This month I was inspired to make something new after being offered a pickle press. Pickling is not something I’ve ever really considered doing, but when the lovely people at Kitchen Provisions got in touch and suggested I might like to try out their pickle press, how could I refuse? They also sent me a vegetable cutter (like a cookie cutter for vegetables), and so my mind turned to bento once again. Kitchen Provisions is a small company that has put together a range of kitchenware and kits that they believe are inspiring and go beyond the normal run of the mill kitchen equipment. As part of their launch, they have included a selection of Japanese items.
Referring to the ever-trusty Just Bento Cookbook, I cobbled together a couple of recipes and came up with…
Mushroom & Bamboo Shoot Rice Bento with Japanese Pickles
Ingredients for pickles
- 1 small aubergine (Japanese-style if possible)
- 1 small cucumber
- 2 cabbage leaves
Ingredients for rice
- 2 rice cooker cups of uncooked sticky rice
- 2 1/4 rice cooker cups of dashi stock
- 2 cups/150g of mixed mushrooms
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cooking sake
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 cup/120g precooked bamboo shoots
- 1 small sweet potato
- sea salt
- 1 carrot
First, the pickles! I followed the detailed instructions that came with my pickle press as I had absolutely no idea what I was doing!
Take one small (Japanese-style) aubergine, trim off the leaves, split in half and cut into thin slices diagonally.
Slice the cucumber thinly (and save a bit of cucumber for later!).
Cut 2 cabbage leaves into 1cm wide strips.
The amount of salt you need for the recipe depends on the weight of the vegetables once chopped. The quantity of salt is 2-3% of the weight of the vegetables, so for 200g of vegetables you need 4-6g of salt.
Sprinkle the vegetables with salt, mixing well to ensure good coverage. Transfer the vegetables to the pickle press and turn the screw to apply pressure.
The pickles will be ready in around 30 minutes.
Next, the mushroom and bamboo shoot rice. This is actually a combination of two recipes from the Just Bento Cookbook.
Chop the mushrooms and put them in a bowl with the soy sauce, cooking sake, mirin and a pinch of sea salt. Mix well.
Add the bamnboo shoots.
Put the washed rice in the rice cooker with the mushroom mix, bamboo shoots and dashi stock. (By the way, for the dashi stock, I just use a powder but you can make your own.)
Whilst the rice is cooking and the pickles are pickling, prepare the next part – pan-steamed sweet potato (also from the Just Bento Cookbook). Cut the sweet potato into thin rounds.
Put the sweet potato into a pan in a single layer and add just enough water to cover the slices.
Cover and cook over a medium heat for about 8-10 minutes.
Whilst the potatoes are steaming, the rice is cooking and the pickles are pickling, prepare some pretty vegetables! Using a vegetable cutter, cut out flower shapes using carrots and cucumbers.
It’s touches like this that can really make a bento look good!
Whilst all this is going on, don’t forget to steam some broccoli.
The rice should be done by now:
As should the potatoes and pickles.
Drain the potatoes and drizzle with a little honey.
Assemble your bento!
My first attempt at pickles – not bad at all!
You can basically add anything to rice, but mushrooms and bamboo shoots work really well.
Sweet potato and steamed broccoli.
I’ll be back in December with a new recipe! If you have any suggestions, or perhaps you would like me to try one of your recipes from a book or website, please leave a comment below or get in touch! All the recipes I try on this blog have some connection to Japan and, because I don’t eat meat, they need to be vegetarian or pescetarian. I’m particularly interested in helping to promote Japanese recipe books, so do let me know if you have one I might like!