Archive for the 'Tofu' Category

Tofu feast

January 13, 2010

A week of eating like Nigella at her purest and I found myself at a local gastropub-type joint eating steak smothered in butter, with chips and greens smothered in butter, with dessert. If you’re anywhere in the Oxford area, you should check out the Magdalen Arms, under new management: they’ll serve you a rare roast hare saddle on a giant floral platter, excellent salty bread, and drinks in cute little French farmhousey glasses. And, what I particularly liked, it was as if they’d somehow been inside my head when they compiled their drinks list: Americanos, negronis, whisky macs, dark n’ stormies, bloody marys, a sherry list – all of my very favourites!

After all that, it was time to eat some tofu. Our next book is ‘Spooning with Rosie’, the first book by a young lady by the name of Rosie who owns a cafe/deli in Brixton, and it was to her I turned for this, one of her ‘feasting fiestas’: a stir fry of tofu and vegetables with lime and honey, little cubes of rice with an intense, tangy dipping sauce, and carrot and sweetcorn fritters. I had to adapt it slightly to more conveniently use up our leftovers, but it worked well: I wouldn’t before have eaten vegetable fritters with an Asian meal, but I now realise the shortcomings in my imagination – it’s like an extra vegetable portion, but more fun! The rice cubes are cute, too, although mine weren’t quite as cube-y as they should have been. It’s really not as much work as it looks, either: apart from a bit of grating and chopping for the fritters, there’s almost no preparation required.

Tofu feast  Serves 4-5

There was a mango, cucumber and mint salad in the original fiesta, as well, but I had none of those things, lovely though it sounded.

For the rice cubes & dipping sauce:
1 1/2 cups of Thai rice (I used cup for 4 servings, and short-grain brown rice)
1 red chilli (use a hot variety if you like things spicy)
8 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar (plain granulated is fine)
1 sprig of mint (optional – I left it out as I didn’t have any)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

This bit requires advance planning for the rice to cool properly (hence my irregular cubes). Overcook the rice by simmering it for 5 minutes longer than the instructions on the packet ask – 55 minutes for my rice, in one and a half times the amount of water to rice. It should be sticky and mushy. Break it up further with a fork or potato masher, then press it shallowly into a small tin lined with cling film. Cool it to room temperature before putting it in the fridge for 8 hours if you have time. I put mine in the freezer for a little bit. It should be served at room temperature, so take it out again a while before you want to eat. Slice it into cubes the size of your choice with a wet knife. Unmould the cubes onto a plate.

For the dipping sauce, finely slice the chilli (seeds removed or not, as you like) and place it in a pan with the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for about 15 minutes on a low heat – it should reduce quite a bit, so you have enough to half fill a ramekin. It is potent, so you don’t need a huge amount. Serve the sauce alongside the rice cubes for dipping.

For the tofu stir-fry:
400g fried tofu (you may be able to get ready-fried tofu from your local Chinese supermarket. I used regular tofu).
2 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
2 tsp ground ginger or 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
200g mangetout (I used shelled edamame beans)
120g enoki mushrooms (I used common or garden veg box mushrooms)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 dsp honey
juice of 1 lime (2 tbsp)

Slice the tofu into smallish pieces. Heat the oil until very hot and add the tofu, turning down the heat. Fry for a few minutes and then sprinkle in the ginger, beans and mushrooms. Stir and add the honey, soy sauce and lime juice. Cook for just a few minutes more and then serve.

For the sweetcorn and carrot fritters:
2 eggs
3 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 spring onion
1 clove garlic
a small handful fresh coriander
1 x 285g tin of sweetcorn, or about the same weight frozen and defrosted
1 carrot
1-3 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil

Crack the eggs into a decent sized bowl and whisk thoroughly. Whisk in the cornflour and baking powder. Finely chop the spring onion, garlic and coriander. Peel and grate the carrot. Add all of this to the bowl along with the sweetcorn and mix well (I added a sprinkle of salt, too).

Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, about a heaped tablespoon at a time. I got 8 fritters in 2 batches, although the recipe notes say 10. They should only take a minute or so per side and should become golden and crisp, flipping easily. If oily, drain on kitchen paper. They are best served while still warm but I found a quick blast in the microwave to reheat the leftovers the next day didn’t do much harm.

Adapted from Rosie Lovell’s ‘Spooning With Rosie: Food, Friendship and Kitchen Loving’.


Meatball soup (wanja kuk)

December 4, 2009

This caught my eye immediately as I was flicking through ‘Far Eastern Cookery’, deciding what to make this week. Thank god it turned out well, because I’d had a run of bad meals: a prawn tom yum that was quite inedible, like drinking bitter washing up liquid, on Monday night (I don’t blame Madhur Jaffrey for that – I blame a packet of tom yum soup stock from the local Wing Yip). On Tuesday night, a BBQ steak wrap from Sainsbury’s bolted down before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played the Brixton Academy. Ugh. It was the only sandwich I could find without mayo. At least the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were good, and you don’t even want to know how much time I spent the following day dancing around my kitchen to ‘Zero’.

So, anyway – meatballs. I love meatballs, and sausages, and minced meat in most forms, much to the chagrin of my parents as I grew up reluctant to eat meat in any other form (see aforementioned ‘vegetarian phase’). I’m proud to say that I can now eat proper meat (with bones!) without my bottom lip wobbling, but I still love meatballs. These meatballs are from a Korean recipe which features the unusual addition of tofu – about half and half tofu and beef minced together. This has the effect of making them perfectly light, and, as you don’t have to use as much meat, it’s a good way of making it stretch. It’s also pretty much the only way I’m going to expect Tom to eat tofu. And he couldn’t guess what the ‘secret ingredient’ was, so make these for other tofu-sceptics with impunity.

The meatballs are assembled quickly enough, simmered in stock fragranced delicately with ginger and spring onions, and then you’re free to eat them however you like. The recipe notes that in Korea it would traditionally be served as part of a selection of main dishes, but Madhur eats it alone with a green salad. I ladled mine over a mound of short grain brown rice. Tom had noodles (of course).

Meatball soup (wanja kuk)  Serves 4

150-175g bean curd
2 cloves garlic
4 spring onions
225g lean minced beef
1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (shoyu)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
2 pints/1.1 litres chicken, beef or pork stock
1 cm cube ginger
65g plain flour
1 egg

Put the beancurd in a clean cloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can, then tip the beancurd into a mixing bowl and mash it with a fork. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut 2 of the spring onions crossways into very fine rounds, reserving the other 2 for the stock.

Add the garlic and sliced spring onions to the bowl with the beancurd and then add the beef mince, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Mix well and roll into about 20 meatballs – about the size of a walnut (I only managed 18).

Put the stock in a large pan. Cut the remaining spring onions into 5 cm lengths. Peel the ginger and cut it into thin slices. Add the ginger and spring onions to the stock and bring it to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes. Salt the stock to your taste and keep it at a simmer.

Meanwhile, put the flour onto a plate and beat the egg lightly in a bowl. Roll each meatball first in the flour and then the egg and then drop into the simmering soup. You should try to make sure there isn’t too much loose flour on the meatballs as it will turn into a paste when it meets the soup – it doesn’t really matter, but doesn’t look too attractive, as I discovered. Simmer the meatballs for about 5 minutes and then serve the soup however you wish.

From ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’.