Simple Donburi (Rice Bowl)

donburi (simple)
Donburi literally means a type of bowl, and the dish called donburi is what is served in it! This dish is basically a bowl of rice with some kind of topping – meat, vegetables, etc. Another example of donburi on this site is gyuudon (beef rice bowl). But this version is very simple, quick to put together, and helps me use up what I have around the house. You can serve it alone, with another veggie side dish, or with a bowl of soup.

Ingredients (serves 2)
100 grams (1/4 lb) ground meat – beef, pork, chicken, or a mixture
2 tbsp yakiniku sauce or your favorite meat seasoning sauce
a large handful of leafy greens: spinach, komatsuna, chingensai (bok choy) etc.
2 eggs (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)

Cooked rice for serving

Instructions

If you don’t have cooked rice already, start the rice first. While it’s cooking, make the toppings.

Saute the ground meat in a frying pan until nearly done. Add the yakiniku sauce and continue cooking and stirring until the meat is done and most of the liquid is gone.

Blanch the green vegetables: Put them into a pot of salted boiling water for 60 seconds, then remove to a bowl of ice water. Let cool, then remove the greens and squeeze out the excess water.

Fry eggs, if using. You can use the same frying pan from the meat, if you remove it to another dish. Crack the eggs gently into the pan and cook over medium heat until they reach your preferred level of doneness.

Finally, assemble the dish. Put some cooked rice into two bowls. Divide the cooked greens and arrange them on top of the rice. Next, add the cooked meat. I like to cover or partially cover the greens, so they get some flavor on them. If desired, sprinkle some sesame seeds on the meat. Finally, add the fried egg on top!

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsEven though I love to try new recipes as often as possible, sometimes I really just want to eat something homey and familiar, like spaghetti and meatballs. It does take a little time, but it’s worth it for the delicious flavor, and a lot of the time is just simmering, so you can do other stuff while you wait for it to cook.

Ingredients
Meatballs
280g (about 10 oz) ground beef/pork mix
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce (or use your favorite home-made or store-bought sauce!)
400g (14 oz) canned tomato
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Spaghetti for serving, cooked according to box instructions
Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Instructions

Mix all meatball ingredients well. Form into 1-tbsp balls and roll between your hands to make a neat round shape.

Brown the meatballs in batches in a frying pan and remove to a plate. (They can be frozen at this point.)

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (One trick I use is that if the canned tomatoes are too chunky, use a potato masher or fork to smash them a little.)

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Runza

runzaRunza are made from a slightly sweet, rich bread dough and a filling of beef, onion and cabbage. Although the ingredients are simple, the results are delicious. This recipe does require some time since the bread dough has to rise. However, you can certainly make the filling while the dough is rising. Another reason these are great is because they can be refrigerated or frozen and reheat extremely well.

Ingredients (serves 4)
Dough:
4-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
1 tsp salt
180mL (3/4 cup) milk
120mL (1/2 cup) water
100g (1/2 cup) shortening
2 eggs

Filling:
450g (1 lb) ground beef or beef/pork mixture
2 onions, chopped
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg

Instructions

Mix 1-3/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the shortening, milk, and water, and microwave or heat on the stove until shortening melts. Let cool slightly and add to the flour. Add eggs and mix well. Add remaining flour (2-3/4 cups) and mix until smooth. Let rise 1 hour.

Meanwhile, saute meat, onions, and cabbage until meat is cooked through. Season with a pinch each of salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste.

Divide dough into 12 equal balls, and roll into squares of about 6 inches (15cm) on a floured surface. Place about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture in the middle of the dough, and fold one corner over to the opposite corner, making a triangle. Use a fork to seal the edges of the dough very well.

Bake at 180C / 350 F for 20 minutes.

Lasagna


I was never a fan of lasagna with lots of ricotta cheese in it. This version uses a white sauce instead, and has a really nice smooth taste. Original recipe from here. It does take a little work and time, but the sauces can be made ahead of time, which makes this dish quick to assemble and bake.

Ingredients
Meat sauce:
100g (1/4 lb) beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
400g (14oz) canned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

White sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
480mL (2 cups) milk
1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Other:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
200g (1/2 lb) shredded mozzarella (in Japan, “mix cheese” is fine)
lasagna noodles (enough to fill your baking dish)

Instructions

First, make the meat sauce. Brown the meat in a skillet and remove. In the same skillet, saute onion and garlic until softened, then add sugar, basil, oregano, canned tomato, and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, then turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Finally, blend the sauce in a food processor or blender until smooth. Mix the browned meat back into the sauce, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, make the white sauce. Heat olive oil and 360 mL (1-1/2 cups) milk in a saucepan. Whisk the remaining 120 mL (1/2 cup) milk with the flour in a small bowl until free of lumps, and add to the heated milk. Whisk or stir constantly over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add a pinch of nutmeg, plus salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, you can store the sauces in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna for dinner.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Prepare your lasagna noodles (check the package for instructions on how long to cook them, or use non-boil noodles).

Start by spooning a small amount of the tomato sauce into your pan and spreading it into a thin layer.

Add one layer of lasagna noodles to the pan. Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the noodles, followed by 1/3 of the white sauce, 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat in that order until you have three layers, ending with cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Lemon Rosemary Ragu

lemon rosemary raguThis meat sauce comes together very quickly and has a great flavor. There is some tomato in it, but the tomato taste isn’t so strong. It works well for people who aren’t into a very tomato-y pasta sauce. I adapted the recipe from here, which calls for using veal and olives, but those ingredients aren’t so common in Japan, so I’ve made a few changes.

Ingredients
200g (about 1/2 lb) dry pasta (choose a shape with surface area that will hold the sauce)
1 tbsp olive oil
200g ground beef/pork mixture
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/4 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tbsp tomato paste
60mL (1/4 cup) white wine
120mL (1/2 cup) beef broth (In Japan, I use a bouillon cube plus 120mL water)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp grated lemon peel
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (of course fresh is always best, but in Japan I use canned grated cheese and it works fine)

Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the ground meat until it loses its pink color. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened.

Add rosemary and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for a minute or so. Add the wine and beef broth and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Add parsley, lemon peel, and grated cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Mix cooked pasta with the ragu, and serve, along with extra grated cheese.

Sukiyaki

sukiyaki8Sukiyaki is a famous Japanese dish. It is in the category of nabemono, dishes that are often cooked and eaten communally at the table. Sukiyaki is made with beef and a sweet soy sauce base. It’s especially good in the winter. The beef and other ingredients are often dipped into beaten raw egg before eating. It may sound strange to Americans, but try it once before you decide! In Japan, eggs are very safe and often eaten raw or half-cooked.

Ingredients
80mL (1/3 cup) soy sauce
3 tbsp sake
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

thinly sliced beef
shirataki noodles
negi (long green onion) or leek, sliced diagonally
yakidofu (grilled tofu) or firm tofu
greens (in Japan, I like mizuna, shungiku, or komatsuna; in America you can also use napa cabbage, spinach, etc.)
mushrooms (shiitake, enokitake)
udon noodles

eggs (optional)

Instructions

Mix the soy sauce, sake, sugar, and water together. (Note: In Japan you can also buy pre-made sukiyaki sauce.)

Heat a frying pan on a stove-top burner. Add a little oil, and add some sliced beef. Let brown, and then add some sukiyaki sauce. Next, add a little of each ingredient, cover, and let cook until the ingredients are done.

If you want to eat the sukiyaki with egg, each person can take one egg and crack it into their bowl. Then, each person can take what they like from the pan and place it into their bowl.

This cycle can be repeated until the ingredients are gone. Finally, you can add udon (thick wheat noodles) to end.

Autumn Soup

This recipe is known as Autumn Soup, and it really is a great soup for autumn (and winter too). It’s made with ground beef and veggies like carrots, potatoes, and onion, so it’s inexpensive, but also warm and delicious. This recipe was originally a microwave recipe, but I usually make it on the stove these days.

Ingredients
1 lb (400g) lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups (950mL) hot water
3 cubes beef bouillon
2 cups ½-inch diced potatoes
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
14-oz (400g) can diced tomatoes, undrained

Japan notes: here in Japan, beef can be expensive, so I sometimes make this soup with ground beef/pork mixture, or of course you can lower the amount of meat you use in the soup with no problem.

Instructions

Put ground beef, onion, and celery in a saucepan; cook and stir until meat is browned.

Add hot water, bouillon cubes, potatoes, carrots, basil, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

Remove the bay leaf. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Cook for a few minutes more until back to a simmer, then turn off the heat and serve.

This soup is great together with bread or biscuits. My family always ate it with baking powder biscuits.