Friday, 22 April 2011

Squashed up noodles...

There's been a butternut squash lurking in our kitchen for a good few weeks now and tonight was its night for fame and glory... I combined it with some courgette and leeks in a very light sub-satay over some noodles and topped with some roasted tofu and toasted seeds. Here's the drill:


Half a butternut squash
One courgette
One leek
Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp sugar
250ml vegetable stock or bouillon
Tbsp peanut butter
Tbsp light soy sauce
Tbsp corn syrup
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp cornflour
3 bundles noodles, cooked and rinsed in cold water
500g firm tofu
Tbsp sesame oil
3 tsp sea salt
3-4 tbsp mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds


First of all get the tofu going as it takes 20 minutes or so. Tofu is really great baked - crispy, chewy and and generally yummy. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Drain the tofu and slice into thick, long slices. Place on an oiled baking tray, brush with sesame oil and then sprinkle with salt. Then bake the tofu for 20-30 minutes or until brown and crispy.

Skin and chop the squash into small-ish cubes and then start to fry in a large wok, chop the courgette and (well-washed) leek into similar sized pieces and, after around ten minutes when the squash has started to brown really well, add these pieces to the wok and fry with the squash. While the vegetables are cooking, sprinkle with the sugar and with a tsp of sea salt.

Now make the sauce. In a blender combine the stock/bouillon, peanut butter, soy sauce, syrup and garlic. Blend until nice and smooth. Then add to the cooking vegetables and cook for 3 more minutes to take the edge of the garlic and to let the sweetness of the syrup lift the vegetables. Combine the cornflour with a little cold water and add to the mix gradually until the vegetables and sauce are thickened up nicely. Set to one side.

With ten minutes or so to go for the tofu, you can do the noodles and the seeds. I used udon noodles here, boiled for 4 or 5 minutes in a large-ish pan and then rinsed well in cold water and tossed in a tiny bit of sesame oil to stop them from sticking together.

To prepare the seeds, sprinkle them over a baking tray covered with a little soy sauce and 2 tsp sea salt. Mix through well and bake in the over with the tofu for 5-6 minutes only, until they start to brown.

When the tofu and seeds are done, serve the noodles topped with the vegetables, the tofu and the seeds. Yum. As ever, this dish was designed to be kiddy/wife friendly and so wouldn't suffer at all if there was some cheeky chilli included.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Asparagus risotto

It's amazing how many times a risotto has come to my vegan rescue in restaurants or at catered bashes of one sort or another. Dead easy, always lovely and of course you can chuck all manner of gubbins in at the end to make it funky and adventurous. I've got basil in this one, but you could try mint, or a little rosemary; in terms of other ingredients asparagus is always a winner but then so are mushrooms, aubergine...


350g risotto rice
Small onion, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
175 g asparagus
4 cloves garlic
500ml vegetable bouillon or stock
200ml White wine
200ml soya milk
1 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
Fresh basil and toasted pine nuts to serve
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok, finely chop the onion, and then fry with the rice for 5-10 minutes. Then add the garlic, and start to add the vegetable stock or bouillon*, and the wine, stirring continuously and adding more as the liquid is absorbed. You can start with the stock, or the wine, it doesn't make a great difference in my experience. This process should take around 20 minutes, but you can pretty much gauge it by tasting a grain of rice every so often to see if it's done.

While all this stirring is going on, chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces as steam for 4-5 minutes; now would also be a good time to toast the pine nuts lightly in a dry frying pan.

When you're happy with the consistency of your risotto mixture, add the soya milk, asparagus, peas and chopped basil and continue to stir over a low heat for another couple of minutes.

Serve with the toasted pine nuts, some more fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.

*As with previous postings on this blog, I've indicated vegetable bouillon or stock. We tend to use a low salt vegetable bouillon powder that is widely available and is my preferred option, for me it's slightly thicker and has a bit more umame than regular stock.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Satay tofu & aubergine skewers

The sun's out today and we've got a few folks over for little person's birthday... but have resisted the BBQ in favour of a buffet type-thing that's largely asian, including dumplings, rice buns and, as you can see, some satay skewers. Quite yummy these.


500g firm tofu
1 medium sized aubergine
Tbsp light soy sauce
Tbsp sesame oil
Tbsp tomato ketchup
4 tbsp peanut butter
150 ml boiling water
3 tsp tamari or dark soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar


First of all make a marinade with the light soy sauce, sesame oil and ketchup. Slice the tofu into small cubes and then cover with the marinade and set aside for 30 minutes or so. Slice the aubergine into similar sized cubes and then salt (to reduce bitterness later) and leave to one side for 10 minutes or so, then cover with boiling water and leave for another 5 minutes, then drain. Toss the aubergine in a little sesame oil and then bake it, along with the tofu cubes, at 200 degrees C for around 30 minutes.

While the cubes are baking, crack on with the marinade. Put the peanut butter (crunchy or smooth, doesn't matter), boiling water, tamari and rice wine vinegar in a blender and blend down to a smooth sauce. I'm cooking for toddlers, so that's as far as I go with the sauce but if you're not worried about spiciness, add a little fresh chilli and ginger at this point too.

When the cubes are baked, pop them onto the skewers, smother with the satay, and serve! I did these on cocktail sticks today, to make them bite-sized, and you could even put them on a barbecue...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Tofu & Miso Soup

My lot at home don't like chilli. Or curry for that matter. Wifey blanches at the very thought of such ingredients, and the little people do a lot of screaming on the very odd occasion where some of the chilli or hotter ingredients (which I love) sneak into their food, usually airborne. This means that when cooking vaguely oriental dishes, I need to pile in the other flavours to make up for the fact that for family cooking, I can't use chillis to fire up the taste... here combinations like coconut and peanut butter work brilliantly, even bringing a bit of umami to soups and stir fries.


1 tbsp miso paste
2 litres boiling water
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 carrots, chopped finely
1 tbsp peanut butter
150g bean sprouts
1 head pak choi, finely chopped
200 ml coconut milk
Few chunks of deep fried tofu
Handful of fresh, chopped, coriander
Splash of tamari


In a large saucepan, dissolve the miso paste in the boiling water, and simmer as you add the crushed garlic and the chopped carrots. Continue to cook for two minutes or so, and then stir in the peanut butter. Allow to simmer for another few minutes and then add the pak choi and breansprouts. Bring back to a simmer and then turn the heat way down before adding the coconut milk (you don't want it to boil from this point on). Stir through, and then add the remaining ingredients...

Cucumber & Noodle Salad

This is stupendously easy to do, quick, and can result in small people eating something that at least carries the label of 'salad', even if it doesn't feature a towering mound of lettuce (still working on that). The best noodles for this, I've found, are the relatively chunky 'quick noodles' that take 2-3 minutes, rather than rice noodles or anything closer to vermicelli.


2 blocks of quick cook noodles
1/4 cucumber, sliced and quartered
Tbsp sesame oil
Tbsp light soya sauce
Juice of one lime
Sesame seeds


Cook the noodles and then drain well in cold water. Add the cucumber, sesame oil, soya sauce and lime juice and then turn through until well coated with all the noodles separated. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.