Scrambled Tofu

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Regular followers of this blog will know I am a huge fan of tofu. When I hear someone say how horrid and tasteless it is I always think to myself that they don’t know how to cook it. Tofu on it’s own is pretty tasteless stuff. But then so is a piece of chicken unless you add some flavour, seasoning, marinate it, etc.

I saw this on social media recently. Written and perhaps shared by someone who has never actually eaten the stuff.

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So apart from using tofu in casseroles and stews, in stir fries, in sandwiches, burgers, salads, you can also eat the stuff for breakfast. It makes a perfect substitute for eggs, contains huge amounts of protein, pretty much zero fat plus lots of goodies like iron, calcium, zinc, selenium and more. It really is wonderful stuff. Pair that up with powerful medicinal properties of turmeric and you can enjoy a breakfast to get your day off to the best possible start.

Any firm tofu will do. Tofoo now sold in my local Tesco is particularly good as is this which I pick up from oriental supermarkets when in London and freeze.

This makes breakfast for two.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pack firm tofu – about 200g
1 small clove garlic – finely chopped or minced
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
a splash of light soy sauce
1 tomato – diced

Heat the oil over a high to medium heat in a frying pan. Crumble the tofu with your fingers into the pan and fry for around 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The tofu may release quite a bit of water at this stage so fry a little longer if needed to dry it off.

Add the garlic, turmeric and paprika and continue to fry and stir for a further minute. Now add the remaining ingredients and carry on stirring and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Serve on toast

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Persian Fava and Tofu Stew

Growing up as the child of German immigrants, I never saw much of my extended family. Grandparents, an aunt and uncle and cousins in West Germany, A grandmother in the East who was not allowed out to visit (and it was rather uncomfortable going to visist: something I only did once), and an aunt in Los Angeles. When my parents arrived and rented a room in West London, they made friends with a young couple, an Englishman and his Persian wife. I had the honour of her becoming my Godmother and she became an aunt to me and my brother, a true part of the family.

It was her who taught me mother, who subsequently taught me, how to cook the perfect rice. Her nephews and nieces brought back exotic ingredients from Iran: Pistachio nuts, pomegranate syrup, dates. Things that are widely available in independent shops and in supermarkets.

This is my variation of Lee Watson’s Persian Fava Bean, Seitan and Green Herb Stew with a little influence from Sally Butcher and her Mung Bean Casserole. The smells and flavours remind me of having dinner at my godmother’s house. Happy days.

Serves 4
1 medium red onion – cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g firm tofu – well drained and cut into 1cm cubes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 red chili – finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons za’atar
A pinch of ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon – drained and finely chopped
1 carrot – peeled and diced
6-8 radishes – quartered
5 garlic cloves – peeled but left whole
150ml white wine
2 tablespoons tomato puree
6 mushrooms – quartered
1x400g tin of fava beans/ful medames – the ones in water not already prepared
vegetable stock – enough to fill the empty bean tin
a large handful each of parsley and dill – roughly chopped
150g spinach – finely sliced
Pomegranate molasses

Take a large(ish) casserole (one with a lid). Heat the oil then add the onion, tofu, carrot and radish. Fry until the tofu and onions start to brown then add the chili, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, bayleaf, cinnamon and preserved lemon. Continue to fry, stirring gently for about 5 minutes. Now add the white wine and let it simmer down a little to reduce. Add the mushrooms, fava, whole garlic cloves and tomato puree followed by the stock. Stir then cover and pop in the oven at 180C. After 45 minutes, take the lid off, stir in the spinach and herbs and the za’atar, cover and return to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes).

Stir and season before serving then drizzle a little of the pomegranate molasses over the top. I served mine with Persian rice and potatoes, chili sauce and a little natural yogurt.

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Tofu and Mushroom Black Bean Udon with Stir Fried Greens

Celebrate Chinese New Year (or any other time of year) with a Chinese inspired stir fry with tofu and noodles and a plate of steaming hot, sweet and spicy greens. This looks like a lot of work, but it so simple. it’s all about preparation and timing as you need to cook both dishes simultaneously. Ideally you’ll need two large woks but this will work almost as well using large frying pans.

Using a combination of broccoli and choy sum gives the greens some crunch alongside the silky smoothness of the choy sum leaves

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For the Udon
1 pack of firm tofu
A generous handful of raw cashew nuts
5-6 mushrooms – sliced
1 red chili – finely sliced
3 spring onions – sliced on an angle
1 handful of beansprouts
150-200g Udon noodles – or any other noodle you prefer
2 tablespoons Black Bean sauce
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Ketjap Manis – or dark soy and a pinch of brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar – or lime juice
A few drops of toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons groundnut oil or sunflower oil for stir frying

Drain the tofu, wrap in a clean tea towel then place a small weight (like a chopping board) on top. This will gently squeeze out most of the water without breaking the tofu. This helps the tofu to absorb more flavour during cooking. Leave for around 15 minutes. You’ll be amazed how much water does come out. Cut the tofu into bite sized cubes

I tend to use ready cooked noodles. if not, cook as per the instructions on the pack then leave in cold water until ready to prevent them from overcooking or sticking together.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large frying pan. When smoking, add the tofu and stir fry on a high heat for 6-8 minutes until browned. Remove from the pan.

Make a sauce by mixing together the black bean sauce, soy, ketjap manis, vinegar and sesame oil in a small bowl or mug.

Put the wok or pan back over a high heat and add a little more oil. When smoking add the cashews, chili, spring onions and mushrooms. Stir fry for around 45 seconds then add the sauce. Watch out at this point as the sauce vapourises and can catch the back of your throat when breathed in.

Stir fry for a further 30 seconds then add the beansprouts and cooked noodles (be sure to drain the water off if you left them in cold water). Continue to stir fry until everything is steaming hot – about 1 minute at most. Then serve with the greens below.

For the greens
1 pack of Choy Sum (about 4-5 bunches) – or you can use Pak Choi
1 small head of broccoli – cut into bite sized chunks
2 spring onions – sliced
1 thumbnail sized piece of fresh ginger – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
1 red chili – finely sliced
3 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tablespoon groundnut or sunflower oil

Wash the Choy Sum well then chop into large chunks – I tend to slice 2-3 times across the plant. Stalks can be used too. If using Pak Choi, cut lengthwise into quarters.

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan. When starting to smoke, add all the ingredients except the vegetarian oyster sauce. Stir fry for 30 seconds or so until the leaves start to wilt. Now add the vegetarian oyster sauce and stir fry until everything is well coated and hot.

Serve with the noodles and tofu from above.

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Miso Soup with Noodles

One of the easiest soups to make and can easily be adapted to your personal tastes. This is also great as a portable lunch. Just make everything up then add boiling water when you get close enough to a kettle. Nice alternative to a limp sandwich

You can put pretty much whatever you like into this. Here is what I used which made enough for 4 people
1 small carrot – peeled and finely sliced
1 small red pepper – cut into chunky dice
3-4 spring onions – sliced
1 red chili – sliced
A large pinch of dried wakame
1 small packet of firm tofu – cut into largish dice
1 tablespoon miso paste – i used a soybean based paste
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Rice noodles – use the flat ones if you are going to cook this a little or vermicelli for instant miso soup
1 vegetable stock cube
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
1 chunk of root ginger – finely chopped
Splash of mirin
A handful of broccoli – I used tenderstem but any sort works

Put all the ingredients in a pan. Add boiling water and heat until simmering. For instant soup just add boiling water and stir for a couple of minutes to dissolve the stock and miso paste.

Serve with slices of pickled ginger and sambal oelek

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Sesame Crusted Tofu

I was watching Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers a few weeks ago. To be honest I’m not a big fan. Too much unnecessary meat added to the majority of his dishes and he tends to eat most of his meals alone and always when the food is still just hot enough to burn his mouth. On the rare occasion that he does eat with someone else, it is usually in one of his local shopkeeper’s kitchens. it’s all a little too weird for me.

He did however make a salmon dish which he strangely ate with no accompaniments. I thought I’d try a meat/fish free version and, as mirin is quite expensive, I went for teriyaki sauce instead.

The results were good.

1 block of tofu – the amount depends on the number you are feeding
4-8 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
4-6 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Then for the accompaniment I did a quick vegetable stir fry
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
2-3 spring onions – sliced
A small chunk of ginger – about a teaspoon – finely chopped
Beansprouts
Broccoli – in chunks
Mange tout – halved or cut into thirds
Mushrooms – sliced or quartered depending on how you like them
2-4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2-4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Take the tofu, cut into large pieces then wrap gently in a tea towel and place a chopping board or plate on top. This will gently squeeze some of the liquid out making it able to absorb other flavours better. After about half an hour unwrap the tofu, place in a shallow dish and cover with the teriyaki sauce. Make sure both sides get a good soaking then leave to marinade for at least an hour, preferably longer.

Once the tofu has marinaded, take a plate and spread the sesame seeds over it. Heat the oil in a large frying pan then take each piece of tofu out of the teriyaki marinade, dip both side in the sesame seeds and gently place in the hot oil. Fry gently on both sides until slightly browned. this take 5-7 minutes per side.

While the tofu is cooking, heat the sunflower and sesame oil in a wok. When the oil smokes add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir for 2-3 seconds. Now add the broccoli and mange tout and a little water. Keep stirring for about a minute then add the mushrooms and both soy sauces. Stir again for a minute then add the beansprouts. Keep stirring for a further minute or two then serve the vegetables, topped with a slab of sesame crusted tofu while piping hot.

Stir Fried Tofu with Chili and Thai Holy Basil

The late summer weather means al fresco lunches in one of West London’s many squares, parks and public places. After a while however hummus gets a little boring and so I’ve been eating way, way, way too much cheese.

Much as I love my lunchtime picnics, I miss this place. To be honest, it’s a bit shabby, both on the inside and outside and not quite in keeping with the surrounding gentrification of Notting Hill. Nothing a lick of paint and some new picnic benches outside wouldn’t fix. So I went back recently to try what I consider to be quite possibly the best dish I have ever eaten. One of those dishes you can’t stop eating even when you feel you are about to explode. Stir fried tofu with chili and holy basil from the pub’s Thai menu. By the way, I’ve never tried anything from the pub’s English menu. It all looks a little ordinary in comparison.

But what’s this? Where is it? They have changed the menu! There were only ever two dishes on the menu that didn’t contain meat or fish, the other was a vegetable green curry. Now there are none. You can still order it if you ask nicely, and if the bar staff are in a good mood and it still tastes great, but it’s just not quite the same as the original.

I tried to order the same dish from my local Thai restaurant. they even deliver if you order enough food. Trouble is, they delivered the wrong dish. Beef with chili and basil. So I thought I’d try it at home.

Most of the ingredients can be found in any large supermarket. The deep fried tofu I got from the Oriental CostCutter on Queensway, opposite Baywater tube station. I have also seen it in Planet Organic though it’s pricier there and doesn’t have that same open texture. I had a hunt around for recipes then made a version based on a combination of three or four that sounded similar to the dish from the Walmer Castle. Some recipes would say if you can’t find Thai holy basil then use standard basil. My advice is, if you can’t find holy basil, then leave this dish for another time until you can. Holy basil and regular “italian” basil have totally different flavours.

You can serve this with steamed jasmine rice, sticky rice or, as in my case, a quick stir fry of mushrooms, beansprouts and egg noodles.

1 pack deep fried tofu. If you can’t get this, then use firm tofu, pat it dry, cut into large cubes then fry in a very hot wok with a little oil until well browned.
3 clove garlic – finely chopped
4 spring onions – thickly sliced
4-6 birdseye chilis, sliced (adjust depending on how hot you like it, or add more before serving)
3-4 tablespoons each of dark and light soy sauce
100ml or so of water
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons sunflower, rapeseed or groundnut oil
a big handful of holy basil leaves

Heat the oil in a wok, with the flame on the highest setting.

When the oil starts to smoke add the garlic, chili and spring onion. Fry for a couple of seconds then add the tofu. Fry for a monute of so then add the soy sauces, water and sugar, Keep stirring for about a minute then add the basil leaves either whole or hand torn. Stir again until the basil has wilted. if you like a bit more “gravy” add a little more water. Serve while steaming hot.

Braised Tofu with Spinach

I received a text message the other day from a friend who had been watching Gok Cooks Chinese on Channel 4. It was meant to be the recipe for his tofu omelette, but was somewhat garbled. All I could work out was to braise the tofu in a mix of sauces then place on top of an omelette. From the typos I couldn’t work out what went in the omelette and what went in the braise. So i thought I would make my own interpretation, giving it a bit of a Busaba Eathai feel by adding spinach. The first mouthful and you are hit with the spiciness of the chili bean sauce, then the other flavours take control and it was gone all too quickly.

I would imagine this would go well with some stir fried noodles and beansprouts. I ate it with oven chips.

Serves 2

1 x 220g block of firm tofu
2 tablespoons chili bean paste (available in Chinese supermarkets and also in Waitrose)
3-4 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce (aka vegetarian stir fry sauce)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 large bunches spinach
2 big portions of oven chips – the skinnier the better
1-2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Heat the oven and put the chips in as per the instructions on the pack.

Halve the block of tofu, wrap in kitchen roll and press some of the liquid out gently.

Take a small bowl and mix the chili bean sauce, oyster sauce and cider vinegar. Put the tofu in and make sure it is covered with the sauce.

Take a frying pan, add the oil and place over a high heat. When very hot, take the tofu steaks from the marinade and place in the pan – be careful here as the chili marinade on the tofu will most likely spit and coat you and your cooker in chili sauce spray. Fry for 2 minutes then turn. After another 2 minutes add the spinach leaves (I left them whole) and the remainder of the marinade. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and leave for 5-8 minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Serve hot with the chips which soak up the chili sauce beautifully.