Monday, 19 January 2015

Vegan Bento: Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir Fry with Instant Cabbage & Cucumber Pickles (vegan & gluten-free)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:

VAST ~ I Can't Say No
Carole King ~ Crying In The Rain
Don Williams ~ You've Got A Friend
Alannah Myles ~ Lies And Rumours
Puccini: Gianni Schicchi - Oh Mio Babbino Caro
Joan Jett ~ The Only Good Thing
Soundgarden ~ Zero Chance
Audioslave ~ Gasoline
Stevie Ray Vaughan ~ Life By The Drop
Beth Hart ~ State Of Mind
Thunder ~ Have Mercy
Shakira ~ Underneath Your Clothes
Gin Wigmore ~ Happy Ever After
Foxes ~ Let Go For Tonight

Vegan Bento: Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir Fry adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook/Itoh

Oh...Bento! I recently became aware of all things Bento and I am now a devotee. I have my lovely fresh green Bento box (picture above) and I went for a two layered version. I have cute little flower silicone holders to stash pickles and the like in. I feel its only fair to warn can take over your life. There is a whole Bento accessories industry out there.

Japanese cuisine has been very much on my mind since our trip down to London in November. And as I research everything I cook, thoroughly, I have spent many hours reading about Japanese culture and traditions. I have become fascinated and was able to purchase two cookbooks that have inspired me and thrilled me...the first was Kansha ~ Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisine by Elizabeth Andou. I spent a full day resting as I read this most interesting cookbook from cover to cover. It was a blissful day and hope to bring you posts based around it very soon. 

The second cookbook was The Just Bento Cookbook by Mikiko Itoh. It's not a vegan or veggie cookbook but it does have a few veggie recipes and many that can be easily is an example of that. Itoh's recipe calls for chicken to be used so I simply used some seasoned tofu pieces I had in my fridge. I also adapted the recipe further by using a scant amount of rapeseed oil, less salt and swapping out soy sauce for Braggs liquid animos. 

Itoh's cookbook is very easy to read, easier to use and a beautifully laid out and photographed book. I sat with my page markers (cookbook's a process..leave me be! lol) and read through every suggestion she makes. She explains Bento in easy terms and leaves you feeling that it is so easy and achieveable even if you are pushed for time. Quite simply...I loved this cookbook and given the amount of page markers I stuck on its pages...I'll be using it often. 

Today's Bento is made up of two layers...the first I call the crunchy level with beautiful fresh veggies and freshly made pickles. The second layer is the serious layer. 

The stir-fry is very easy to make and I served mine with cooled brown rice with a lettuce divider. The stir-fry has great flavours although next time I will use slightly less Braggs. I use little salt in my cooking so I found it just a little too salty. But the tofu pieces worked fantastically with the fresh peppers. The spring onions and ginger settle into the back ground giving the stir-fry a savoury support. Itoh suggests serving the stir-fry with white rice as is the traditional accompaniment but I used brown rice. I don't enjoy white rice that much so for me it will always be brown rice. I enjoyed this recipe so much that I am looking forward to having it again...soon. 

The crunchy layer was made up by some blanched broccoli pieces and they were very enjoyable but next time I shall steam briefly.'s just my preference. I went with Itoh's suggestion of cherry tomatoes and I also added some tulip radishes. And also a small bowl of raw almonds for snacking upon later. The Instant Pickles were very easy to make and the hardest work is squeezing out the liquid before potting them up. Itoh's recipe calls for one large cabbage leaf but I chose to use a savoy cabbage and used 8 small leaves. I wanted to have pickles left for the next few days and as I am a beginner at making my own pickles, I wanted to spread out the salt a little further. It worked and I really enjoyed my little pot of pickles. The veggies were tender and were sharp but not shockingly so. I can embrace the pickle tradition if this is a good example of them.

When I sat down to eat my lunch today I wasn't prepared for how much I was going to enjoy cold stir-fry and rice. I knew I would enjoy the crunchy layer of my Bento lunch and I did very much. But the two combined made for a very enjoyable and satisfying lunch. I have indeed been bitten by the Bento bug....thank you Mikiko Itoh for the inspirational cookbook.

Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir-fry

Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir Fry          Serves 1
(Recipe adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook/Itoh)

1 tsp rapeseed/canola oil
3 tbsp roughly chopped spring onions
2 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/3 of each red, green and yellow bell pepper
 - de-seeded and chopped into 1/2" pieces
salt, for sprinkling 
2 oz seasoned tofu pieces cut into 1/2" pieces
black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp Braggs liquid animos
lettuce leaves as dividers

Heat the oil in a wok/skillet and add the spring onion and ginger, stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until the oil is fragrant. Turn the heat up to the highest setting and add the peppers to the pan. Stir-fry with a spatula or long chop sticks. Sprinkle with some salt - this drives out the moisture from the vegetables and makes them cook more quickly. (Reds notes - I omitted this step) Continue to stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or until the peppers are cooked. 

Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add the tofu to the exposed bottom. Leave for a couple of minutes and then stir into the vegetables. Cook for a further two minutes. Then stir in the Braggs and season generously with freshly cracked black pepper. 

Turn the stir-fry out onto a cold plate to cool quickly. When cooled, using a lettuce leaf as a divider, pack into your Bento box. 

Instant Cabbage & Cucumber Pickles
Instant Cabbage & Cucumber Pickles    Serves 3-4
(Recipe adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook/Itoh)

8 small savoy cabbage leaves
2" piece of cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 tsp sea salt (I used Himalayan)
large squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Cut the tough vein out of the centre of the cabbage leaves, and slice into strips. Sprinkle the cabbage and cucumber with the sea salt and massage the veggies until they begin to go limp. Let rest for at least 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice 

Squeeze out any excess moisture before packing into your Bento box. (Reds notes: I took Itoh's advice and used a silicone divider to set my pickles into. So much easier) The pickles can be eaten straight away or stored in your fridge for 3-4 days. 

The crunchy Bento layer ~ Instant pickles, blanched broccoli spears, fresh vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, radish tulips and raw almonds.

Thanks for stopping by folks and I hope your week gets off to a good start...


NB: These recipes are not my creation. They adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook by Mikiko Itoh. The original recipes are her hard work and creation and I take no credit for them whatsoever. I do send out thanks for such an inspirational cookbook. ~R~