Sunday, 24 February 2013

Homemade tofu!

The surge towards self-sufficiency in our house is reaching pretty heady levels. I'm not saying we could survive in the outback if left with nothing more than a Swiss Army Knife and Grandad's old tinderbox but we have come a long way.

No 'store-made' bread can cross the threshold, we've got an allotment, Anne has been carrying out semi-industrial scale baking, I've been brewing my own beer (which helps to explain why I've been distracting from the food blog) and now, I decided this morning to have a bash at making my own tofu.

Making our own tofu stacks up. We go through a lot of it as a vegan/veggie household but just as importantly if we are to fully evolve in to Tom & Barbara from the Good Life in an 'homage' to Richard Briers then clearly we need to pull off the magic transformation of dried soya beans into a quivering block of lovely bean curd.

Now I know what you're thinking. 'Lovely'? 'Tofu'? We'll if you've tried any of the recipes on this blog you'll know that tofu can be bloody amazing if you cook it properly – too many people have had lumps of poor quality tofu stick to the bottom of a wok before they've even managed to get the lid off the Blue Dragon ready made sauce. Tofu's worth it, I promise.

Anyway, Making the stuff! Dead easy. In terms of equipment, ready yourself with the following:

Large (5-10 litre) cooking pot
Muslin fabric or bags
A large colander or sieve
and… (drum roll)… a tofu press!

Now on the last bit, the press, having a proper tofu press is the posh option, I however made do with a oblong piece of tupperware with some holes drilled in it and a piece of wood cut to the same size as the tupperware's opening. The drilled holes should be right across the bottom and in a line just around the four bottom edges. And to drain the contraption I used a couple of chopsticks. Seemed appropriate.

The other critical bit is having a coagulant. This is a substance that separates the soya milk you're about to make into curds and whey, just like making cheese. Traditionally you need to use an extract of sea salt called Nigari - but you can also use Epsom Salts or even apple cider or lemon juice. I used Epsom Salts this morning.

So the ingredients look like this, to make a good sized (one meal) serving of tofu:

400g dried soya beans
2.5 tsp Epsom salts
… and a fair bit of water


Soak the dried soya beans overnight in around double their own volume of water. By the morning they'll have expanded dramatically. Blend them in their soaking water as fine as you can.

Bring 1 litre of fresh water to the boil in your large pot and then add the blended soya beans. Bring back to the boil and simmer for around 10 minutes. Watch out for extreme foaming and keep stirring the thing - it's lively!

Cover your sieve or colander with a muslin bag or piece of muslin and strain the soya beans through the muslin to extract the soya milk into another container, leaving the fibrous bits of soya beans left behind (it's called okara by the way). Squeeze very last bit of milk out of the bagged up beans. You've got soya milk!

Now rinse out that big pot you've been using. Add the soya milk and bring up to around 85-90 degrees - just below boiling point. Dissolve the epsom salts in a cup of boiling water.

When the soya milk is up to temp remove from the heat and stir in half the dissolved salts solution. Stir in a whirlpool vigorously for 5-10 times then stand your spatula in the middle of the pot and wait for the turbulence to stop. Then gently add the rest of the salts and stir in gently until the mixture starts to coagulate. Pop a lid on it and leave for 15 minutes.

Line your press (or diy drilled tuperware in my case) with a muslin cloth and transfer the soya bean curds into the press, cover with the cloth and then press with a board and some tins or other weights. I added the big pot again, with some water, just to make sure!

Timing is key here. We like extra firm tofu so went for 60 minutes of pressing but If you want a more silken tofu you could make it shorter.

When you're done pressing, fold out of the cloth and eat – or store in a sealed container in the fridge in a little water until needed.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Curried lentil soup

This is a new 'make, freeze and take to work' lunch option I'm trying. Got a good bit of heat going on!


2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin seed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
4 dried chillies, chopped
1/2 head of green cabbage, spring greens or similar, shredded
1/2 carrot or courgette, finely diced
1.5 litres vegetable stock or bouillon
2 cups green or puy lentils


Fry the onions in the oil until translucent and then add the garlic and other spices, mixed in together and fry for another couple of minutes, then add the greens and the carrot/courgette and continue to fry in the oil, stirring quickly until the greens reduce down. Now add the stock, then the lentils, bring back to a boil and then simmer for around 20 minutes or until the lentils are nicely soft.

Courgette & Pumpkin Seed Vegan Flapjacks

I had to go easy on the vegan margarine as we were running out, so beefed up the banana levels and made a lower fat flapjack than would usually be recommended... but it worked! So you can make and eat these whilst feeling slightly - only slightly - less guilty. As ever, includes courgettes from our allotment.


50g soy margarine
1 cup veg oil
8 tbsp agave nectar
250g oats
A mashed up banana
1/2 courgette, grated
1 cup pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 180c and line a medium sized baking dish with baking paper.

In a large bowl mix together the oats, pumpkin seeds, linseeds, cinnamon and salt. Mash the banana until it is a soft paste. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the soya margarine and agave/golden syrup and then mix in the banana. Finally, grate in the courgette and then leave to cool for a mo, before mixing into the oats.

Transfer into the baking dish and bake until brown - around 30 minutes. Leave it a little longer if you like a crispier flapjack. Take it out, cut into squares, leave to cool and then eat!

Vegan Banana Bread

Okay I'd be a great big vegan fibber if I didn't admit that this isn't the fluffiest banana bread in the universe... but, it's passable and tastes lovely. Might do an extra 1/2 tsp of bicarb and vinegar next time for more lift. Well worth a go though if some bananas need using.


130g Plain Flour
1/2 cup White granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Soy milk or soy cream
1/2 tsp Cider vinegar
2 Large ripe bananas
1 tbsp Veg oil
3 tbsp Agave nectar (you could use syrup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 175c and oil a small loaf pan and set to one side. In a mixing bowl mix the flour, sugars, bicarb of soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside and get the wet stuff mixed together.

In another (larger) mixing bowl, whisk together the soy cream and cider vinegar and let stand for a couple of minutes. Then add the banana (mashed up), vegetable oil, agave, and vanilla extract, whisking until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just combined.

Bake for an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre emerges clean. Allow the bread to cool on a wire cooling rack for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Udon noodles with broad beans and fresh greens in a ginger and coriander sauce

Good one this. Very low fat too as there's very little frying involved. Here's the plan...


Dried udon noodles
2 large carrots, sliced
200g spring greens
100g broad beans
Sesame seeds to garnish

And for the sauce:

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 tsp root ginger, grated
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp mirin or sugar
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
2 tsp cornflour, mixed in around half a cup of water


Get the sauce ready as everything else goes really quickly! In a smallish saucepan fry the garlic and ginger to release its flavour and to take out some of the garlic's after burn effect, after a minute or so add the soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice and mirin, cook for a couple of minutes and then add the coriander and cook for just a minute or so. Now add the cornflour and water mix and stir constantly until you've got a nice smooth sauce. Set to one side.

Now I cooked the noodles (for five minutes) in the base of a steamer over which I steamed the vegetables. After five minutes check that the carrots are just about done, then remove from the heat, rinse the noodles really well and then stir the vegetables and noodles together, introducing the sauce and mixing through. Plate up, and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and a little fresh coriander to look dead posh.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Spicy Lentil and Peanut Butter Soup

'Warming Soups' should not really be the order of the day at this time of year but as we appear to have broken the sky, melted a load of ice cap and shoulder-barged the Atlantic Jet Stream off course, hearty soups are here! This one is a proper keeper... I was thinking of doing a big batch of lentil soup, then saw the peanut butter standing there and bingo, in it went.


1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, mashed up
2 tsp root ginger, similarly mashed
3 dried chillies, crushed up into small chunks
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
3 tsp soy sauce
1 litre vegetable bouillon or stock
250g red lentils


In a large saucepan fry the onion for a minute or so, and then add the red pepper. Fry for a couple of minutes further and then add the garlic and ginger. Give this just under a minute to release its flavour and then add the coriander, peanut butter and soy sauce. Cook through for a couple of minutes and then add the bouillon or stock, and the red lentils. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes and then serve with a big dollop of fresh coriander on top. Yum.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Mini nut burgers with courgette

More finger food - this time bite-sized nut burgers with a little courgette on top to make them look pretty. Plus some sesame seeds. The base for this burger is a nut roast recipe I've been using for at least 20 years.


4 tbsp fresh herbs (I used parsley, thyme, sage and marjoram out of the garden)
400 g mixed nuts
50g wholemeal breadcrumbs
3 tsp marmite or other yeast extract
2 tsp agave syrup
3 tbsp vegan margarine
1 small onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil
I small courgette
Sesame seeds to garnish


Blend the nuts, herbs and breadcrumbs together until they make a fairly fine mix. Don't go all the way to milling them down to a flour though - it's nice to have a little bit of nut crunch in there still. If your mixer or blender is struggling, break the mix up into two batches and then mix them together in a mixing bowl. In the mixing bowl add the marmite, syrup and vegan margarine. As an alternative here you can use tomato puree if you want the thing to look bit more 'faux meat'. Finely chop the onion and then fry in the vegetable oil until softened and translucent. Mix the onion into the nut mix thoroughly.

Slice the courgette into rounds and then find yourself a cookie cutter with a diameter slightly larger than the courgette slices. Placing the cookie cutter on some baking paper, press the nut mixture into the centre of the cutter and press down firmly to create a round, mini-burger around 1-2 cm thick. Press down on the mixture as you pull the cookie cutter away and you should have a perfectly formed circle of yumminess. Now pop the courgette slice on top, brush with oil and repeat with more mixture to make your next burger. For my mini-burgers, which were about 6 cm in diameter, the mix above made 15 altogether.

Bake in the oven at 200 degrees centigrade, covered in foil, for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until well browned. Before serving, sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds to make them look pretty.

Rosemary and Garlic Polenta Triangles

Am in canapé mode this afternoon. I've always liked oven-roasted polenta. This time I've stirred in some rosemary and garlic (plus some leftover olives) to make a really great finger food for us to takeover to the neighbours later. Might even convince the kids to try it if it looks cute enough.


1 litre boiling water
1 tsbp vegetable bouillon powder or a vegetable stock cube
300g polenta flour
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4-5 green olives, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt


Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan and sprinkle in the bouillon powder and stir until it's mixed in. Next up, in goes the polenta flour. The trick with making your own polenta is to gradually add the flour, a little at a time, and keep stirring constantly so you don't get any clumpy lumpy bits that would make you think you'd chomped into a morsel of wallpaper paste. Keep on stirring and introducing the flour as the mixture thickens. After around ten minutes you should have all the flour introduced and the mixture is starting to thicken nicely. At this point add in the rosemary, garlic and olives and continue stirring for another ten minutes or so. The mixture is done once it's starting to pull away from the edge of the pan.

Now grease a good-sized square baking dish with some olive oil and spread the mixture out over the bottom until it's around 2-3 centimetres or an inch thick. Sprinkle some more fresh rosemary over the top, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and then leave in the fridge to set properly.

The polenta will be set in an hour or so. Remove from the fridge and gently turn the solid rectangle of polenta out onto a chopping board. Turn it over and then slice up into bite sized triangles. Brush with a little more olive oil if needed and then bake in the over at around 200 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Good to go.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Dried beancurd with aubergine and greens in satay sauce

Back on the blog - finally! I haven’t stopped cooking, just been a bit stuck for time. Anyway this one was so popular at home that Anne, the love of my life, insisted it go on the blog, not least so that I could remember how to make it again. The main protagonist in this one is the funky and exciting long brown sticks of dried beancurd which I’ve not used before but which worked out really well. Total winner.


Half pack dried bean curd (aka tofu skin!)
Half an aubergine, quartered and sliced
300g chinese or spring greens, sliced
Half an onion, sliced
Two tablespoons vegetable oil

And for the satay sauce:

3 cloves garlic
2 dried chillies
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup or 2 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons water


First of all the dried beancurd has to be soaked for 20 minutes or so in warm water. While the strange brown sticks were softening, I made the satay sauce. First of all crush and chop the garlic and the chillies and fry them in a small saucepan very briefly (45 seconds) in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. This is long enough to release the aromatics but also ensures you don’t get that slightly manky garlic aftertaste. Worth the effort. Next add the syrup or sugar, the mirin, the soy sauce and finally the peanut butter. Stir well until it thickens, then take it off the heat and add the water until you’ve got a lovely smooth sauce. Set to one side.

Drip dry the softened beancurd well and then chop into strips. Add to a large wok or frying pan and fry with half the remaining vegetable oil. When it’s browned and crispy, set to one side. Next add the remaining vegetable oil and the other vegetables to the wok and stir fry until they start to brown (takes around 15 minutes) then bring the beancurd back into play, stir through in the wok, and add the satay sauce. Cook for a further minute or two and then serve over rice. Lovely.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Kale & sweetcorn fritters

And... after a shockingly long leave of absence due to a) the fact we've got an allotment and b) that work has been utterly, utterly crazed, I'm back blogging my recipes again. This time it's fritters.

So, critical question - can you get a bit of fluffy loveliness with a  vegan batter? Of course you can! Hurl bicarb of soda and baking powder together and the whole think lifts wonderfully.


1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup of soya milk
2 cups curly kale
1 tin sweetcorn
Veg oil for frying


Super easy this one. Steam the kale and set it to one side. You might want to open and drain the sweetcorn too. Sift the flour into a bowl with the bicarb, the baking powder and the sea salt. With a fork, mix in the soya milk until you've got a smooth batter. Now turn in the kale and the sweetcorn and mix well.

Heat some vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and then add a spoonful of the fritter mixture at a time. Allow to fry for around 1.5 - 2 minutes until golden brown and then turn over and do the other side.

Serve as a starter with soy sauce for dipping - or in our case with some rice and peas.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Slightly oriental lentil and rice bake

Genuine experiment this one... Basically it's an attempt at a Asian inspired lentil and rice bake. Worked pretty well. Lovely texture. The coconut didn't come through as strong as I expected but the lemon zest lifts the whole thing. Next time might get some lemongrass in there too. Worth doing again.


One onion, finely chopped
Tbsp vegetable oil
One carrot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
One cup finely chopped pointy cabbage
Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Tsp chopped fresh parsley
Zest and juice of one lemon
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup or sugar
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Tsp sesame oil
1 cup dried red lentils
200 ml vegetable stock
400 ml coconut milk
2 tbsp vegan margarine
2 tbsp corn meal
2 cups cooked basmati rice
Salt and some extra fresh coriander, to hurl in at the last moment!


Fry the onion in a large frying pan or wok until it starts to go translucent and is about to brown, around 5-10 minutes. Then add the carrot, garlic and cabbage and cook for a further ten minutes. Keep stirring by the way! Then add the dry lentils, and then the herbs, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and oil. Stir through, let the vinegar cook off a little, and then add the vegetable stock and coconut milk. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender after 20 minutes or so. Stir through the margarine, then sprinkle over the corn meal and stir in, then cook for a further 5 minutes.

Now mix in the cooked rice. Stir through. At this point I added a little salt and some fistfuls of extra fresh herbs to add extra flavour. Press the mixture into a well greased loaf tin and cook, covered with foil, for 25 minutes.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Vegan chinese-style dumplings

Apologies for the slight absence on the food blog - I've not stopped cooking or eating, just struggled to find the time to take snaps of things as they were made. Will attempt to improve my behaviour from here on in.

Anyway today's recipe is born out of necessity. We couldn't find any dim sum/vegetable dumplings in our local chinese supermarket that didn't have MSG in them, so I decided to have a bash myself. Turns out it's pretty easy. You can prepare a load of dumplings and set them aside for later or even freeze them for a day or so. All pretty easy.


Tbsp veg oil
Half an onion, finely chopped
Two medium carrots, finely chopped
150g shredded green cabbage
100g mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
150g dry weight fine noodles (rice or wheat)
Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1tsp mirin (or sugar)
2 tsp sesame oil

350g dumpling flour
200 ml cold water


Gently fry the onion, carrot,cabbage, mushrooms and garlic in the vegetable oil until softened a little. Just five minutes or so should do it. Then added the coriander and chives and cook for a further five minutes. Cook the noodles as per instructions (mine took just two minutes) and then add these to the pan, too. Stir through gently. Next add the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and mirin and stir through. That's the filling sorted, which you can set to one side,

Mix the dumpling flour and water into a bread-style dough and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Separate into quarters and, a quarter at at time, roll out into a thin sheet. Now use a large round cutter to cut out 15cm diameter circles (don't worry if they're a bit bigger or smaller, get as close as you can). Now you're ready to make the dumplings. Add a tablespoon of your dumpling mixture to the middle of the round, then wet one edge with cold water, fold over and seal to create a semi-circular dumpling. Repeat to prepare all your dumplings.

Now you have two choices - you can either steam or fry the dumplings. I was naughty and fried these today, but steaming works just as well. Serve up with a little soy sauce in bowl, or another dipping sauce such as sweet chilli or plum if you have it to hand.

Variations: you could pretty much introduce any finely minced veg into the dumpling filling, or small cubes of tofu or fried TVP, and you don't have to use the noodles. Have a play and make some  dumplings!