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.

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