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Cold Soba (Buckwheat noodles) are a traditional Japanese summer dish. I replaced the traditional soy-and-vinegar dipping sauce with a sesame sauce I tried last year in Singapore though, and added a bunch of fresh vegetables to be dipped alongside the noodles.

For the sauce I used Tahini, which is basically just ground sesame seeds, as a base. It’s not technically Japanese but it makes working with the sauce a lot easier.

Sesame dipping sauce
2-3tsp Tahini
½tsp soy sauce
½tsp rice wine vinegar
½-1tsp grated ginger (I love ginger so I added a lot – it’s not necessary though)
2Tsp. water (I used the water from boiling the soba for flavour)
Optional: Some ground chili or Szechuan pepper.
Mix ingredients thoroughly, serve chilled.

Serve with soba, chopped spring onions, and whatever other veggies you like. I had tofu, sliced radishes, sliced sugar snaps and some wakame salad on the side. Yum!

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Is this a real pie? Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a hunger dream, got no key for the pantry!
Open your eyes, just grab a slice and see…
I’m a poor Hobbit, I need pie regularly…
A little apple pie, cherry pie, mushroom pie, berry pie…
Any flavour really, it doesn’t really matter, to me, to me.

Um, I mean with summer almost gone and having let myself go a little by eating out way too much, I thought I’d get back into making bentos. Also, Chanterelles are in season again! Yay!
So I made a bunch of mushroom pie for freezing, and loaded up the lunchbox with some mixed lettuces, cherry tomatoes and a nasturtium flower.

Edit: Since so many asked, here’s the recipe I used (I mostly just winged it but here we go). It’s such a common thing to get here in Sweden I never thought anyone would be interested!

I made 2 big and one small pie, but I will adjust the sizes to about what I used for one of the big ones.
1 pie crust (I made my usual graham pie crust, in a pan about 24cm in diameter and 3cm high)
1 big handful (ca. 70g?) of mushrooms, cut into not-too-small pieces
1/2 (small) red onion, chopped
2 eggs
Olive oil or butter, dash of white wine, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper
Start with preheating the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (or if you have just blind baked your pie crusts, it will still be warm).
I asked the BF if I should pre-fry the stuffing and he enthusiastically agreed. Fried mushrooms just taste better! Also, they will no longer lose water when they are stuffed in the pie.
So I started with glazing the red onion in a pan with the butter and a little garlic, then added the mushrooms, parsley, salt and pepper. When they started to let out their water, I added the dash of white wine, took them off the heat and stirred in the eggs, then poured the whole mixture into the pie shell. It took about 15-20 minutes to bake in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Since it starts out warm this is quite quick!

“Ode to a stolen pie” is by me, made for a RP character.

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A lovely and spring-y tomato soup, full of flavour and goodness. Makes 2 portions as a light summery main dish.

1 packet (500ml) of pureed tomatoes
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 Tsp. tomato concentrate
1 clove garlic
1 Tsp. olive oil
salt, pepper, chili flakes (optional), herbs (I used fresh small-leaf basil)
1 ball mozzarella, sliced (keep some slices for decoration)

Warm the olive oil in a wide skillet. Add garlic and chili flakes and fry for a minute, without burning the garlic. Add tomato concentrate and the bouillon cube and fry as well.
Add the pureed tomato in installments, allowing the sauce to boil down and thicken between additions. Finally, add spices and water to desired soup consistency (or keep thick if you want a sauce), boil up and stir down half the mozzarella.
When the mozzarella has melted, dish out into soup bowls and decorate with some slices of mozzarella and basil leaves.

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The main attraction of this bento is spaghetti with a roasted vegetable “bolognese” sauce, parmesan and some chopped fresh herbs.
Sides are mixed lettuce (and some basil leaves) from the windowsill, carrot flowers, a radish, babybel cheese and another easter candy.
(Another great thing about easter, all the candy on sale afterwards!)

The vegetarian spaghetti sauce was quite simple to make! Basically it was born out of what I had in the fridge, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily needs refining.
To begin with, I took:
1 large-ish carrot, cut lengthwise into strips
1-2 pieces of celery, same
1 red onion, cut into 8ths
1 small bellpepper, sliced into strips
4-5 large-ish champignon mushrooms
and some garlic cloves, tossed them with salt, pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil and some dried thyme, and set everything under the broiler to roast.
While it was roasting, I set the tomato sauce base to simmer. That was a teaspoon of butter, some red chili flakes, a 500g packet of pureed tomatoes, a splash or red wine, salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar.
When the veggies looked just about done, I pulsed them to a coarse texture in the food processor, mixed with the tomato sauce and done. Simple!

And quite delicious.

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I have to admit: I’m actually not the grain fanatic in my family. That would be my mother. She’s the one who always brought home interesting new grains to try instead of rice and still does. Now that I no longer live at home, I still sometimes get some strange new sorts of grain from her (when I visit, or in a packet…). And recently, I’ve also started to go from my usual “oh-no-boiling-rice-woud-take-too-long-let’s-have-pasta” attitude over to tasting more healthy and delicious sorts. There really is so much more than rice and wheat! (Nothing wrong with the two, though.)

So, it’s with pride I announce a new series on WereRabbits: Grain reviews!
Each episode will review a different type or variety of food grain, some of its background, my own opinion and my favourite recipe for it.

So let’s start with… (drumroll please)

Bulgur!
Something simple and not too exotic for the first installment of this series.

Made from durum wheat, Bulgur is a staple food in most middle eastern countries. The whole grain is parboiled, then cut, and the bran removed (except in the case of wholewheat bulgur, which I will review separately when I get my hands on a packet). Usually, you can get several different cut sizes, and any supermarket I’ve been to that has a middle-eastern section has at least a coarse and a fine variant.

Like couscous (which is actually pasta and therefore not a proper grain at all), Bulgur can usually be prepared by adding salt, boiling water or stock and a bit of fat (butter or olive oil). However, some of the variants I have encountered (looking at you, Saltå Kvarn!) are somewhat tougher and actually need to be boiled for a few minutes to start soaking up the water properly. When that happens, what should you do? My tip: Just toss the bowl in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and you’ll be fine.
I am also informed that for salads, Bulgur is not supposed to be boiled at all but instead soaked for several hours. Call me a philistine, but I don’t have that kind of patience. My salads taste just as good with boiled Bulgur :)

So my opinion?
Bulgur is a great replacement for couscous in a lot of middle-eastern dishes if you want to add a bit more of that whole-grain healthiness. Sadly it also adds somewhat more dryness and crunchyness to the mix. If you are good with not having to balance that up with a lot of calories, power to you!
I like Bulgur in my bento boxes because it is a lot more filling than couscous while just as quick and no-frills to prepare. It’s also very cheap and readily available almost everywhere.

And my favourite recipe with Bulgur?

Tabbouleh!
Probably the middle-eastern salad, Tabbouleh is tasty, refreshing and overall delicious. I’ve seen varieties that went from mostly bulgur to mostly parsley and everything in between, so I don’t think you should run with set amounts on each ingredient. Just try combining them and see what works for you.

This tabbouleh, which works just fine for me, was made with:
3/4 cup of medium-grain bulgur, boiled in saltwater and butter (yes, yes, I know)
1 big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 sprig of fresh mint, chopped
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 Tsp. lemon juice and 2 Tsp. olive oil.

Just combine everything in a bowl and knead, yes, knead the ingredients together so the flavour gets rubbed in. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes, preferably in the fridge. Serve.

When I have this stuff in my bento boxes I usually up the bulgur ratio a lot and pack it in tight so I bring enough filling carbs to last me the day. When I serve it with lots of other foods on a meze table, I put in a lot of refreshing parsley and mint.

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This weekend, the boyfriend and me made Knäck!

That sounds wrong. Let’s try again.
This weekend, the boyfriend and me made traditional Swedish Christmas caramels! I feel so Swedish now!
And it wasn’t even hard – surprising for anything that contains the words “caramel” and “candy”, Knäck is amazingly easy to prepare.

Knäck is a kind of Toffee, made with sugar, syrup, butter, cream and almonds. The consistency varies depending on local tastes, from fudge-y to stick-to-your-teeth hard. The longer you boil the candy, the harder it will become after pouring. Ideally, you should be able to stack them in a jar without them sticking together.
The candy comes in little paper cups that look like muffin cups but are thimble-sized! They are sold all over in Sweden during Christmas time and usually, the back of the packet contains the recipe.

Since we doubled it for our purposes, this recipe makes about two jars of Knäck. That is quite a lot!

The ingredients:
3 Tsp. butter
4 dl sugar
4 dl light syrup (Swedish “light syrup” seems to be best translated to inverted sugar syrup)
3 dl full fat cream (whipping cream is fine)
150g sweet almonds, peeled and chopped.
The Container:
Lots of those tiny little paper cups. We made about 120 with this recipe, which is half a packet.

The recipe?
Dump everything but the nuts together in a thick-bottomed pot. Boil for approx. 30 minutes.
When it reduces and becomes a darker shade, try dripping a spoon or so into a glass of cold water. If you can easily mold the caramel after fishing it out, without it crumbling apart, it’s done.

During the time it boils, prepare a lot of those small paper cups, best on a baking tray so that you can move them close to the pot for pouring. You should have them all set up and ready to be filled or you won’t manage!

Mix in the nuts and put a spoonful into each paper cup. Be careful to keep the pot over low heat in the meanwhile so the candy doesn’t harden in the bowl.
(Or, in the immortal words of my great-aunt: “And then we don’t throw away the pan…”)

Let cool at room temperature, then store. I had brought out my pretty Christmas-themed candy boxes, but the boyfriend said they looked best in glass jars.

And they do!

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Homemade gnocchi in tomato-bell pepper sauce (the smooth version of the recipe below) with parmesan and a basil leaf in the small container; Feta cubes (have to get some protein into me somehow), homegrown yellow and red cherry tomatoes, broccoli, bell pepper and grated carrots in the big container.
Not the most inspired arrangement… I was tired. But it will be yummy! I’m also bringing a bottle of balsamic vinegar dressing for the veggies and feta but I forgot it until after the photo.

Remember these? When I posted about the gnocchi previously, I wasn’t quite happy with the recipe yet. I have filed on the recipe I had a little and it works better now:

Looks much better! (I left out the parsley this time. It looked good on the photo but really, it didn’t add much to the taste.)
Granted, a better quality potato might have worked even better. But this is Sweden and I have to work with what I have on hand…

To be honest, I was surprised at how simple the recipe actually was. If I had known that before, I would have made gnocchi much sooner! It was actually easier than making pasta.
The main problem, as I had suspected, was that the instructions to quarter the potatoes before boiling had been made for big baking potatoes. The ones I can buy here are small – only 5 cm max on the longest side. When boiling them whole and peeling them afterwards, the dough got much drier and stuck together nicely with half the flour.
The ingredients:
500g mealy potatoes, boiled and peeled
100-150g wheat flour
2 egg yolks
1 Tsp. of olive oil, Salt to taste
Mash the potatoes and make into a sticky dough together with the rest of the ingredients. Roll into finger-thick sausages and cut off gnocchi. Boil in portions in salted water until they start floating. As simple as that!

I still have cherry tomatoes ripening and since they’re so good, they deserved to be used reverently. Luckily, this sauce does them justice.
You will need:
about 2 handfuls of homegrown cherry tomatoes
1 red or yellow bell pepper
1 clove of garlic
olive oil, salt, pepper and basil

Halve the bell pepper and roast skin-side up in the oven/broiler until the skin goes black and bubbly. Cool and remove skin. Cut the rest into thin strips and set aside.
Blanch the cherry tomatoes in hot water and de-skin them (cut a cross in the bottom if they’re not all ripe – mine just popped out of their skins without any help though!). Try not to eat all of them like candy before putting them into the sauce.
In a pan, heat olive oil and garlic. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and let them melt into a still chunky sauce. Season with salt and cracked pepper.

Serve with julienned basil leaves and Parmesan cheese on or tossed with the pasta of your choice.
It works just as well with spaghetti:

I’m submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights hosted this week by Heather at Girlichef.

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