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Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

29 May

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

I was 26, but came weeping childishly down the stairs of our new build home at that time, flaccid, tousled and seeking warmth and comfort and really, an escape. I discharged my strains in barely comprehensible trickles, “I don’t want to study any more I’m just too tired”.

I drooped into my husband’s embrace, “I don’t wanna do it, I don’t want to”. Working full time and taking three papers of my final post graduate exams was proving too much. My palms and arms were stained with the colours of inducing some sort of excitement through pens and my hair flopped in half greasy protest, threatening an invitation for pimples. I felt the cool of the house and it began to calm me, the heat escaped my forehead and cheeks and diffused some of the tension. I have this strange habit of keeping the fan heater close to me whilst I am studying you see, even when it isn’t that cold. Maybe it insulates me from external distraction.

I whimpered to my husband that I wanted to wear nice clothes, not these vests and tracksuit bottoms with thick cosy socks that are suited for hibernation. I told him that I wanted to socialize and have fun and go for dinner, not be tied to my books and notes. I told him that I did not want to fail…and the sound of fatigue escalated. He said all the right things, about it being temporary and that nothing worth having comes easily.

In the exam hall, my eyes were sore and head foggy. Emotional, depleted and almost without hope, I listened to my peers as they waited for the rest of the students to be seated. “I don’t even care anymore because I am so tired”, said one. “I just hope the stuff I want comes up”. All I wanted was a hot soak in the bath and cuddles. But you know what? I nailed that paper, because there is always room for a little bit more, if you want to find it.  

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

The reason I am telling you this story is because it is how I felt over the last week or so. I am very tired. Of course I am a bit older and wiser now, so I have more of a toolbox. I won’t lie, I did have a day or two of bubbling over but then, a lovely lady prompted me to find a little bit more. Lovely lady, I know you will read this. Thank you.

I thought about what it is that actually makes me happy. Not what I think I should achieve, work for or do. I took a social media break. I baked a cake in my new oven. I stopped talking to people that inspired doubt. I livened up my sense with chaat.

Chaat is a combination of ingredients and flavors that tantalizes the senses. It is a mix of cool, warm, crisp and soft. The chaat masala itself is peppery, pungent and spiky. There is no food better at livening up the senses. Chaat masala is readily available in supermarkets in the Indian section, or in Indian stores. The tamarind chutney is ready bought and offers sweet and sour tastes without the sharpness. I have mixed it with the yogurt to give cool tang. You have vegetarian salad with a bit of naughtiness here, go on…life is short.

Ingredients

200g Asparagus boiled or steamed until barely tender

150g radish, thinly sliced

250g firm tofu, cut into 3-4 cm cubes

8 heaped tablespoons of corn flour

2 tbsp. chaat masala

Oil for deep frying

4 dessert spoons of plain natural yoghurt

2 dessert spoons of tamarind chutney

Method

  1. Heat the oil for frying and in the meantime, drain the tofu and envelop it between sheets of kitchen paper to drain off excess moisture
  2. Mix together the corn flour and Chaat masala.
  3. Gently roll the tofu in the corn flour to coat it and then drop them into the oil when it is hot enough and fry until the cubes are golden and crisp. Place them onto some kitchen paper to drain off any excess moisture.
  4. Make the dip by mixing together the tamarind chutney and yoghurt
  5. Assemble the salad and serve it whilst the tofu is still hot. You will feel your mouth tingle!

 

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s – National Vegetarian Week

22 May

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s- National Vegetarian week 

We find ourselves in unspoken compromise in our house. Well it is unspoken most of the time. I like to escape with documentaries on the breastfed her children until they were eight years old whilst mister wants to watch Britain’s got talent or a magician in action. To be fair neither of us seems to find the time to actually focus on a TV programme anyway. I like mountains and he likes beaches, so we visited places like St. Lucia, where there tranquil emerald waters sit quietly in the lap of the pitons. He likes Mexican food and I like really bold and loud flavors. He even persuaded me eat at a Taco bell once.

I like Mexican food too, but when it comes to Taco’s the vegetarian variety (included in the option I explored above) seems to be filled with re-fried beans and the rest of the usual items of salsa, guacamole, sour cream and cheese and I am not the biggest fan of mushy re fried beans. Sometimes I make Taco’s with spiced vegetarian mince, which I like on a ‘cheat’ night. But here is an option that satisfied us all this evening. Tandoori tofu and cauliflower taco’s. Oh yes.

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s

 

The cauliflower gives real bite, and the tandoori aroma is heady. The tofu gives wonderful and contrasting texture to the taco shell and with the carrot and avocado salad. We have some big mouthfuls of ‘pow’. And guess what? It is all a pretty healthy meal.

You will see that I have used thick, hung curd. Use Greek yoghurt but please remember to drain any excess water. The reason I say this is that when you marinade and roast the cauliflower you may end up stewing it if there is too much moisture in the yogurt.

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s

for the full recipe head over to great British chefs

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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