Vegetarian Dumplings

The biggest issue I have faced when creating vegetarian dumplings is that the filling does not stick together. When meat is cooked, the pieces bind together as they cook but this does not happen with vegetables. You can buy an enzyme called transglutaminase which will bind meat together when it cooks and can be used to make some very Frankenstein-esque meals, but no such thing exists for vegetables (as far as I am aware). The best way I have come across to bind fillings together is by using egg and flour. Both of these will help prevent your filling from tumbling out of the dumpling after you take a bite.

These dumplings fall under the heading of potstickers. This means that have been steam-fried. The dumplings are first lightly fried on the belly (the plump base away from the pleats) before water or broth is added and they are covered and allowed to steam. Once all the liquid has been absorbed the dumplings are again cooked uncovered, allowing the base to crisp up again to provide a wonderful contrast of textures. The dumplings should be cooked in a non-stick pan because I can guarantee that, if they are cooked in a regular pan, they will stick and tear. You could also cook them in a steamer or plain boil them – both of these methods work – but I think they are far nicer if the base is crispy.

There is some disagreement about overcrowding the pan when making potstickers. If the dumplings are pushed up against each other they will lightly adhere to their neighbours. This means that you can flip out the entire pan of potstickers onto a plate and they will stay in their beautiful formation. The counterargument is that, when the dumplings stick together, they will then tear when you try to serve them. This has never been too much of an issue for me – I find that they generally come apart without tearing and you can serve the entire batch on a central plate and people can take what they want. I have even seen recipes when people add seasoned cornflour water to the pan which cooks and crisps up a layer on the base of the frying pan and dumplings, which really does stick everything together and results in a more “tear’n’share” kind of meal.

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Of course you can use any filling you like with this cooking method. I used to eat a lot of turkey dumplings at university because the minced turkey was often reduced in shops, meaning that the meal was incredibly cheap – we are talking one to two pounds per person. I am also partial to beef dumplings but I do find that the quality of the minced beef is really noticeable in the final product. Pork and cabbage or kimchi is another popular filling, as is shrimp, so you can see how versatile these dumplings can be.

Let me know how you get on if you try them as I love hearing about your cooking!

 

 

 

Vegetarian Dumplings

Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

 

400g firm tofu

2 bunches spring onions

5 garlic cloves

1 inch peeled ginger

1 medium heat chilli (or more if you prefer)

1 medium carrot

Half a cabbage

150g mushrooms

1 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp plain flour

1 egg

A couple of grinds of black pepper

1 tsp salt

Two packets of dumpling skins

 

Crumble the tofu into a sieve and then gently press on it to squeeze out lots of the liquid. You will get a good third to half a cup of liquid out of the tofu. Tip this squeezed tofu into a large bowl.

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Finely chop the spring onion, chilli and mushrooms and add these to the tofu.

Finely slice the cabbage, grate the carrot and add to the rest of the veg.

Grate the ginger and the garlic into the vegetable mix.

Whisk together the egg, soy sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, cornflour, salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mix over the vegetables and tofu and use your hands to mix until everything is coated.

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Fill your dumpling skins and pleat the edges. For instructions on how to pleat properly, see my recipe for beef dumplings. You can also just fold them over and crimp the edges with a fork if you don’t want to go to the effort of pleating the entire batch.

 

Pour a thin layer of a oil to the bottom of a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. MAKE SURE THIS FRYING PAN HAS A LID FOR THE NEXT STEPS.

Add the dumplings to the pan belly side down. Try to pack the dumplings in so they are touching each other. Overcrowding is not an issue!

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Fry for three minutes until the base of the dumplings are a deep golden brown.

Pour in 100ml water and cover immediately. Be careful as this water will spit when it hits the pan.

Cook covered for about three to five minutes until the water is fully absorbed into the dumplings. The skins should have started to turn translucent. If they haven’t, add another few tablespoons of water and cook again.

You want to make sure the pan has basically boiled dry as this will allow the bases of the dumplings to crisp up again.

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To serve, place a large plate upside down over the pan and quickly invert the frying pan to flip the dumplings onto the plate.

 

For a delicious dipping sauce, allow people to mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli sauce (I use sriracha) in a little ramekin to make their own personal sauce.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of dumplings, check out my recipe for the beef variety and you can even use my turkey burger filling in them!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for an absolutely stunningly good tart (and it’s even vegan – but you wouldn’t know from the taste).

H

Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Almost everything I cook (which is savoury) starts with the same two ingredients: onion and garlic. Garlic is everywhere. Its pungent smell and flavour make it a popular seasoning for food as comparatively little is needed to impact the overall flavour. What I find a shame, however, is how rare it is for garlic to get the opportunity to act as the main flavour of a dish. When I was an undergraduate, my housemate introduced me to a dish called garlic pasta. Now, I have always added a small amount of garlic to my pasta dishes but the idea of frying a large quantity of garlic in oil and using that as the pasta sauce (along with some cherry tomatoes/onion) was a bit foreign to me. This is an ultimate comfort food – right up there with tomato soup. That dish, along with Yotam Ottolenghi’s caramelised garlic tart and the recipe I am giving today, brings the total of garlic-centric dishes I know up to three so if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!

Garlic is an allium – that is to say that it is in the same genus (family) as the onion, the leek, shallots and chives. It is used more as a flavouring than the base for a dish unlike the other members of its family (excluding chives as they are a herb). Smoked bulbs of garlic are an often used ingredient and black garlic has been increasing in popularity for a long time. Black garlic is created by heating normal bulbs to between 60 and 77°C for two to three months. This temperature allows our old friend the Malliard reacton to occur throughout the entirety of the bulb, not just on the surface. For those of you have not come across the Malliard reaction before, this is what causes food to brown when you cook it. It is a non-enzymatic reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids on the surface of the food. The conditions in which black garlic is created allow for this reaction to be more than surface deep.

As well as its culinary uses garlic has been used as a medicine for millennia (Sanskrit records date its use back 5000 years. In ancient Egypt, garlic was used as a form of currency; in Auryvedic medicine garlic is used as an aphrodisiac; in the bible, the Jews wandering in the desert complained to Moses about the foods they missed since leaving Egypt, one of which included garlic; and of course, one cannot talk about the appearances of garlic throughout history and folklore without mentioning one of the most famous of them all: the vampire. Garlic was believed to ward off demons, werewolves and vampires – a wreath of garlic flowers or even bulbs around the neck along with the rubbing of cut cloves of garlic around windows, doors and chimneys was meant to protect the inhabitants of the house form harm.

If there are medical benefits to eating copious quantities of garlic, then this recipe is the one for you. Much as I try to give a vegetarian alternative to my recipes, I am not sure how if I could do anything to make this less meaty so unfortunately, I’ll have to give that a miss this week. If you are a fan of chicken, I hope you like the recipe and if you aren’t, why not try it with a different roast meat? Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week with a dish that’s a little bit more vegetarian friendly.

Roast Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes per kilogram + 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 large chicken

2 heads of garlic

100ml olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 large onions

125ml white wine/vermouth

3 bay leaves (optional)

½ lemon (optional)

Separate and peel the cloves from one head of garlic.

Blend the garlic cloves with the olive oil and salt until smooth.

Optional: joint the chicken – removing the bottom, scaly parts of the legs from the base of the drumsticks and remove the wings. We use these for making stock at home but you can leave them on if you wish.

Cut out the oil glands at the base of the Parson’s nose and discard them.

Place the chicken into a roasting dish.

If possible – this will often require an extra pair of hands as one pair isn’t quite enough – try and pour half of the garlic oil underneath the skin. This will help the flavour infuse into the meat of the chicken.

Rub the rest of the garlic oil all over the outside of the chicken pouring any excess inside the body cavity.

Stuff half a lemon into the body cavity.

Cut the onions into eigths and spread the piece out around the chicken.

Pour over the wine/vermouth and add the bay leaves.

Separate the cloves of garlic from the second bulb but do not peel them! Just sprinkle them liberally around the chicken. The garlic will go soft and sweeten up in the oven.

Cover and leave until you wish to put the chicken in the oven.

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To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Cook the chicken for 20 minutes plus 45 minutes per kilogram (eg, a 1.5kg chicken would cook for just a touch under an hour and a half).

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For ultra-crispy skin, uncover the chicken for the last ten minutes of baking but be careful not to burn it.

This roast chicken is absolutely delicious and like any roast meat, goes perfectly well with super crispy roast potatoes – I like to cook mine for at least 75 minutes to get them so hard you need a small industrial jackhammer to cut them.

If you want to try roasting a chicken but don’t want to do something that prevents you from human interaction after eating the way this quantity of garlic will, leave out the garlic and oil and just replace the wine with cooking sherry for a more basic but still delicious roast dinner.

If you like chicken, you should most definitely check out Jo Bellerina’s sticky mango chicken, it is stunning!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a swiss roll with a twist…

H

Teriyaki Tofu

As someone who doesn’t particularly care for sandwiches, one of my aims in the kitchen is to construct a repertoire of foods which are just as good cold as they are hot and so can be taken to university for lunch. If I weren’t so fussy, this wouldn’t be an issue as I could just take sandwiches and make do but I am so I can’t. As a result, I ended up developing a selection of Asian style tofu dishes with different versions of my standard ‘teriyaki sauce’ as I have found tofu to be a very nice cold dish.

The reason I put ‘teriyaki’ in inverted commas is that this is not a classic teriyaki sauce, it has been westernised. A traditional version would have sake or mirin (types of rice wine) in it and would not have the sesame. As sake and mirin were very difficult to get hold of in the West when Asian food began to become popular, substitutions had to be made that would satisfy customers without changing the sauce too much. The replacement of mirin with sesame oil was one of these. The oil emulsifies into the sauce very well and doesn’t split during cooking – leading to a thick sauce packed full of flavour – and salt, so you shouldn’t need to season this at all. I sometimes add a little bit of rice vinegar if I have it in the house as it helps cut through the sweetness so you get a far more balanced sauce.

As with most cooking terms, the word ‘teriyaki’ comes from the combination of words describing the process. Teri describes the shine that this sauce gives to food because of the high sugar content and yaki refers to the actual cooking method of grilling or broiling. This origin of the word goes some way to explaining the reason why there is no ‘official’ recipe for teriyaki sauce in Japan. The only requirement is that it is a soy sauce based glaze. I could make an argument that, using this definition, my sauce is technically a teriyaki sauce as the result is a glossy dish but this version is certainly not authentic and is deeply rooted in western cuisine.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and decide that you want to try it out for your own lunches. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Teriyaki Tofu with Coriander

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Cost per portion: around £1.20

60ml Dark Soy Sauce

60ml runny honey

40ml sesame oil

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp hot sauce (I use sriracha)

400g extra firm tofu

1 large carrot

I bunch spring onions

1 cup frozen edamame beans

20ml vegetable oil

If necessary: 2 tbsp cornflour mixed with 4tbsp water

I bunch of fresh coriander

Remove the tofu from its packaging and drain it. Wrap it in a hand towel and place it on a firm, flat surface with a heavy weight on top (a large cookery book is ideal). This will press any excess liquid out, making the tofu firmer and nicer to eat. (This is, of course, optional depending on how firm your tofu is to start with.)

To make the sauce, grate the garlic and whisk it together with the soy sauce, honey, sesame and hot sauce.

Cut the carrot into 2mm thick rounds and then cut these again to make tiny batons.

Slice up the spring onion.

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After the tofu has been pressed for about ten minutes remove it from the towel

Cut the tofu into 1 or 2cm cubes.

Place the tofu and the vegetable oil into a non-stick pan and fry until the tofu begins to develop a hard crust underneath. This will soften later so don’t be afraid to get a little crispyness on the tofu.

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Toss the tofu and continue to fry until most of it has formed a crust.

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Remove the tofu from the pan leaving as much oil as possible in it as this will be used to fry the rest of the dish.

Add the carrots to the pan. Fry for two minutes on high heat and then add 50ml water. BE CAREFUL – this will spit a little. The water will help soften the carrots.

Fry for another three minutes until the water has mostly evaporated and then add the spring onion.

Fry for another minute before adding the frozen edamame beans.

Add another 50ml of water and cook until the water has all gone.

Tip in the tofu and the sauce mix. Simmer for at least five minutes to ensure the garlic in the sauce is fully cooked.

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If the sauce is still very runny, add one tablespoon of the cornflour mix and stir it through. Continue to add more cornflour, cooking between each addition, until the sauce has reached a thick, oozing consistency. As this can be eaten cold, you do not want to add so much cornflour that the sauce sets when it cools.

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Roughly chop the coriander and stir it through the still hot mixture.

Serve with rice either hot or cold! I like to take this to university with me for lunches as it doesn’t need to be hot to be delicious.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of tofu, check out my ginger tofu recipe, it’s another one which is good cold and my lord is it tasty. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet variety, why not treat yourself to a delicious devil’s food cake? It’s rich, chocolatey and devilishly good.

Have a good one and I will be back with a recipe for those of you looking to indulge your sweet tooth.

H

Smoked Salmon Risotto

Smoked salmon is definitely a delicacy. It’s relatively expensive which isn’t ideal because I can easily sit down and eat an entire packet in one go. The trick with smoked salmon is making it go further and putting it into a risotto is a fantastic way to flavour a large amount of food without needing too much of the fish itself.

Smoking food became popular as a good way of preserving it. Upping the salt content and decreasing the moisture makes it very hard for bacteria to grow in the food helping it keep longer before spoiling. The process of smoking food has probably been around since humans evolved. Food would be stored off the ground to keep it away from pests but the lack of ventilation in the dwellings led to the build up of smoke at the top of the houses – where the food was stored – and thus the food was smoked. Once people realised that smoked foods lasted far longer than those which were unsmoked, smoking became a widely used preservation method. As it was functional rather than for flavour, large amounts of salt were used to draw out the moisture and the smoking time was often days long. As infrastructure improved, food could be stored in fridges and cold houses. As a result, the quantity of smoke and salt used to preserve foods declined leading to what we have today.

There are several different methods of smoking; the most common types being hot and cold smoking. The process of cold smoking does not cook the meat and because of that, brining and curing must be done before the food is smoked. This is what gives us the classic smoked salmon that you see in a supermarket, thinly sliced and still a bright pink colour. In contrast to this, hot smoking cooks the fish. This means that the food is safe to eat without further cooking as may sometimes be necessary with cold smoking.

The first time I tried this recipe, I was having dinner at a friend’s house and we ended up cooking together. I must admit I was a bit dubious as the idea of placing smoked salmon into a hot saucepan of rice worried me greatly; surely the salmon would just go hard and leathery and lose its flavour? That is the beauty of this recipe. If done right, the latent heat in the risotto should cook the chopped salmon just enough to change its colour whilst still allowing it to remain soft. The remaining salmon is served on top of the risotto keeping it from the heat and therefore preventing it cooking.

This dish really is a treat so I hope you enjoy it.

 

Smoked Salmon Risotto

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 2

Cost per portion: around £2.40

 

1 small onion finely diced

1 clove of garlic minced

175g risotto rice (I like to use Arborio risotto rice)

750ml vegetable stock

Zest of one lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp chopped parsley

60g mascarpone

100g smoked salmon

1 tbsp oil

 

Sautee the onion in the oil for five minutes until it starts to soften and goes translucent.

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Add the garlic and rice and fry for another minute.

Pour in half of the stock and stir everything together. Wait for the rice to absorb the stock stirring regularly.

Once the stock is all absorbed, add half of the remaining liquid and stir it through.

Repeat with the remaining stock.

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After the first addition of stock vs. after the risotto is cooked.

If the rice isn’t fully cooked at this point, add another tablespoon of water and continue to cook over a medium heat stirring regularly to ensure that all the rice is cooked evenly.

Once the rice is almost cooked through, add the mascarpone, lemon juice, zest and the parsley and stir through. Cook for another minute.

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Remove the risotto from the heat and cover.

Chop about three quarters of the smoked salmon into small pieces.

Stir these through the risotto, the remaining heat should cook the salmon but not make it leathery.

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Serve the risotto immediately and top with the remaining salmon.

If you so wish, garnish the risotto with parsley and lemon zest.

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I hope you enjoyed this recipe. It’s a luxurious meal yet still quite light and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated. If you fancy a bit of a more fiery dinner, check out how to make my spicy enchiladas or if you are looking for something a little sweeter, why not make a carrot cake? It’s big, moist and packed full of flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a slightly more basic recipe for some delicious biscuits!

H

Enchiladas

The etymology of food names is a vast and fascinating subject. Some foods are named after the person who invented them, others after an area and some have their names directly lifted from the language of their country of origin.

One example of this is the enchilada. With a name deriving from the Spanish word ‘enchilar’ meaning ‘to season with chilli’ the name of the dish is a direct description of how it is made. In a similar vein, empanadas (a type of pasty) have a name derived from ‘empanar’ meaning ‘to coat in bread’.

Enchiladas were originally eaten as a street food and were unfilled tortillas dipped in a chilli sauce. Since then, they have evolved and been combined with other stuffed foods to created the dish that is known today. There are no strict rules as to what you can fill an enchilada with as long as it is spicy and, as a result, there are many different versions. Enchiladas suizas are topped with creamy sauces like béchamel and were created by Swiss migrants to Mexico who set up dairies to produce milk and cream. Enchiladas Verdes are topped with salsa verde instead of chilli sauce and are filled with poached chicken. Enmoladas are served with mole (a dark spicy sauce) instead of chilli and Enfrijoladas are topped with re-fried beans (the name deriving from the Spanish word for bean ‘frijol’).

The recipes I give below are very simple to make and are easily adaptable. I have found that using large tortillas means one enchilada can be served per person – especially if you serve them with sour cream and other toppings. I am very partial to coriander however, for those of you who do not like it, removing this does not detract from the recipe at all. Both fillings make a decent number of enchiladas and obviously, you can bulk them out more by adding more vegetables to make the meat go further. If you don’t eat meat, it can be excluded from the recipe or replaced by a meat substitute such as tofu or Quorn.

As anyone following this blog for some time may have realised, I love bulk cooking and the fillings for this can be frozen which is ideal because you can get several meals out of these recipes. You can also use them as standard fajita fillings too if you don’t want to go through the hassle of adding extra sauce and baking.

I hope you enjoy the recipe!

 

Enchiladas

Makes: 6-9 enchiladas

Prep time: 30 mins

Rest time: 10 mins

Cook time: 20 mins

 

 

Chicken Filling

2 large onions – finely sliced

2 large cloves of garlic – minced

1 large bell pepper – thinly sliced

2 chicken breasts – cubed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 packet fajita seasoning

½ tsp chilli flakes

2 tbsp oil

 

Beef Filling

2 large onions – finely diced

2 large cloves of garlic – minced

1 packet of beef mince

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 packet fajita seasoning

½ tsp chilli flakes

2 tbsp oil

 

Extras

Large tortilla wraps

1 can re-fried beans

200g grated cheese (100g for filling and 100g for topping)

2 tbsp chopped coriander

 

1 jar enchilada sauce

OR

4 tbsp tomato paste

4 tbsp water

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

1 tsp vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

Pinch of sugar

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

 

For the filling:

Place the oil, onions and garlic into a large pan over a medium heat and fry until the onion starts going soft.

Make a well in the centre and add the meat and fry until the meat is cooked on the outside (about three minutes)

Add the peppers if you are using them.

Sprinkle on the chilli flakes and the fajita seasoning (I love the BBQ one but there are loads of different flavours you can choose). If you like your food on the spicier side, you can always add more chilli and visa versa for a more mild flavour.

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Beef filling for enchiladas

Add the tomato paste and stir through. If the paste won’t spread out, add a tablespoon of water to help thin it down a little.

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Chicken filling for enchiladas (without peppers)

Remove from the heat and leave the filling to cool a little before using (it doesn’t have to be stone cold, just make sure it won’t burn your fingers)

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

If you are making your own enchilada sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.

Take a large baking dish and spread a little of the enchilada sauce over the bottom.

Place a wrap on a flat surface and spread a line of re-fried beans about a quarter of the way up.

Add a line of meat filling on top of this and sprinkle a little grated cheese over it all.

Roll up the tortilla making sure to fold in the ends to stop the filling from escaping. Seal the end with a little water and place seam side down in the baking dish.

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Repeat with the rest of the tortillas.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese over the enchiladas.

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Sprinkle the coriander over the top and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and starting to crisp up.

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Serve with a selection of sour cream, lime wedges, jalapenos, chopped coriander, guacamole or salsa.

These also keep very well if covered in the fridge.

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Chicken enchiladas with sour cream, coriander, lime wedges and jalapenos.
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Beef enchiladas with re-fried beans, coriander, sour cream and lime. 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy something a little sweeter, check out how to make my delicious apple crumble or for a lighter meal, why not make yourself a vibrant bowl of pea soup.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with an amazing recipe for carrot cake. For all of you guys who have had issues making cream cheese icing in the UK because it always turns to soup, this is one not to be missed!

H

 

Basic Curry

Tofu is not known for its wonderful flavour. Or texture. Or visual appeal. In fact, most people’s first reaction to the word is some sort of grimace. This probably stems from the fact that, in England, one of the more available forms of tofu is ‘silken tofu’. This has a very gelatinous texture and is incredibly fragile, in fact I have found it almost impossible to cook silken tofu without it all falling apart and becoming some sort of mush – though this is probably just me. Silken tofu is created by curdling soy milk but the liquid is curdled inside the carton in which it proceeds to be sold, whereas standard firm tofu is curdled and then the liquid is strained off before the curds are pressed into a block.
With records dating back to the Chinese Han dynasty, tofu has been around for about 2000 years. One of the leading theories is that it used to be made by curdling soy milk using sea water – the impurities in the water acted as the coagulants needed – and some forms of tofu are still produced like this today. The production of tofu spread around eastern Asia and it became a popular meat substitute as it is far cheaper.
There are several different types of tofu ranging from extra-soft to extra-firm. Extra-soft tofu has so much liquid in it that it barely holds its own shape – think of the texture of ricotta cheese. The next firmness is standard silken tofu. This tends to be used in desserts and sauces or smoothies as it can be used as a substitute for dairy and eggs. When blended into sauces or smoothies, it gives them a very creamy texture.
For tofu to be firmer than silken tofu, it must be pressed during production. This involves straining out the soy bean curds and then squeezing them to remove as much liquid as possible. The tofu produced from this has a much harder texture and tends to be what I use for cooking. You can press it at home to drive off even more of the liquid by wrapping the block in a tea towel and placing a heavy object on top – I tend to use either a pan or an encyclopaedia. The tofu can then be cooked in a variety of ways to give it the texture you want. Extra-firm tofu is incredibly dry. It is a little rubbery and is firm enough to be sliced very thinly without the pieces breaking. It is sometimes shredded and used instead of noodles in dishes.
Standard tofu is bland. It has basically no flavour whatsoever. This makes it perfect for absorbing flavours from other things so you can always marinade tofu in soy sauce or flavoured oils after it has been pressed to give it some taste. When I bake tofu before adding it to curries and such, I like to add some salt, pepper and sometimes a little curry powder before I put it in the oven as that way it will have a natural taste. The other way to avoid this lack of flavour is continuing to cook your curry for five or so minutes after the tofu has been added as it gives a chance for the moisture from the curry to soften the tofu a little bit and also infuse the flavours of the sauce into it.
Nowadays tofu is only really used as a meat substitute Europe and America. In eastern Asia, it tends to be viewed as just another ingredient and is often used alongside meats or seafood in dishes. A lot of people, especially in England, are not exposed to well cooked tofu when they are younger resulting in the reactions I mentioned at the beginning. With proper seasoning and cooking and, most importantly, the correct type of tofu, I believe most people would appreciate it far more and use tofu when cooking on a more regular basis.

Basic Curry (Vegan)

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 40 minutes Serves: 2
Price per portion: £1.30 (for tofu)

Ingredients:
1 block of tofu (400g)
1 large onion
500ml vegetable stock
1 ½ tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 ½ tsp cornflour mixed with 3 tsp water
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
Oil

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 C).
Drain the tofu and if you have time, press it (this step is optional).

Cut the tofu up into small cubes, I tend to do one horizontal slice through it and then cut it to make cubes which are around a centimetre a centimetre and a half long. The tofu will shrink in the oven.

Line a tray with baking parchment or a silicone mat and spread the tofu out on it.

Drizzle over a little oil or if you use a cooking spray, a couple of sprays of that will also work well.

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Season with a little salt and pepper and place in the oven for 40 minutes remembering to turn the tofu every 10 minutes.

After the tofu has been cooking for 20 minutes you can start on the curry.

Chop the onion into wedges (I tend to go for eight of them).

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok and add the onion.

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Once the onion starts going translucent, add the stock, garlic and spices.

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Simmer for 15 minutes while the tofu finishes off in the oven.

Stir in the soy sauce, sugar and cornflour mix and let the curry sauce thicken. If it is still

very thin, add some more corn flour but if the sauce has become too thick, add some more stock.

Take the tofu out of the oven and pour it into the curry and stir through.

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Let the curry simmer for another two minutes to so the tofu can absorb some of the flavour and then serve with sticky rice.

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This curry keeps very well so if you are only cooking for yourself, you will have leftovers to eat the next day too. I like to use medium curry powder but if you like a spicy or particularly mild curry, there are different versions available. You can also eat this curry with noodles or bread.

A way to make the curry even cheaper on a budget is just don’t use the tofu! This will also drastically reduce the cooking time and you can replace it with whatever you want. Cubes of carrot work well and you can always throw in water chestnuts and bamboo shoots at the end too to bulk it out. Obviously you can also use meat too but make sure to sear it in the wok before you add the onions and the stock to it.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. For another easy meal, check out my One Pot Pasta or if you are looking to do something a little more flamboyant, why not make yourself a Chocolate and Caramel Cake filled with lashings of cream and delicious caramel.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a yummy shortcrust tart.

H

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Beef Lasagne

Batch cooking is a wonderful thing. It’s how I survive at university. The more food I can make in one go, the less effort I have to expend cooking over the next week which is ideal as the term starts to get harder. Like the majority of the recipes in my Cooking to Basics section, this lasagne a number of meals (depending on how hungry you are)! It’s very simple to make and even better, if you happen to have some bolognaise sauce in the freeze, you don’t even need to go to the effort of making the filling.

This is not a traditional lasagne. For a start, there is no béchamel sauce. This isn’t out of convenience, I just don’t particularly like it as I find that the lasagne ends up rather sloppy with a béchamel sauce and I don’t really like super sloppy foods. Instead, I have replaced it with a thin layer of seasoned tomato puree which does the trick very well and also reduces the time it takes to make the dish. Of course, should you really like béchamel sauce, you can just substitute this in instead of the half tube of tomato paste in the recipe. The lack of the béchamel sauce also makes it very easy to turn this recipe dairy free as you can simply substitute the mozzarella with a dairy free cheese (or even just leave it naked with the tomato on top)

If you are vegetarian, it is very simple to just substitute the beef for some form of soya mince or you can bulk out the sauce with mushrooms and other veg of your choice to make a wonderful veggie lasagne. I will often put a layer of spinach in mine as if I am using pre-made bolognaise sauce for the filling, it reduces the amount I need to defrost!

 

Beef Lasagne

Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes (excluding the filling)

Serves: 4-6                                                           Cost per portion: around 80p-£1

Ingredients:

250ml tomato passata

2 cloves of garlic

One large onion (or two small onions)

One carrot

One box beef mince

One box lasagne sheets

Half a tube of tomato paste

Mozzarella

 

Optional:

A glug of sherry or red wine

Basil

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Chilli

Salt

Pepper

 

Follow the instructions of my bolognaise recipe to make the filling of the lasagne.

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Lightly oil a deep dish.

Place a layer of the lasagne sheets over the bottom and add a thin layer of the filling.

Repeat this, alternating layers of the filling and pasta sheets until there is about 1 cm from the top of the dish (make sure the top layer is the pasta).

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Dilute the tomato paste down with water until it is still thick but you can spread it over the top of the lasagne (at this point, you can add pepper, chilli, garlic, or whatever spices you would like on your lasagne).

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Grate the mozzarella and sprinkle and even layer over the top of the dish.

Bake at gas mark 5 (1900C) for about 45 minutes to make sure the pasta sheets are cooked!

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The lasagne freezes really well which is ideal if you just want a quick meal slightly later in the week. Just wrap up individual portions and pop them into the freezer!

Let me know if you try this at home – give me a tag on Instagram (you can find me @thatcookingthing). If you fancy trying out some lovely warming, soup as the weather gets colder, check out my butternut squash soup or if you are looking of a quick and easy dessert, my tiramisu would be perfect for you!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for millionaire’s shortbread!

H