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.

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.

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.

Chipotle Mushroom Sauce

Chipotle Mushrooms

Spicy, smokey, and delicious!

We’ve just got back from a 5 day jaunt to Mexico where we ate fruit and vegetables almost exclusively because most other dishes contained contraband. Although I did have a couple of occasions where I was craving carbs (for some reason, there wasn’t a tortilla chip in sight), I came back home with a slew of ideas for dishes to add to our repertoire, and I didn’t put on any weight!!!!!

The only non-main-stream ingredient here is Chipotle in Adobo Sauce, which is available in standard food stores in California and here in Washington, and I’m guessing it’s available pretty much everywhere in the States, but I’m not so sure about other places in the world. A quick Google search shows that amazon.co.uk sells it, so if you’re in England, you can get hold of it. You’ll probably want to freeze the chipotles that you don’t use here in a freezer bag or box, as you won’t be using a whole tin of the things in this dish.

This recipe is moderately hot by my standards. If you’re not into hot foods, reduce the amount of chipotle to 1 or 2 tsps and check before adding any more. I’ve eaten it scooped up on tortilla chips, and as a sauce with rice, but I think it could also be included as a side for any Mexican meal, or as a relish on a veggie burger.

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side dish/relish

1 tsp margarine/oil
1/2 large (~6 oz) onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1 large/3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce
8 fl oz (1 cup) tinned tomatoes

Heat the fat in a saucepan, and cook the onions for 5 minutes over a medium heat.
Wash and slice the mushrooms, and add them to the onion along with the salt, and continue cooking on a medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely soft.
Once the veggies are soft, add the garlic, and allow to warm through for a minute or two.
Put the chipotle in adobo sauce in the blender with the tomatoes, and briefly blend to get a chunky sauce.
Add the tomatoes to the mushrooms, and simmer for 5 minutes until the flavors have developed.

Vegan Bean and Vegetable Chili

vegetarian-chiliI don’t use meat substitutes much. The vast majority of the meat substitutes that I’ve seen include gluten for texture, stretch and bulk. We recently happened upon some gluten free, tinned vegan chili which my husband loves for chili cheese fries, but it doesn’t have anywhere near enough vegetables in it for my liking. Yes, I know! Chili cheese fries is an indulgence, not a health food ….. but here we can leave the indulgence for the potatoes, and the chili can be loaded with veggies and fiber, and just look and taste the part.

I also know that Textured Soy/Vegetable Protein has a bad name. Somewhere in the dim and distant past I read about it containing chemicals that you don’t really want to be eating, so we haven’t had it. Upon a more recent review, however, I found that the chemicals are indeed used in the standard version of TVP (apparently removed before it’s sold …. uh huh), but the organic stuff doesn’t even get a whiff of those chemicals in the first place. Yes, it is more expensive, but if it means I’m happy we can eat it and I can widen the variety of food stuffs that I can eat, and I have yet another way to present veggies to my kids, then that’s the price I pay.

Serves 6-8

1 cup organic TVP/TSP
1 tbsp mushroom powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp oil/margarine
1/4 of a large onion (1/2 cup), diced
1 lb mixed vegetables cut into <1″chunks (e.g. pepper strips, mushroom chunks, courgette/zucchini slices – quartered, tiny broccoli/cauliflower florets)
1 fresh jalapeños, finely minced or 1 tsp chili flakes
1 large clove garlic
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp lemon juice
~14 oz diced tinned tomato in juice (this won’t look enough to start off with)
2 tbsp tomato paste OR minced sun-dried tomatoes
8 – 16 oz cooked, drained, pinto or black beans

Put the TVP, mushroom powder, and salt in a bowl, and stir in 1 cup of boiling water, and leave it to soak.

In a large pan, heat the fat and fry the onion and any hard vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower) for 5-10 minutes.

Once the onions have softened, add the garlic, and spices to them, and heat through for a few seconds, then add the remaining vegetables (except tomatoes) and cook for another 5-10 minutes until they too have started to soften.

Add the TVP, lemon juice, tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the juice has thickened and the TVP has browned slightly.

Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve in flat breads, with rice, crusty bread, jacket/baked potatoes, or (of course), chunky cut potato fries/chips and a sprinkling of vegan cheese.

Black Bean Enchiladas with Spiced Cashew Sauce

black-bean-enchiladasThis enchilada pie is remarkably similar to a lasagna … just with more hot peppers, and corn tortillas instead of lasagna. The magic is in the spicy, creamy, cashew sauce which tops the pie. It makes a wonderful entree for a family or close friends’ dinner party, along with rice, salad, salsa and tortilla chips, and maybe vegetable fajitas and margaritas. You can ring the changes by substituting refried beans for the black bean chili.

Serves 5-6

1 batch of Black Bean Chili
2 batches of Ranchero Sauce
6 oz (1 1/2 cups) raw cashews
1 1/2 tbsp light colored chickpea or millet miso
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed, dried chili pepper (or to taste)
pinch of nutmeg
10-12 six inch corn tortillas

Make the Black Bean Chili.

Make the Ranchero Sauce, and blend until roughly smooth.

Put cashews, miso, lemon juice, salt, chili pepper, nutmeg, and 16 fl oz (2 cups) of water into a blender, and blend until completely smooth.

Transfer the cashew sauce to a saucepan, and heat until thick and bubbling, stirring frequently.

Cover the bottom of a lasagna pan (~12″ x 8″) with 1/2 of the ranchero sauce.

Take one of the corn tortillas and place about 1/4 cup of black bean chili in a stripe down the middle, then roll the tortilla around the filling and place (seam side down) in the lasagna pan. Repeat with the other tortillas.

Spoon the remaining Ranchero Sauce over the enchiladas, followed by the cashew sauce. Cover lightly with parchment paper or tin foil, and bake at 200C (400F) for 50 minutes, or until heated through.

Banana Quick Bread

I had some bananas going begging, this week, which just demanded a recipe for banana bread. Daughter #2 was particularly fond of this loaf. It has a distinct banana flavor, and is moist and vaguely sweet, with more densely sweet pockets provided by the dried fruit. It slices well, and it’s also extremely easy to make!

Banana bread4 oz brown sugar
2 oz margarine
4 medium sized eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
10 oz blanched almond flour
5 oz tapioca flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large very ripe bananas
1 cup raisins or walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a food processor, beat together the sugar and margarine.

Add the eggs one at a time, and process until combined.

Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients (except for the bananas and raisins) over the egg mixture, and beat together until combined.

Cut the bananas by hand into 1″ lengths into the processor, add the raisins, and process for about 5 seconds (or by hand) to combine.

Turn the mixture into a loaf pan greased or lined with baking parchment.

Cook for 55 minutes at 350F on the middle shelf, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool before eating.

Variation: Instead of baking in a loaf pan, smooth the batter into a silicone flan pan (same cooking time), and when the cake has cooled, fill it with bananas and custard made with 2-3 bananas.

Cooked flan case

GF Banana Bread flan case

GF Banana Bread flan case topped with bananas and custard.

GF Banana Bread flan case topped with bananas and custard.