tofu

SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE

SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE

Lasagne the ultimate comfort food, it’s right up there with mashed potatoes. The classic dish is loaded with cheese and white sauce made of butter and milk. Yep not so good for you, the planet and the animals…

This lasagne was made on my daughter’s request. She wanted something with the spinach “cheese” layer. It’s her favourite way to eat spinach (other than raw in a salad). When my girl says make me something with a vegetable I do jump (it doesn’t happen often).

I used dry lasagne sheets (egg free), no need to cook them. The only cooking required is making the sauce (or you can always buy a couple jars of a good tomato sauce I like Seeds of Change range) and wilting the spinach. Rest is done by whizzing things up and baking it in the oven. Great “make ahead” dish and will feed 8. It does satisfy a doubting omnivore too. My mom-in-law was a happy diner indeed.

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SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE
Serves 8

ingredients
tomato sauce
1Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 tins of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1/2 -1tsp sugar (optional; depends on the flavour of the tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste

spinach tofu ricotta
300g baby spinach
1 package Cauldron Tofu (396g, just under 1lb)
2 tsp yellow miso
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
juice of half a small lemon
2 tbs nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

silken tofu cheese sauce
1 package silken tofu
1/2 (70g) cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min)
1 tsp yellow miso
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 garlic powder
2 Tbs nutrition yeast
1/2 juice of half a small lemon
1/4 -1/2 (60-120ml) of water
salt and pepper to taste

12 lasagne sheets
large deep baking dish

method
  • 1. First make the sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic in 1 tbs of olive oil till softened. Add the oregano, tomatoes and water. Add sugar, salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for half an hour.
  • To make the spinach layer wilt the washed spinach in a sauté pan and drain throughly.
  • In a food processor combine the spinach tofu ricotta ingredients and pulse till combine but not completely smooth. Set aside.
  • Put all the “cheese” sauce ingredients with 1/4cup (60ml) of the water in a blender (high speed works best) or a food processor. Process till you get a very thick sauce (Greek yoghurt consistency) add more water if needed.
  • To assemble lasagne spread few tablespoon over the bottom. Layer 3 sheets of lasagne, 1/3 of spinach mixture, 1/3 of sauce, lasagne and repeat. You last layer should be lasagne sheets. Pour your silken tofu sauce over the top.
  • Bake at 180C for 40minutes of until the top is golden brown and lasagne tender (test with a knife)
  • Let sit for about 10minutes before serving.

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MUSHROOM STROGANOFF


MUSHROOM STROGANOFF

My friend asked me the other day if I had a good mushroom Stroganoff recipe. I have made Stroganoff style mushrooms before but never actually wrote down the recipe. I had to rectify the situation and provide my friend with a recipe she wanted.

Mushroom Stroganoff is a bit retro, it has a bad reputation among us plant eaters as it tends to be the one (and sometimes only) dish offered by restaurants without imagination. You know what I am talking about. One gets fed up with mushroom Stroganoff, mushroom risotto, flavourless vegetable curry and last but not least the ubiquitous vegetable lasagne.

Unlike my mushroom Stroganoff the restaurant “favourite” will contain dairy (sour cream) just like the Russian beef original. I used my old favourite cashew cream to achieve the creaminess and lemon juice to add the sour cream tang. I love the way cashew cream thickens sauces and you really can’t taste the cashews after cooking it for few minutes with other flavours.

In my house, my daughter is a good indication of a successful dish. She left the table to get a spoon so she could savour every last bit of the sauce. Result! I hope that my friend, who I am sure has eaten some authentic Stroganoff in Russia, will approve too.


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MUSHROOM STROGANOFF
You can make this oil free and cook the onions and mushrooms in water or stock, however the Czech in me knows that you get the best flavour out of paprika if it hits the oil.

Serves 4

ingredients

30 g (1oz) dried wild mushrooms
1 tsp oil ( I used rice bran)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp paprika, sweet (hot if you want a spicy Stroganoff)
1 Tbs tomato paste
550g (1lb 3 oz) mushrooms (any will do)
60ml (1/4c) red wine
200g (1/2 lb) smoked tofu ( I used Taifun tofu with sesame seeds)
200ml vegetable stock
60g (1/2 cup) cashews blended with 1/2 water
lemon juice (I used 1 small lemon)
parsley for garnish
gherkins on the side


method
  • Rehydrate the mushrooms, place the mushrooms in a measuring jug add enough water to achieve 200ml.
  • In a saute pan heat the teaspoon of oil and sauté the onions till translucent.
  • Add the paprika and cook for about 30seconds taking care not to burn it.
  • Next add the tomato paste and cook, string constantly, for 30seconds.
  • Add the fresh mushrooms and cook till softened.
  • Pour in the wine and bring to a boil.
  • Next add the tofu, vegetable stock, dried mushrooms with the liquor. Simmer for 10min.
  • Finally add the cashew cream. Simmer for 5 min.
  • Just before serving add the lemon juice to taste.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve with gherkins on the side.
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CAULIFLOWER PIZZA BITES

CAULIFLOWER PIZZA BITES

Cauliflower in the fridge and I needed an inspiration. I wanted to make something different, something unusual and preferably delicious. After bit of internet searching I found a recipe for cauliflower pizza bites. I might have had an intention to follow the recipe step by step since I did have all the ingredients on hand (for a change) but I just could not help myself to tinker with it. Here is the original recipe link, credit where credit is due: http://www.damyhealth.com/2012/06/vegan-cauliflower-pizza-bites/

To all you cauliflower haters (I know there are quite a few out there) this may just change the way you see it. My kids are the proof, they both approached the bites with trepidation: “Yuck it has cauliflower in it. I hate cauliflower.” After the first mouthful they changed their mid. They will be definitely on the menu again.

Two of my student clinic clients came to see me with peri-menopausal symptoms and I think this is the perfect recipe for them. The tofu is a source of isoflavones and linseeds are so rich in lignans, both powerful phytoestrogens that may help alleviate symptoms of peri-menopause (or menopause). Cauliflower itself is a member of the amazing cruciferous family of vegetables, rich in nutrients that aid liver function. A healthy liver is crucial for regulating hormones. This is a definitely one for a client recipe folder.

Even if cauliflower is not a favorite of yours please do have a go. I may just have to make these for my son’s guitar teacher as he claims cauliflower is his mortal enemy.

cauliflower-bits-2

CAULIFLOWER PIZZA BITES
makes 12

ingredients
2 cups cauliflower
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 flax egg (1tbs flax 3 Tbs water)
1/2 firm tofu
1/2 chickpeas, cooked and drained ( I used tinned ones)
2 tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1-2 Tbs non dairy milk
2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste
salt to taste
healthy oil in a spray to grease the muffin pan
2 tbs regular tomato paste
6 green olives

method
  1. Grate the cauliflower in a food processor until you achieve couscous like texture.
  2. Cook the cauliflower in a frying pan adding water (couple tablespoons at a time) till softened, this will take about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool down.
  3. Next prepare the flax egg, simply mix the ground flax seed and egg and let sit for a few minutes.
  4. Ad oregano, thyme, garlic powder, flax egg, tofu, chickpeas, nutritional yeast, chilli powder, non- dairy milk and sun-dried tomato paste into a blender or food processor. Blend till smooth (or as smooth as you can achieve).
  5. Mix in the cauliflower
  6. Lightly spray the muffin pan with oil spray, divide the mixture between the 12 - muffin pan. Top each pizza bite with 1/2 tsp of tomato puree and half an olive.
  7. Bake at 180 for about 30min. Let it cool down slightly before taking them out of a pan. This is the most tricky bit. Enjoy as a snack or part of a meal.

Before going into the oven
cauliflower-bites-1
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COURGETTE KUGEL

COURGETTE KUGEL

Foolishly I have trusted the weather forecast. Who wouldn’t want to trust the promise of summer’s last attempt to stick around? The reality is that the freshly washed clothes that I left (ok forgot) outside overnight got even wetter than they were from the washing machine. I guess I have to admit that the autumn has taking its rightful reign. At least last two days were mild enough to sit outside in the afternoon.

Autumn also means I will have to get myself organised for my final year of college. Exciting as it is I am also a bit nervous (understatement) about taking clients for the fist time. Last year we were the observers in the back of the classroom, this time we will be in the hot seat. My plans to revise over the summer didn't seem to materialise too well so I am trying to catch up now.

Part of the being organised is getting food prepared for the weekend so that it is easy for my husband and kids to cook a meal when I get back from college in the evening. My courgette kugel is such a recipe. You can make it ahead and just simply stick in the oven when needed.

Kugel is a traditional Jewish bake, pudding or casserole, usually made with egg noodles or potatoes, sometimes rice. It can be sweet or savoury. I like the comfort of such food. This is a vegan version of a kugel. It is creamy, rich and comforting as if made by a Jewish Grandmother.

I have also made this recipe with four courgettes instead of the 2 leek/2 courgette combo. It was as good. Nice thick tomato sauce complements the kugel perfectly. And of course salad and green veggies. This makes a big batch so any leftovers should be cooled quickly and reheated thoroughly. Enjoy!

kugel

COURGETTE KUGEL
Serves 6

ingredients
kugel
2 fat leeks
1 1/2 cup basmati rice
2 courgettes
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1 pack of silken tofu (300g, 10oz)
1 Tbs tahini
4 sun dried tomatoes
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste

method
  1. Thinly sliced the leeks and place together with rice into a large sauce pan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Drain the rice and leek mixture and set aside.
  3. Grate the two courgettes and mix with the rice and leeks.
  4. To make the sauce blend together the water, cashews, tofu, tahini, sun dried tomatoes and nutritional yeast. Season.
  5. Place the rice mixture into a large baking dish, add the sauce and mix well.
  6. Bake at a 180C oven for 40-50 minutes, until set and golden brown on the top.
  7. Serve with a tomato sauce, salad and some green veggies.

kugel-detail

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SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNE

SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNE

The weather is slowly starting to turn, we even had to put the heating on in the mornings, it has been rather cold in the morning. Walking the dog today I had to brace myself against a very icy wind. No, I am not complaining, I am looking forward to cooking comfort foods. Vegan mac and cheese, bean goulash, curries and chillies, soups and of course lasagne.


swiss-chard-lasagna

My Swiss chard lasagne serves 6 people generously and has a fraction of the traditional lasagne calories and fat. There is no traditional white sauce (butter, flour, milk), no cheese, no meaty sauce. You may ask whats left? Delicious tomato sauce, ”meaty” mushrooms, ricotta like Swiss chard and tofu layer. And to top it off my “cheese” cashew and tofu sauce with a sprinkling of pine nuts. You can make this dish totally oil free or if you wish you can use 1-2 Tbs of oil. I am giving the option in the recipe. I used 1 tbs to saute the mushrooms but my tomato sauce was made without any oil.

I have also used whole wheat lasagne noodles. I didn’t cook them first but decided to let the lasagne stand for about a hour before baking it. The key to soft noodles is to make sure the tomato sauce is not too thick, I have also used the mushroom liquid that leeched out during cooking, I spooned some over each mushroom layer. Apart from moistening the noodles it adds extra mushroom flavour to the dish.

This is a perfect recipe to get the kids involved in. My daughter enjoyed making the Swiss chard layer and layering the actual lasagne. I will admit the end result didn’t look as neat as I would have liked but there are times I have to let go of being a control freak in my kitchen. Rough edges or not it tasted great.


SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA
Serves 6

ingredients
500g (1lb3oz) chestnut (brown) mushrooms, sliced
1tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
12 whole meal dried lasagne sheets
2 Tbs pine nuts
2 Tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
tomato sauce
1 tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1tsp oregano
125ml (1/2 cup) water

Swiss chard tofu layer
400-440g (1lb) Swiss chard
300 (10oz) g firm tofu
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp garlic
1 Tbs nutrition yeast
salt to taste

“cheese” sauce
100g (3 1/2 oz) tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashews
125ml (1/2cup) water
1 tsp each dried garlic and onion powder
salt to taste



swiss-chard-layerchardlasagna

method

  1. First make your tomato sauce. In a medium sauce pan, heat about 60ml (1/4) cup of water or 1 Tbs rapeseed oil. Cook the onion and garlic till softened. Next add the tomato puree, cook for a minute.
  2. Next add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20-30minutes.
  3. Make the Swiss chard layer. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly, than roughly chop it. Put all the chard into a large pot with a lid and cook till wilted. This should take just a few minutes. You don’t need to add any extra water as there should be enough residual water from washing the chard.
  4. When the Swiss chard has wilted, tip it into a large colander. Using the back of a large spoon squeeze out as much of the liquid from the chard as you can.
  5. Put the chard and all the rest of the ingredients for the Swiss chard layer into a food processor. Process till well combined and has a texture of ricotta cheese. Set aside.
  6. Next cook the mushrooms. Heat 60ml(1/4 cup) water or 1 Tbs rapeseed oil in a large frying pan. Cook the mushrooms till softened, about 5-8minutes.
  7. To make the "cheese"sauce put all the “cheese” sauces into a blender and process till smooth. Set aside.
  8. Now assemble the lasagne.Use a baking dish that is large enough to fit 3 lasagne noodles side by side (I have to snip off the corners of the lasagne noodles to fit them in snuggly). Start with 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Lay 3 lasagne noodles on top of the sauce. Next spread 1/3 of the Swiss chard mixture, 1/3 of mushrooms and another 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Continue with the noodles and rest of the layer until everything is used up. The last layer should be lasagne noodles.
  9. Top the lasagne with the “cheese” sauce and sprinkle pine nuts on the top.
  10. Bake in 180C oven for 40min. Let sit for about 10min before serving this will make it easier to serve the lasagne.

Ready for the oven
chardlasagna2
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VEGAN SPANAKOPITA

VEGAN SPANAKOPITA

Cooking is my way to be creative. I am no good at drawing, my piano playing days are a distant childhood memory and when I sing my kids cover their ears. When it comes to food there are so many ways to get my creative juices going, I get inspired by ingredients or world cuisines to create new dishes. I love to “veganise” my old favorites or sometimes I have a go at recreating dishes I enjoyed in a restaurant.

My vegan spanakopita came to life as a mixture of the above processes. My husband and I had a rare opportunity to enjoy an evening meal out together (minus kids). We chose a Lebanese restaurant that featured many vegan mezze dishes on the menu. One of the mezze’s we had were delicious filo pastry tringles filled with lemony spinach. Few days later I came across Jamie Cooks Morocco while flicking through the TV channels. Jamie Oliver was making a sweet almond filo pastry “snail”. This is when the cogs in my brain started to turn. I love the way the “snail” looked and with my Lebanese spinach triangles still on my mind I thought of the traditional Greek recipe spanakopita, a filo spinach and feta cheese pie. I could see the spinach, the filo, tofu instead of feta, some pine nuts and lemon juice coming together. Surely I was onto a winner.

Trust me, this recipe is not as complicated as it looks, just be careful not to let your filo pastry dry out. Do not answer the phone or the door. Work fast and you will end up with a dinner party masterpiece. Spare pair of hands is a bonus, I had my daughter on hand. Serve with some homemade tomato sauce, salad and maybe some Greek olives for a super Mediterranean meal.

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VEGAN SPANAKOPITA

Serves 6

ingredients
1 kg (2.2lb) frozen spinach
2 large young onions with stems (or 6 spring onions, scallions), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried oregano
250g (9oz) extra firm tofu, grated
100g (4oz) pine nuts, reserve 2 Tbs
juice of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

270g (10oz) filo pastry, 6 large sheets (if frozen defrost first)
2-3 tbs olive oil


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  1. First let your spinach defrost. I take it out of the freezer several hours before cooking, set a large colander over a bowl, place the spinach into the colander and leave in a warm place. If I am impatient I just pour some boiling water over it.
  2. When the spinach is fully defrosted squeeze out as much water as you can. The most efficient way is to put it into a clean tea towel and twist and squeeze until most water runs out.
  3. In a large bowl combine the spinach, onion, garlic, dill, oregano, grated tofu, pine nuts (minus the 2 tbs) and juice of a lemon. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Prepare a large baking tray, you can oil it or line it with some baking paper.
  5. This is the fun bit. On a large clean surface ( I use my dining table), prepare the pastry. Lay the first sheet on the table, brush lightly with olive oil. Lay the next sheet in a way that it creates a long rectangle, make sure you overlap the shorter edges by about 5cm (2inches). Brush with oil. Repeat with the third sheet. Lay next three sheets on top of the first layer, brush with oil. You should be left with a very long double layered rectangle.
  6. Next place the filling evenly into the middle, creating a long line, see picture. Wrap the pastry around tightly but carefully, creating a long tube, like a strudel. Don’t worry about small tears. Make sure the seam is down. Next secure the edges by folding them over. The filling is not runny so don’t worry it won’t run out.
  7. Shape your your strudel into a coil creating a “snail shell”shape. Slide onto a baking tray. Brush with some olive oil (or non-dairy milk), sprinkle with pine nuts and carefully transfer onto a tray. (Extra pair of hands to hold the tray is very helpful at this point)
  8. Bake at 180C for 35-40 min, or until the pastry is golden brown.
  9. Transfer onto a serving platter and cut into wedges.

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MEXICAN TOFU SCRAMBLE WITH CORN TORTILLAS

MEXICAN TOFU SCRAMBLE WITH CORN TORTILLAS

Last week we stopped at my favourite Mexican shop Otomi. They carry Mexican mirrors, Luchador costumes, tortilla presses but mainly some lush Mexican ingredients. I usually stock up on some tomatillo salsa and chipotle peppers there. This time I also grabbed some fresh corn tortillas (like Otomi on Facebook and they will let you know when these are in stock). Kids also tried a Mexican sweet, ground peanuts with icing sugar pressed into a patty. To my surprise they found it way to sweet!

The corn tortillas became an integral part of our Sunday morning brunch, they became the perfect vessel to hold my tofu scramble. I did regret not having any avocados to go on top of my creation. Avocados never seem to last in our house :) The scramble turned out great, I could have eaten the lot myself.

I used some chipotle sauce from Otomi to spice up the scramble but a fresh red chilli or any hot sauce will be great too. My 1 Tbs was a bit conservative since I am feeding kids. If you like it hot add some more. I spiced mine up with some spicy tomato salsa. A nice platter of tropical fruits on the side and you can really feel the Mexican sunshine coming into the dining room...

mexican-tofu-scramble-2

MEXICAN TOFU SCRAMBLE WITH CORN TORTILLAS
serves 4

ingredients
1 small onion
1 small yellow or red pepper
1 celery stick
1 tomato
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp oregano
300g (10oz) tofu
1 tbs chipotle sauce
1/2 - 1Tbs Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
fresh coriander
8 corn tortillas
salsa to serve

mexican-tofu-scramble

Method
  1. Chop the onion, celery, pepper and tomato into small dice.
  2. In a medium frying pan heat about 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Add the onion, celery and pepper. Cook till softened for about 10min, adding more water if the vegetables start to stick.
  3. Next add the tomato, cook for couple of minutes till starting to break down.
  4. Add the spices and cook for a minute.
  5. While the mixture is cooking crumble the tofu.
  6. Add tofu, chipotle sauce and Bragg Liquid Aminos to the pan and mix well together.
  7. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring to combine all the flavours, and most of the moisture has evaporated.
  8. Lastly add the yeast flakes, stir to combine.
  9. Heat your tortillas in a hot dry frying pan.
  10. Fill the tortillas with tofu scramble, top with coriander and salsa. Enjoy!

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CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

Today I met up with friends for lunch. They chose Wagamama, a pan Asian noodle place. I have eaten there a few times so had no worries.

First the waiter forgot my miso soup and pickles, he just brought my main dish straight away. I started to eat it and after getting through about a third I discovered an alien (to me) food. OK I admit I first thought this was an oyster mushroom but at a closer look I recognized from my distant memory this was indeed a good sized piece of chicken.

I returned the dish, expressing my disgust. They apologised and quickly made a new portion of my noodles. They also finally brought my (luke warm) miso soup and even offered a free dessert. I ended up paying only for my fresh blueberry apple and ginger juice. Still I felt disappointed.

Everybody makes mistakes we are only humans. However if this was a peanut in a dish of somebody who has severe nut allergy or some breadcrumbs in a coeliacs dinner we would call it serious. This could be a life and death situation. Of course I won’t suffer an anaphylactic shock should I put this piece of chicken in my mouth. I just like to receive what I ordered, I have a reason (actually reasons) why I am a veggie and I would like eateries to be more respectful. Not so long ago at Yo Sushi I saw a piece of breaded tofu being sliced on the same chopping board with the same knife as the breaded chicken. Is it carelessness or ignorance? Attention to detail makes a big difference.

no chicken in these noodles :)
laksa-thing

CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU
This is my take on laksa. It is a lot thicker than laksa should be, but that can be remedied by adding a bit more water. Thicker sauce makes it very comforting and thats how I like it.

I was cautious and added just one chilli pepper but regretted it later, it could have done with at least 2. Of course it depends on the type of chillies you have and your "heat resistance".

serves 4

laksa paste
laksa-thing-paste

ingredients:
paste
1/2cup macadamia nuts
2 stalks of lemongrass, outer leaves peeled, coarsely chopped
1-3 red chillies, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely cut
1 bunch of coriander (about 2 cups)
1 inch of fresh turmeric root (or 1 tsp dried turmeric), peeled and sliced
1 inch ginger rood or galangal, peeled and sliced
2 large banana shallots

16-20 baby aubergines
1 1/2 tbs rapeseed or coconut oil
250g (9-100z) firm tofu, cut into bite size pieces
1 tin coconut milk
500ml (2 cups) of water
1 Tbs tamari
1 tsp coconut nectar sugar
10 kafir lime leaves
1-2 limes
fresh coriander for garnish
1 red chilli
250g (9oz) rice noodles,medium thickness.

baby aubergines

baby-aubergines-


  1. First make the paste. Place all the ingredients into a blender or a food processor. Blend to a coarse paste. You will have to stop and scrape the sides few times. Set aside.
  2. Cut of the stalks of the baby aubergines, halve them and place into a roasting dish. Add 1 tbs of oil and mix well. If using coconut oil you should melt it first. Roast the aubergine in a 200C oven for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large wok heat the remaining 1/2tbs of oil. Add all the paste and cook gently for 2 minutes.
  4. Next add the coconut milk, water, tamari sauce, coconut sugar, kafir lime leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the noodles. Soak them in just boiled water for 10minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Next add the roasted aubergines, and tofu into the wok. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add the rice noodles into the wok and let just heat through.
  8. Add lime juice and salt to taste.
  9. Serve topped with coriander and sliced chillies and some lime wedges.

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CABBAGE AND TOFU NOODLES

CABBAGE AND TOFU NOODLES

Processed meat leads to an early death. Bacteria are more and more resistant to antibiotics. There are three millions of patients withType 2 Diabetes in the UK. High salt intake is messing up our immune system. Our care system is struggling to cope with dementia. Unfortunately this is not a promo for a new Hollywood disaster movie, this is a brief summary of some of the latest health news.


Last week all the papers reported on the link between processed meat and increased risk of death. It seem to me that people do not want to hear these warnings. No, you mustn't touch our bacon and sausages! Today, at the leisure centre where my son plays basketball, I overheard an obese grandmother telling her grandson : "No, you are not getting any biscuits until you eat your chips and sausages." The boy didn't seem too interested in his dinner. In the end, finishing the second half of her bacon sarnie, the grandmother said: " Well if you don't want it, I will finish it."

Joanna Blythman has been defending sausages and bacon in the Daily mail this week. I think it is simply dangerous to do that. These are not health foods. And if you think eating 5-a-day alongside your burger will save you, think again. Our lecturer shocked us with the fact that 5-a-day negates one Happy Meal! Yes, you heard right, just
one measly Happy Meal. All the powerful phytonutrients are used up to clean up after this kid's favourite. Now imagine if somebody eats at McDonalds and is also a smoker. Every cigarette accounts for the loss of 25mg of Vitamin C (if you smoke 10 a day you would have to eat a kilo of raspberries, or 35 peaches just to make up for the cigarettes). Let's make it clear 5-a-day will do zilch if the rest of diet and lifestyle are rubbish. If we are to move ahead and tackle the present health crisis we must make promoting healthy lifestyle changes a priority. Promoting bacon and sausages simply won't do.

cabbagetofunoodles

CABBAGE AND TOFU NOODLES

Serves 2-3

2 nests of noodles (rice, whole wheat, buckwheat)
1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 large carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1 small cabbage, shredded
200g firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 tsp chilli sauce
2 tbs soya sauce
1 cup water
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds

  1. First prepare the noodles according to the package instruction (rice noodles need to be soaked, buckwheat or whole wheat need to be cooked). Set aside. If you are cooking your noodles make sure to rinse them well to prevent sticking.
  2. In a wok heat about 60ml of water. Add the ginger, garlic and shallot. Cook for about 5 min until soft. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick.
  3. Next add the carrot, cabbage, tofu, chilli sauce, soya sauce and water. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the cabbage has softened.
  4. Add in the cooked noodles and simmer until heated stirring constantly.
  5. Finally add the spring onions and sesame seeds and serve.

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TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

It seems to me today will be one of those days I will do anything to distract myself from revision. I cleaned the kitchen, sorted out my vegetable drawer, folded the laundry that was hanging on the airer for couple of days. I put another load of wash on, hung it up to dry... and now I am writing a blog. You could say writing a blog about soya is partly a revision for my upcoming exam.

Apparently the sale of soya based veggie burgers, sausages and roasts have gone through the roof in response to the horse meat scandal. Horse meat seems to be everywhere, if you eat meat there is no escaping it but choosing the highly processed soya meat analogs may not be a healthy alternative either. The food writer Joanna Blythman, in response to the increase in soya burger sales, wrote a rather condemning article about soya. I do agree with her on the soya protein isolates (thats what you will find in the above mentioned products), these are not healthy foods. However soya isoflavones, the phytonutrient found in more natural soya products, have shown many health benefits. Isoflavones may reduce breast cancer risk (works best if given from adolescence), boost survival in breast cancer patients, lower cholesterol and they may also lower hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause.

When I choose soya I go for no GM preferably organic, I tend to stick to tofu, miso, tempeh, edamame and I do like a soya yoghurt, especially the vanilla one... YUM. Personally I don’t like the after taste of soya milk and the soya cream sold in shops is mainly vegetable oil. I choose the more traditional soya foods you would find in Asia over the processed Westernized soya products. My kids love tofu, and if I have a block in the fridge I can always come up with a quick and tasty dinner. Believe me
quick is the word of the moment. The recipe below is what I came up with the other day, the only downfall was I had to restrain the kids from eating ii all otherwise my husband would have gone hungry after getting home late from work :)

Here are two views on soya. The above mentioned Joanna Blythman article and a fab post from Leo Babauta’s Zenhabits blog.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2284435/Horsemeat-scandal-Think-soyas-safer-choice-meat-Think-again.html

http://zenhabits.net/soy/

BBQtofu-detail

TOFU IN QUICK BBQ SAUCE

Serves 4

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medjol dates
700ml (about 3cups) passata
120ml of water
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
2 Tbs soya sauce
1 Tbs coconut nectar sugar (or maple syrup)
1 x 400g (just under 1 lb) block of firm tofu

In a deep wide saute pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) of water, add the onions and garlic. Put the lid on and let the onions and garlic soften. Add more water if they start sticking.
Next add all the rest of ingredients (apart from) the tofu and simmer for about 20-30min, you should get thick rich sauce.
Drain your tofu, dry with paper towels (I wrap the tofu in several layers and press on gently to squeeze the water our). Cut into bite size pieces.
Place the tofu into the sauce, and simmer for further 10 min. Shake the pot occasionally, stirring might break the tofu.
Serve with brown rice and a large green salad.

BBQ-tofu
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UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

My kids love udon noodles. Every time we go the local Asian supermarket we end up with several packs of fresh ready cooked udon noodles. Together with the wonderful tofu that sits right next to them in the refrigerated counter we have a start to a delicious meal.

Kids like their noodles stir-fired with few veggies, tofu and soya sauce. That’s what they had for lunch today. I fancied something more exciting but restorative at the same time. What could be better than a fragrant Asian style broth with veggies, tofu and noodles. Perfect for rainy day, perfect to counteract any Christmas indulgences.

If you can’t find ready cook udon noodles buy them dried and cook according to the package instructions. They tend to come separated into portions, very handy. You can also use other type of noodles; ramen, soba, rice vermicelli... Conveniently any tofu will do for this recipe, if using soft or silken tofu just be careful not to break it up. Maybe best added after the noodles have softened. Feel free to add any other veggies; thinly sliced peppers, mangetout, green beans or mung bean sprouts will work great. To get the best out of the miso paste add it at the last minute, let dissolve into the broth but do not boil.

You can also make just the broth without the noodles and sip it. This is perfect if you have caught any of the wintery colds and infections, maybe add more garlic for even bigger healing punch. You can imagine your colds or infections melting away with every spoonful.

udon-broth

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH
Serves 2-3

ingredients
4 cups of light vegetable stock
1 leek
1 medium carrot
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 large clove of garlic
pinch of red chilli flakes
1/4 of Savoy cabbage
1 Tbs soya sauce
100 g of tofu
2x200g (3oz) pks of ready cook udon noodles
1 Tbs yellow miso paste
2 spring onions (scallions)
fresh coriander (cilantro) to serve

method
  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Cut the root and the dark green leaves off the leek. Cut the leek in half widthwise (you should have 2 tubes, about 2-3inches long). Cut the leeks into long thin strips (julienne).
  3. Cut the carrot into julienne (again cut it in half widthwise, than julienne)
  4. Add the carrots and leeks into the stock, simmer.
  5. While the stock is simmering finely julienne or just finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add to the stock.
  6. Finely shred the cabbage and add to the stock.
  7. Add the soya sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Cut the tofu into small dice. Add to the stock.
  9. Next, add your udon noodles and heat until they loosen up and warm through.
  10. Add the miso paste and just let dissolve. Do not boil.
  11. Last add the spring onion.
  12. Serve in large soup bowls garnished with some chopped coriander (cilantro).


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BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

My son enjoys a cup of tea with me. We get my teapot, some loose white or green tea (I have quite a collection), let it brew, pour and of course we sip and enjoy. The other day, holding a cup of tea, he told his sister : “You should drink green tea too, people who drink 3 cups of green tea a day get less cancer”. It made me laugh. Where did he get the information from? I guess my shouting out latest health headlines at everybody has made some impact after all.

There are many strategies how to get kids eating healthy. Everybody has an opinion. When my daughter was going through an extra picky period I even had the recommendation of just making her eat it. Too controlling! Making food fun? Honestly I am not into making faces out of fruit and veggies. I did try making start charts and giving rewards. We even had a colour coded chart to make sure she would eat a rainbow. It worked for a while but slowly she seemed to care less and less.

Last year, when I was studying Biomedicine for my course, my daughter got very interested in the human body and especially cells and the immune system. We had to watch lots of Youtube videos of cells dividing, immune cells gobbling up invaders and blood cells gushing through veins and arteries.

This gave me an idea. I started to explain to her how healthy food makes our cells happy. I tell her what nutrients she is getting from her food and what they do inside her body. I also mention the bad stuff, how harmful certain foods can be. The other day, on my computer, she saw picture of foods that cause cancer v foods that protect from cancer. It sure made an impression on her. Maybe kids need to know exactly why we want them to eat health giving foods. Saying: “because it is good for you” doesn’t seem to cut it. And we need to lead by example! Kids do learn from us.

Admittedly all is not perfect, she will still rather have a piece of chocolate than a carrot, but she has been trying new fruits and veggies lately in a rate that I have not seen before. Did I finally find a strategy that works?

While making this broccoli and cauliflower bake I didn’t think she would eat much of it. Perhaps the broccoli. The sauce? Only is she didn’t know that a pepper was in it...I was setting myself for a fall. On top of it all she decided to help me cook. Oh no! I couldn't just hide the pepper in the sauce! She did watch with great interest the red pepper’s skin getting blacker and blacker on the flame. She helped me make the sauce. She helped me pour it onto the veggies and sprinkle pine nuts on top of the bake. And to my surprise she ate cauliflower and scraped the rest of the pepper sauce out of the dish. Success!!!

broccolicauliflower-bake

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

Serves 4

ingredients
1 red pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 medium cauliflower
150g (5 oz) of silken tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
125ml (1/2 cup) water
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs pine nuts

method
  1. Roast the pepper. You can do it directly over the flame (I use a large metal skewer to make it easier to hold the pepper) or roasted under a grill (broiler) or simply in the oven until the skin is blackened and blistered. Make sure you prick the pepper with a skewer or a tip of the knife to prevent it exploding.
  2. When the skin on the pepper is blistered place it in a bowl and cover with cling film, this will create steam making it easier to peel the pepper. Remove the seeds.
  3. Next steam the cauliflower and broccoli. I prefer to do them separately since the cauliflower takes longer to cook. Aim for about 6 min for cauliflower, 4 min for broccoli.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking place the peeled and deseeded roasted red pepper, tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast into a blender and process till smooth. Add more water if too thick, you want sauce that is little bit thinner than the classic bechamel sauce.
  5. Place the broccoli and cauliflower into a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for 30min or until golden brown on top. Serve.

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TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

In an ideal world I would have a large garden, preferably a forrest garden, full of delicious fruits and veggies waiting to be picked and turned into delicious dishes. The reality is different. My garden is a postage stamp size and my dog’s second name could be “the destroyer”. Unfortunately I have a list of plants that have succumbed to his digging, chewing or just simple stomping upon...(he is rather large). There was a blueberry bush, golden currant bush, strawberry plants, raspberry canes.... At least the red currant, Audrey Hepburn rose and my plum tree have survived his advances so far. My poor rosemary plant had a close call the other day...

Last Sunday morning I woke up before the predicted torrential rains started. Armed with a plastic bowl and a dining room chair I embarked on my plum harvest. I do hope my neighbours were still asleep and didn’t see me in my pyjamas balancing on the chair with a bowl in one hand... It must have been a sight. But I managed to pick all the plums before the rain and wind...

Even though plums are delicious on their own but I though I should try making them into a chinese spiced plum sauce free of the usual MSG and additives. The sauce went really well with grilled tofu skewers. Use any purple plums you can get your hands on. With plums being in season at the moment I am sure local farm shops and markets will be selling them cheap.

plums

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

Serves 4, sauce yield -2 cups



ingredients
the plum sauce:
440g/1 lb plums
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp chinese spice
2 Tbs coconut palm sugar
1 Mejdol date, chopped
2 Tbs rice vinegar
160ml (2/3c) water
pinch salt
2 tsp tamari or other soya sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)

tofu skewers
500g (1lb 2 oz)
1 red pepper
4 small onions
half a pineapple

plum-sauce

method
  1. If using bamboo skewers, soak them first for at least 20min.
  2. To make the sauce put all the ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 min.
  4. Place the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth (take care when blending hot liquids - it could end up on the ceiling, I start with the lowest speed to prevent redecorating the kitchen)
  5. While the sauce is cooking, remove the tofu from its packaging and dry on some paper towels.
  6. Cut into large cubes. I had 24 pieces - 3 per skewer.
  7. Cut the pepper into large pieces. Quarter the onions. Cut off the pineapple skin and the core. Cut the pineapple into bite sized pieces.
  8. Thread the tofu, pepper, onion and pineapple onto skewers.
  9. Preheat the grill (broiler) and place the skewers under. Grill for about 5 min each side, or until the tofu, veggies and fruit start to caramelise.
  10. Serve with the sauce and some rice or noodles on the side.

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BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

The Huffington Post recently asked readers to vote for the best health book out of 50 chosen titles. I was jumping with joy when I found The China Study by T.Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell occupying the number one spot.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/09/best-health-books-huff-po_n_1862250.html

http://www.thechinastudy.com/


Reading The China Study was indeed a turning point for me. Go back 2 years: I am watching a Man V Food episode with my kids. (They both find it rather entertaining with my daughter shouting GO ADAM GO whenever Adam Richman is battling just another heap of meat, cheese, grease and white flour. ) My son casually says that he would like to eat meat. Shock horror!!! My kids have been vegetarians from birth. To be honest I always expected this question to pop up but I hoped it would not. Especially since I always maintain that should my kids decide to eat meat I would allowed them to do it. Not without a bit of education first.

That evening I stormed the internet and searched for “the healthiest diet”. I am not sure what I was expecting to find. As if by magic the first thing that popped up was The China Study. Not long after reading the article two copies of the book were in my Amazon basket (my friend’s birthday was coming up). I read it immediately and never looked back. Indeed my vegetarianism was confirmed and more. The dairy had to go too.

Professor Campbell is, along with other plant based diet promoters, often accused of “vegan agenda” by his critics. The diet he promotes is however a result of decades of sound research. His (and other researches') findings lead him to the conclusion that diet without animal proteins is the best way to prevent chronic disease.

My son is old enough to understand charts from this book and together with few You Tube videos this was convincing enough for him to vow never to eat meat and reduce dairy (not 100% but he is doing great). My daughter still likes cooking shows but anytime she sees meat being cooked she utters “poor chicken, cow, fish....” They may still change their minds one day but we are safe for now.

My recipe stems from one that used to be my kids favourite, baked mac and cheese. I have posted a recipe “mac and whizz” before , these two recipes are similar, with mac and whizz being the speedier version. Baked mac and (no) cheese has tofu added to the sauce which makes it more suitable for baking. It souffles and browns nicely. I also added some crunchy topping to make it extra special.

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE
This recipe serves a crowd, so please feel free to halve everything (but the butternut squash). I am always happy to serve it twice, just with different veggies on the side. Makes a great potluck dish too.

bakedmacandcheese

Serves 8

ingredients
500g (1lb 6oz) whole wheat macaroni
sauce
1 cup of cashew nuts
3 water
250 g tofu (preferably silken)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and steamed till soft (or roasted)
2 tsp onion powder
3/4tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white or yellow miso
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped Tbs nutritional yeast
squeeze of lemon to taste
crumb topping
60ml (1/4cup) pine nuts
2 tbs nutritional yeast
3 Tbs bread crumbs

bakedmacandcheese2

method
  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions.
  2. In a food processor combine all the sauce ingredients and process till you get a smooth thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Mix the pasta and sauce and pour into a large baking dish.
  4. Next place the pine nuts into a food processor and pulse until you get bread crumb texture.
  5. Mix with the nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for about 30-40min or until the top is golden brown.

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VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

Vietnamese cuisine is not something I am very familiar with, actually I think the only Vietnamese food I have ever had was a starter of rice paper rolls in a pan Asian restaurant. When I was growing up, a group of young Vietnamese people came to my home town for a work experience. My Dad (who at that time worked for the same company) found himself in the dorms where the group was staying. He came home telling us about one of the lads who showed him how to make rice noodles. This was rather exciting, as I have never heard of rice noodles before. Those times (we are talking around 25 years ago) there were no Asian ingredients in the small Czech town where I grew up, so making your own rice noodles must have been a much appreciated skill.

The other day I was looking through one of my cookbooks and found a Vietnamese chicken curry. I though I would give it a go (minus the chicken of course). I didn’t settle for following the recipe, I did more researching and concocting until I came up with my version. Next time I may even try making my own Vietnamese curry powder.

There is a similarity with other Asian curries; like many Indian curries the Vietnamese version is based on dry spices. The addition of lemon grass is characteristic for Thai cooking and so is the use of Thai basil. The curry is thinner than the Indian version which makes it perfect to accommodate rice noodles; this is rather reminiscent of a Malaysian laksa. Using potatoes is definitely the result of French influences. The French introduced many ingredients to Vietnam such as coffee, tarragon and even baguettes. What an amazing melting pot!

vietnamesestylecurry

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY
I must admit I used regular basil because I didn’t get around to going to an Asian shop to buy Thai (Holly) basil. It still tasted great. I used extra turmeric to enhance the colour of the curry as my curry powder didn’t have quite enough and the curry was looking a bit insipid. The extra teaspoon made a lot of difference, we eat with our eyes after all :)

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed oil (or 2 Tbs of water)
8 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 stalks of lemon grass, tough leaves removed, finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 Tbs mild curry powder (or Vietnamese curry powder)
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 tin of coconut milk ( I used light)
250g (about 1/2lb) green beans, topped and tailed, cut into halves
250g tofu ( I used firm), cut into bite size dice
I pack of rice noodles ( I used thick noodles)
Thai basil and red chillies for decoration

method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil and add the shallots and lemon grass, cook on gentle heat until softened. Add the garlic and chillies and cooke further minute to soften.
  2. Next add the curry powder and stir around for about 30seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  3. Add the potatoes and stir around just to coat with spices.
  4. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and cook for 10min.
  5. Next add the green beans and cook for another 10 min or until potatoes and beans are tender.
  6. While the curry is cooking soak your rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
  7. Just before serving add the tofu and noodles to the curry and heat through.
  8. Serve topped with basil and extra thinly sliced chillies.

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MISO TOFU KEBABS WITH LEMONY QUINOA

MISO TOFU KEBABS WITH LEMONY QUINOA

It’s 4th of July and everybody in the US is celebrating. No doubt barbecues and fireworks displays will be fired up. This got me inspired, I had 2 blocks of tofu in my fridge and some kebab skewers in a drawer. Tofu kebabs is the obvious way to marry these two.

Tofu and a kebab skewer don’t not always make a very successful combination. You see them looking perfect in a magazine, buy a block of tofu, cut it up into large dice and try to impale these on a bamboo skewer. And than disaster strikes, the tofu falls apart and you are left with a mess and have to make a stir-fry instead. I have been there before. My solution has been to bake or grill the cubes of tofu without putting them on a skewer.

Now, however, my kebab luck has finally changed. I found the perfect tofu that is easy to put on the bamboo skewers. While grilling them I turn the kebabs over couple of times and they stayed intact. How exciting!!! My superb very extra firm (and organic) tofu comes from my veg box supplier (Riverford). It is made by Dragonfly. I am sure me and Dragonfly tofu will become firm (forgive the pun) friends for years to come.


tofu

MISO TOFU KEBABS WITH LEMONY QUINOA

I paired my kebabs with quinoa but rice, couscous even Asian noodle salad would be great. Baked sweet potato chips would work very well too. Or just a nice crisp salad. Next time I would thread some vegetables between the tofu cubes, small mushrooms, pepper, shallots, cherry tomatoes would all work really well. Pieces of pineapple would be great too.

If using bamboo skewers do soak them in water to prevent burning.

The quinoa was asking for a herb to be added to it but I thought it would overpower the kebabs.

Serves 3-4

ingredients

tofu kebabs
500g (1lb and 2oz) of very firm tofu (I used 2 packs of dragonfly organic tofu)

marinade:
3 Tbs brown rice miso
3 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs tamari
1 Tbs agave syrup (or another sweetener or just omit)
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar

lemony quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa
1 tsp olive oil
1 courgette, cut into 1cm dice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 spring onions, cut into half cm slices
1/2 cup of peas, I used frozen
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
tofukebabs


method
  1. Cut the tofu into large cubes, I got 12 from each block of tofu, 24 in total.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, mix well.
  3. Place 1/3 of the marinade on the bottom of a dish (I used a baking dish) that will hold all tofu pieces in one layer. Place the tofu pieces on top, pour rest of the marinade over. Cover the dish and let marinate in the fridge for an hour ( or longer).
  4. When ready to cook, thread the tofu on skewers. I used 6 skewers with 4 cubes each for 3 diners, if serving 4 use 8 skewers with 3 pieces of tofu each. (You can thread some veggies between the tofu pieces) Place the kebabs on a baking sheet lined with alluminum foil ready to be placed under the grill (broiler). Pour any remaining marinade over the kebabs.
  5. Cook your quinoa: rinse quinoa under running water, place in a sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 min, drain.
  6. Half way through the cooking time place the kebabs under your grill and cook 3 min, turn over cook another 3 min, turn over again and give it 2 more minutes. The tofu pieces should start to caramelise on around the edges.
  7. While the quinoa and kebabs are cooking prepare your vegetables.
  8. Heat 1 tsp of olive or rapeseed (canola) oil in a frying pan. Add the courgettes and cook until they start to caramelise.
  9. Add the onion and garlic, for a minute.
  10. Add the peas and cook for a further minute until just heated through.
  11. Tip the quinoa into the vegetables and mix through. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice (to taste).
  12. Serve.
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MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE

MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE

When you are constantly trying to come up with new recipes things can get a bit heated in the dining room. I am talking about feeding kids. They can be tricky customers. And sound creatures of habit, they like to eat what is familiar. Mum’s experiments can get rather a cold reception. Sometimes they just look at a dish in front of them and say YUCK. I just keep trying and it seems to be paying off at times.

Only last week my daughter ate (not happily but ate) a portion of miso dressed kale. Normally she only likes kale chips. After years of trying to persuade her she finally started to eat avocado this week, she will only eat it with raspberry or strawberry vinegar but it is going down. She is particular about her carrots they have to be raw not “wet”(meaning cooked). Pineapple she consumes in huge amounts provided it has been made into a smoothie. Even cherries and apricots get a seal of
approvement but only if “smoothified”... Peppers disappear into tomato soup and butternut squash into my mac and (no) cheese. It does take a lot of concocting but there is always a way.

Last night I was expecting the “Yuck I am not eating that” at dinner time. And yes those were the first words she uttered when she spotted the casserole dish. Honestly all she could see was the tomato sauce on top! I served her up one stripy wedge anyway. After tasting it she smiled and said: “Yummy! This is one of the best things you have ever made!” My son gave it 10/10. Two super endorsements! I thought this could be a kids pleaser but never imagined it would be this successful. Even the spinach layers disappeared!



image1


MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE
I used shop bought refried beans. You could make your own but it is a weekday and I know kids adore the taste.

As my kids are not keen on too spicy so I made half of the casserole with added jalapenos and half without. I marked one side of the casserole dish so I didn’t make a mistake of mixing it up, the dish will turn when you layering it. Imagine the look on their faces if they bit into a jalapeno!!!

ingredients
tomato sauce
1 Tbs olive oil or 60ml (1/4cup) water
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tins of tomatoes

spinach tofu layer
220 g (1/2lb) frozen spinach, deforested (or use lb of fresh)
250g (1lb 1oz) tofu
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp dried garlic
2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
salt and pepper to taste

jalapeno peppers
8 soft corn tortillas
1 tin of refried beans
vegan melting cheese on top (optional)

method
  1. First make the sauce. In a sauce pan heat the oil (or water) and saute the onion till soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the spices, cook about 30 seconds.
  4. Next add the tomatoes, season, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30minutes.
  5. Next make the spinach layer.
  6. Put spinach, tofu, nutritional yeast flakes, dried onion and garlic, salt and pepper into a food processor. Process till quite smooth (it will resemble ricotta cheese).
  7. Now layer the casserole. Make sure that you use a deep round casserole dish that will fit the tortillas snuggly. First put some tomato sauce on the bottom. Layer: tortilla, 1/3 refried beans, tortilla, 1/2 spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce topped with jalapenos, tortilla, refried beans, tortilla, spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos, tortilla, beans, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos. Top with vegan cheese if desired (I like it with or without)
  8. Bake at 180C. Bake it covered for the first 20min and than uncovered for 15min.
  9. Let sit for 10min before serving, you will get better layers. Serve with a crisp salad and some avocados (or guacamole).

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THAI FLAVOURED PUMPKIN SOUP

THAI FLAVOURED PUMPKIN SOUP

What a way to treat the rest of my sweet mama squash! The sweet roasted flesh made into a soup with thai flavours, sweet cashew nut milk, zingy lime. Utterly indulgent.

I could tell my husband looked rather suspiciously at the thickened soup I kept for his dinner. Why does cashew milk thicken everything like that??? After adding some water and reheating it he changed his mind very quickly. He said that the soup transported him back to our honeymoon in Jamaica where he ordered their curried pumpkin soup quite a few times. (Now this wasn’t my intention otherwise I would have made it for Valentine’s day!!!). Can of Red Stripe in his hand and he was in the Blue Mountains all over again. He only had one complaint, there wasn’t any left.... Next time I am making at least double the portion.

So please do make this soup. It is so simple, quick (after you have dealt with the squash) and really delicious. I know what I will be doing with the other sweet mama squash sitting in my vegetable box...

THAI FLAVOURED PUMPKIN SOUP
Any rich flavoured squash or pumpkin will work well in this recipe, even orange sweet potatoes (yams). Some of the squash gets pureed into the soup, some stays in pieces for texture.
I used cashew milk, quickly whizzed up from half a cup of cashews and a cup of water. Or use coconut milk.
This soup is thick enough to be served with some Jasmine rice for even more satisfying meal. I have added tofu pieces for extra protein.
If doubling the recipe I would double everything but the cashew milk.

Makes enough for 2 (big main dish bowls)

thaisweetmama

ingredients
about 500g (1lb2oz) roasted sweet mama squash
500ml (2cups) water (or l
ight vegetable stock)
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste (or 2 depending on the strength of your curry paste)
1 stalk of lemon grass (optional), bruised with back of knife
1 cup cashew nut milk
100g (3.5oz) silken tofu cubed (optional)
lime juice
fresh coriander

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the squash flesh with the water, curry paste and the lemon grass stalk.
  2. Bring to a boil, cook on gentle heat for about 5 min, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the cashew nut milk a heat.
  4. Add the cubes of tofu and just heat through. If too thick add more water.
  5. Fish out the lemon grass stick and discard. Add lemon juice to taste, chopped coriander and serve.
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TOFU AND BROCCOLI NOODLES


Those were my daughter’s exact words as she proceeded to jump up and down with excitement asking me for a slice of plain tofu. No, I am not bragging about my daughter being a superior healthy food loving child. She is definitely not but tofu (or as she use to call it TOFOOD) is definitely one of her favourites. Paired with noodles, two happy kids in the house, without too much effort.

Like Nigella I get rather excited about finding new ingredients in food shops of any kind, sometimes gems can be found during a regular shop to a supermarket, but I do love to visit ethic shops, health food shops, delis and markets. One of my latest finds (in a supermarket) was a bottle of vegetarian oyster sauce. Perfect for tonight’s dinner.

tofu-noodles

TOFU AND BROCCOLI NOODLES

My kids are chilli phobic, my husband not overly keen, so there is no chilli in this recipe but if I was making this for myself I would add some chilli to the ginger +garlic step. At least there is the option of adding some chilli sauce at the table...

I have used whole wheat eggless noodles but any other noodles will be great. There are so many fab noodles on the market, brown rice, buckwheat, green tea.... the possibilities are endless.

Serves 4

ingredients
for the tofu
1 package of firm tofu
1 Tbs each ketjap manis (or dark soya sauce), light soya sauce, agave syrup, ketchup
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 large head of broccoli, separated into florets, cut in half lengthways if too large
200 g whole wheat eggless Chinese style noodles
1/2Tbs rapeseed (canola) oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs ginger, finely chopped
5 spring onions, white parts thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
5 Tbs veggie oyster sauce
2 Tbs light soya sauce
1/2 cup cashews, dry roasted

method
  1. Preheat oven to 190 C. Cut the tofu into bite size pieces. In a bowl combine the soya sauces, ketchup, agave and sesame oil.
  2. Line a roasting sheet with baking paper, place the tofu on it in a single layer, and bake for about 20 min or until the tofu starts to caramelise on the edges.
  3. Steam broccoli for 3-4 min to crisp tender. Set aside.
  4. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok, add spring onions, ginger and garlic. Stir fry for a minute. Add the red bell pepper, stir fry for a minute.
  6. Add the broccoli, tofu and noodles. Next put in the sauces, heat through. If the noodles seem too dry add few tablespoons of water.
  7. Scatter with cashew nuts and serve.
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