This pork recipe involves a bit of effort up front, but once it’s in the oven it’s low maintenance so you can get on with whatever it is you want to get on with while it cooks and fills your house with a spicy, savoury fragrance. The effort begins with finding annatto seeds, which I picked up easily at my shop of choice for all things Mexican and many things from other places round the world, Lupe Pintos. There are branches in Glasgow and Edinburgh and I’d recommend taking a look, though make sure there’s plenty in your wallet because there will be oh so many things you want to buy. They also have an online store – very dangerous. I was very focussed on this occasion and bought only the annatto seeds… and some mate tea bags… but that was all! It so happened that I’d bought ancho chilis and pimenton, two of the other ingredients in the recipe, on previous trips to Lupe Pintos, so I was all set to get started.

The spice paste is truly vibrant, with a bright red-orange colour from the annatto seeds. I’m not saying it looks pretty, particularly not when piled up on top of a hunk of raw meat, which is how I seem to have chosen to display it, but the colour is remarkable. Get your nose too close to it and you’re in for a surprise, too; the unwary sniffer may go away with fewer nose hairs than previously. The coriander, pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika), orange, beer and chilis fight it out in a battle for smell supremacy, though after five hours in the oven together they seemed to have resolved their differences and be living in blissful spicy harmony.

I’ve never cooked anything like this pork before, it has masses of flavour and the slow roasting means its moist and tender; it took mere minutes to shred the whole shoulder of pork with a fork, just a little pressure on the meat and it fell apart most enthusiastically. You can then add as much or as little of the cooking juices as you like back into the shredded meat, to intensify the flavour.You end up with a LOT of pork, so make this for a group or if you have the BFG coming for dinner.

 


YotB Part Twenty Five: Desk Bento


Last week was a four day week at work, and I only had bentos for two of those days – I didn’t really get a chance to do a good shopping for whatever reason so I had to make do with other, non-bento leftovers and such to keep me going. I’ve continued the theme of eating at my desk after going for a walk at lunchtime, so the food I’ve been taking in has had to be easy to eat with one hand while I reply to emails with the other. My life is very exciting. Here are the two offerings from last week:

Bento 44 has broccoli and cherry tomatoes in tier one, sesame honey chicken wraps in tier two and cucumber and green pepper slices in tier three, to go with the mini cheese tub alongside it. I’ve only got one of those left now, they’ve been quite handy and a good way of adding more substance to my lunches. Plus the cheese comes in a tiny tub, that’s automatically cool and adorable.

The final part of bento 44 is the now-ubiquitous tub of fruit salad, which was exceedingly green on this particular day, containing as it did kiwi fruit and granny smith apple, dressed with a little lemon juice to stop the apple going brown. This was the first time I’d peeled a kiwi fruit; usually I just go for it with a teaspoon, treating the skin like a little cup. It’s a bit messy and it’s at least a two handed job, and it’s not really suitable for the office environment. I’ve tried. I felt like I wasted quite a lot of the fruit in the act of peeling the kiwis, compared to the scraped clean skin I’m used to, but it did make it much easier to eat with one hand, with the help of Surprised Giraffe. What are those things on top of his head anyway? Wikipedia says they’re ossicones. It also says that giraffes used to be called camelopards, so this guy is now Mister Camelopard, Esquire.

Bento 45 had some lovely oatcakes with cream cheese, smoked salmon and cucumber, and a couple of slices of corn on the cob. I was really looking forward to these oatcakes – they’re coarse and organic, but I didn’t let that put me off them and, once you get to know them, they’re really alright. Sadly, it turns out that you should never prepare oatcakes the night before you want to eat them, because you’ll end up with a chewy lunch and a sad expression on your face. I mean, they were still OK, but damp. Not a quality you want in oatcakes. Or really in any food. Look how pretty they are, though, with the cucumber flowers on top like that. And I do love smoked salmon, damp oatcakes or no damp oatcakes.

The extra part of bento 45 was another fruit salad, of course, this time with kiwi, strawberry and cantaloupe melon. It drew admiring attention the minute I took it out of my bag, and rightly so because it was delicious. Cross Rabbit helped me out in not getting my hands all covered in food while I ate it, though he is still very cross about something. Look at him there, luxuriating in a hot tub of fruit. What does he have to be cross about? Perhaps we’ll never know.

This week, I am off work (and I’m getting all the gorgeous spring weather to enjoy while I’m about it, which makes me very happy). This almost certainly means no bento until next week, as I’m not really following any kind of structured approach to meals and pottering around until I realise I’m really hungry. I might put together a bento box dinner one night, though, so all you fans of YotB, despair not. No promises though…


YotB Part Twenty Four: Accessorised Bento


Another three bentos this week, and I’ve stuck with the theme of eating so much fruit that I may just turn into a giant strawberry, which really would be inconvenient. I’ve been accessorising my bento box with additional pieces of fruit or a tub of fruit salad, tiny tubs of cream cheese and in one case a sandwich. It’s not often you’ll hear a sandwich described as an accessory, but there’s a first time for everything.

Tier one of bento 41 had lamb and olive meatballs and rice hearts from the freezer, on a bed of rocket salad and with some extra olive slices. The Apprehensive Elephant had some yogurt to dip the meatballs in, and the Bemused Monkey was there to help me dip them without making as much of a mess of my hands and keyboard; I’ve been lunching al desko lately as I’ve devoted half of my lunch breaks to getting out for a bracing walk. I work by the River Clyde and I can tell you, it’s pretty breezy round that part of the city. Still, it’s nice to break up the day, and feel like I’m taking some exercise.

Tier two of bento 41 had cucumber batons, accompanied by cream cheese in a handy little tub, and tier three had broccoli florets accompanied by Chili Chicken, which I have christened him as I always put chili sauce in him because of the pretty colours. Broccoli and chili sauce is another current favourite of mine – it’s chili, garlic and ginger sauce, to be precise.

Bento 42 had steamed Chinese style pork meatballs, which were an experiment on my part and which I sadly overcooked. They came about because I wanted pork dumplings but without the effort of making the dough and shaping the dumplings, so I made a dumpling filling in the form of a meatball, and steamed it to give a similar texture. It was a good idea in theory, but in practise it needs some tweaking, and much less caution with the cooking time to keep them moist, as they should be. I mixed pork mince with spring onion, sesame oil, white pepper and light soy before rolling into meatballs and putting over boiling water, in a bamboo steamer lined with greaseproof paper, for 10 minutes – because they were so tiny I think five minutes might have been enough. They flavours were still good though, and I served them on a bed of rocket salad (again) with soy for dipping.

Level one of this bento had more broccoli with chili sauce, and some cherry tomatoes. Level three had cucumber batons (without cream cheese this time). I also had a tub of fruit salad, presided over by Shy Mouse, who makes his first appearance in a bento blog this week. He is so shy that he was hiding at the bottom of the tub that all the bento picks and bottles call home, but it was time for him to come out and take some fresh air, and he stood up to the challenge admirably. The fruit salad was a mix of melon, strawberries and apple, dressed with lemon juice to avoid the otherwise inevitable browning of the apple, which would put you off your lunch in a hurry. Just a squeeze of lemon juice over the top and gently stirred or shaken (yes, that’s right, GENTLY shaken) through is all you need to help keep the fruit looking appetising and fresh.

There was also a lonely looking pear with this bento. I do like a nice pear . Not only are pears the source of this ever-funny joke, they are an absolute nightmare to store. I bought a whole bag because they were on offer in the supermarket, and they were rock hard for the first few days and then mush after that, to paraphrase Eddie Izzard’s take on pears, which contains bad language but is so very, very true.

Bento 43 was all fruit to go with the tuna surprise pitta bread which was the main event. Tuna surprise means tuna plus whatever assortment of suitable veg is in the kitchen and a bit of yogurt or mayo to bind it all together. In this case it was green pepper, cherry tomato, sweetcorn and spring onion, and there was also (quelle surprise) rocket salad in the pitta. I have now finished the rocket salad, and I think we can all be thankful for that. Alongside the bento was a breakfast banana and an anytime apple, and the bento itself had melon, strawberries and cucumber, once again with cream cheese.

I feel like I haven’t really been innovative with my lunchtime foods, though I bucked that trend a bit this week with the pork meatballs. I have to admit that it can be hard to find the time to cook anything specially for lunch, but I’d like to start branching out again to keep myself interested, and to have something to blog about, too. That’s as far as I’ve got with that though – I must go off and check out some of the inspiring bento blogs for some ideas.

Here is this week’s playlist, the second half of the Improved 30 Day Song challenge: Rock Salt Playlist Week Eighteen. Here are the rules for each song, too:

Day 16 – A song you could sing without music:
Day 17 – Another favorite song:
Day 18 – Another favorite band:
Day 19 – A song you will never get tired of:
Day 20 – A song from an artist you like but wished they had never made:
Day 21 – A song from your favorite album:
Day 22 – A song from a band you heard about before they were cool:
Day 23 – A song that is YOU:
Day 24 – A song that is anti-YOU:
Day 25 – A song you discovered on TV:
Day 26 – The perfect song to listen to when you are angry:
Day 27 –A song you wish you could play on an instrument
Day 28 – A song from another favorite album:
Day 29 – A song that makes you wanna punch someone in the face:
Day 30 – A song that makes you want to drive fast and crazy:


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