Saturday, 30 November 2013

Christmas Themed Bento Box Lunch Ideas

My little boy's reaction to this bento was just priceless. These animated bentos work really well for  special occasions or birthdays! This looks like a lot of effort but trust me it's not. The only thing that you need for this is Japanese rice which can be found in most large supermarkets (sometimes it's called sushi rice). Japanese rice is a short grain sticky rice so other types of rice won't work as well as the rice needs to stick together to create the rice balls. After following the instructions below and making the snowman you can use whatever ingredients you have at home for the rest of the lunch box fillings. Try to make the lunch box as colourful as possible and include ingredients from all the food groups to make a balanced meal if possible.

You'll need

Any type of kid's lunch box
Japanese rice boiled 
Bowl of water
For the lunch box fillings:
2 cooked cocktail sausages or slice of ham
2 strawberries
2 cherry tomotoes & cucumber pieces
Few pieces of steamed brocolli & carrots
Few peas/ and or sweetcorn
2 thin strips of green pepper

Nori (seaweed) sheet or sesame seeds

How to create your bento:

1. Click here to see how to prepare and make Japanese rice.

2. Dip your hands in the bowl of water. Then take a small handful of the cooked rice and form the shape of a ball using both hands. This rice ball can be used for the body of the snowman. Repeat again to make a rice ball for the snowman's head, this time take a little more rice.

3. Place both rice balls in the in the middle of the lunch box, the bigger rice ball sitting on the smaller rice ball to make the shape of a snowman.

4. To create the snowman, place 2 boiled peas on the lower rice ball as the buttons. Place the sweetcorn on the upper rice ball as the nose. Cut  two small pieces of nori in the shape of a smiling eye and place on the upper rice ball. Cut a long thin strip of nori and place on the upper rice ball as the mouth. Place the two thin strips of green pepper on either side of the lower rice ball as the arms.

8. Now you can start to filling the lunch box with other fruit, veg and meat to make a complete balanced meal. For this bento I've included cocktail sausages, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, boiled carrot pieces.

I used nori for the eyes and mouth but there are lots of other fruit and vegetables that you could use instead if you don't have nori at home e.g. raisins, outer skin of a cucumber etc. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Winner of the Easy Food Home-Cook Hero Awards 2013

I wrote a post earlier in the year talking about all the wonderful things that had happened since I started this blog. Now, a few months on I'm so happy to be able to tell you that I've more to share. My pandan roulade recipe reached the final of the Easy Food Home-Cook Awards 2013 in the Cรกca Milis category. On Saturday morning I headed to Cooks Academy cookery school in Dublin city centre to take part in a cook-off with the other finalists. 

The judging panel included celebrity chefs Catherine Fulvio and Kevin Dundon along with Easy Food Magazine Publisher Gina Miltiadou. I was thrilled to reach the final and get the opportunity to make my recipe in front of the judges and tell them the story behind it. The judges were really intrigued by the Asian twist in my recipe - pandan! Easy Food quoted Catherine Fulvio as saying “It is so interesting to see how the standard in this competition is improving year on year.  The use of international ingredients in classic dishes is also very impressive. Overall, a fantastic standard”.

After presenting my recipe to the judges I headed home to get ready for the black-tie gala Awards in The Shelbourne Hotel where the winner of each category was announced. The Awards Ceremony was hosted by TV3's Martin King who I got to chat with during the day and at the Awards. He is great at what he does and helped calm our nerves throughout the day and on stage. The judges were so friendly and down to earth spending time talking to each finalist and listening to their individual food stories.  

My category was sponsored by Powerscourt Hotel in Co. Wicklow. After being announced as the winner of this category I listened in disbelief as I was told my pandan roulade recipe will be put on the menu of Powerscourt restaurant. Wow!!

So I was a little nervous going on stage to receive the award but afterwards I had such an adrenaline rush that I didn't go to bed until the early hours of Sunday morning!

If you'd like to see the cook-off and the awards ceremony it will be aired on TV3 at 1:25pm on Saturday November 16th 2013. 

I'd like to thank the Easy Food team and all the staff at Cooks Academy for organising such an amazing event. Also thanks to Easy Food Magazine, photographer Robbie Reynolds, Nessa Robins and my husband Gilmar for capturing all these special moments on camera throughout the day and night so I can share them here with you. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Goatsbridge Caviar Gunkan Sushi Rolls

Last month I visited Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown, Kilkenny as they hosted the "Focus on Fish" event as part of Savour Kilkenny Food Festival 2013. Goatsbridge Trout Farm was founded by Ger Kirwan's parents and is now run by Ger and his wife Mag. This couple's passion for what they do is like a tonic giving me a renewed sense of energy and passion for food (especially trout and caviar!) and local producers on my way back to Kildare. They have expanded the business with other products including smoked trout and are Ireland's first makers of caviar. They also provide farm tours and workshops where you'll get the opportunity to learn how to smoke your own trout

During this event Sally McKenna gave a very educational demo on seaweed talking about some of the recipes in her new book "Extreme Greens - Understanding Seaweed". Then, I gave a sushi demo showing the audience how to make a simple temaki (sushi hand roll) and uramaki (inside out roll) topped with Goatsbridge Trout Caviar which looked and tasted amazing. 

Goatsbridge trout caviar works really well for this type of sushi roll and it's surprisingly easy to make as the Kirwan's have done all the hard work making the caviar! Gunkan maki translates as war-ship sushi roll because it looks like a war-ship. It's very easy to roll only taking a few minutes or less once everything is prepared. It also looks very impressive when you serve it on a plate or platter especially if you use the caviar as a filling.

Sushi rice (rice & sushi vinegar)
Nori sheets (roasted seaweed), cut into strips 1.5 inches
Goatsbridge trout caviar
Dill (to garnish)
Small bowl of clean water (use to wet hands)
Damp clean cloth (use to wipe hands)

On the side:
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger


1. Click here to see how to prepare sushi rice.

2. Get your nori strips ready in advance and store in an airtight container so they don't lose their crispy texture.

3. Dip your hands into the bowl of clean water and dry off excess water using the damp cloth.

3. Place a thumb-size piece of sushi rice in your hand and shape into an oval shaped ball using your hand.

4. Place the rice ball on a chopping board and then wrap the nori strip around the rice (face the rough side of the nori on the inside). The rice should be only half the height of the seaweed to allow for fillings.

5. Use a cooked grain of rice to seal the seaweed end when wrapping it around the rice.

6. Now place the caviar on top of the rice so that it's sitting above the level of the seaweed.

7. Serve on a plate or platter along with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.

- Don't get too stressed over the size of the rice ball and the strips of nori. This type of sushi can come in all sizes. The most important thing is to try and enjoy the sushi making experience and with practice your sushi will start to look better and reach perfection! 
- The fillings for the gunkan maki are limitless.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Goatsbridge Trout with Teriyaki Sauce Recipe

Here's a recipe from my demo at Savour Kilkenny

Goatsbridge Trout Fillet
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Few handfuls of pak choi/ spinach leaves (blanched)

For the teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
Half tsp honey (I used Fiona Dillon's honey from Hunters Lodge)

1. Heat the oil on a frying pan.
2. Place the trout fillet skin side down and fry on medium heat for a few minutes depending on size.
3. Whisk all the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce in a small bowl.
4. Turn the trout fillet and continue to fry to a minute or so.
5. Pour the teriyaki sauce over the fish. Try to spoon the sauce over the fillet to help the fish absorb the flavour.
6. The teriyaki sauce is ready once it starts to form small bubbles and thickens like syrup.
7. Take off the heat and serve on a bed of blanched pak choi or spinach.

-       - Try not to overcook the teriyaki sauce as black bits will start to form. 

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