Tag Archives: recipe

Black bean and Halloumi Curry- Video recipe

6 Dec

 

One of the most popular recipes that is visited on my site is the black bean and hallomi curry.  It is also a recipe that is now close to my heart. Why? Well it was a very early recipe on the vegetarian blog and I really enjoyed all the banter it created about it being strange and wonderful…halloumi is not a common ingredient for a curry after all. It works though, and some of you have written to tell me as much and for that, I thank you. Halloumi, when cooked is succulent and juicy. It soaks up the curry juices and releases them generously with each bite. I love the depth and mellow nature of black beans and together, they are a cajoling treat.

I know it has been a while since I shared a video recipe, so I thought…why not?

Halloumi and black bean curry

Ingredients to serve 4

250g cooked black beans
125g halloumi cut into bite sized pieces
One red onion finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp minced ginger
4-5 curry leaves
125ml water
1 cup chopped tomatoes (tinned is fine)
Spices; salt to taste, 1/3rd tsp garam masala, 1tsp cumin powder, 1tsp coriander powder, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Shallow fry the red onion until it is golden brown and then leave it to a side to cool. Once it is cooled, purée it.
2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and add cumin seeds, turmeric and the ginger and garlic. Sauté for couple of minutes before adding the cumin powder, curry leaves and coriander powder, then stir on a medium heat for just under a minute.
3. Add the beans and coat them with the spices before adding the tomatoes, fried red onion purée and the water.
4. Bring the curry to a simmer before adding the halloumi cheese. Cook for ten minutes and serve hot.

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

12 Jul

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

http://www.deenakakaya.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Mexican-indian-corn-chaat.jpg

I was in a waiting room for several hours the other day.

Between moments of exasperated and forced eye contact with staff down the window-less corridor and then stiller and weepily-hungry jiffies of reading ‘The Kite Runner’ I listened to a gentleman whose granddaughter had just graduated from a university in Birmingham and Grandson who had just departed for travels in Australia. His daughters’ tolerantly listened to ‘daddy’ repeating himself. Well, one did whilst the other arranged school pick-ups and take-away dinners. I wondered why they didn’t intervene when their father asked another waiting lady about how many children she had, again. She who had twin 7 year old sons and a four year old daughter had just miscarried and she had gently explained for the third or fourth time that, ‘these things happen’, ‘it’s really common’, ‘I just want to move on’. I wonder if she really was that calm when she heard the older gentleman resaying, ‘was it your first’, ‘oh that’s awful’ and ‘life is so unfair’. Maybe she was thinking the same as me, which is that we are all going to end up where this gentleman was except whether it is a lonely struggle or one accompanied by loved ones remains to be seen.

She tucked her gaze onto the sketch she was making; she is an artist and worked flexibly around her children, describing this harmony as ‘nice’. Across from me a father and daughter nestled into each other. She must have been 11 or 12, long dark and silky hair tied into wafting pony tails but sportily dressed, like her dad. When I was of that age, it would have been less common to see such snuggling in a public area. Things have changed. My husband asked my three year old son what we do in our family, he replied, ‘we just erm, give love’.

On my right a gentleman waited with his family. His wife smiled serenely and his son discussed important subjects around his work and readings. His father listened with eager eyes and encouraging nods, though I did notice him stifle a couple of yawns. His daughter explained how she wanted to gradually transition from her professional job into her own business and her father agreed devotedly. I thought back to my teens when some of my friends were chastised for even hinting at more artistic subjects and felt sorry for parents who could not truly understand, relate or advise their children on many of these education and profession related matters. But they tried, like my parents did.

And so, as an ode to the many colours of life, I share with you a recipe for Mexican-Indian corn chaat. I scoffed an entire (sharing) plate of corn chaat when in Dubai (where it is very easy to be vegetarian) a few months ago as my husband looked on smiling. It was supposed to be a light and easy meal. Sweet corn in chaat is probably not the most traditional chaat recipe but the juicy and cool kernels of corn work well amongst the crispy puffed rice, tangy chutneys and soft potatoes. As I was eating it I couldn’t help think of Mexican corn salad with lots of red onion, corn tortilla and green peppers. And so, the Mexican-Indian corn chaat is born; it has pungent and peppery chaat masala but also smoky Mexican Guajillo chillies. It has green chillies and also a double whammy of crunch from corn tortilla and puffed rice. I have smoothed on some cool whipped yoghurt for the base of the dish too. One serving of this dish is just never enough!

Ingredients to serve 2-4

3 guajillo chillies

3 green chillies, finely chopped

One medium red onion

½ cup mung bean shoots, or you could use chickpeas

2 tbsp. tamarind chutney (shop bought is fine)

5 tsp. chaat masala

125g chopped, fresh tomatoes

4 new potatoes, diced boiled

1 tin of 325g sweet corn

5-6 dessert spoons of plain, natural yoghurt

¾ cup puffed rice with peanuts (readily available in Indian supermarkets as sev mumra)

A couple of handfuls of corn tortilla, lightly crushed

Method

  1. On a dry pan gently roast the peppers until they start to smoke but don’t let them brown. Take them off the heat and immerse them with enough hot water to cover them. Leave them to stand for about 15 minutes before blitzing them to a paste.
  2. In a large bowl, add the drained corn and toss the kernels amongst the guajillo chilli paste and tamaring chutney.
  3. Now add the potatoes, onions, green chillies, tomatoes, mung bean shoots and then toss all the ingredients. Sprinkle in the chaat masala.
  4. Prepare each plate by layering the yoghurt on the base of the plate.
  5. Before serving, add the puffed rice with peanuts and corn tortilla to the bowl of ingredients. If you add them too early they will soften.

 

 

 

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

4 Jun

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

We spent the day chasing bubbles on a sort-of man-made ‘beach’, with friends and giggles today. My boy and his friend ran around in bare legs, shining under their sun cream before washing our efforts into lake. We made, and resurrected sandcastles and settled quarrels over which colour spade belonged to which toddler, before washing gritty eyes out in the public toilets. As ‘I want’ and ‘pleaaaseee’ echoed through my mind, I realised that I had learned to let go a little.

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Yes, the route to the park was unfamiliar and I had two loud toddlers in the bank demanding attention, but I made it. The toilets wreaked but it was OK, we washed the eye out. There was sand all over the clothes, but they can be washed and he had no interests in snacks but he would be fine. It’s OK. My phone buzzed but I didn’t check it, they could wait and I realised that I had returned those work emails for three days for the world wouldn’t collapse. We couldn’t get the toddlers out of there, naturally and so, we had two hungry little people who were busting for a wee the entire journey to a family friendly restaurant that I would never would have dined at before my boy was born, a whole hour and fifteen minutes late for lunch. But they ate. They ate cheese and tomato puree on cooked dough, but they ate. So for today, it’s OK.

I am really looking forward to the summer, even though I have this one challenge. On a day out to the zoo, or park or beach we usually take a vegetarian picnic. But we can’t take sandwiches for my toddler. My life would be so much simpler if my boy would eat a sandwich. I lament over the time I would save if he would just eat a sandwich. On our day out to an activity farm park for example (after which I had needed a nap) we took thepla (fenugreek chapatti), so I had been up until 11pm after returning from work the previous night at 10pm. You see my point?

This time, I made puri (Indian fried breads). Who can resist a fluffy, crisp balloon like puri? Not even my fussy toddler. At first he came into the kitchen and inhaled deeply, ‘thank you for making me puri, you are the best’. But at first when he saw them he declared that they would be for girls because they are hot pink. It didn’t take much persuasion for him to dig in; delicately sweet, slightly sour and gently warm with garlic…this is not a usual puri recipe but it really will hit the spot.

Recipe to make approximately 15 puri

Ingredients

1½ cup chapatti flour

½ cup finely chopped spinach

75g cooked beetroot, pureed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. plain, natural yoghurt

1 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil for the dough

Oil for deep frying

½ tsp. turmeric

You will need a large slotted spoon suitable for using when frying and some kitchen paper

Method

  1. Heat the oil for deep frying
  2. To make the dough, start by making in the middle of the flour within a large bowl. Then, using your fingers, blend the oil into the dough to ensure even and fine blending.
  3. Now add the turmeric and salt, again ensuring that it is evenly distributed.
  4. Now introduce the yoghurt, beetroot puree and garlic, together with the spinach. Form dough that is spongy, not sticky. If you need more water add it very little by little and if your dough is sticky then add flour, again little by little.
  5. Divide the dough into 15 equal portions and roll them out to approximately a palm size.
  6. Check that the oil is hot by placing a small amount of dough into the oil and if it rises immediately and begins to sizzle then place a single puri into the oil and gentle dab it with the slotted spoon. It should rise into a ball. Turn the puri around and cook it until it catches a light golden colour before removing it onto kitchen paper.

 

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart

1 Jan

‘Make sure you switch the Christmas lights off before you go to sleep’. Who would have thought that this line would be enough to fill my eyes?

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart  by Deena Kakaya

The list of ‘make sure you do’ starts about a week before my husband flies off on his looming foreign business trip and although many people have now presumed that I am used to it and now longer ask how I am, it still makes my heart sink a bit each time there I hear one of the many, concerned reminders.

‘Please don’t stay up too late’ and of course I get the text reminders about locking the doors and not falling asleep on the sofa and a week before he leaves, I listen to the repercussions of missing iron tablets. Every burden and apprehension seems magnified in the silence of the evening, but I’m sitting here with phone in hand and virtually supporting friends who have horrible bosses, kids going through a difficult phase and husbands that just don’t get it. I do sympathise and sincerely want to help. At the same time, I want to remind them that they have jobs, albeit with manager woes. They have the smiles of children filling their hearts, as well as the mental draining that they bring with them and they have a friend that is a husband, even though they may be a long-distance one at time.

It might be easy at times like this to wallow; to sleep erratically, to overthink and to fall quiet. It might be easy to not eat very well, for eating for one isn’t much fun I think. But, I have my little companion don’t I? And the wells dry as I smile through writing this. My best buddy told me today that we should make fresh pesto pasta and he wasn’t kidding. I thought he was but when we finished the dish he exclaimed, ‘mumma thank you, I told you I wanted green pesto pasta’. So we eat well. At just two, he will throughout the day randomly declare his love for me and today he told me, ‘daddy’s gone to America, but you are my best friend and so can we go to borough market’, so I laughed. Because the afternoons are cold we went bowling with friends, and so we talked and I involuntarily chased him around each time he scored and roared in delight. Then we cooked, in a very much collaborative way and eggs are, I realise, fabulous for easy cooking with kids.

This is a light and sweet tart, deep and filling and great for picking and returning to. It’s easy and a soul-soother too. I lightly cooked the sweet potato first with the spices and the result after some time in the oven was sweeter than I expected, but in a really good way. The spices come through wonderfully, but not too strongly and that is a good thing as I know that you will understand if you cook with eggs. Pays to be kind to yourself, doesn’t it.

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart  by Deena Kakaya

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Hot and spicy mushroom and cauliflower baked giant spring roll with a cheesy spinach layer for a vegetarian Christmas

23 Nov

Hot and spicy mushroom and cauliflower baked giant spring roll with a cheesy spinach layer for a vegetarian Christmas

Hot and spicy mushroom and cauliflower baked giant spring roll with a cheesy spinach layer for a vegetarian Christmas by Deena Kakaya

Before the children in our family came along I was the one who would fire myself up and galvanise all that festive spirit amongst the rest, or at least I tried. I gave impassioned speeches on not letting go of the inner child at Christmas and cherishing those moments in front of the fire (at my house) eating and watching Christmas movies. I love Christmas movies; I love the feel good factor. I love that people in the shops and in the streets are just nicer to each other, ‘because it’s Christmas’.

I would be the one decorating whilst being told how gaudy that tinsel looked and I would ask my husband every single day if he can please, please get the Christmas tree out of its place of hibernation. From secret Santa to games to play for the day; it was all my instigation. But now, there are children and the family no longer need to be shaken into Christmas order by my poetic persuasions. Instead we revel in their squeals and jumping around, as well as the impatience when opening presents or grabbing decorations from the tree. From cute Christmas outfits to running around with wrapping paper there is nothing I want to miss about it. So when the folks from brighthouse asked me to share what my thoughts on having a smooth Christmas when it comes to the menu, I was happy to oblige.

My Christmas menus are purposely simple in nature, but without compromising on that special, indulgent feeling.  The recipe I am sharing with you today embodies one of the most important pieces of advice I carry with me and that is; planning and preparation is everything. I make the stuffing in advance and in fact it tastes better like that as the tingly spicy and power-packed flavours settle into the cauliflower over time. I wilt the spinach ahead of time and grate the cheese. The spring roll pastry defrosts in the fridge overnight and what do I have to do? Just assemble the spring roll, roll it, coat it in oil and bake whilst chucking around wrapping paper with my two year old.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

12-16 sheets of spring roll pastry, thawed

One medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets

200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

One red onion, sliced

150g of baby leaf spinach, wilted

4-5 handfuls of grated mature cheddar

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tsp. Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp.

1 tbsp. soy sauce

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. tomato puree

2 tbsp. siracha sauce

Method

  1. Heat the oil in the pan and add the onions, then fry them until they soften.
  2. Introduce the cauliflower and coat with the oil before adding the cumin powder, Kashmiri chilli powder, paprika. Coat the cauliflower well, then mix in the garlic and soy sauce and turn to a lower flame and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Now add the sliced mushrooms, tomato puree and siracha chilli sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Take two sheets of spring roll pastry and towards the end and sides leave an inch sized gap. Place 3-4 dessert spoons of mixture in a line and then roll the spring roll into a tight cigar shape. Seal the end with a little water. Then take another two sheets of pastry, line it with a handful of spinach and some cheese. Place the first spring roll into the cheesy and spinach layer and roll it in the same way, leaving a gap at the bottom and sides. Seal again with water.
  5. Once all of your rolls are made, place them in a preheated oven at 190 degrees until they are lightly golden and crisp.

 

 

 

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

19 Nov

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

Is there ever a time which is not emotional or filled with guilt of some sort when you are a parent?

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

Well, I am embracing (perhaps reluctantly) another emotional time in the life with my two year old sweetheart because we have been viewing nurseries for next year, when he will be old enough to join a proper, actual nursery. Really.

There will be someone else there, to tell him to take his shoes off and listen to his fabulously demonstrative story-telling about planets, squirrels and cars and someone else will be listening to why Neptune is blue and why we can’t go on Mars. There will be animated enacting, I am sure, for all the other children on the bubbling volcanic scenes that make Mars red but my boy’s imaginary friend will be there I hear, but of course. He will play and interact with other little people and I won’t really know them, or be there for any awkward or charming moments. I won’t see his face broaden with that adorable glee upon discovering something new, though he may turn around and say, ‘look mumma’. I will miss the cheeky charm of those moments where he will just grab my head and exclaim, ‘I love you so much mumma; you are a genius’. But this is growth.

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

So today, I treated my tiny boy with some much requested crunchy, crispy pakora of Indian food influence (vegetarian fritters) with sweet bite of sweet corn, small nuggets of salty feta that oozes when hot and some chewy baked pieces of sunny and happy mango that the folk from Urban fruit sent me. All in all, the sensations left me feeling like another holiday. Alas, sunny treats like these golden and sumptuous pakora must keep me going.

If you are cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal, this is always a crowd-pleaser. If you are not cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal this recipe pleases nonetheless for a tempting and fun starter, canape or side dish.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

175g sweet corn

One large red onion, finely diced

100g feta cheese cut into small cubes

100g baked mango chunks from Urban fruits

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste (remember that the feta is salty)

½ tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. garam masala

2 green chillies, choppped

100g gram flour

125ml water

Oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a medium flame.
  2. Combine the sweet corn, red onion, feta with all the spices, salt, chillies and mango chunks and combine well.
  3. Mix in the gram flour and coat all the vegetables, combining well.
  4. Add the water to make a thick batter and then drop a small amount into the oil to check that the oil is hot enough to fry; if the batter sizzles and rises to the surface then add the pakora in small mounds with your fingers, equivalent to the size of a couple of tablespoons of batter.
  5. Fry the pakora until they are golden brown and crisp before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Serve with chutney such as tomato, tamarind or chilli and coriander chutney.

 

 

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni

13 Nov

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni

I am time poor these days and the guilt mounts. The self-bashing about my overactive and restless mind that wanders off as my two year old speaks about the humungous spider we trapped in a cup, on the stairs for the nineteenth time. The let-down from not spending enough time with my husband in the evenings and cuddling text books instead. The inner sighs at not listening to my parents for long enough to hear what is troubling their ever flailing health right now. The promises to myself; I have in fact made a list for all the compensating I need to do. I am blessed that none of my loved ones punish me; I am the only one who does that to me. Since when does seeing my best friend feature on a list?

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni by Deena Kakaya

So I am cutting corners where I can. I am choosing reading books and number-puzzles over fussy and unnecessarily complicated cooking, shopping, and general life. I am choosing to pick up the phone to say congratulations or ‘sorry you aren’t feeling well’ rather than use social media. And in tune with this, I share with you a ridiculously easy and scrumptious recipe today.

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni by Deena Kakaya

For this time of year, the Riverford box we received this week was refreshingly green; masses of kale, thick pillows of spinach, and a whack of fresh basil all in pristine condition. We received massive and fairly young garlic that was not overpowering in aroma and almost nut like in texture. For me there is usually a star of the box I receive, something stands out to me as most exciting and frankly this is often a personal choice and mine this week have got to be that basil and garlic.

I have to confess that this recipe took me all of 15 minutes to prepare and I gave it another 15 minutes in the oven. It’s absurd isn’t it? But just look at it. The basil chutney has a good whack and the courgettes don’t turn soggy. The Halloumi is heated all the way through and let me tell you, this is a recipe that is very, very easy to eat.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class with Natco Foods

28 Oct

Oh my goodness. I am still smiling; the busy London kitchen got hot and steamy. Puffs of clouds lifted and carries the aroma of spices. Banter and laughter mixed with the sounds of sizzling pakora, bubbling curries and tinkles of pots and pans. 

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

A fabulous bunch of people joined us for a cookery class that fused the world together on one vegetarian plate. Each of the recipes was introduced by a demonstration and people worked together to cook up dishes like kale, red onion and banana pakora. We even made cashew cream in the class to use in a curry.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Some people came in pairs and some came alone. Either way, as the exotic drinks flowed, the group bonded and friendships grew.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

We ate a lot too. Attendees ate their own cooking, they ate each other’s cooking and of course I had to taste-test too!

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

This class was heaving with spice. We sniffed them, tasted them, broke them and ground them. We talked about the health impacts of each of the spices and I shared some personal experiences such as dill water to increase breast milk supply! On the less shocking side we talked about fennel and it helping to clear the tummy, cloves to soothe toothaches and turmeric to fight a cold. All of the spices were fresh and those who came along were able to take some gram flour or spices away with them thanks to our sponsors, Natco

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

My favorite bits of every class? Has to be the pride when attendees cook a dish that works, to their own surprise. I enjoy seeing people overcoming fears, such as frying. I delight in the camaraderie that spreads through the room and especially so when people walk out in groups exchanging contact details. I revel in the comments like, ‘I am definitely going to cook this at home’, ‘I am going to treat my friends to this recipe when I host the next dinner party’ and even, ‘I could use this method with other ingredients that I like’.

If you would like to join us for a, hands on, fun and valuable vegetarian cookery class in London then please look out for the next dates on the site or click here

You will walk away with recipes, containers full of food and some experience that you can use in different ways. I am really looking forward to seeing you at a future class. x

Book onto my next class by clicking here

Fragrant Jeera Rice and Then Some

25 Mar

Fragrant Jeera Rice and Then Some

I once caught a fine lady friend of ours scooping out the leftovers directly from the wok I’d cooked this rice in. With her long and dainty fingers.  Secret-eating-lady was back-turned to the kitchen door as I witnessed her hurriedly inhaling; it wasn’t even very much of a secret wolfing as the rest of us were nattering away in her (very) adjacent living room. Clearly, the temptation had taken over and she had succumbed. Sigh. It was quite undignified, but who can blame her?

I’m spending a fair bit of time in the garden these days, in between all of the foodness; I’m welcoming in the spring and summer. I’d hug it/them if I could.  I want it to be beautiful out there, for those many times that I am writing recipes.  I want to look out and see an array of colours and texture all wafting together, harmoniously. Delicious. Yet it is still rather nippy. Sometimes I don’t even notice my nose run.

So to warm myself up and wind down after a good day of grafting, I do what any other self-loving person would do. I eat carbs. I make mental lists whilst pounding down the streets on the way home, fantasising in pictures and sensations of all of the cheesy, bready dishes with mounds of steaming hot jewels of rice that I want to devour at that very instant. Of course the rice has to be steaming and must to be fluffy, well separated and pure for it to do the job.  My husband is quite the connoisseur when it comes to rice. I was once given the ‘wrong’ variety as a freebie. One forkful and that was it, he was done.

This recipe is very popular amongst my friends and family; it’s so easy to put together and you can vary it for your mood. These days I am obsessed with chargrilled artichoke hearts with chilli confetti (of course). I could happily eat a plate full of them mingled in with this rice dish. As its warming up out there, I like to mix the cooled rice jeera rice up with chopped avocado and some firm-ish cherry tomatoes. In fact, I don’t mind it with 5-spiced Pakchoi either thank you very much. For me, I could make a meal of sassed-up jeera-rice, but to take it from an on-your-lap Friday night telly meal, to the dining table you can serve this wonderful rice up with some luscious curry, or use it as a side dish. Right, now where’s the rice.

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

200g uncooked basmati rice (I’ve used Tilda)

2 green chillies

175g finely chopped shallots

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tsp. lemon juice

The spices; ½ tsp. ground nutmeg, ½ tsp. ground mace, 2 star anise, 1 stick cinnamon, 2 cloves, ½ tsp. black pepper, 2 bay leaves, 1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Start by cooking the rice. Wash it thoroughly, bring to a simmer and then boil uncovered for about 6-7 minutes before draining it of the starch. Bring it back onto the heat and when it’s steaming on a very low heat, give it another couple of minutes.
  2. Allow the rice to cool and in the meantime get the rest of it happening by heating the sesame oil on a medium to low flame; it will heat very quickly so add the cumin seeds, chillies, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and allow the cumin to sizzle.
  3. Add the onions, pepper, salt, nutmeg, bay leaf, mace, lemon juice and stir thoroughly. Soften the onion and then bring it together with the rice. Gently mix it in and give it a good toss before serving it up.

HOW TO MAKE TOFU TASTE GOOD

4 Aug

Most of my friends turn their noses up at the mention of Tofu. ‘Bland‘, ‘tasteless’ and ‘feels like a sponge.’  I’ve heard people complain about its plain appearance. ‘Oh’, my impassioned cried start off, ’the best bit about it is that it is like a sponge’.  Protein packed tofu is absorbute. It soaks up and retains juices and flavours and is illuminous with all with the colours of the concoctions you cook it in. It brings dishes to life with every mouthful, when all of the intended flavours of a dish burst out of the tofu.  I get quite romantic when describing tofu.  It’s the plain canvas, waiting to be touched with emotion and imagination.  Tofu is the bride, waiting to be adorned!  Maybe I should curtail the romantic descriptions!

A block of Tofu

Japanese, chinese, Indian or Italian; I use it in a myriad of dishes, but here are a few of my favourites.  I could eat these scrumptious items every week!

Pointed Sweet Peppers stuffed with spiced tofu

I do love sweet peppers. I adore the smell that permeates the kitchen. I could soak it up all day long.  The colours make me smile and these peppers are a joy to unravel and find more flavour packed inside.

Ingredients

2 pointed sweet peppers
A pack of firm Tofu, with the excess water removed and then scrambled
one medium onion
4-5 mushrooms, finely chopped (small pieces)
3-4 curry leaves

Spices: 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp tomato puree, salt to taste, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, 2 chilies finely chopped ¼ tsp black pepper

Tip: scramble the tofu by crushing it in your hands. It should break easily to give a scrambled-egg like appearance.

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard, curry leaves, chilies, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and allow them to crackle
2) stir in the onion and shallow fry until softened and transparent
3) Introduce the scrambled tofu and then mix thoroughly
4) Add the black pepper, curry powder, salt, coriander powder and cook for 3-4 minutes
5) stir in the tomato puree before turning off the heat

6) ) Make a slit pepper lengthways and then deseed the pepper.  Stuff the pepper with the tofu and then roast in the oven until its slightly blackened and roasted. don’t roast it enough so that it falls apart.  you will find that ten minutes is enough

Chick-pea and Tofu Curry

Curry juices burst out of the tofu when pressed with a hot buttery chappati and yellows and oranges enlighten the tofu. 

Ingredients

one can of chickpeas
A pack of  firm Tofu
2 firm red tomatoesChick Peas
5-7 g of ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
one onion, finely diced
1 tsp lemon juice
Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 2 cloves, 2cm piece of cinnamon, a bay leaf, 2 green chilies, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, ¼ tsp black pepper,  1 tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp of turmeric powder, a pinch of asafoetida,

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard and asafoetida, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chilies, cumin and bay leaf.  allow the seeds to crackle.
2) Stir in the onion and saute for a couple of minutes to soften, before adding in the garlic and saute until both the onions and garlic are soft, but don’t let them brown
3) Mix in the chickpeas, before introducing the spices and salt to taste.
4) add ¼ cup of water and the tomatoes, simmer until the tomatoes have softened.  Do not simmer for more than 5 minutes.
5) Meanwhile, in a separate pan shallow fry the cubes of tofu until they are golden, before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil
6) Mix together the tofu and the curry and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes
7) garnish with the coriander and serve with lots rice or chappati.

serve with vegetables of your choice or rice.

Tofu Bhurji

Ingredients

One pack of firm Tofu
3-4 spring onions
¼ cup of peas, boiled for 3-4 minutes
1 red pepper, diced
one firm tomato, sliced horizontally into
¼ of sweetcorn kernels
¼ tsp of garam masala
¼ tsp of black pepper
¼ lemon, squeezed

Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp turmeric powder,  1 bay leaf, 2 green chilies (finely chopped),  ¼ tsp garam masala

Method

1) Drain the tofu and wrap it kitchen paper until all of the excess water has been absorbed.
2) Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, bay leaf and chilies and allow the seeds to crackle before adding in the onions
3) fry the onions for a couple of minutes, until they have softened.  Stir in the diced pepper and sweetcorn kernels and then the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika and then let the peppers soften until they can be pierced.
4) Crumble the tofu with your hands and aim to achieve a scrambled egg like texture and then combine with the vegetables and spices.  Turn the heat down to a very low flame, before squeezing in the lemon juice and sprinkling in the garam masala.  Cook gently for a further 3-4 minutes.

Tofu Tips

If you  like your tofu to have a bit of bite and pull then a great way to achieve that is to drain it, cube it and then shallow fry it before freezing it. When you want to use them, just defrost in the microwave.

Drain, cube and marinade the tofu in 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, black pepper and 5g ginger, 1 tsp of lemon juice.  Leave it for a couple of hours in the fridge and then shallow fry it or use it in a stir fry.  It really lifts the tofu.

Tart up the tofu by giving it a glaze.  If you marinade in a little soy sauce, then give it a honey and chili glaze before crisping it up either in a pan, or in the oven, you’ll be bountiful with little gems to scatter into your salad.

Replace Paneer with Tofu in curries for a lower fat alternative that responds well to curry bases and gravies.  For example, in palak paneer (spinach and paneer) curry, add shallow fried tofu.  Do the same with mutur (peas) paneer or even a mixed vegetable and tofu curry.

Stir fry crumbled tofu, or even silken tofu with pak choi, bean sprouts and spring onion with garlic and a little soy sauce and bundle them into wontons and then steam.  I love these as a starter or light meal.

Use up cooked rice, by shallow frying a large onion, 1 tsp of lemon juice, cloves, 2 chilies, cinnamon, star anise and a bay leaf and some crumbled tofu.  Add salt to taste.  sprinkle in ¼ tsp of black pepper.  This side dish is fabulous with a hot bowl of dhal.

Fry up the tofu with bell peppers, sliced onions and Cajun spices and then blanket them in tortilla wraps for a fun and tasty lunch.

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