this for her 3pm snack, following a recipe in her Silver Spoon for Children cook book.
She used a mandarin instead of lemon, vanilla yogurt instead of mascarpone. It not only tasted good but was easy enough for her to do everything on her own.
This is a lovely cook book. Highly recommended.
When I lived in Italy years ago for my post graduate studies, I had an opportunity to visit a couple of Italian families, one in Piemonte and another one in Puglia. My Italian was very bad (and still is), and I don’t know how I even communicated with them. Fortunately however, I do remember this amazingly tasty meals they served for me. From what I understood, at both families, they didn’t prepare anything special but something they would eat on a daily basis. Still, it blew my mind and made a strong impression on me. I loved watching the Italian mammas cooking at their cozy kitchens, infused in this delicious aroma from the food in the making. They tried to explain every little detail to me, who was vigorously taking pictures and taking notes, but I probably got less than half of what they tried to convey. Nevertheless, I remember the scenes very fondly and the warmth I felt. I often use the mamma’s recipes to this date, feeling grateful how incredibly lucky I was to have an experience like that.
Fast forward to the present Tokyo, my daughter and I were visiting our dear friends’ house for a play date one Sunday afternoon. The lovely host suggested that we make Gyōza, Japanese-adapted Chinese dumplings, together for early dinner. There was another family and a newly arrived au pair from England who was kind of forced into our cooking spree. While the kids were playing and minding their own business, we began to make the dumplings, each of us spontaneously taking a different task to work in a highly efficient manner. We enthusiastically chatted and laughed as we moved about, chopping cabbage in high speed and mixing ground meat with our bare hands. The room started to get filled with the complex aroma of garlic, shiitake mushrooms and freshly cooked rice, with the kitchen counter and floor covered in white flour. All of us gave Gyōza cooking tips to the humble, seemingly overwhelmed au pair, encouraging her to join us for the Japanese cooking routine.
After nearly two decades since my encounter with the sweet & lovely Italian mammas, I seem to have become one myself too, but the Japanese version of it. At that time in Italy I never knew, that being a “mamma” is such a special thing: being surrounded by the people you love, who appreciate the food you cook.
Photos by courtesy of A.C. & M.T.
Not sure if my recipe is authentic, but I love cooking bolognese sauce every once in a while. I enjoy the whole process, especially when the sauce starts to make this thick simmering, bubbling noise that makes you want to lick the wooden spoon just like one of the scenes in some rom-com film (a newly dating couple cooking together in one of their kitchens or something like that).
I usually make extra potion of bolognese sauce and freeze it. When I have time, I’ll turn it into my daughter’s favorite lasagna.
Spaghetti aglio & olio with broccoli & bacon
Leftover gratin (pumpkin/potato/green beans/edamame) – used milk instead of cream
Monday: Can’t remember
Tuesday: Hamburg steak with vegetables
Wednesday: Tomato & aubergine pasta, sautéed chicken with asparagus
Thursday: Ginger pork, Hijiki, Hiyayakko (fresh tofu)
Friday: Hijiki rice & Tempura
Now ready to rest. Have a good weekend!
For the past long weekend, we took a short trip to Hong Kong to attend one of our best friend’s’ 50th birthday party. It was a ravishing, spectacular soirée, with more than a hundred people attending to celebrate her special day. All the guests were dressed in their beautiful chic attire including our daughter, with live music and endless flow of champagne and chatter. I wonder when I had a holiday this much fun last, and that made me feel heavy and hesitant for going back to reality.
As cruel as it can be, it was time to go home to my normal humble life. Our flight back to Tokyo got delayed by an hour, which means arriving home even later than what we thought was already late for a school night. And this means no stop over at a grocery store to replenish our empty fridge.
In the car back from the airport, I quickly assessed in my head what was left in our fridge/freezer for our daughter’s bento the next morning. I remembered about the pesto sauce in the freezer I had made a couple of weeks ago, as well as the frozen steamed carrot slices, blueberries and apple mousse. I also remembered the eggs & ham in the fridge hadn’t gone expired yet. And the outcome was a not so bad pasta bento for our little girl.
Despite my continuous effort on cooking healthy yet time consuming Japanese dishes on a daily basis for our daughter, if we ask her what her favorite food is, she always instantly answers, ‘pasta!’.
For busy morning, I place halved 8- 10 cherry tomatoes, a small can of tuna, little bit of chopped onion in a medium sized frying pan, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper & oregano to taste, and just let it cook with the lid on while pasta is being boiled in a separate pot. I usually add a small ladleful of pasta water when the sauce gets a bit dry. Drain the pasta once it’s ready, and toss it in the sauce and mix them well.
As simple as it may be, this pasta is quite tasty.
It’s been another busy but short week for us. Monday was a school holiday since our daughter’s school was open on last Saturday for an art event. Tomorrow, 3rd of November is a public holiday in Japan called Culture Day. As such, there’s only 3 days of school, but since I took up this translation assignment for 9000 words of text, which is due tonight, I’ve been working non-stop since Tuesday.
Anyway I thought I’d take a break and post our daughter’s bento images because the bento making happens every day no matter what as long as her school is open!
Tuesday 31/Oct – Soboro bento
Wednesday 1/Nov – Macaroni in tomato sauce with aubergene & bacon
Thursday 2/Nov – Picnic tortilla wrap bento
Our daughter & her friends are on their way to the sweet potato farm for potato digging today. It’s their first time to take a chartered bus on their own, without being accompanied by their parents. Hope they’ll have fun.
OK, back to my assignment, 2000 more words to go!
For the past weekend, we went for a short trip out of Tokyo. We came back to our apartment on Sunday evening, resulting in the usual problem of not having enough food in the fridge for our daughter’s bento the next day.
In such circumstances, frozen stock comes in handy. This morning I defrosted bolognese sauce I made the other day and mixed it with macaroni. I put a lot of veggies (e.g. onion, carrot, celery, garlic) in the sauce, so it’s quite nutritious (actually I put them in the blender so that they almost get pasty, and that gives an amazing flavour to the sauce). I had a leftover cucumber and egg in the fridge, so I whipped this up:
The frozen star-shaped steamed carrots made with cookie cutters are also quite handy. I always make them in bulk with my Le Creuset Steamer and store them in the freezer. It’s really a lifesaver on a day like this!
Menu: Macaroni bolognese (steamed carrot slices on top), Cucumber sticks, Boiled egg
Japanese Nashi for dessert (also leftover in the fridge)