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Bento booster /Keep soups, stews warm until lunch

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Pot-au-feu, right, and cream stew in a soup flask

The Yomiuri ShimbunAs the winter chill sets in, nothing brings relief like hot soup at lunch. Tokyo Gas Co. Food communication Center Manager Satomi Sugiyama plans bento lunch recipes and recommends using heat-retaining soup flasks for such lunches. She shared recipes for two nutritionally balanced dishes that use many ingredients.

Soup flasks are vacuum insulation containers made of stainless steel. The openings are wider than those of bottles for tea and other beverages so that their contents can easily be removed with a spoon. They also effectively retain heat. “If you put hot soup into a soup flask in the morning, you can enjoy it hot at lunch,” Sugiyama said.

When preparing a soup or stew for lunch, it is recommended to make something filling and to use lots of ingredients. Soup is a great bento side dish and goes well with bread or onigiri. Dishes such as pot-au-feu or cream stew can be prepared within 20 to 30 minutes using only a saucepan, so they are easy to make during busy mornings.

The capacity of soup flasks ranges from 200 to 500 milliliters. For soups with lots of ingredients, 350-milliliter-capacity flasks are ideal.

To prepare a nutritiously well-balanced soup, use ingredients such as meats and fish rich in protein and leafy vegetables, potatoes and mushrooms, which include lots of vitamins and other nutrients. Use ingredients with around four different colors, such as red and green, to brighten up the dish.

Aside from the ingredients already mentioned, bacon makes for a good meat ingredient while kabocha squash, sweet potato and spinach work well as vegetables. You can also add your own favorite ingredients, or even leftovers from your refrigerator.

Sugiyama recommends warming a flask by filling it with hot water before adding the soup or stew. “The residual heat helps to make the ingredients softer,” she said.

Ingredients and directions (Serves 2):

Pot-au-feu

50 grams chicken thigh

3 wiener sausages

½ onion

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Satomi Sugiyama holds soup flasks.

2 taro roots

2 cabbage leaves

2 cherry tomatoes

Small amount of broccoli

1 consomme cube

1. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, the wieners diagonally in half, and the taro into quarters. Cut the onion into wedges and coarsely cut the cabbage leaves.

2. Put 400 milliliters of water, a consomme cube and all the ingredients from step 1 into a pan. When the water comes to a boil, simmer the mixture on a low heat for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add cherry tomatoes and broccoli to the pan and season with salt and pepper.

Cream stew

120 grams chicken thigh

½ onion

¼carrot

1 potato

1 cabbage leaf

Small amount of shimeji mushrooms

2 tbsp corn kernels

150 ml milk

1 consomme cube

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp butter

1 tbsp flour

1. Cut the chicken thigh and potato into bite-size pieces. Thinly slice the onion, cut the carrot into quarter rounds, and coarsely cut the cabbage leaf. Break the shimeji mushrooms into small portions.

2. Add vegetable oil and butter to a pan and stir-fry onions and chicken in this order over medium heat. When the chicken has browned, add the carrots, potatoes and shimeji to the pan and stir-fry until the mixture has softened. Add flour and stir-fry the ingredients over a low heat.

3. Add 200 milliliters of water and a consomme cube to the ingredients from step 2 and heat the mixture on a high heat. When the water comes to a boil, heat the mixture on a low heat for about 7 minutes. Add cabbage, corn and milk and bring the mixture to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

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