Tofu Lettuce Wraps

I got the idea for this appetizer from P.F. Chang’s restaurant. Unfortunately, their version is not gluten free, so I haven’t had it for years. My version is ridiculously easy to make. When I first made it, I used 3 tbsp of gluten free soy sauce, which was verging on too salty, even for me …. but if you like salt, and want that flavor kick, then 3 tbsps works well; these can also be added to salads to provide salty, tangy highlights, if you do that.

… and if you’re interested, this total recipe works out at 360kcals plus that needed for lettuce (or peppers etc.) that’s used for scooping.

Grlled tofu

Serves 3 as an appetizer

1 (~14 oz) packet of firm tofu, drained
2 tbsp Braggs Aminos (or other gluten free soy sauce)
1 tbsp Hoisin Sauce (check for gluten first)
1/8 tsp ground ginger
cooking spray or oil for the pan
1 iceberg/cos/romaine lettuce

Slice the tofu into 1/4″ thick cubes.

Pour the Braggs into a large bowl, stir in the hoisin sauce and ginger, and then add the cubed tofu. Stir to coat. You can check the seasoning at this point.

Pre-heat the broiler/grill (not the BBQ variety).

Spray a baking sheet with the cooking spray (or smear with the oil) and tip the tofu out onto it, spread so that the layer is only one cube deep.

Put the tofu ~5″ under the grill/broiler and cook until browned and chewy, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and encourage even browning. (~10-15 mins)

Serve in a bowl with an iceberg or romaine/cos lettuce on the side. Eat by spooning a small amount of the tofu into an individual lettuce leaf, and eat as finger food.

Advertisements

Saag Tofu (Spinach and Tofu Curry)

This curry is for spinach lovers, and is utterly delicious. It started out as my version of Saag Paneer (which I’ve never tasted as I can’t eat the Paneer cheese) … so this isn’t a vegan Saag Paneer … it’s a dish in its own right. It’s mildly hot, with sweet undertones from the fried onion and tomato in the curry base sauce.

Saag Tofu

Serves 4 with accompaniments

1 (14 oz) pkt of firm tofu
1 lb frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
3/4 tsp salt for the spinach
1 tbsp coconut oil/Earth Balance margarine
1/4 large (3-4 oz) onion, finely diced

1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp chili powder, or to taste

3/4 tsp salt for the tofu

1 1/2 cups curry base sauce
1/8 cup raw cashews

Drain the tofu and cut into 1/2″ cuboids.

 

DSC_0004Lay a clean cloth kitchen towel on the work-surface, and line it with kitchen paper. Arrange the tofu on the kitchen paper, cover the tofu with more kitchen paper, then fold the towel over the top to help soak up excess moisture. Leave this for 1/2-3 hours. The tofu will have firmed up and have a drier surface when it’s ready, which makes it less likely to stick in the pan while it’s frying.

Put the spinach in a saucepan along with the salt for the spinach. Heat over high heat to remove excess moisture.

Heat 1/2 the fat in a frying pan over medium high heat; add the tofu, sprinkle over with the salt for the tofu, and cook (turning frequently) until the tofu starts to brown and become crispy on the outside. If it sticks to the pan at all, scrape it off with a thin edged spatula (these bits taste good, too).

Once the tofu has become crispy / chewy, scrape it out into the spinach, melt the remaining fat in the frying pan, and fry the onion over medium heat until completely soft and starting to brown (~15 minutes). Add the nutmeg, garam masala, and chili powder at this point, stir to combine (and allow to warm through), then scrape into the spinach saucepan.

Put the curry base sauce and the cashews into a blender, and blend until smooth. Add this to the spinach, stir and heat, then serve hot with rice or GF chapati.

Chana Masala (Chickpea/Garbanzo Bean Curry)

 

Chana MasalaThis dish is super easy and quick to make once the Curry Base Sauce has been prepared. It’s even better if it’s been allowed to sit for a while and then reheated, as the flavors combine and seep into the beans. It’s mildly hot, and is good for about 4 people when served with rice, or a vegetable side such as my Aubergine Curry. My husband made the suggestion that small chunks of dried apricot would also be a good addition (and it is … we tried it), however, mango chutney on the side is really all that is required … but regardless of whether apricots are added or not, daughter #2 is a happy girl. She loves British Indian Restaurant style curries!

1/2 oz (1/8 cup) raw cashew nuts
2 cups of curry base sauce
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili flakes
2 tsp garam masala
2 cans garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained

Put the cashews, curry base sauce, salt, chili flakes, and garam masala together in a blender, and process until smooth.

Scrape the sauce into a saucepan, and use  4 fl oz (1/4 cup) water to rinse the blender out into the saucepan.

Add the beans, and simmer until hot.

Serve hot with chapati, or basmati rice and mango chutney

Variation: Add ~1/4 cup small chunks of dried apricot to warm up along with the beans.

Curry Base Sauce

I do like curry. The authentic stuff is ok, but the stuff that I love is the British Indian Restaurant kind which can be fabulous! Apparently, restaurants generally rely on a curry base sauce which allows the production of many different curries really quickly as it contains ingredients common to many curries: onion, garlic, ginger, a few basic spices. It’s a base flavor that you tweak when making the actual dish, a bit like a flavored broth/stock. The secret is to have a spice combination that you particularly like … and not to skimp too much on the oil!

Oil: Apart from the taste aspect of the oil, it seems to help in the last section where everything has been blended together and you’re skimming off froth which is sometimes quite bitter. I tried to make an oil free version once, and ended up putting it in the bin!

Onion: I’ve also seen recipes that simply boil the onions to start off with, but once you’ve had your house filled with the smell of boiled onions, you won’t want to do it again. Don’t talk to me about authenticity …. I won’t be boiling any more onions as I’d like my husband to continue living with me.

Salt: Note that my version doesn’t contain any salt. This is not a mistake. Some of the dishes that I’d want to use it in require salt in their preparation (such as salting aubergine/eggplant or mushrooms to draw out their juices), and I’d rather put it in at that stage, than risk putting in too much.

Garlic: Generally, I expect to buy bulbs of garlic and peel the cloves as and when I need them, as they keep better this way.  However, for this dish I find the ready peeled stuff really useful! My store (Trader Joe’s) sells ready peeled garlic in 1 oz packets! So convenient! I don’t even have to weigh them.

Blender: I use the blender 3 times in moderately quick succession in this recipe … and am going to admit that I don’t do anything more than rinse it out into the pot between uses. The flavors are all going to end up in the same dish, anyway.

This recipe makes enough for 2 – 4 family meals, depending on how much the chosen recipe uses. I wouldn’t want to make it in any smaller quantities, though. Check out these recipes that use it (this list will get longer as time goes by): Chana Masala (Chickpea/garbanzo bean Curry), Saag Tofu.

Makes 4-5 cups of curry base (~190kcals/cup).

1 + 3 tbsp coconut oil/Earth Balance/vegetable oil
1 lb (1-1.5 large) onions, skinned and thickly sliced
8 fl oz (1 cup) tinned tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp fennel
1/16 tsp cloves
1 oz (~2″) fresh ginger, peeled
1 oz (just less than 1 bulb) fresh garlic, skinned

Heat 1 tbsp of the fat in a large saucepan; cook the onion gently over a medium heat in the fat for 20 minutes until completely soft and browned, stirring occasionally.

Put the tomato into the blender, and blend until completely smooth.

Gather the dried spices together into a small bowl.

Curry base oil

Note the oil separating out on the right hand side of the pan.

Heat 3 tbsp of the fat in a second saucepan. Add the spices to this second saucepan, and almost immediately add the blended tomato to prevent the turmeric from burning. Cook this mixture for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fat can be seen separating out at the edges of the tomato or as smooth, dark patches on the top.

Put the ginger, and garlic into the blender with 8 fl oz of water, and blend until smooth.

Once the onion has completely softened and browned, pour the ginger and garlic into the onion pot. Rinse the blender out into the onion pot with another 8 fl oz of water. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes with a tight fitting lid (or 5 minutes at pressure in a pressure cooker) until the onion is almost disintegrating.

Put the cooked onion mixture into the blender, and blend until totally smooth.

Simmering curry base sauce. Note the pale colored froth that forms around the smooth sauce in the middle, and needs to be skimmed off.

Simmering curry base sauce. Note the  smooth sauce in the middle of the pale froth that needs to be skimmed off.

Pour the onion mixture into the tomato mixture. Stir once to combine, then simmer over a low heat for a further 20 – 40 minutes without stirring. During this time, skim off any froth that rises to the surface by dragging the edge of a metal spoon lightly over the surface; try to avoid stirring it in. This removes a harsh flavor. You’re not going to get all of it, but you should get as much as your patience can cope with.

Once the simmering has finished, cool the sauce, and store it in the fridge in air-tight containers, using as needed. I use mine up within a week. I’ve seen some recipes that say it’s OK to freeze this, but I also know that garlic changes its flavor quite dramatically in the freezer, so I’d rather use mine fresh.

Gluten Free Chapati

Chapati are Indian flatbreads, essentially wholewheat, Indian counterparts for Mexican tortillas.

They are tasty, slightly chewy, moist, and pliant, and are good for scooping up mouthfuls of curry. They’re also quick and easy to make. If you find they’re too stiff, they’re over cooked and you should raise the cooking temperature a little (so that they get their brown spots before drying out) or shorten the cooking time. I find that as I’m cooking more chapatis, the cast iron pan gets hotter and I have to turn down the heat so I have time to roll out a chapati while the previous one is cooking.

chapati

Quantities to serve 4
1 oz (1/4 cup) teff flour
1 oz (1/4 cup) garfava (or garbanzo bean) flour
2 oz (1/2 cup) tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
4 fl oz (1/2 cup) water

Preheat a griddle or cast iron frying pan on medium high heat (don’t use oil, these shouldn’t be fried).

Stir all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add the oil and water.

Beat all together with a butter knife until a smooth, soft, moist (but not too sticky) dough is formed. Add a little more water or flour as necessary.

Dust the work-surface with a little more of one of the flours. Take enough dough for one chapati (the size of a large egg or 1/4 of the dough), dust a rolling pin with the flour, and roll out the dough into an even, 8″ round.

Put the uncooked chapati onto the heated pan, and cook until small brown spots appear on the bottom (~2 minutes). Turn the chapati over, and cook on the other side for about a minute until it too has small brown spots on it.

Eat immediately, or place between two pieces of kitchen paper until you’re ready to eat, to prevent them drying out.

Almost Instant Vegan Cheese for Pizza

browned-pizza-slice

When the urge for pizza strikes in our household, it’s usually a fair rush to get it cooked and on the table … but that’s really only possible if the cheese, and tomato sauce are already made! The second easiest option for making pizza (after opening a jar of ready made pizza sauce and a packet of store bought cheese), is to have both available as blender foods. This cheese goes well with my instant pizza sauce.

1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chickpea miso (or other light colored miso)

UNLESS you have a high speed blender, soak the cashews in water for about an hour before draining and continuing with the recipe.

Place all ingredients in a blender along with 12 fl oz (1 1/2 cups) water, and blend until completely smooth (~20 seconds).

Scrape the mix into a saucepan, and cook until bubbling, stirring frequently (especially as it starts to thicken) to prevent burning. Initially, the cheese will thicken where it touches the bottom of the pan, and will look a little lumpy, but just keep stirring and that will sort itself out.

Spoon dollops over the pizza as required, and brown the top under a grill/broiler.

Almost Instant Pizza Sauce

DSC_0024

…. and no, my daughter didn’t get the wine!

My daughter and I developed this pizza sauce after she ‘suffered’ a craving for take-out pizza after a particularly frustrating day at school. A little analysis of what it was that made the pizza what she wanted revealed a need for oily, cheesy fare, with a sauce that was pureed rather than chunky, and flavored with a hint of fennel. I’m pretty sure the original had tarragon rather than fennel in it, but since I was out of tarragon, fennel hit the mark … after a bit of time spent adjusting the seasonings, stirring, tasting, and conferring.

This recipe makes enough sauce for pizza to serve about 12 people generously, and is crazy fast to make for those emergency pizza moments. Pair it with pan fried pizza base and some dairy-free cheese.

1/2 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
28 oz tin tomatoes (whole/diced in juice)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fennel powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato puree or similar volume of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1/2 tsp chili flakes, or to taste

Blend all ingredients together until fairly smooth, then use to sauce pizza as required.