tofu

SURPRISE IN MY NOODLES / CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

SURPRISE IN MY NOODLES / CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

Today I met up with friends for lunch. They chose Wagamama, a pan Asian noodle place. I have eaten there a few times so had no worries.

First the waiter forgot my miso soup and pickles, he just brought my main dish straight away. I started to eat it and after getting through about a third I discovered an alien (to me) food. OK I admit I first thought this was an oyster mushroom but at a closer look I recognized from my distant memory this was indeed a good sized piece of chicken.

I returned the dish, expressing my disgust. They apologised and quickly made a new portion of my noodles. They also finally brought my (luke warm) miso soup and even offered a free dessert. I ended up paying only for my fresh blueberry apple and ginger juice. Still I felt disappointed.

Everybody makes mistakes we are only humans. However if this was a peanut in a dish of somebody who has severe nut allergy or some breadcrumbs in a coeliacs dinner we would call it serious. This could be a life and death situation. Of course I won’t suffer an anaphylactic shock should I put this piece of chicken in my mouth. I just like to receive what I ordered, I have a reason (actually reasons) why I am a veggie and I would like eateries to be more respectful. Not so long ago at Yo Sushi I saw a piece of breaded tofu being sliced on the same chopping board with the same knife as the breaded chicken. Is it carelessness or ignorance? Attention to detail makes a big difference.

no chicken in these noodles :)
laksa-thing

CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU
This is my take on laksa. It is a lot thicker than laksa should be, but that can be remedied by adding a bit more water. Thicker sauce makes it very comforting and thats how I like it.

I was cautious and added just one chilli pepper but regretted it later, it could have done with at least 2. Of course it depends on the type of chillies you have and your "heat resistance".

serves 4

laksa paste
laksa-thing-paste

ingredients:
paste
1/2cup macadamia nuts
2 stalks of lemongrass, outer leaves peeled, coarsely chopped
1-3 red chillies, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely cut
1 bunch of coriander (about 2 cups)
1 inch of fresh turmeric root (or 1 tsp dried turmeric), peeled and sliced
1 inch ginger rood or galangal, peeled and sliced
2 large banana shallots

16-20 baby aubergines
1 1/2 tbs rapeseed or coconut oil
250g (9-100z) firm tofu, cut into bite size pieces
1 tin coconut milk
500ml (2 cups) of water
1 Tbs tamari
1 tsp coconut nectar sugar
10 kafir lime leaves
1-2 limes
fresh coriander for garnish
1 red chilli
250g (9oz) rice noodles,medium thickness.

baby aubergines

baby-aubergines-


  1. First make the paste. Place all the ingredients into a blender or a food processor. Blend to a coarse paste. You will have to stop and scrape the sides few times. Set aside.
  2. Cut of the stalks of the baby aubergines, halve them and place into a roasting dish. Add 1 tbs of oil and mix well. If using coconut oil you should melt it first. Roast the aubergine in a 200C oven for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large wok heat the remaining 1/2tbs of oil. Add all the paste and cook gently for 2 minutes.
  4. Next add the coconut milk, water, tamari sauce, coconut sugar, kafir lime leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the noodles. Soak them in just boiled water for 10minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Next add the roasted aubergines, and tofu into the wok. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add the rice noodles into the wok and let just heat through.
  8. Add lime juice and salt to taste.
  9. Serve topped with coriander and sliced chillies and some lime wedges.

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CABBAGE AND TOFU NOODLES

CABBAGE AND TOFU NOODLES

Processed meat leads to an early death. Bacteria are more and more resistant to antibiotics. There are three millions of patients withType 2 Diabetes in the UK. High salt intake is messing up our immune system. Our care system is struggling to cope with dementia. Unfortunately this is not a promo for a new Hollywood disaster movie, this is a brief summary of some of the latest health news.


Last week all the papers reported on the link between processed meat and increased risk of death. It seem to me that people do not want to hear these warnings. No, you mustn't touch our bacon and sausages! Today, at the leisure centre where my son plays basketball, I overheard an obese grandmother telling her grandson : "No, you are not getting any biscuits until you eat your chips and sausages." The boy didn't seem too interested in his dinner. In the end, finishing the second half of her bacon sarnie, the grandmother said: " Well if you don't want it, I will finish it."

Joanna Blythman has been defending sausages and bacon in the Daily mail this week. I think it is simply dangerous to do that. These are not health foods. And if you think eating 5-a-day alongside your burger will save you, think again. Our lecturer shocked us with the fact that 5-a-day negates one Happy Meal! Yes, you heard right, just
one measly Happy Meal. All the powerful phytonutrients are used up to clean up after this kid's favourite. Now imagine if somebody eats at McDonalds and is also a smoker. Every cigarette accounts for the loss of 25mg of Vitamin C (if you smoke 10 a day you would have to eat a kilo of raspberries, or 35 peaches just to make up for the cigarettes). Let's make it clear 5-a-day will do zilch if the rest of diet and lifestyle are rubbish. If we are to move ahead and tackle the present health crisis we must make promoting healthy lifestyle changes a priority. Promoting bacon and sausages simply won't do.

cabbagetofunoodles

CABBAGE AND TOFU NOODLES

Serves 2-3

2 nests of noodles (rice, whole wheat, buckwheat)
1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 large carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1 small cabbage, shredded
200g firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 tsp chilli sauce
2 tbs soya sauce
1 cup water
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds

  1. First prepare the noodles according to the package instruction (rice noodles need to be soaked, buckwheat or whole wheat need to be cooked). Set aside. If you are cooking your noodles make sure to rinse them well to prevent sticking.
  2. In a wok heat about 60ml of water. Add the ginger, garlic and shallot. Cook for about 5 min until soft. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick.
  3. Next add the carrot, cabbage, tofu, chilli sauce, soya sauce and water. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the cabbage has softened.
  4. Add in the cooked noodles and simmer until heated stirring constantly.
  5. Finally add the spring onions and sesame seeds and serve.

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TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

It seems to me today will be one of those days I will do anything to distract myself from revision. I cleaned the kitchen, sorted out my vegetable drawer, folded the laundry that was hanging on the airer for couple of days. I put another load of wash on, hung it up to dry... and now I am writing a blog. You could say writing a blog about soya is partly a revision for my upcoming exam.

Apparently the sale of soya based veggie burgers, sausages and roasts have gone through the roof in response to the horse meat scandal. Horse meat seems to be everywhere, if you eat meat there is no escaping it but choosing the highly processed soya meat analogs may not be a healthy alternative either. The food writer Joanna Blythman, in response to the increase in soya burger sales, wrote a rather condemning article about soya. I do agree with her on the soya protein isolates (thats what you will find in the above mentioned products), these are not healthy foods. However soya isoflavones, the phytonutrient found in more natural soya products, have shown many health benefits. Isoflavones may reduce breast cancer risk (works best if given from adolescence), boost survival in breast cancer patients, lower cholesterol and they may also lower hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause.

When I choose soya I go for no GM preferably organic, I tend to stick to tofu, miso, tempeh, edamame and I do like a soya yoghurt, especially the vanilla one... YUM. Personally I don’t like the after taste of soya milk and the soya cream sold in shops is mainly vegetable oil. I choose the more traditional soya foods you would find in Asia over the processed Westernized soya products. My kids love tofu, and if I have a block in the fridge I can always come up with a quick and tasty dinner. Believe me
quick is the word of the moment. The recipe below is what I came up with the other day, the only downfall was I had to restrain the kids from eating ii all otherwise my husband would have gone hungry after getting home late from work :)

Here are two views on soya. The above mentioned Joanna Blythman article and a fab post from Leo Babauta’s Zenhabits blog.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2284435/Horsemeat-scandal-Think-soyas-safer-choice-meat-Think-again.html

http://zenhabits.net/soy/

BBQtofu-detail

TOFU IN QUICK BBQ SAUCE

Serves 4

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medjol dates
700ml (about 3cups) passata
120ml of water
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
2 Tbs soya sauce
1 Tbs coconut nectar sugar (or maple syrup)
1 x 400g (just under 1 lb) block of firm tofu

In a deep wide saute pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) of water, add the onions and garlic. Put the lid on and let the onions and garlic soften. Add more water if they start sticking.
Next add all the rest of ingredients (apart from) the tofu and simmer for about 20-30min, you should get thick rich sauce.
Drain your tofu, dry with paper towels (I wrap the tofu in several layers and press on gently to squeeze the water our). Cut into bite size pieces.
Place the tofu into the sauce, and simmer for further 10 min. Shake the pot occasionally, stirring might break the tofu.
Serve with brown rice and a large green salad.

BBQ-tofu
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UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

My kids love udon noodles. Every time we go the local Asian supermarket we end up with several packs of fresh ready cooked udon noodles. Together with the wonderful tofu that sits right next to them in the refrigerated counter we have a start to a delicious meal.

Kids like their noodles stir-fired with few veggies, tofu and soya sauce. That’s what they had for lunch today. I fancied something more exciting but restorative at the same time. What could be better than a fragrant Asian style broth with veggies, tofu and noodles. Perfect for rainy day, perfect to counteract any Christmas indulgences.

If you can’t find ready cook udon noodles buy them dried and cook according to the package instructions. They tend to come separated into portions, very handy. You can also use other type of noodles; ramen, soba, rice vermicelli... Conveniently any tofu will do for this recipe, if using soft or silken tofu just be careful not to break it up. Maybe best added after the noodles have softened. Feel free to add any other veggies; thinly sliced peppers, mangetout, green beans or mung bean sprouts will work great. To get the best out of the miso paste add it at the last minute, let dissolve into the broth but do not boil.

You can also make just the broth without the noodles and sip it. This is perfect if you have caught any of the wintery colds and infections, maybe add more garlic for even bigger healing punch. You can imagine your colds or infections melting away with every spoonful.

udon-broth

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH
Serves 2-3

ingredients
4 cups of light vegetable stock
1 leek
1 medium carrot
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 large clove of garlic
pinch of red chilli flakes
1/4 of Savoy cabbage
1 Tbs soya sauce
100 g of tofu
2x200g (3oz) pks of ready cook udon noodles
1 Tbs yellow miso paste
2 spring onions (scallions)
fresh coriander (cilantro) to serve

method
  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Cut the root and the dark green leaves off the leek. Cut the leek in half widthwise (you should have 2 tubes, about 2-3inches long). Cut the leeks into long thin strips (julienne).
  3. Cut the carrot into julienne (again cut it in half widthwise, than julienne)
  4. Add the carrots and leeks into the stock, simmer.
  5. While the stock is simmering finely julienne or just finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add to the stock.
  6. Finely shred the cabbage and add to the stock.
  7. Add the soya sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Cut the tofu into small dice. Add to the stock.
  9. Next, add your udon noodles and heat until they loosen up and warm through.
  10. Add the miso paste and just let dissolve. Do not boil.
  11. Last add the spring onion.
  12. Serve in large soup bowls garnished with some chopped coriander (cilantro).


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BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

My son enjoys a cup of tea with me. We get my teapot, some loose white or green tea (I have quite a collection), let it brew, pour and of course we sip and enjoy. The other day, holding a cup of tea, he told his sister : “You should drink green tea too, people who drink 3 cups of green tea a day get less cancer”. It made me laugh. Where did he get the information from? I guess my shouting out latest health headlines at everybody has made some impact after all.

There are many strategies how to get kids eating healthy. Everybody has an opinion. When my daughter was going through an extra picky period I even had the recommendation of just making her eat it. Too controlling! Making food fun? Honestly I am not into making faces out of fruit and veggies. I did try making start charts and giving rewards. We even had a colour coded chart to make sure she would eat a rainbow. It worked for a while but slowly she seemed to care less and less.

Last year, when I was studying Biomedicine for my course, my daughter got very interested in the human body and especially cells and the immune system. We had to watch lots of Youtube videos of cells dividing, immune cells gobbling up invaders and blood cells gushing through veins and arteries.

This gave me an idea. I started to explain to her how healthy food makes our cells happy. I tell her what nutrients she is getting from her food and what they do inside her body. I also mention the bad stuff, how harmful certain foods can be. The other day, on my computer, she saw picture of foods that cause cancer v foods that protect from cancer. It sure made an impression on her. Maybe kids need to know exactly why we want them to eat health giving foods. Saying: “because it is good for you” doesn’t seem to cut it. And we need to lead by example! Kids do learn from us.

Admittedly all is not perfect, she will still rather have a piece of chocolate than a carrot, but she has been trying new fruits and veggies lately in a rate that I have not seen before. Did I finally find a strategy that works?

While making this broccoli and cauliflower bake I didn’t think she would eat much of it. Perhaps the broccoli. The sauce? Only is she didn’t know that a pepper was in it...I was setting myself for a fall. On top of it all she decided to help me cook. Oh no! I couldn't just hide the pepper in the sauce! She did watch with great interest the red pepper’s skin getting blacker and blacker on the flame. She helped me make the sauce. She helped me pour it onto the veggies and sprinkle pine nuts on top of the bake. And to my surprise she ate cauliflower and scraped the rest of the pepper sauce out of the dish. Success!!!

broccolicauliflower-bake

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

Serves 4

ingredients
1 red pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 medium cauliflower
150g (5 oz) of silken tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
125ml (1/2 cup) water
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs pine nuts

method
  1. Roast the pepper. You can do it directly over the flame (I use a large metal skewer to make it easier to hold the pepper) or roasted under a grill (broiler) or simply in the oven until the skin is blackened and blistered. Make sure you prick the pepper with a skewer or a tip of the knife to prevent it exploding.
  2. When the skin on the pepper is blistered place it in a bowl and cover with cling film, this will create steam making it easier to peel the pepper. Remove the seeds.
  3. Next steam the cauliflower and broccoli. I prefer to do them separately since the cauliflower takes longer to cook. Aim for about 6 min for cauliflower, 4 min for broccoli.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking place the peeled and deseeded roasted red pepper, tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast into a blender and process till smooth. Add more water if too thick, you want sauce that is little bit thinner than the classic bechamel sauce.
  5. Place the broccoli and cauliflower into a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for 30min or until golden brown on top. Serve.

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TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

In an ideal world I would have a large garden, preferably a forrest garden, full of delicious fruits and veggies waiting to be picked and turned into delicious dishes. The reality is different. My garden is a postage stamp size and my dog’s second name could be “the destroyer”. Unfortunately I have a list of plants that have succumbed to his digging, chewing or just simple stomping upon...(he is rather large). There was a blueberry bush, golden currant bush, strawberry plants, raspberry canes.... At least the red currant, Audrey Hepburn rose and my plum tree have survived his advances so far. My poor rosemary plant had a close call the other day...

Last Sunday morning I woke up before the predicted torrential rains started. Armed with a plastic bowl and a dining room chair I embarked on my plum harvest. I do hope my neighbours were still asleep and didn’t see me in my pyjamas balancing on the chair with a bowl in one hand... It must have been a sight. But I managed to pick all the plums before the rain and wind...

Even though plums are delicious on their own but I though I should try making them into a chinese spiced plum sauce free of the usual MSG and additives. The sauce went really well with grilled tofu skewers. Use any purple plums you can get your hands on. With plums being in season at the moment I am sure local farm shops and markets will be selling them cheap.

plums

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

Serves 4, sauce yield -2 cups



ingredients
the plum sauce:
440g/1 lb plums
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp chinese spice
2 Tbs coconut palm sugar
1 Mejdol date, chopped
2 Tbs rice vinegar
160ml (2/3c) water
pinch salt
2 tsp tamari or other soya sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)

tofu skewers
500g (1lb 2 oz)
1 red pepper
4 small onions
half a pineapple

plum-sauce

method
  1. If using bamboo skewers, soak them first for at least 20min.
  2. To make the sauce put all the ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 min.
  4. Place the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth (take care when blending hot liquids - it could end up on the ceiling, I start with the lowest speed to prevent redecorating the kitchen)
  5. While the sauce is cooking, remove the tofu from its packaging and dry on some paper towels.
  6. Cut into large cubes. I had 24 pieces - 3 per skewer.
  7. Cut the pepper into large pieces. Quarter the onions. Cut off the pineapple skin and the core. Cut the pineapple into bite sized pieces.
  8. Thread the tofu, pepper, onion and pineapple onto skewers.
  9. Preheat the grill (broiler) and place the skewers under. Grill for about 5 min each side, or until the tofu, veggies and fruit start to caramelise.
  10. Serve with the sauce and some rice or noodles on the side.

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NUMBER ONE FOR THE CHINA STUDY/ BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

NUMBER ONE FOR THE CHINA STUDY/ BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

The Huffington Post recently asked readers to vote for the best health book out of 50 chosen titles. I was jumping with joy when I found The China Study by T.Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell occupying the number one spot.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/09/best-health-books-huff-po_n_1862250.html

http://www.thechinastudy.com/


Reading The China Study was indeed a turning point for me. Go back 2 years: I am watching a Man V Food episode with my kids. (They both find it rather entertaining with my daughter shouting GO ADAM GO whenever Adam Richman is battling just another heap of meat, cheese, grease and white flour. ) My son casually says that he would like to eat meat. Shock horror!!! My kids have been vegetarians from birth. To be honest I always expected this question to pop up but I hoped it would not. Especially since I always maintain that should my kids decide to eat meat I would allowed them to do it. Not without a bit of education first.

That evening I stormed the internet and searched for “the healthiest diet”. I am not sure what I was expecting to find. As if by magic the first thing that popped up was The China Study. Not long after reading the article two copies of the book were in my Amazon basket (my friend’s birthday was coming up). I read it immediately and never looked back. Indeed my vegetarianism was confirmed and more. The dairy had to go too.

Professor Campbell is, along with other plant based diet promoters, often accused of “vegan agenda” by his critics. The diet he promotes is however a result of decades of sound research. His (and other researches') findings lead him to the conclusion that diet without animal proteins is the best way to prevent chronic disease.

My son is old enough to understand charts from this book and together with few You Tube videos this was convincing enough for him to vow never to eat meat and reduce dairy (not 100% but he is doing great). My daughter still likes cooking shows but anytime she sees meat being cooked she utters “poor chicken, cow, fish....” They may still change their minds one day but we are safe for now.

My recipe stems from one that used to be my kids favourite, baked mac and cheese. I have posted a recipe “mac and whizz” before , these two recipes are similar, with mac and whizz being the speedier version. Baked mac and (no) cheese has tofu added to the sauce which makes it more suitable for baking. It souffles and browns nicely. I also added some crunchy topping to make it extra special.

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE
This recipe serves a crowd, so please feel free to halve everything (but the butternut squash). I am always happy to serve it twice, just with different veggies on the side. Makes a great potluck dish too.

bakedmacandcheese

Serves 8

ingredients
500g (1lb 6oz) whole wheat macaroni
sauce
1 cup of cashew nuts
3 water
250 g tofu (preferably silken)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and steamed till soft (or roasted)
2 tsp onion powder
3/4tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white or yellow miso
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped Tbs nutritional yeast
squeeze of lemon to taste
crumb topping
60ml (1/4cup) pine nuts
2 tbs nutritional yeast
3 Tbs bread crumbs

bakedmacandcheese2

method
  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions.
  2. In a food processor combine all the sauce ingredients and process till you get a smooth thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Mix the pasta and sauce and pour into a large baking dish.
  4. Next place the pine nuts into a food processor and pulse until you get bread crumb texture.
  5. Mix with the nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for about 30-40min or until the top is golden brown.

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VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

Vietnamese cuisine is not something I am very familiar with, actually I think the only Vietnamese food I have ever had was a starter of rice paper rolls in a pan Asian restaurant. When I was growing up, a group of young Vietnamese people came to my home town for a work experience. My Dad (who at that time worked for the same company) found himself in the dorms where the group was staying. He came home telling us about one of the lads who showed him how to make rice noodles. This was rather exciting, as I have never heard of rice noodles before. Those times (we are talking around 25 years ago) there were no Asian ingredients in the small Czech town where I grew up, so making your own rice noodles must have been a much appreciated skill.

The other day I was looking through one of my cookbooks and found a Vietnamese chicken curry. I though I would give it a go (minus the chicken of course). I didn’t settle for following the recipe, I did more researching and concocting until I came up with my version. Next time I may even try making my own Vietnamese curry powder.

There is a similarity with other Asian curries; like many Indian curries the Vietnamese version is based on dry spices. The addition of lemon grass is characteristic for Thai cooking and so is the use of Thai basil. The curry is thinner than the Indian version which makes it perfect to accommodate rice noodles; this is rather reminiscent of a Malaysian laksa. Using potatoes is definitely the result of French influences. The French introduced many ingredients to Vietnam such as coffee, tarragon and even baguettes. What an amazing melting pot!

vietnamesestylecurry

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY
I must admit I used regular basil because I didn’t get around to going to an Asian shop to buy Thai (Holly) basil. It still tasted great. I used extra turmeric to enhance the colour of the curry as my curry powder didn’t have quite enough and the curry was looking a bit insipid. The extra teaspoon made a lot of difference, we eat with our eyes after all :)

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed oil (or 2 Tbs of water)
8 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 stalks of lemon grass, tough leaves removed, finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 Tbs mild curry powder (or Vietnamese curry powder)
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 tin of coconut milk ( I used light)
250g (about 1/2lb) green beans, topped and tailed, cut into halves
250g tofu ( I used firm), cut into bite size dice
I pack of rice noodles ( I used thick noodles)
Thai basil and red chillies for decoration

method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil and add the shallots and lemon grass, cook on gentle heat until softened. Add the garlic and chillies and cooke further minute to soften.
  2. Next add the curry powder and stir around for about 30seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  3. Add the potatoes and stir around just to coat with spices.
  4. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and cook for 10min.
  5. Next add the green beans and cook for another 10 min or until potatoes and beans are tender.
  6. While the curry is cooking soak your rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
  7. Just before serving add the tofu and noodles to the curry and heat through.
  8. Serve topped with basil and extra thinly sliced chillies.

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Tofu on a stick

TOFU ON A STICK

It’s 4th of July and everybody in the US is celebrating. No doubt barbecues and fireworks displays will be fired up. This got me inspired, I had 2 blocks of tofu in my fridge and some kebab skewers in a drawer. Tofu kebabs is the obvious way to marry these two.

Tofu and a kebab skewer don’t not always make a very successful combination. You see them looking perfect in a magazine, buy a block of tofu, cut it up into large dice and try to impale these on a bamboo skewer. And than disaster strikes, the tofu falls apart and you are left with a mess and have to make a stir-fry instead. I have been there before. My solution has been to bake or grill the cubes of tofu without putting them on a skewer.

Now, however, my kebab luck has finally changed. I found the perfect tofu that is easy to put on the bamboo skewers. While grilling them I turn the kebabs over couple of times and they stayed intact. How exciting!!! My superb very extra firm (and organic) tofu comes from my veg box supplier (Riverford). It is made by Dragonfly. I am sure me and Dragonfly tofu will become firm (forgive the pun) friends for years to come.


tofu

MISO TOFU KEBABS WITH LEMONY QUINOA

I paired my kebabs with quinoa but rice, couscous even Asian noodle salad would be great. Baked sweet potato chips would work very well too. Or just a nice crisp salad. Next time I would thread some vegetables between the tofu cubes, small mushrooms, pepper, shallots, cherry tomatoes would all work really well. Pieces of pineapple would be great too.

If using bamboo skewers do soak them in water to prevent burning.

The quinoa was asking for a herb to be added to it but I thought it would overpower the kebabs.

Serves 3-4

ingredients

tofu kebabs
500g (1lb and 2oz) of very firm tofu (I used 2 packs of dragonfly organic tofu)

marinade:
3 Tbs brown rice miso
3 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs tamari
1 Tbs agave syrup (or another sweetener or just omit)
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar

lemony quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa
1 tsp olive oil
1 courgette, cut into 1cm dice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 spring onions, cut into half cm slices
1/2 cup of peas, I used frozen
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
tofukebabs


method
  1. Cut the tofu into large cubes, I got 12 from each block of tofu, 24 in total.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, mix well.
  3. Place 1/3 of the marinade on the bottom of a dish (I used a baking dish) that will hold all tofu pieces in one layer. Place the tofu pieces on top, pour rest of the marinade over. Cover the dish and let marinate in the fridge for an hour ( or longer).
  4. When ready to cook, thread the tofu on skewers. I used 6 skewers with 4 cubes each for 3 diners, if serving 4 use 8 skewers with 3 pieces of tofu each. (You can thread some veggies between the tofu pieces) Place the kebabs on a baking sheet lined with alluminum foil ready to be placed under the grill (broiler). Pour any remaining marinade over the kebabs.
  5. Cook your quinoa: rinse quinoa under running water, place in a sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 min, drain.
  6. Half way through the cooking time place the kebabs under your grill and cook 3 min, turn over cook another 3 min, turn over again and give it 2 more minutes. The tofu pieces should start to caramelise on around the edges.
  7. While the quinoa and kebabs are cooking prepare your vegetables.
  8. Heat 1 tsp of olive or rapeseed (canola) oil in a frying pan. Add the courgettes and cook until they start to caramelise.
  9. Add the onion and garlic, for a minute.
  10. Add the peas and cook for a further minute until just heated through.
  11. Tip the quinoa into the vegetables and mix through. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice (to taste).
  12. Serve.
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TWO HAPPY CUSTOMERS

TWO HAPPY CUSTOMERS

When you are constantly trying to come up with new recipes things can get a bit heated in the dining room. I am talking about feeding kids. They can be tricky customers. And sound creatures of habit, they like to eat what is familiar. Mum’s experiments can get rather a cold reception. Sometimes they just look at a dish in front of them and say YUCK. I just keep trying and it seems to be paying off at times.

Only last week my daughter ate (not happily but ate) a portion of miso dressed kale. Normally she only likes kale chips. After years of trying to persuade her she finally started to eat avocado this week, she will only eat it with raspberry or strawberry vinegar but it is going down. She is particular about her carrots they have to be raw not “wet”(meaning cooked). Pineapple she consumes in huge amounts provided it has been made into a smoothie. Even cherries and apricots get a seal of
approvement but only if “smoothified”... Peppers disappear into tomato soup and butternut squash into my mac and (no) cheese. It does take a lot of concocting but there is always a way.

Last night I was expecting the “Yuck I am not eating that” at dinner time. And yes those were the first words she uttered when she spotted the casserole dish. Honestly all she could see was the tomato sauce on top! I served her up one stripy wedge anyway. After tasting it she smiled and said: “Yummy! This is one of the best things you have ever made!” My son gave it 10/10. Two super endorsements! I thought this could be a kids pleaser but never imagined it would be this successful. Even the spinach layers disappeared!


Mexicancasserole1
Here is the recipe:

MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE
I used shop bought refried beans. You could make your own but it is a weekday and I know kids adore the taste.

As my kids are not keen on too spicy so I made half of the casserole with added jalapenos and half without. I marked one side of the casserole dish so I didn’t make a mistake of mixing it up, the dish will turn when you layering it. Imagine the look on their faces if they bit into a jalapeno!!!

ingredients
tomato sauce
1 Tbs olive oil or 60ml (1/4cup) water
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tins of tomatoes

spinach tofu layer
220 g (1/2lb) frozen spinach, deforested (or use lb of fresh)
250g (1lb 1oz) tofu
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp dried garlic
2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
salt and pepper to taste

jalapeno peppers
8 soft corn tortillas
1 tin of refried beans

method
  1. First make the sauce. In a sauce pan heat the oil (or water) and saute the onion till soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the spices, cook about 30 seconds.
  4. Next add the tomatoes, season, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30minutes.
  5. Next make the spinach layer.
  6. Put spinach, tofu, nutritional yeast flakes, dried onion and garlic, salt and pepper into a food processor. Process till quite smooth (it will resemble ricotta cheese).
  7. Now layer the casserole. Make sure that you use a deep round casserole dish that will fit the tortillas snuggly. First put some tomato sauce on the bottom. Layer: tortilla, 1/3 refried beans, tortilla, 1/2 spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce topped with jalapenos, tortilla, refried beans, tortilla, spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos, tortilla, beans, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos.
  8. Bake at 180C. Bake it covered for the first 20min and than uncovered for 15min.
  9. Let sit for 10min before serving, you will get better layers. Serve with a crisp salad and some avocados (or guacamole).

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Sweet mama squash - part 2

SWEET MAMA SQUASH - part 2

What a way to treat the rest of my sweet mama squash! The sweet roasted flesh made into a soup with thai flavours, sweet cashew nut milk, zingy lime. Utterly indulgent.

I could tell my husband looked rather suspiciously at the thickened soup I kept for his dinner. Why does cashew milk thicken everything like that??? After adding some water and reheating it he changed his mind very quickly. He said that the soup transported him back to our honeymoon in Jamaica where he ordered their curried pumpkin soup quite a few times. (Now this wasn’t my intention otherwise I would have made it for Valentine’s day!!!). Can of Red Stripe in his hand and he was in the Blue Mountains all over again. He only had one complaint, there wasn’t any left.... Next time I am making at least double the portion.

So please do make this soup. It is so simple, quick (after you have dealt with the squash) and really delicious. I know what I will be doing with the other sweet mama squash sitting in my vegetable box...

THAI FLAVOURED PUMPKIN SOUP
Any rich flavoured squash or pumpkin will work well in this recipe, even orange sweet potatoes (yams). Some of the squash gets pureed into the soup, some stays in pieces for texture.
I used cashew milk, quickly whizzed up from half a cup of cashews and a cup of water. Or use coconut milk.
This soup is thick enough to be served with some Jasmine rice for even more satisfying meal. I have added tofu pieces for extra protein.
If doubling the recipe I would double everything but the cashew milk.

Makes enough for 2 (big main dish bowls)

thaisweetmama

ingredients
about 500g (1lb2oz) roasted sweet mama squash
500ml (2cups) water (or l
ight vegetable stock)
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste (or 2 depending on the strength of your curry paste)
1 stalk of lemon grass (optional), bruised with back of knife
1 cup cashew nut milk
100g (3.5oz) silken tofu cubed (optional)
lime juice
fresh coriander

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the squash flesh with the water, curry paste and the lemon grass stalk.
  2. Bring to a boil, cook on gentle heat for about 5 min, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the cashew nut milk a heat.
  4. Add the cubes of tofu and just heat through. If too thick add more water.
  5. Fish out the lemon grass stick and discard. Add lemon juice to taste, chopped coriander and serve.
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Are we having tofu, really?

ARE WE HAVING TOFU, REALLY??!!

Those were my daughter’s exact words as she proceeded to jump up and down with excitement asking me for a slice of plain tofu. No, I am not bragging about my daughter being a superior healthy food loving child. She is definitely not but tofu (or as she use to call it TOFOOD) is definitely one of her favourites. Paired with noodles, two happy kids in the house, without too much effort.

Like Nigella I get rather excited about finding new ingredients in food shops of any kind, sometimes gems can be found during a regular shop to a supermarket, but I do love to visit ethic shops, health food shops, delis and markets. One of my latest finds (in a supermarket) was a bottle of vegetarian oyster sauce. Perfect for tonight’s dinner.

tofu-noodles

TOFU AND BROCCOLI NOODLES

My kids are chilli phobic, my husband not overly keen, so there is no chilli in this recipe but if I was making this for myself I would add some chilli to the ginger +garlic step. At least there is the option of adding some chilli sauce at the table...

I have used whole wheat eggless noodles but any other noodles will be great. There are so many fab noodles on the market, brown rice, buckwheat, green tea.... the possibilities are endless.

Serves 4

ingredients
for the tofu
1 package of firm tofu
1 Tbs each ketjap manis (or dark soya sauce), light soya sauce, agave syrup, ketchup
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 large head of broccoli, separated into florets, cut in half lengthways if too large
200 g whole wheat eggless Chinese style noodles
1/2Tbs rapeseed (canola) oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs ginger, finely chopped
5 spring onions, white parts thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
5 Tbs veggie oyster sauce
2 Tbs light soya sauce
1/2 cup cashews, dry roasted

method
  1. Preheat oven to 190 C. Cut the tofu into bite size pieces. In a bowl combine the soya sauces, ketchup, agave and sesame oil.
  2. Line a roasting sheet with baking paper, place the tofu on it in a single layer, and bake for about 20 min or until the tofu starts to caramelise on the edges.
  3. Steam broccoli for 3-4 min to crisp tender. Set aside.
  4. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok, add spring onions, ginger and garlic. Stir fry for a minute. Add the red bell pepper, stir fry for a minute.
  6. Add the broccoli, tofu and noodles. Next put in the sauces, heat through. If the noodles seem too dry add few tablespoons of water.
  7. Scatter with cashew nuts and serve.
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