Tag Archives: how to make tofu taste good

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

1 Jul

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

I taught a cookery class the other day and after I had introduced the dishes a gentleman who told me knew the general drill asked, “So where is the protein”. As I explained where the protein was and how in a vegetarian diet that is varied and borrows recipe from the world, there is plenty of delicious and nutritious variety…look at the pulses, tofu, lentils…

You know what followed don’t you? Yes, there was an upheaval of the ‘tofu is dull and sanctimonious’ debate.

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili
1. Tofu is bland
a. A blank canvas more like! Is a potato bland? Well of course it is if you just boil it and eat it on its own. Tofu is inviting you to soak it, marinade it, dress it, bake it, fry it, scramble it; for goodness sake just do something to it. Nobody is asking you to eat naked slivers of spongy pointlessness as your main meal. Have you ever put it in a curry? It soaks up the juices and then releases them in succulent and generous bursts in each mouthful. Have you ever marinated it? It catches essences like a long-lost embrace. Have you scrambled it with some spices and veg-you won’t miss the egg!
2. Tofu is expensive
a. Is a block of tofu more expensive than a steak or chicken for a family dinner?
3. Tofu mushes up too quickly
a. Wrap it up in kitchen paper and leave it to stand for a 15 minutes if you are using firm tofu to shallow fry or in a curry and if you are using silken tofu then add them into a stock rather than when stir-frying vegetables.
4. I can just eat meat for the protein
a. Yes of course. Tofu is an protein source for a) those want to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet b) those who cutting down on meat to enjoy health benefits c) those who want to address food shortages in the developing world d) those who want to positively influence the environment
5. I don’t like the texture of tofu
a. Not sure I would be if I just ate it as it is. I like it shallow fried and then spiced and doused with soy, rice wine vinegar and chili. When I have friends over I sometimes deep fry it and they became crisp with a lovely chewiness inside and I add them to noodle soups and sometimes we assemble our own. I make, Vietnamese spring rolls where I use tofu in a slippery bite, and then there are kofta, which are spongy and juicy. Do you like scrambled eggs? Then you will like spiced and scrambled tofu in a pitta or wrap.

Funnily enough when I asked for feedback half the group asked for another class demonstrating different techniques on preparing and cooking tofu. Well…

You could use this recipe on your next barbecue and here a few of my other recipes for tofu if you haven’t already seen them

crispy chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yogurt dip

tandoori tofu and cauliflower tacos

hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprouts and asparagus Vietnamese spring rolls

soy-masala tofu, quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

Ingredients
One block of firm tofu (I used the cauldron pack)
20g sesame seeds
60g almonds
2 tbsp. agave nectar
One large red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Salt to taste
A few dashes of your favorite chili sauce
40g sorrel leaves
For the dressing
5 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. chili oil
Method
1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and rest it until the excess moisture has been soaked up.
2. Toast the almonds and sesame seeds until they lightly brown and the seeds begin to pop before taking them off the heat.
3. Place the sesame seeds, almonds, sorrel, agave, oil, chili, salt, chili sauce all in a food processor and grind it to a paste.
4. Slit the tofu open by making 4-5 lines across the tofu and then fill them as deeply as possible without breaking the tofu block but try and hit the bottom.
5. Lightly grease a non-stick pan and then place the tofu and cook until browned, a little charring is quite pleasant so don’t worry.
6. When once side is browned, flip it over and repeat. I usually start with the un-slit side first
7. Drizzle over some of the dressing and serve immediately- you will get the best effects when the tofu is still hot.

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

14 Apr

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

 

Remember I told you that I was going to eat lighter, mood invigorating, colourful, vibrant, fresh food that won’t make me feel heavy, bloated, sleepy or overly hormonally imbalanced? Yes…

Apart from gross indulgence on peanut M&M’s it is going pretty well. My husband ran the marathon yesterday and he did it in one piece, looking a few shades darker, a bit puffed out but certainly not looking depleted, weak or drained. Impressive eh? I had a marathon of my own. Marathon hero took my (automatic) car to London in the morning to make life a bit easier on the homeward journey, but it had the buggy in it. So, I made the journey from Hertfordshire to the Mall with my immensely active, hugely curious, jumping, running, bouncing 26month old. Yes..

Physical exertion is rewarding, but comes with some pain, sometimes. I also did a class of body attack at the weekend and after all this, I think I need to eat light; refreshing foods that DON’T need a lot of work to burn off.

Summer rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls or rice paper rolls. Whatever you call them, they are one of the most versatile, quick-fix meal ingredients out there and they don’t need to be fried or baked. All you do is dunk the rice paper wrapper into warm water for under a minute and wrap up some delectable and seasonal ingredients and then, munch.

You know I like it hot though right? So whatever I include has to be masala-fied. The tofu in itself is a joy, crisp, a bit sweet, a bit hot, a teeny bit sticky, got a good whack of garlic and is utterly relish-worthy. I have used siracha sauce which is a kitchen must, isn’t it? And you know I talk about how I lost my hair in handfuls, so I eat a fair few sprouted beans so today I am using alfalfa sprouts. Try them, they are a bit addictive but its ok, better than over-doing It on peanut M&M’s.

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Ingredients to make roughly 15 rolls

15 rice paper rolls

400g of firm Cauldron tofu, cut into small cubes

125g fine asparagus tips

125g alfalfa sprouts

One medium onion, finely diced

Siracha sauce to taste (I used 1 tbsp.)

1 tbsp. sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic

¼ can of chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp. soy sauce

100g thinly sliced cucumber

Cook’s note: wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to drain off any excess moisture. When you stir fry it, it will crisp up better

Method

  1. Make the hot and spicy tofu by heating the sesame oil and adding the diced onion and allowing it to brown before adding the garlic, then sauté for another 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the tofu and allow is brown lightly, then add the tomatoes, soy sauce and siracha sauce. Simmer the tofu until much of the moisture has reduced, for roughly 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  3. Submerge the rice paper roll into water for 30 seconds and then place it on a chopping board. About 3-4 cm from the bottom, place a line of stuffing; roughly 2-3 asparagus tips, a pinch of alfalfa sprouts, a pinch of cucumber strips and 3-4 cubes of tofu.
  4. Fold the sides inwards and hold them to a spring rolls shape, firmly and tightly. Leave it dry on a large dish.
  5. Serve with dipping sauces such as chilli sauce, coriander chutney or peanut chutney.

 

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

26 Feb

I remember that as children, my cousins and I knew broadly the menu we would be served at any family wedding, before even the wedding invitation arrived and each summer we would receive a collection of them.
Steamed, fluffy, lightly sour and spiced gram flour dhokla, potatoes in thick and rich curry gravy, black chickpeas perhaps or a curry of Val (field beans) and lots of fried puri breads. We knew there would probably be flaky samosa and multi-coloured mini poppadum’s that we would use to scoop up Kadhi-doused biryani. We would grab a compartmentalised plastic plate from the buffet and perch ourselves on a chair where we could find one and sometimes eat standing and giggling away.

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

Weddings would always be in the hottest part of summer back then and we would look forward to seeing our lists of cousins and enjoying the banter between loud music and many guests. We would turn our chairs towards each other and admire one another’s colourful and detailed clothes, an arm full of bangles, glistening bindi and very often back then, weddings were held in school halls, where the walls evidenced children’s activities and the guests spilled over onto the green fields. Everyone attended you see. As young children we would run around the hall giggling and playing as the many parts of the ceremony carried on whilst our parents mingled.

Things have changed so much. Nowadays weddings are in hotels or stately homes and so there aren’t scores of guests spilling over, maybe because the venue is so hard to find. Cousins aren’t in lists, but in treasured few numbers. You won’t see kids running around; maybe they aren’t allowed at the ‘event’. Sometimes silence is observed during the abbreviated ceremony, sometimes it’s just quiet. Maybe that’s because not everyone goes, people are busy these days, aren’t they. Sometimes they aren’t invited, invitations nowadays are at the couple’s discretion and friends are the new family.

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad
People don’t always wear bindi or bangles, but certainly not an armful. Sometimes it’s just not fashionable to look overly celebratory, subtly or nonchalant, I am not sure. There are seating arrangements and food comes to the table and is kept warm. Gone are the days of Val bean curry or multi-coloured poppadum’s and established are the days of carrot halwa with ice cream and whatever else the couple fancies; from indo-Chinese and robustly spiced paneer to sweet corn curry in a mellow cashew nut gravy.

So I got thinking about some of the modern stuff served at celebrations these days and the cult recipe of chilli paneer came to mind. Doused with soy, ginger, garlic, chillies and ketchup this recipe seems to be an obvious option on most local Indian restaurant menus. Without doubt, and someone secretly, I admit..it tastes good.
BUT, that doesn’t mean I would make a meal of it or cook it up at home. It’s become to…well, ‘been there done that’. Taking healthy inspiration from of it, I have created this recipe for soy-masala tofu (healthier and protein fuelled) salad with Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella. I don’t know if you use mozzarella as a sponge in your dishes but it soaks up juices beautifully. Use fluffy clouds please, not the tough stuff.

Ingredients
250g cooked Quinoa
1 400g pack of firm tofu
One ripe avocado
200g mozzarella, torn into bite sized chunks
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. ketchup
1-2 tbsp. chilli sauce
1 tbsp. tomato puree
4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1-2 green chillies chopped (optional)
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. coriander powder
¼ tsp. turmeric

Method
1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to soak up any excess water. When it is dry, cube it.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the chillies, cumin seeds and tofu. Stir fry until the tofu is golden before adding the onion, garlic, ginger, spring onions and turmeric. Cook for 3-4 minutes before pouring in the soy sauce, ketchup, coriander powder, chilli sauce, and tomato puree and rice wine vinegar.
3. Cook the tofu for a further 3-4 minutes before turning off the heat.chilli tofu
4. In a large bowl mix the cooked Quinoa, avocado, mozzarella and then stir in the tofu whilst warm and serve immediately with lovely flatbread.

Indian spiced crispy bean curd skin, ung choi and carrot pancake wraps

5 Feb

 

 Indian spiced crispy bean curd skin, ung choi and carrot pancake wraps

Why don’t you just eat duck?

 

My first ‘proper’ job was at the Bank of England when I was 21, in research. It was my first proper job because it was the first structured and full time role I had taken. I was so proud. I’ve long since forgotten that particular feeling of executive pride and I am sighing and smiling wisely as I write this.

I loved that black suited and focused people walked carefully on their heels, echoing their esteemed selves to somewhere clearly, very important to aid decision-making for the economy of our great country.  Tiny mice made intermittent visits around the history of the building and one of my ‘down time’ favourite activities was mooching around economic papers in the vast and superior library within the Bank in the vault, near where old money was you know…it was hot there.

 

We had rule books on how to structure charts for publications.  On one occasion whilst discussing it during drinks with some colleagues he asked me whom I would support if India and England were playing a cricket match. I said that I didn’t follow cricket, I’m not into sport. ‘But if you were, lets say’. You see  I didn’t understand all this, I was a feisty, ambitious and focused young lady but in hindsight, naive. I wasn’t used to being made aware of race. I’ve never actually really thought about it.  My now-husband accompanied me to work on the tube for the first couple of days when I started work, because I was a tube virgin. He took pictures of me outside the Bank.

 

Then the questions followed at work, ‘do you wear a headscarf at home?’ No, I’m Hindu. ‘Do you make samosas?’ I’m 21; I go out with my friends. ‘Are you having an arranged marriage?’ I’ve got a boyfriend.

 

One of the questions I often get asked is whether I am vegetarian for religious reasons. No. No.

Indian spiced crispy bean curd skin, ung choi and carrot pancake wraps

One of the things I learned over the years is that the people around you, your own mind-set and your own actions make something special happen. Not a place, hierarchy, status, or a title or any other outwardly definition, for those just doesn’t last. Really and truly, they don’t.  I used to read words like this and dismiss them. As much as we would will it to be progressively checking the milestones we plan, Life isn’t a freaking chart, is it.

 

In that must lay some strength. As I pick up the fragments I’m not piecing them together, I’m visualising new things. My heart isn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. In fact I’m even more able to give good wishes and love. As a youngster I didn’t experience failure but they always said it’s important to fail. I never understood why. Nobody ever said.

Failing is a process that allows a person to develop coping skills, growing skills, maturity, humility, grit, resilience. These shouldn’t just be words you bang out in the opening statement of the CV.  If we don’t fail at the smaller hurdles in life, when the bigger stuff hits (and it will, it does) then we don’t know what to do with ourselves. And the older we grow, often there are fewer hands to walk us to shore.

 

I tell my boy that he should be kind, clever, and brave and always love his mumma.

 

I don’t eat duck. I eat things that taste good without having quacked. Bean curd skins are a good source of protein and have bite. The wraps contain ung choi, which is a bit like spinach and it wilts quickly, but it’s a bit more peppery. I picked my latest batch up from Tesco.  This wrap is peppery, silky, slightly sweet, has bite and they’re easy to eat. Easy is good, isn’t it.

 

Ingredients to make 15 pancake wraps

 

250g of Ung choi, washed and sliced

One large carrot, grated

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. fennel seeds

¾ tsp. cumin seeds

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

¼ tsp. turmeric

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. coriander powder

½ tsp. garam masala

75g of bean curd skins (the sticks, they are available at oriental supermarkets)

Oil for deep frying the skins

 

For the pancakes

300g bread flour

100ml boiling water

75ml cold water

2 tsp. sesame oil

 

Method

1.     Soak the bean curd skins (use the sticks) in plenty of warm water for about two hours. They will swell. Drain the water, and then slice them into 3-4 cm rounds. Leave them to dry.

2.     Heat oil in a deep pan and then deep fry the bean curd skins until the fluff up and catch a golden colour

3.     Make the dough by first pouring the boiling water into the flour and mix it well. Then pour in the cold water and form dough, kneed it well and then rest the dough for 15 minutes, before dividing it into 15 equal portions. Roll out the pancakes into thin chapatti before toasting them on a non-stick panpancake 1jpeg

4.     In another pan, heat the oil and add the cumin and fennel seeds and when the sizzle, stir in the garlic. Sauté for a minute, then add the ung choi and carrot and stir it well. Sprinkle in the turmeric, coriander powder, garam masala and stir well. Sauté for a minute before drizzling in the soy sauce and introducing pieces of fried bean curd skins. Cook the vegetables for another 3 minutes before turning off the heat.

5.     Finally, assemble the wraps by putting a little filling in the centre of the pancake, wrap it, and eat it.

 

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