Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ingredient of the Month 1: Dried Beancurd Sticks

Introducing my new series: "Ingredient of the month", which from next month I will post during the first week of each month- promise! I'll feature any ingredient which can be offered to Krishna, and give its nutritional profile, ideas for cooking with it, and other facts.

This month it's dried beancurd sticks (Fu Zhu), which we sometimes pick up from one of the Chinese Supermarkets in town. Last Saturday, determined to get even with my husband for the lovely vegan pasta bake* he had made me the night before (competitive? moi?), I was intending to get some fresh tofu for the stirfry to end all stirfries, but they were sold out so I went straight for this old favourite...

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 170g
Amount per Serving
Calories 85
Calories from Fat 61.2
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6.8g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 8.5g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 6.8g

Est. Percent of Calories from:

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calories needs.
Read more:

Beancurd sticks are about 22% protein, compared to firm tofu at 10%, but when rehydrated they are probably less. A more useful comparison might be to cooked dried chickpeas at 23% or peanuts at 23.7%. They are also rich in calcium and iron.

Origins: As you may well guess, beancurd sticks feature in Chinese and far Eastern cookery. They are not actually dried tofu but are made by skimming off the skin that forms on boiling soya milk and drying it. The sticks (as opposed to sheets- yuba-  which can be rehydrated and used to make vegetable parcels/ dim sum or "tofu chicken") are often used as a meat substitute in broths.

Suggestions: The kids have fond memories of the camping trips we used to go on in France and Spain. As they are light to carry, non-perishable and easy to cook, we would often take beancurd sticks along. I remember in particular one overnight stop we made on a country roadside just south of Orleans. Although tired from the journey, as we emerged from the van to stretch our legs the sunset was catching the avenue of poplar trees and I felt like we had walked straight into a Van Gogh painting! Cooked on a camping stove with some home-grown potatoes and courgettes, herbs and seasonings and a tin of tomatoes, those beancurd sticks made a memorable meal. They're great for one-pot wonders! Last Saturday's stir fry was good too- with assorted veg and noodles and lashings of soy sauce and garlic-free five-spice- it did look disturbingly like chicken though. Midweek I added the last of the sticks to some mixed vegetables and spinach sweated with rogan josh seasoning (powder, not paste- and do check the ingredients of ready-prepared masalas for onion and garlic) served up with plain basmati rice. This is super quick and easy, as long as you soak the beancurd sticks while you are preparing the vegetables so that they are already soft when you add them to the pan. This applies to the stir-fry too. Or how about some veg and noodle broth, perhaps based on miso, with broken-up beancurd sticks in it? I haven't made that one yet, but I'll post it when I do... my "Ingredient of the month" is already giving me some fresh ideas- hope it works for you too!

* See post 6.10.11

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Guest recipe from Nandasuta Dasa: Vegan creamy pasta bake

Last night (Friday) I arrived home from work exhausted to find that my dear husband had already made dinner- and some yummy flapjacks into the bargain! Not only did this give me a welcome rest, but the dish he created for me was so delicious that I thought I'd give him a guest spot here to share it with the rest of the world.
It's a vegan version of his classic pasta bake, which usually involves a cheese sauce and a thick crunchy topping, much beloved by our teenagers. He made the cheesy bake for the kids and the vegan version for me. (He ate both...)

Wholemeal pasta  (100g dry weight)
equal amounts carrot, runner beans, peas
400ml soya milk
50g/ 2 tabs tahini

  • Cook the pasta and vegetables, drain, and put into an ovenproof dish.
  • Mix the soya milk and tahini with the pasta and veg and season with salt to taste.
  •  Top with 50g hemp flour, oats, cherry tomatoes, paprika, mixed herbs
  • Bake at190C for 30 mins/ until golden brown on top

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Layered Harvest Vegetable Pie (vegan)

I remembered this delicious and attractive pie as an item from the menu of a vegetarian cafe I once worked in, and decided to celebrate our continuing allotment harvest of wonderful organic vegetables by making my own version, substituting the Sosmix, Branston, mushrooms and leeks.

 Serve it warm or cold with some crispy fresh green salad and you have a complete meal which looks good enough to serve to guests. There is nothing difficult about preparing and assembling it but it would be quite time-consuming to make it all at the same time, so I made the pastry, chutney and dal layer in advance- or you could also use Sosmix instead of the dal mixture for the bottom layer. (The pastry is a little easier to handle if you leave it to chill in the fridge for a while.) Although this recipe is vegan, you could, if you want, add a top layer of mature Cheddar cheese on top of the chutney layer.  If you use the pastry and filling recipe from my post "Vegan "Sausage" rolls" (13.4.11) then you will have enough left over to make 5 or 6 of the rolls which you can bake as well as the pie. If you don't want to do that, then halve the quantities or follow the slightly different recipe below. This pie easily serves 6-8 people

Crust: Wholemeal pastry made with 350g organic wholemeal flour, 125ml organic cold-pressed sunflower oil, 50ml water, 1/2 tsp seasalt and more water to mix. You will also need a handful of organic sunflower seeds to scatter over the lid of the pie.
"Sausage" filling: 
150g (dry weight) chana dal
100g dry weight quinoa/ bulgar wheat
2 tsps hing
2 tsps seasalt
1 tab yeast extract/ nutritional yeast
mixed herbs/ rosemary, sage and thyme to taste (I used a generous handful of fresh herbs from my garden)
paprika and black pepper to taste
600g chopped stoned organic plums or 500g diced apples with 100g damson puree from the garden (see my post "Plum Chutneys and Jams", 18.9.11 for how to make the damson puree)
50g peeled and grated fresh ginger
200g gour/ brown sugar
4 tabs rice bran oil
2 tabs ume plum seasoning
a small cinnamon stick, halved
1 tsp seasalt
turmeric and hing to taste
Make the chutney by combining all the ingredients in a pan, simmering until it's starting to cook and then boiling until setting point is reached. Remember to remove the cinnamon before use. You will have about 1/2 a jar left over after using in the pie.
Orange/ red: 2 large tomatoes, sliced, and1 1/2 cups (250ml) grated organic pumpkin/ carrot/ sweet potato
Green: cooked organic runner beans or an organic courgette, thinly sliced (you could grill it first  for extra    flavour)
Yellow: 1-1 1/2 cups sweetcorn

To assemble and bake:
  •  First, boil the dal and quinoa/ TVP whilst cooking the chutney and making the pastry
  • Add the seasonings to the dal mixture and set aside
  • Oil a 10" round loose-bottomed springform  cake tin  (it should be quite deep, so that you can fit all the layers in) and roll out the pastry to line the bottom and sides, reserving enough for the lid
  • Spread a 2cm-thick layer of the "sausage" mixture in the bottom
  • Cover with a layer of sliced tomatoes, then the grated orange vegetables
  • Cover the orange layer with the courgettes/ runner beans
  • Cover the green layer with sweetcorn
  • Spread chutney care fully over the top.The layers should have filled the cake tin to the top by now.
  • Roll out and put on the pastry lid, seal with water and pinch round the edge. Cut a small cross in the centre and decorate with pastry leaves. Brush with salted water and scatter the organic sunflower seeds over the top.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 200C (or 225C if it's not a fan oven) for about half an hour- the top should be brown and the vegetables inside tender.
  • Unclip and remove the side of the tin, cut carefully and serve with salad or steamed vegetables. (Don't worry if the first slice reveals some juice; you can mop it up and there won't be any more after that slice.)