Monthly Archives: March 2013

Quick Bites: Tofu Noodles with Sweet Chilli Sauce


This is a bit of a late night, back from the pub snack. It was inspired by a Nigel Slater recipe, so that makes it a bit more respectable! However, I’m not going to give precise measurements to keep in with the unrespectable aspects of this recipe.

Tofu Noodles with Sweet Chilli Sauce photo DSCN0669_zpsbc8302ce.jpg

Sweet chilli sauce
Soy sauce
Spring onion, chopped
Crisp lettuce, shredded
Coriander, chopped

Put the noodles on to boil. While they’re cooking head a little oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the tofu and heat through. Add 2-3 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce and about a tablespoon of soy sauce. When the sauce starts to bubble stir in the spring onion and a handful of the lettuce. Once the noodles have cooked, drain them and put in a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over them and garnish with the chopped coriander.

Serves 1 as a late supper, or snack at any time

Recipe: Teriyaki Tofu with Purple Sprouting Broccoli


I’m a foodie so I should be completely in favour of seasonal food. I am, to a certain extent. I welcome each new arrival, sprouts and the first frost-bitten parsnips in autumn, english strawberries and scottish raspberries in summer, plums in August. And then I get bored with them and want something new. The something new this month is Purple Sprouting Broccoli. It’s thinner and quicker to cook than it’s year-round cousin and it fully deserves to star in its own show.

I’m pairing it here with marinated tofu. Don’t worry about the strong flavours, it can stand up to them far more than its delicate frame would suggest.

teriyaki tofu broccoli salad photo DSCN0661_zps0c988fbf.jpg


Tofu & marinade
200g tofu, cut into 4 long pieces
10g grated ginger
3 tbsp soy sauce

Teriyaki sauce
Marinade plus
1 tbsp soy
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp sugar

Broccoli salad
1 handful purple sprouting broccoli
1 tbsp soy
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 spring onion, sliced

Put the tofu in a bowl and pour over the soy sauce and ginger. Cover, a set aside for at least an hour.

Blanch the broccoli in boiling for 3-5 minutes. You want the stalks to be al dente.
Drain and rinse in cold water to stop it cooking any further.
Mix the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic and sesame oil together and toss with the broccoli.
Let the broccoli absorb the flavour at room temperature for about half an hour.

Drain the tofu from the marinade and put into a hot frying pan with a little oil.
When the tofu is browned on all sides, turn the heat down.
Add the marinade plus the extra soy, garlic, rice wine and sugar.
Heat and stir around the tofu, until the sauce is reduced and sticky.

Serve the tofu beside the broccoli salad with the teriyaki sauce spooned over.
Sprinkle the sliced spring onion over as a garnish.

Serves 1 as a lunch dish

Book Review: My Life in France by Julia Child


Early in the morning of Wednesday, November 3, 1948, the newest member of the American Embassy in Paris stepped off the SS America with his wife. They drove through the French countryside, stopping at Rouen for a lunch of oysters, sole meuniere, salade verte and baguette with fromage blanc for dessert. For Paul Childs, it was a return to a country he loved, to Julia Childs it was a meal that would change her life.

This was the start of Julia Child’s career as a food writer and TV cook. I’ve heard her compared to Fanny Cradock and, while they were contemporaries, I think Julia’s reputation rests more on her ‘Mastering The Art of French Cooking’ which places her firmly in Elizabeth David territory. Like David, Child introduced authentic French cooking to an unknowing public.

This book tells the tale of how that work came to be. Child arrives in a France starting to recover from the war, where shortages and power-cuts abound. She describes finding a place to live and dealing with the vagaries and eccentricities of French telephones and French maids. But it is clear from the first hours of her arrival that Child loves France. She loves the country, the people, the lifestyle and above all the food.

Child makes it clear that she was no natural gourmet. She appreciated the food she was eating in Paris and wanted to learn to cook it herself. She trained at L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu and worked hard at becoming the cook she wanted to be. She clearly had a knack for making friends and allies and it was two friends, Simone Beck and Louise Bertholle, who were writing a French cookbook for Americans and who invited her to help. If the original idea wasn’t Child’s no one can doubt the amount of effort she put in to making it a reality. As an aspiring food writer, I was slightly stunned at the sheer amount of work Child and her friends put in to testing recipes and making sure that they were reproducible. The book took over a decade to write and a couple of years to find a publisher willing to take on such a comprehensive cooking manual.

But this is far more than a description of how to write a cookery book. Child describes France and the people she met in wonderful, warm detail. It also veers into history as her diplomat and artist husband is interviewed as part of the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunts. If you’ve never read one of her recipes or seen a video of her demonstrating cooking this is still a great book to read for its description of a post-war France that is fast disappearing.

Title: My Life In France
Author: Julia Child
Paperback: 364 pages
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd; 2 edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0715643673
Date: July 2012

Recipe: Asian Spiced Coleslaw


I think I must have been traumatised by coleslaw when I was younger because I never think to make it for myself. Or maybe it’s the dire ready-made versions in supermarket chiller cabinets all cabbage swimming in a sour excuse for a dressing. That was a problem, because when I was trying some mushroom tikka recipes I knew I needed a cold, crunchy vegetable side-dish to go with them. So I googled ‘Indian Coleslaw’ and put together some of the ideas I found there.

This is a great side salad. It’s sweet and tangy, crunchy with a subtle spicing and the mint just lifts it on to another level. I’m going to be making this a lot more often, probably whenever I make a curry.

Indian coleslaw photo DSCN0643_zpse684bdbd.jpg

1/2 small drumhead cabbage, finely shredded
1 medium carrot, grated
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds

Put the vegetables, mint, chilli, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the cumin and mustard seeds.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, remove from the heat and pour over the coleslaw.
Toss the coleslaw until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and coated with the dressing.
Leave to stand for 30-60 minutes.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment

Recipe: Mushroom Soup


I’ve been going back to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Every Day cookbook. In the soups section was a recipe for cream of mushroom soup. Now when I was growing up, the sovereign remedy for all childhood illnesses was a bowl of soup and a slice of bread cut into quarters. The soup came from a tin and the bread was white, but it was certain to help bear any cold or sniffle. My favourite was cream of chicken, and now I’ve gone veggie, chicken is off the menu, my comfort food to end all comfort foods is a tin of condensed cream of mushroom soup served over a packet of microwaved rice.

Now Hugh’s recipe involves cream, naturally enough, but I rarely have it in the house. I thought a bit and decided that potato would add body to the soup without overpowering the mushrooms. I think a couple of courgettes might work as well – they are brilliant blended in soups.

Like most soups this is quick and easy to make. I would recommend closed cup mushrooms in this for their lighter colour in the bowl. The dark-gilled field mushrooms will blend to something that looks like you might want to make breeze-blocks from.

I also really recommend the chopped tarragon. It completely lifts the soup to a different level. If you can’t get it, I suggest a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Mushroom soup photo 7560a5e3-66a9-484a-bbcf-85907a2426a3_zps1463ee57.jpg

1 leek, chopped
1 medium baking potato, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
300g mushrooms
750ml vegetable or mushroom stock
grating of nutmeg
1 tbsp sherry
chopped tarragon to garnish

Sweat the leek in a little oil until they have gone bright green and a little translucent.
Add the garlic and give it a few stirs.
Add the potato, mushrooms and vegetable stock.
Cover and leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Blend the soup until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in a few gratings of nutmeg and the sherry.
Serve with the tarragon as a garnish.

Serves 3-4

Recipe: Puy lentil stew with green cabbage


I generally have a guilty feeling about puy lentils. I love their slate green colour and the cool feel of them slipping through my fingers, but I tend to like looking at them better than cooking with them. They’re not quite as adaptable as other pulses. They don’t blend easily into soups and spreads like split red lentils and yellow split peas. They can’t be mashed as a base for burgers like the bigger pulses can. And at 45 minutes cooking time they’re just that little on the slow side for a quick evening meal. So they tend to sit in their jar in the cupboard, looking good but not getting used.

I didn’t start off this recipe thinking about puy lentils. I was actually looking at ways of getting more green leafy vegetables into my diet when my cooking habits are not of a no-meat and two veg variety. I thought of a stew with green cabbage added right at the end and the idea of adding a green pulse to this was irresistible. I’ve also added mushrooms to add a meaty mouthfeel to the stew as well. This stew has a real depth of flavour, I would recommend serving to a meat-eater who needs to be convinced about eating pulses.

A quick note about puy lentils – give them a quick once-over before adding them to the pot. Alone of all the pulses I’ve used these can occasionally hide small bits of gravel amongst them.

Puy Lentil Stew photo 72bb7519-7e00-4760-941b-256d16f37a1b_zpse1efa442.jpg

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 leek, chopped
100g mushrooms
100g puy lentils
500ml veg stock
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
1/2 tsp marmite
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
100g green cabbage, shredded
lemon juice

Soften the garlic and leeks in a little oil in a saucepan.
Add the mushrooms, lentils, stock, mushroom ketchup, marmite, bay leaf and tarragon.
Simmer for 45 minutes until the lentils are soft and tender.
Remove the bay leaf.
Take the pan off the heat, stir in the cabbage and let it wilt in the heat of the stew.
Season with salt and pepper.
Just before serving, squeeze some lemon juice over it.

Serves 2
Goes well with leek puddings.

Mock Meat: Meet the Alternative Sausages


I think it’s probably about time I came clean and admitted that I’m obsessed with sausages. I liked them when I ate meat and now I’m a vegetarian I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to eat sausage-shaped alternatives (and Jay Rayner and the rest of the Kitchen Cabinet can just lump it!).

I was pleased and intrigued to find a new veggie sausage in the chiller cabinet on my last grocery shop. These are from Meet The Alternative. The website calls them Pork-Style Sausages, but the packaging just calls them Sausages. They are vegetarian, but not vegan.

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I gave them my standard test and fried them.

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They look OK with a decent bit of browning. Texturally I have to say they’ve got it spot on. The sausages are chewy without being dense and give a great mouthfeel. Flavourwise, they’re very bland. They’re up there with tofu in the taste stakes. If I were them I’d stop trying to make them taste like pork and concentrate on getting more umami tastes in there. They’d be OK in things, but I wouldn’t be rushing to eat them on their own.

It’s great to see new veggie products coming out there, I might try some of their ‘meat’ chunk style offerings, but I can make better tasting sausages than this.