Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tofu with adobe paste

When I ordered the TofuXpress I was only expecting to receive a pressing tool, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that the accompanying instruction booklet also contained a few recipes. There was one recipe that immediately stood out from the rest but I had so many other things lined up to try with my new tool that it was forgotten for a while.

The man and I decided it was time to have refried beans this week as it's something we love, the trouble is the young man is not so much a fan. Viva Vegan contains a few sections which gives you ideas for matching different elements and when I repeatedly saw tofu paired with beans, it sounded like a great idea to get the young man enthused. I still hadn't tried the Tofu with adobe paste recipe from the TofuXpress booklet which seemed like the perfect match to complete our meal.

I made a few alterations to the marinade, reducing the quantities of ingredients down a smidgen due to the size difference in my block of tofu. Another minor tweak I made was to cut back on some of the sweet paprika and add a bit of smoked paprika. The lime, garlic and chilli flavours really stood out in the marinade and my initial thought was that it would be slightly too spicy. If the tofu was eaten on it's own that could have been the case. After it was wrapped in a tortilla with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and cashew cream we found ourselves reaching for the hot sauce for some extra kick.

The young man hasn't been that enthused about Mexican food previously because he really isn't a lover of beans. This meal was requested by everyone to be repeated regularly so I'm happy to have found a way that we can all enjoy Mexican food.

Tofu with adobe paste (Adapted from the TofuXpress recipe booklet)

350g firm tofu
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
zest of 1 lime
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Drain the tofu and press it using paper towels and heavy weights or a tofu press for at least 30 minutes.

Mix the remaining ingredients together in a bowl/shallow dish. Cut the tofu into small cubes and toss them well in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and spray lightly with olive oil. Add the tofu and cook in batches over medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often until the tofu is browned on all sides.

Enjoy in tortillas with refried beans, guacamole, cashew cream, hot sauce and salad toppings of your choice.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter beans

Easter is normally associated with indulging in chocolate and hot cross buns, this year I went against the norm and switched my focus to beans! Over the long weekend I turned into a bean prepping machine in an attempt to diminish my reliance on tinned beans. Last year I was in a wonderful habit of planning out my meals for the week which meant that I would be organised enough to prepare beans from scratch more often than not. I still plan meals to a certain extent although I don't have a hard and fast rule about what we are going to eat on a given night. This provides more flexibility to cook what I feel like on the day but tinned beans have been the only viable option when I decide halfway through the day that beans will be on the menu that night.

Preparing beans from scratch has always given me a lot more satisfaction than simply opening a tin and rising off the brine. The process never fails to fascinate me, particularly observing the vast amount of water the little dried beans manage to absorb after the initial soaking period. Dried beans have several benefits over tinned ones as they are a lot more economical, use less packaging and there is no concern about controversial toxins like BPA in tin linings leeching into your food.

I've read about freezing batches of cooked beans before and with some spare room in my freezer it was the perfect time to make it happen. My plan was to cook up five batches of beans; kidney, pinto, black, cannellini and chickpeas. I ended up cooking an extra batch of kidney beans because we ate most of them straight away and I also prepped a batch of black-eyed beans when I found some hiding in the pantry.

Preparing a batch of beans takes a bit of time from start to end although very little of it requires any interaction. After rinsing the beans, leave them to soak in a bowl filled with plenty of water overnight or at least 8 hours. Rinse the beans in a colander with fresh cold water, place them in a pot and cover them up with about 5cm of cold water. Bring them to the boil and after a couple of minutes scoop off as much of the white foamy stuff as possible with a spoon. Turn the heat back to low, pop the lid on and let them simmer away. The time they take to become tender varies between the type of beans as well as their age. I usually start testing after they have been simmering for about an hour by removing one that looks firmer than the others, allowing it to cool slightly and then biting it in half. If the bean isn't totally soft and tender, I continue the cooking process and retest in another 10-15 minutes.

Many beans were consumed over the course of the long weekend too. We enjoyed kidney beans in chilli non carne, curried tofu scramble and a Thai red lentil chilli stew from PPK (this was the recipe that taught me a lesson about US chilli powder last year but this time around I didn't find the stew spicy enough). I also cooked up a saucier version of cheater baked beans from Veganomicon, a black-eyed bean hummus adapted from Appetite for Reduction and still wound up with the equivalent of more than 20 tins of a variety of beans in the freezer.

Easter wasn't totally about healthy eating as I did enjoy revisiting Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe's hot cross buns recipe which only needs a couple of simple ingredient substitutions to make them vegan. Even though the crosses didn't work out as well as the batch I made last year, I was thrilled with how delicious they tasted.

Black-eyed bean hummus (Adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

1 x 400g tin black eyed beans
2 tablespoons tahini
juice of half a lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne pepper
chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Place all ingredients (except the parsley) in a food processor bowl and pulse until combined, scraping the ingredients down the sides a few times. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pista burfi

Last Saturday, I attended at vegan potluck at Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe's house with a theme of green food. It was lovely to catch up with the bloggers I had met before, meet some new bloggers, share so much wonderful food and have great conversations. An added bonus was Sylvia, Johanna's gorgeous daughter who was so shy at first and came out of her shell towards the end to entertain us all.

I had a couple of ideas for a green dessert to bring but it wasn't until the day before that I totally changed my mind and thought of making an Indian sweet called Pista burfi which is a pistachio fudge. I made a double batch of the the burfi as I also had a family curry dinner to attend that night so it served two purposes.

Although the ingredients for this fudge are rather basic, I found plenty of variations between the ingredients and techniques used when searching for recipes. Some recipes used milk or milk powder which gave them a lighter colour. I wanted a darker green colour so the recipe I ended up following most closely was the one that didn't include any dairy which meant there was no need for vegan substitutes.

All of the recipes I saw that didn't use dairy called for a sugar syrup to be made. The method for making the syrup and testing is readiness was somewhat perplexing. It was stated in every recipe I read that the syrup would be ready when it reached a one thread consistency. Huh? This was a totally foreign concept to me that was explained in this article. Hopefully I have managed to convey this part clearly enough in my adaptation of the recipe for other people to follow. The alternative and simpler method is to use a candy thermometer and wait for the syrup to reach 110C.

Blanching the pistachios and removing their skins was a tiresome job. I don't think I would bother doing this next time as their slight dampness meant that the food processor didn't do the greatest job of chopping them finely. Dry roasting the pistachios was another approach around that I would be inclined to try next time.

I was expecting the prepared fudge to harden very quickly, when that didn't happen I thought that my efforts were going to be wasted. The tray was plonked in the freezer (with my fingers crossed) whilst I tidied up and the short chilling time did it wonders. I wasn't confident if the texture of the fudge would remain firm enough after cutting it into squares so I opted to store the burfi in the fridge.

Pista burfi is a perfect sweet for me as it isn't over the top in sweetness and I do happen to love pistachios. I'll have to keep my eye out for a candy thermometer to make the process simpler next time!

You can read other posts about the potluck at Green Gourmet Giraffe, Laws of the Kitchen, Soya & Chocolat and where's the beef.

Pista burfi (Adapted from Chitra Amma's Kitchen)

2 cups pistachios
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
dairy-free margarine, for greasing

Place the pistachios in a bowl, then cover with boiling water. Drain in a colander after one minute then rinse well with cold water. Peel the skins off the pistachios and dry with a clean tea towel. Set aside about a dozen pistachios for the topping and chop them coarsely. Place the rest of the pistachios in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.

Mix the sugar and water together in a small saucepan and place on a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring more frequently after it has reached boiling point.

If you don't own a candy thermometer, test the thickness of the syrup every so often by scooping out a bit with the wooden spoon. Allow the syrup to cool for 10-15 seconds, then dab your forefinger into the syrup. Press your thumb and forefinger together, then separate them slowly. When a single thin thread forms between your fingers without breaking, the syrup is ready. Alternatively, if you have a candy thermometer, wait for the temperature to reach 110C.

Turn the heat down to low then stir through the ground pistachios and cardamon. Continue to cook, stirring all the time until the mixture begins to leave the side of the pan. Transfer the mixture onto a baking tray greased well with dairy free margarine. Spread into a square shape and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios. Cover with baking paper and use a rolling pin to gently press the chopped nuts into the mixture. Remove the baking paper, then place the tray in the fridge or freezer until it just sets. Cut into diamond or square pieces using a sharp knife. Store in a container at room temperature or keep refrigerated for a firmer texture.