Monday, 24 September 2007

Sushi

The best thing about making sushi for dinner is, well, having them for dinner of course, but also being able to pack leftovers for lunch the following day. It's sushi in our bentos today: a variety of maki and inari sushi, some extra crab sticks and soy sauce bottle, with fruit in side containers.

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Muffins

More attempts to use the apples from our garden. I made apple and cinnamon muffins on Sunday, so that Andy's folks could either have some in the afternoon or bring home with them. They turned out rather nicely with lovely chunks of apple and the sweet scent of cinnamon. Sarah asked for the recipe which I printed off for her.

Apple and cinnamon muffin

Ingredients (makes 12):

275g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
225ml milk
110g melted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
225g cooking apples, peeled and chopped
1tsp cinnamon
Topping: 2tbsp Demerara sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F/gas mark 6. Line muffin tin.
2. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, eggs, milk, butter and vanilla extract.
4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir a few times, add apple and cinnamon and mix gently to form a lumpy batter.
5. Divide mixture between muffin cases, sprinkle the demerara topping on top of each muffin muxture and bake in the for 25-30 mins until well risen and golden.
6. Leave the muffins in the tin for 5 minutes before removing and to cool on a wire rack.

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Friday, 21 September 2007

Bento tally for the week

Entirely different lunches for Andy and me on Monday because I was silly and didn't buy enough potatoes for salad. We got back from a weekend away late on Sunday evening and I was completely beat. It would have been the perfect opportunity to have hard boil eggs in the potato salad and make nori faces too but I didn't the energy and only just managed to throw this together after a quick supper.On the left: cherry tomatoes, edamame and a mini Babybel cheese. On the right: potato salad.

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My lunch was done on Monday morning after breakfast. Top tier contains cherry tomatoes and a prawn fishcake on a bed of watercress. Bottom tier contains cold soba noodles topped with sesame seeds. Soba sauce in a separate container is not pictured.

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Tuesday's lunch was yakiudon with fishcake, carrots and spring onions in the bottom tier. Top tier: three gyozas, a fish container of dark vinegar and a cucumber, seaweed and crabstick salad. Blueberries in a sidecar.

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We bought some gorgeous homemade mushroom pate from the London Borough Market over the weekend and that went into the lunch boxes on Wednesday, along with sundried tomato pita bread that had to be eaten (clearing the freezer for defrosting). Pita bread went into the bottom tier. Pate is on the top tier on the side, garnished with some basil leaves, along with some edamame and crabsticks on my new too-cute picks.

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AP's lunch is almost the same. Sundried tomato pita bread on the left, a small container of mushroom pate and cherry tomatoes, and cucumber sticks on the side. Two mango jellies and a random cherry tomato went down the middle.

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Yesterday's lunch was chicken teriyaki on top of rice. On the side: steamed spinach topped with fried ikan bilis (anchovies) and two cherry tomatoes.

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And for today:

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Top tier is chicken and leek gyoza, a fish container of dark vinegar and tamagoyaki.

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Bottom tier holds fried rice with peas and stewed fried tofu.

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eBay encounters

Some bits of excitment this week when I got more bentos goodies delivered from Japan. Picks and various sauce bottles.

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There were some problems with one of the orders. I bought them more than a month ago from eBay but the package just never came. After almost 4 weeks of waiting (to allow for customs or other delays), the seller and I had to conclude that it had gotten lost in the post. I was quite disappointed but not too upset because it wasn't something terribly important and was just a few pounds really (which was why I didn't bother with postal insurance). The seller had been very good with communication as well, which was always reassuring and one didn't wonder if it had been a rip off.

The surprising thing was she then actually offered to send me a replacement package. I was just going to put it down to bad luck and try to buy the items again because the listings stated that she cannot be responsible for uninsured parcels that are lost or damaged. It was a really kind gesture on her part and really unexpected. This time the replacement package arrived in 4 days! And the seller even put in some extra picks to compensate for the problems (which wasn't her fault at all). The only thing she asked was that I don't mention it on her eBay feedback since she cannot promise to do it for everyone.

It's always nice to be surprised by random acts of kindness :)

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Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Weekend down south

It was another train journey for me and Andy down south to spend the weekend with his parents. On Saturday, we went down to London for the day to hit the Borough Market again, after being 'cheated' of our lunch there. Bread, cheese and oils would have been good but would have also been a mess without any appopriate napkins, eating knife and so on. Besides, we were sampling so much of the oils and cheeses (often with bread) that we were half full anyway!

So we settled for the gourmet sausages on ciabatta with onions and salad. Andy had a wild boar sausage and I went for an ostrich sausage. Mine was waaaay too meaty for me; Andy's was really yummy. They were over 90 percent meat and hugely satisfying. Downed that with freshly pressed apple juice for only £1.50 per cup. Delish.

I couldn't resist taking another photo at the fish stall:
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And these pretty eggs! It wasn't the light, the eggs were really pastel pink and blue. I think I have seen them in the supermarkets too, from Clarence Court.
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The top of Southwark Cathedral visible from Green Market.
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We then walked down Oxford Street and Regent Street, popping into random shops but not buying much. We walked past Liberty's on Regent Street and I was surprised to find out that Andy has never been there or heard of it. Hilary brought me there when I was in London years ago and it was heavenly! Amazing architecture outside, fantastic interior and uber luxurious goods. Nothing I can afford but such a gorgeous place to walk around it.
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Finally, we hit Japan Centre where I stocked up on more groceries and condiments. Bought a big bottle of Kewpie mayo, soba, udon, and panko breadcrumbs, all of which were either unavailable where I live or more expensive. I agonised over whether to buy a 5kg bag of Nishiki short grain rice for £5.95 but decided against it eventually. Then I got quite upset later when I dropped by Fresh Asia (at the end of my road) to see that the exact same bag of rice is selling for £9.99. WTF. I knew that they were selling Kewpie mayo was selling for £3.50 and expected the rice to be more expensive, but not by THAT much! I've been kicking myself since yesterday, sigh. *kick kick*

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Monday, 10 September 2007

Apples in the garden

Did some laundry and hung them out in the sunshine and in the afternoon, we worked on the back bit of the garden which desparately needed to be tidied. It was getting quite overgrown but the apple tree, full of apples, has littered the ground underneath with lots of apples. They had to be cleared and thrown into the compost heap before it kills the lawn mower.

Lots of apples

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Unfortunatley, as soon as they started to turn red, the worms and birds get right to them...

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We managed to pick some though (that we could reach)

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The vines and bushes had to be trimmed too. The raspberries season is over (and we didn't get much this year with all that rain...) but we've been getting some blackberries from two random bushes.

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It took quite a long time but we've finally managed to tame the grass a bit. I'll have to trim more of some bushes and trees at the back another day.

I made apple crumble last night with some of those apples.

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With hot custard

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I'm pleased to say the apples taste alright. There's more in the fruit bowl though... Maybe apple pie next? Or apple sauce? I wonder how long would applesauce keep. I think we should get a ladder up and pick more apples, put them into boxes or bags and place them in front of our house with a sign, 'APPLES FROM BACKGARDEN. ORGANIC. PLEASE HELP YOURSELF'. Or bring a bag into the office with the same sign. It's such a waste to just let them fall and rot away, although I guess the birds and worms get to enjoy them.

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Friday, 7 September 2007

More bento

Wednesday's lunch was chicken thighs teriyaki on a bed of stirfried noodles. Kailan in oyster sauce on the side.

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Based on the recipe from Naomi Kijima's "Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go".

Teriyaki chicken (serves 1)

*1 boneless chicken thigh, skin on (I took the skin off for mine)
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sake

1. Trim excess fat from thigh. Marinate in the mirin, soy sauce and sugar for 30 minutes or overnight.
2. Pan fry the chicken in a little oil, skin side down. When browned, turn and cook the other side.
3. Add 3 tbsp water to te reserve marinade (whatever's left in the bowl) and pout over chicken. Simmer over low heat till cooked through.
4. Raise heat and reduce the sauce to a glaze to coat the chicken. Remove chicken and slice. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.

(*Sainsbury's sell skinless and boneless chicken thighs - that are cheaper than chicken breasts! Don't even have to remove the skin or bones yourself, although have to trim the fat. These crazy ang mohs who pay more for breast than for thigh, complete opposite of Singapore/Malaysia/China :p It was the same when I was in Canada.)

Thursday's lunch was bacon and Brie with salad leaves in a wholemeal bread roll. On the side is some salad and cherry tomato with a small container of dressing (greek yoghurt, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper), and peach slices.

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Andy's lunch was the same except he got raspberries and blackberries instead of peaches.

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The Laptop Lunches containers are pretty useful for bulky sandwiches and salads, but I still find they contain a little too much food for me sometimes.

Today's lunch was pretty similar to yesterday's. Andy's was just about the same except he got mini mango pudding instead of berries. Mine went into a smaller box today with a container of greek yoghurt and berries drizzled with honey, and two chocolate truffles. I didn't get round to eating the chocolates eventually but I left them in the office for 'chocolate emergencies'.

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Thursday, 6 September 2007

Some lunches earlier this week

I love Sunday roast. They are fantastic for leftovers in lunch boxes. We had a roast chicken last Sunday with one left over breast, 2 wings, 1 leg plus thigh and bits and pieces. Some of that went into Monday's lunch, which was vegetable cous cous with cherry tomato and coriander garnish in the bottom tier. Top tier was slices of chicken, yellow peppers and another cherry tomato to plug the gap. Exactly the same for Andy and me, although I think I put slightly more cous cous and peppers in his box.

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Andy had the leg and wings for lunch at home on Wednesday and I made chicken and veg soup with the carcass on Tuesday. Yum.

Made onigiri for the first time on Tuesday morning and it took me so long! I think I was nervous about how it would turn out and was being very careful. Hopefully it will be much quicker with practice.

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Top tier on the left: heart-shaped onigiri with furikake topping, cherry tomatoes and chicken dumplings with nori wrap.

Bottom tier on the right: Star-shaped onigiri with beef and onion. more chicken dumplings and edamame.

The recipe called for minced chicken but I could only find minced turkey and that seemed to work just as well. I think it's too much onigiri for me but I wanted to make sure Andy had enough for his lunch. I did leave one for a snack later in the afternoon.

Both done and ready to go!

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I was looking for a reusable bag to carry my bento (usually used plastic bags that I reuse) when I got an idea and wrapped it up in an old scarf recycled as a furoshiki, which I could just carry by its handles. Ok, so I took out the chopsticks and just put them in my bag after the photo ;p

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Monday, 3 September 2007

Portobello Market and London Borough Market

This was almost a week ago but definitely still worth blogging about. Andy and I visited his parents over the bank holiday weekend and we made a day trip down to London on Saturday because I really wanted to go to Portobello Market and also London's Borough Market, having heard such great things about it as an organic and gourmet food heaven.

Portobello Market was a bit of a disappointment. It was still fun, walking around the stalls with a very-patient Andy (who doesn't enjoy markets nearly as much as I do), enjoying the vibe of Nottinghill and the glorious weather that weekend. I was expecting there to be a lot more stalls out on the street. I think that might have to do with the Nottinghill Carnival starting the next day and many vendors might have just not turned up that Saturday. I might try again another time.

We spotted these two kids sitting in the doorway of a cafe, stuffing their face with chocolate muffins that were about the size of their faces. Their mouths and chins were covered in chocolate. They really made us smile.



We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant called 'Nonya', which I spotted as we were entering Nottinghill. It was a good find as we ended up having the most delicious Singapore/Malaysian food I've ever had in London. Andy had chicken rice (which got the thumbs up) and I had the most unhealthy, greasy and delicious Penang fried kway teow. Reasonably priced too at just under £8 per plate, especially for London. We stopped ourselves from ordering the otak-otak though because it is most OMGWTF expensive otah I've ever seen - £6.90 for two. No way I could make myself pay S$21 for two pieces of otah, even if they are bigger than the ones from pasar malam. The (Singaporean) couple next to us ordered them though, with Penang Assam Laksa which looked and smelled very good.

After lunch it was onward to the Borough Market. Yes, some of you might have already spotted the terrible error in our plans... Why oh why did we go to the Borough Market after having lunch?? It was the most gorgeous assembly of food stalls with fantastic home-made cheeses, breads, jams, cold meats, oils, and cooked food ranging from Greek to Indian to Spanish. I wanted to die looking and smelling all that food but having no more tummy space to eat. You could pretty much fill your tummy just by grazing on the food samples. Andy certainly tried out the cheeses at various stalls and even I couldn't resist the different oils on offer.

We bought a gorgeous bottle of garlic olive oil (although I preferred the porcini one, the garlic would be more versatile). We couldn't bring ourselves to buy the truffle olive oil which was about twice more expensive and the others were already expensive! Also bought a jar of lemon curd for Andy's parents. I bemoan all the beautiful field and cultivated mushroom varieties that I couldn't buy, not when we won't be home for another 5 days.

The main market building is often used for filming period dramas and movies such as 'Miss Potter'.


Sights of the London Borough Market:




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Saturday, 1 September 2007

Bento goodies galore!

Well, not galore as such, but certainly more than I've got a week ago. When Andy and I were down in London earlier this week, we went to Oriental City and Japan Centre to scour for some bento goodness. We also went to Chinatown but by then we've gotten pretty much what we wanted and I couldn't buy non-perishables anyway.

Oriental City wasn't as big as I thought it would be, and not as many shops. We found some interesting ones, especially this big store selling homeware. Really lovely Japanese bowls and plates and cutlery etc. Certainly cheaper than say John Lewis but still more expensive than in Singapore. I kept thinking how much I would pay for each at Daiso (S$2)... Andy bought a load of mango pudding at the supermarket and I got some mirin, rice vinegar and hon dashi. Found a shop with a small shelf of bento supplies. There were some bento boxes that I've seen on eBay but there were not the ones that I like so I didn't get any. Two days later when I was at Japan Centre, I was seriously regretting not buying the short chopsticks (that would fit inside lunchboxes) and bento belts then as I never saw them again at Japan Centre or Chinatown. Although I did buy some onigiri moulds and fish containers. Definitely cheaper than eBay. There were some Hello Kitty bento boxes at another shop but err no thanks.

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Finally found the boxes that I was looking for at Japan Centre. And only £2.95 each! (Instead of around US$7 with another US$5 shipping = around £6) - which is not that different from the cost of normal lunch boxes. I couldn't resist and bought two:

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When Andy and I had our supper at Yun's on Thursday, after getting back from London, we couldn't finish the yong tau foo and I asked for it to be packed up. That ended up in my lunch for yesterday. Yum. I just cooked some rice and microwaved edamame beans in the morning

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I said I was a little indulgent at Japan Centre because I knew I was going to get two bento boxes in the post soon. That was Andy's birthday present to me. It arrived at my office on Wednesday but I was still in London then. Got them yesterday when I went in. I've never had a package wrapped up so nicely before, with musical notes on the outside and Hello Kitty sticker lol... That's the Japanese for you.

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And inside were...

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Well, it's my birthday present but when I chose it on eBay I got one for him too. I love the lacquer effect, they look and feel much nicer than the other plastic ones I got from London. But then the price reflects that too... Too bad I couldn't find anything like them here. Or perhaps that's a good thing because if I've seen similar in London I would have gotten all angsty about ordering them from Japan and paying all that money.

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