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Teriyaki burgers might sound kind of outlandish to most western ears, but the sweet-savoury flavour of teriyaki sauce works really well with the beef burgers. I really like eating this as a main course with broccoli, but you can also eat it cold in your bento box as here. I’d make extra for dinner and then pack mini burgers for lunch the next day! I’ve also packed cold broccoli and cauliflower in here – not only are they nice cold (just try it – but don’t overcook them; nothing worse than cold, soggy veg!) but they look really nice as garnishes.

Hamburger and pepper egg

Recipe for Teriyaki Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Butter
  • 200g minced pork
  • 300g minced beef
  • 25g breadcrumbs
  • 75 ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp sugar

Method

  • Sauté the onion in butter for five minutes until softened. Add to the pork and beef (remembering to cool it first unless you’re cooking right away) and mix.
  • Add the milk to the breadcrumbs and allow it to absorb the liquid. Then, add this along with the egg and seasonings to the onion and meat mixture, and mix well.
  • Form the mixture into bento sized hamburgers. You should be able to get 23 small hamburgers from this – you can vary the size depending on how many you want to fit in the bento.
  • Chill in the fridge for an hour to set, then remove and fry gently in oil until they are cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat the mirin, then add the soy sauce and sugar. Simmer until thickened, then pour over the burgers.
  • Allow the sauce to coat the burgers, and cool. The sauce should glaze the meat as it gets cold.
  • This will make enough burgers for two people for dinner and two lunches the next day.
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This is such a simple recipe I haven’t even put quantities in. You can adjust them according to what you like, how many you’re making and so on. This recipe was originally created for the bento box, as you can cook the egg cup directly in a silicone cup cake case, but you could also make this in a frying or saute pan and finish it off in the oven. I cook this at home so often for dinner, only for a main meal, I would add in cooked, sliced potatoes.

Egg cup

Recipe for bento / lunch egg cup

Fry onions, peppers, courgette and peas (or any veggies of your choice) together with olive oil and salt over a gentle heat until softened.
Add mixture to beaten eggs when still hot, then pour into a silicone cup, which has been greased with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried thyme and bake on a baking sheet for 10 mins at 180c. Check the cup has cooked by squeezing it – if it’s firm, it’s cooked. Allow to cool at room temperature, which will help the egg to set.

NOTE:

You can also use this recipe to use up cooked leftover veggies – saute them until they get a little colour and continue as before.

As a general guide, I would estimate one to two eggs to every person eating. The egg isn’t so much part of the meal, but a way of binding the ingredients together.

I love the penguin pick in this bento. I bought it from J-List in a pack of sea-creature food picks, but I think the penguin is my favourite.

Inside this bento is a mixture of different recipes I was trying out for the first time. I think the sweet potato was a recipe from Wagamama, and included a honey and lime juice dressing. I’m not big on sweet potato, to be honest, and this one didn’t really sway me to the cause. This bento picture was actually taken over two years ago, and as you can see, I’d still not really perfected the art of packing onigiri… Ah well.

The orange bento box is from Daiso, and even though it’s one of the cheapest ones around, it’s still my favourite because it’s such a nifty oval shape. The front tier contains soy-balsamic chicken and spicy green beans, both adapted from Harumi’s Japanese Cooking – both of her English cookery books are great, although I prefer the second one!

Green bean, sweet potato and balsamic chicken bento

Recipe for spicy green beans


Ingredients

150g green beans

75g minced pork

1 tbsp garlic oil (or use olive oil and some garlic puree)

Pinch dried chilli powder

1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sugar

Method

If making for the bento, trim your green beans (or French, or fine…whatever you call them!) into halves or even thirds, so they can be picked up easily by chopsticks.

Boil for about four minutes, then drain and refresh quickly in very cold water. This is to retain their colour. Drain again, and shake off excess water.

Heat the garlic oil in the pan and add the pork, stirring to break up. Now add the chilli pepper and stir well to coat, then add the soy sauce and sugar.

Mix well, ensuring the sugar has dissolved, and then serve the beans with the mince on top.

Note

You can increase or decrease the chilli powder according to your tastes, just ensure it’s all mixed in well or someone will be getting a surprise in their bento box…

Recipe for soy and balsamic vinegar chicken

Ingredients

Six chicken thighs

4 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp oil

Method

Mix the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and sugar in a pan, then simmer. Allow to cook for several minutes, reducing the sauce until it’s thick and glossy.

Now wash and dry your chicken thighs, and place them in a hot pan with the oil, and allow to brown on one side. Turn them over and pour over the sauce, then cover and cook for five minutes, taking care not to let the sauce burn over too high a heat.

Remove the chicken and test it’s cooked by slicing a piece in half. Return to the heat if it needs longer.

For a bento, allow to cool before slicing and dressing with some extra sauce.

Note

You will need about one or two chicken thighs, depending on size, per person for a bento lunch.

These recipes originally appeared in 501 Bento Box Lunches, published by Graffito Books.

I love making Japanese pickles – unlike western pickles, these aren’t preserved vegetables, but are soaked in a preservative liquid for a couple of hours, or overnight. This recipe produces a spicy delicious pickle that goes really well with rice and gyozas.

Gyozas and cucumber

Recipe for hot soy sauce cucumber

Ingredients

1/2 cucumber

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp mirin

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp English mustard

Method

Halve the cucumber and scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into half moon chunks, salt and leave to stand for 20 minutes in a covered bowl.

Take a plastic bag and add the remaining ingredients, mixing well so that the mustard is dissolved. Add the cucumber and mix well, then refrigerate until needed – leaving for at least 10 minutes. Drain well before adding to a bento – best used the same day or the day after.

This recipe originally appeared in 501 Bento Box Lunches, published by Graffito Books.

This pretty little bento is one of my favourites – it’s elegant and healthy… completely unlike me! Inside is sesame vinegar aubergine and spicy soy sauce cucumber, as well as soy sauce and balsamic vinegar chicken.

Inari sushi bento

Recipe for inari sushi


Ingredients

2 cups hot, cooked Japanese rice

3 tbsp liquid sushi seasoning

1 tbsp black sesame seeds

6 inari skins

Method

Pour the sushi seasoning over the rice, then turn and fan until cooled and no longer steaming. Leave to get completely cold before stirring in your black sesame seeds.

Open your packet of inari skins, and slit open along the longer side, carefully pulling the edges apart to make a pocket. Fill with the rice and place in the bento rice side up.

Notes

You might want to trim the inari skins down so that they fit in your bento, as some can be taller than your bento is deep. Generally, cutting them in half will make them the right size. Or, you can simply lay a full size piece on its side.

This recipe originally appeared in 501 Bento Box Lunches, published by Graffito Books.

Nikujaga is Japanese comfort food – the sort of thing cooked by mothers for their children in winter. It’s not usually served in bentos, but you can always reheat it the next day for lunch – or eat it cold! It has a sweet, salty taste which is absolutely delicious.

Nikujaga bento

To make this bento, you need carrots, tomatoes, soy sauce eggs, edamame beans, a piece of rolled omelette, cooked Japanese rice, furikake and nikujaga, made with the recipe below. You also need an onigiri shaper, a vegetable cutter, two bento cups and a two-tier bento. About an hour before you make the bento, prepare the quail eggs by hard boiling, peeling and soaking them in some soy sauce.

Place a small amount of drained nikujaga in a bento dish on the bottom layer of your bento box, and fill the remaining space with an onigiri rolled in furikake. On the top layer, place your rolled omelette in a small bento cup, and place pieces of carrot along the side which have been cut into little shapes with your cutter. Then, alternate the soy sauce eggs with tomatoes, and fill the remaining space with boiled edamame beans, sprinkled with a little salt.

Recipe for nikujaga

Ingredients

250g thinly sliced beef brisket, cut into small pieces

700g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks

2 small white onions, peeled and cut into small wedges

1 tbsp oil

600ml dashi

4 tbsp sugar

5 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp sake

Chives

Seven-spice

Method

Heat the oil and cook the potatoes for two minutes. Add the meat and onions, stir well and cook for another two minutes.

Add the dashi, sugar, soy sauce, mirin and sake and simmer the mixture with a drop-lid on top until the potatoes are cooked though – this should take about 15 minutes.

For a bento, allow to cool before straining off most of the liquid and placing in your bento. Cooling the mixture in the liquid allows the flavours to deepen. When eating, you can have it cold or reheat it. Nikujaga is far from traditional bento food, but you just might find you like it cold the next day!

Note

If you don’t have a drop lid, you can make one by using a lid which is slightly smaller than the inside of your saucepan. Or, use a piece of greaseproof paper with a small hole cut in the middle for a vent.

Fruit, rice and nikujaga bento

This recipe originally appeared in 501 Bento Box Lunches, published by Graffito Books.

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