Saturday, 29 November 2008

Using up random bits of food for bento

I really liked how this one turned out, given that it was made entirely from random items in the fridge/freezer. I usually plan out our lunches (and dinners) but there are times when plans change. That is why I would often squirrel away random portions and items of food in the freezer so that I can always put something together.

Three mushroom rice, inarizushi, container of soy sauce, sugar snap peas and kimchi.

The mushroom rice freezes well, so it's just as well I always make a pot of it in the rice cooker. Freeze individual portions in airtight containers (up to a month) and reheat in the microwave (about 2 minutes on High, mixing halfway through) before packing them into the bento container.

Inarizushi were from a frozen stash as well. I always make a large batch and freeze the rest. Individually wrap them in plastic wrap and then place in a large ziplock bag and freeze. Reheat on a microwaveable plate about 1 minute on High. I had a large jar of kimchi (Korean pickled vegetables) in the fridge, so a bit of that went in. I didn't use up a pack of sugar snap peas earlier in the week so the handful of veg also went into the bento.
Bento is so good for using up random bits of food.

And here is a selection of other bento lunches for the past week or so:

Tuna pasta salad with sundried tomatoes and sweetcorn, and steamed asparagus tossed in extra virgin olive oil.

Yes, sandwiches belong in a bento too. This one had rosemary ham (from Granville Island Market), jarlsberg cheese, lettuce and cucumber in white bread, sliced peppers and a chocolate.

This was from extra chicken fajita that we had for dinner. The ingredients were packed separated to be assembled at lunch time. This Laptop Lunches container is pretty useful for bulky items like that, and the inner containers can be taken out and microwaved if necessary (like the fajita filling, which has a lid on it). This lunc contained sliced kiwi, chicken fajita filling, two flour tortilla wraps, and small container of sour cream.

Inarizushi, peppers, edamame, onigiri and container of soy sauce.

Click post title for full recipe

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Tuna pasta salad with sundried tomatoes

I like making pasta salads for bento and this tuna pasta salad has the added kick of sundried tomatoes. You can also multiply the ingredients to make a larger portion, particularly good for a potluck party. This dish uses food that I tend to have in the pantry, fridge or freezer so I can also put it together at short notice.

I rather like the bits of red, yellow and green in this dish:
Tuna pasta salad

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

1 1/2 cup uncooked small pasta shapes (bow ties, small shells, spirals etc)
1 can of tuna chunks in water, drained and flaked
3 pieces of sundried tomato in oil, diced (easiest with scissors)
1 cup sweetcorn, canned (drained) or frozen (defrosted)
1 small handful of parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
3 tbsp mayo
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water, according to packet instructions, until al dente. Rinse in cold water to cool quickly and set aside.
2. Combine the tuna with 2 tbsp of mayo and mix well. Add the tuna mayo mixture to the pasta, along with the sundried tomato, sweetcorn, parsley remaining mayo and mix well.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep chilled until ready to eat.

I am sending this dish to Presto Pasta Nights, which is hosted by Daphne of More Than Words this week.

Click post title for full recipe

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Pork with ginger and spring onion 姜葱猪肉

Beef or pork with ginger and spring onion (姜葱猪肉) is a dish that I cook quite frequently at home. It is quick to cook and the savoury gravy is lovely drizzled over plain rice. I normally cook this dish with beef but depending on the quality of the meat I happen to find on the day, any supermarket promotion going on, or whether we've had beef overload during the week, I would also cook this with pork.

The key to tender and succulent pork or beef in this dish is to marinate the thin slices of meat. At least an hour but overnight is best. Quick stir frying is also essential to seal in the juices without drying out the meat. I love making this dish on weekdays. All I need to do is marinade the meat the night before or in the morning, and then it is minutes from the fridge to the dining table. I sometimes add sliced mushrooms to the dish since we're always looking for an excuse to eat more mushrooms.

Pork with ginger and spring onions (姜葱猪肉)

Edit: I forgot to mention that I tend to use pork loin for this dish, and either rump or sirloin for the beef version. Slice the meat thinly for the marinade to infuse the meat thoroughly and for quick cooking.

Ingredients (serves 2):

300g pork, cut into thin strips
4 stalks of spring onions, cut into inch-long sections on the diagonal
5-6 white button or shitake mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
Oil for cooking

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp cornflour
A dash of white pepper

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce (for colour, optional)
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp water
2 tsp corn flour, dissolved in 2 tbsp water

1. Marinade the pork and set aside in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight for best result.
2. Combine all the seasoning ingredients (except for the last cornflour mixture) in a bowl. Heat a wok or heavy based pan on medium-high heat. Add in some cooking oil and heat until the oil is hot but not quite smoking. Stir fry the ginger and white parts of the spring onions very quickly for about 30 seconds.
3. If using, add the mushrooms and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Then add the pork and stir fry briskly until the meat is about 70 percent cooked, which should take only a couple of minutes. Add the green parts of the spring onions, pour the seasoning ingredients into the pan and mix evenly.
4. Stir in the corn flour mixture at the end and simmer on low heat for about a minute to thicken the sauce. Dish out and serve immediately, making sure to avoid overcooking the beef. The strong flavours of this dish go well with plain rice rice.

Click post title for full recipe

Friday, 21 November 2008

Presto Pasta Nights #90: Round up

Phew! I was a little overwhelmed by the number of entries this week. There were plenty of pasta dishes submitted for this week's Presto Pasta Nights and I was very impressed by the variety and creativity. There were dishes made from scratch to deal with various food allergies, fusion dishes, as well as more traditional ones. Soups, salads, tomato-based, cream sauce, cheese sauce, stir fries... The possibilities are indeed endless. I hope you get some good ideas for the week ahead from the following bloggers, as well as discover some new food blogs.

PPN 90

The entries are listed in the order that they were received:

First we have pasta with a chilli twist from Sangeeth of Art of Cooking Indian Food - pasta with chilli sauce.
Art of cooking indian food

Judith from Think On It! made innovative use of a duck in a pasta with duck ragu.
duck ragu

To deal with her kid's egg allergy, Libby from The Allergic Kid made flax seed pasta from scratch, and submitted not one but two dishes: Flax Seed Noodles with Miso Glaze and Pumpkin Ravioli.
Flax Seed NoodlesPumpkin Ravioli

Eliza, who runs Notes From My Food Diary, made a Florentine Pasta Salad with Lemon. Sounds very refreshing.
Florentine Pasta Salad with Lemon

Ruth from Once Upon A Feast (who started PPN) made Pasta Puttanesca with Shrimp for this week.
Pasta Puttanesca with Shrimp

Kevin is one of the most prolific food blogger that I know and his entry combined two of my favourite food: Shrimp Carbonara.
Shrimp Carbonara

Abigail from Mamatouille submitted her very first PPN entry, a Red Lentil, Spinach, and Ginger Penne.
Red lentil, spinach and ginger penne

Daphne from More Than Words gave us this unusual combination of a Spicy Mango Pasta Bake. I love mango so no complaints from me!
Spicy mango pasta bake

Kiichenetta from Got No Milk offers up an Arugula ravioli with marinara sauce, made from wonton wrappers!

Patsy from Family, Friends and Food cooked up their favourite comfort food, lagsana.

We have another wheat-free noodle dish from Ning of Heart and Hearth. The Stir-Fry Mung Bean Vermicelli with Beef looks really good and I love mung bean vermicelli (also called glass noodles or bean thread noodles).
stir fry mung bean vermicelli

Eugenia from treats us with a colourful Hearty Pasta Salad.
hearty pasta salad

Leemei Tan from My Cooking Hut cooked up a Tagliatelle with Spicy Sausage, Courgette, and Petit Pois.

From Marie, of Starchy, we have Shrimp and Bokchoy Noodles. Anything with prawns wins with me!
shrimp bokchoy noodles

Katie from Thyme For Cooking submitted a dish of Pasta with Chevre, Ham and Peas in a skillet. It was a bit of challenge with a stove that had to be kindled and fired.
pasta with ham and peas

We have another fusion dish from Mary of One Perfect Bite: Spaghetti Marco Polo - A Chitalian Stir-Fry. Mmm... Prawns... \
Spaghetti Marco Polo

Apu of Annarasa - Essence of Food sent in a vegetarian pasta dish of Warm Broccoli-Spinach Pesto Salad.
Warm Broccoli-Spinach Pesto-sent

Marye from Baking Delights went with her love of cheese with this Southwestern Alfredo.
southwestern alfredo

We have another entry of homemade pasta from Glenna, of A Fridge Full Of Food, who made Chicken & Spinach Cannelloni
chicken and spinach cannelloni

Serena from Rock Cake also made Pumpkin Ravioli, so you now have two recipes to choose from.
Pumpkin ravioli from Rock Cakes

I've been a long time reader of Cook Sister and am delighted to have an entry from Jeanne. She used a less common pasta shape to cook up a orecchiette in a creamy mushroom & pesto sauce.
Cook Sister

Wiffy from Noobcook cooked up a macaroni soup that reminds me of my childhood comfort food. Check back on her blog for updates as she actually cooked macaroni for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all in one day!
macaroni soup

From Mrs Ergul of Mrs Ergul in the Kitchen, we have Chicken Cacciatore Fusilli.
Chicken Cacciatore Fusilli

Vodka with pasta?? Don't diss it till you've tried it. Check out this recipe for Penne alla Vodka from Anna of Morsels & Musings.

And finally, here is my offering of Sausage Minestrone. A warm and hearty soup for cold autumnal days.
Sausage minestrone 1

The next Presto Pasta Nights will be hosted by Daphne of More Than Words. Send your entries to daphnesu16(at) yahoo(dot)com and a cc to Ruth AT 4everykitchen DOT com, by the 27th of November.

Click post title for full recipe

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Minestrone soup with sausage

For Presto Pasta Nights this week, I decided to make a pasta soup instead of a main dish or salad. The autumnal weather definitely calls for something warm and hearty, and a large bowl of hot soup with some wram crusty bread is just so comforting. Soups are also a great way to use up vegetables languishing at the bottom of the fridge so feel free to throw whatever you have instead of following the recipe strictly (e.g. potatoes, celery, squash, beans, mushrooms).

The addition of sausage meat rolled into little meatballs add great flavour to the soup and will also be a hit with kids. You can also use alphabet pasta in the soup for young diners, or those young at heart. If using small shell pasta or other shapes, it might be a good idea to cook the pasta separately and add them to the soup at the end, so that the pasta does not get to soft and soggy or expand too much in the soup. Since it takes almost the same amount of effort to make soup for 2 or for 6, I always make a large pot. Leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month. Store it without the pasta unless you don't mind them soft and bloated. We had this minestrone soup with bread and cheese.

Sausage minestrone 1

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
200g sausage meat (about 2-3 sausages)
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium leek (white part only), sliced into rounds
1.5 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup uncooked pasta (small shells or elbow macaroni)


1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, leek and and dried oregano and sautee until the onion has just turned translucent.
2. Add the stock, tinned tomatoes and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.
3. While the soup is simmering, heat a little oil in a frying pan. Shape the sausage meat into small marble-sized balls and brown them in the pan. This will seal juices and flavour and prevent the meatballs from disintegrating in the soup. Add the browned meatballs to the soup where it will finish cooking. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. (The sausage meat will flavour the soup; I didn't need to add salt or pepper in mine.)
4. Cook the pasta in a separate pan of boiling water according to packet instructions. Divide the cooked pasta amongst soups bowls. Ladle the soup over the pasta and serve immediately.

Sausage minestrone 2

There is still plenty of time to send in your entry for Presto Pasta Nights this week. Please send your entries to nilmandra(at)soyandpepper(dot)com with the following information:

1) Name
2) Blog title and URL
3) URL of the post containing your pasta dish
4) A picture of your pasta dish

The deadline is Friday 21st of November. In your write up, please mention and link to Presto Pasta Nights and Soy and Pepper. I have already received a number of delicious-looking and some very creative entries, and I look forward to more great ideas from you. As long as it is pasta or noodles, send it in!

Click post title for full recipe

Friday, 14 November 2008

Announcing Presto Pasta Nights #90

PPN 90

Presto Pasta Nights is a weekly event started by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast that has grown to become one of the most popular regular blog events amongst foodies. There is no special theme or requirements, just cook up a pasta dish and enter! Since pasta or noodles feature quite prominently in my cooking, at least once a week, I have entered a number of times and it is always great to browse through the entries and get new ideas for pasta dishes.

This week, I have the pleasure of hosting the event. Please send your entries to nilmandra(at)soyandpepper(dot)com with the following information:

1) Name
2) Blog title and URL
3) URL of the post containing your pasta dish
4) A picture of your pasta dish

The deadline is Friday 21st of November. In your write up, please mention and link to Presto Pasta Nights and Soy and Pepper.

I plan to make my pasta dish this weekend and will post it later in the week. In the mean time, here are some pasta dishes that I have previously entered for Presto Pasta Nights:

Spaghetti aglio e olio with sundried tomatoes
Spaghetti aglio e olio with sundried tomatoes 1

Cold soba
Cold soba

Yaki udon with beef
Yaki udon with beef

Chicken and chorizo pasta
Chicken and chorizo pasta

Click post title for full recipe

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Restaurant leftovers - do you take it home with you?

We had lunch out yesterday (Remembrance Day holiday) at a Chinese restaurant and the food portions were so big that we both had enough leftovers for lunch today. That has been quite a consistent trend in my travels and life abroad: restaurant portions in the US and Canada are much larger than found in the UK and most European countries, which are in turn larger than those in most Asian countries. Draw your own conclusions!

For our lunches, I just added in some vegetables to make the meals a bit more nutritionally balanced. Apart from having a well stocked pantry, freezer stash, and making extras during dinner with bento in mind, meals out can also contribute to lunch the next day. Don't be shy about asking for leftover food to be packed up. In most Asian restaurants (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Indian), it is not only accepted but almost expected that customers will request for leftovers to be packed up. I have also been asked in other restaurants whether I wanted leftover pizza and other non-Asian type food to be packed up, so please feel free to ask your server and don't feel embarrassed. Why waste food and money?

AP's lunch is kimchi and bacon fried rice, and kailan in oyster sauce. The fried rice tasted pretty good and should be easy to make at home. I'll give it a go some time and post a recipe here later.


Mine has the same veg, but with a three meat stir fry with thick rice noodles. The noodles were stir fried with slivers of chicken, beef and Chinese ham. Pretty tasty. I would probably add some shredded carrot and shitake mushrooms if I cook this dish myself.


Click post title for full recipe

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Bento backlog

I just realised that I have a backlog of bento made in the past 2 weeks... So please bear with me with this too-long and bento-ful post.

These two were made after Thanksgiving here in Canada (yes, ages ago!). We actually didn't have leftovers for lunch! Well, there were leftovers but more suitable for dinner, so all that went into lunches were some carrots and brussel sprouts.

My lunch: Inarizushi, brussel sprouts and bunny container of soy sauce on top tier. Bottom tier has one onigiri, vegetable gyoza, fish container of black vinegar and carrots.

AP's lunch: egg and mixed vegetable fried rice, vegetable gyoza, brussel sprouts and carrots.

This lunch was mainly to use up leftover foccacia bread. We had caesar salad, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes and foccacia bread. Yellow container held caesar dressing and strawberry container had extra virgin olive oil for the bread.


Three mushrooms rice with steamed broccoli (tossed with some soy sauce and sesame oil) and cherry tomatoes. As ever, the rice was leftover from dinner because it just makes more sense to cook a larger pot of rice.


A simple bento for AP: potato salad with parsley, red peppers and sliced kiwi.


Chicken katsu (breaded chicken), cherry tomatoes, inarizushi, onigiri, edamame and soy sauce in elephant container. The lettuce leaf under the chicken katsu kept it from getting soggy. I let it cool down a little after cooking but given that everything had to be pack fairly quickly this morning, there was still residual heat and resultant moisture, which was absorbed by the lettuce. I should have arranged the lettuce leaf nicely so that it peeked out around the chicken, but oh well, time pressure kind of short circuited the thinking process.


Just a very simple one today. Salmon teriyaki, rice, cherry tomatoes and kailan in oyster sauce. Made this morning before AP had to go to work. I should have added perhaps a little cup of sweetcorn, for some extra colour and variety. But oh well, I didn't think on my feet very well that early in the morning! At least the lunches will help with our fish intake (I try to cook fish or seafood twice a week).


Click post title for full recipe