Sunday, 10 November 2013

The point of tofu

I've made this mapo tofu recipe at least six times this year, obviously because I love the taste of it.
It shows that tofu demands strong flavouring. In this recipe, the blandness of the tofu is actually needed for relief from the fiery sauce. I really think that using meat in place of the tofu might mix too many strong flavours together, doing none of them justice. Made with tofu, the bland balances out the bold, which is why it's so good.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Cooking notes

I made kadhi / curry (a yogurt soup coloured with turmeric, to be eaten with rice) for a vegan friend. This is the first thing I learned to make and I've been making it for 24 years and I rarely go wrong with it, but veganising causes problems because soy yogurt does not have the sourness of dairy yogurt which gives kadhi its characteristic taste.

To compensate for the lack of tartness in the dairy-free yogurt, I added some amchoor (dried green mango powder) which added sourness but not exactly the right kind. The vegan version I made the other day was very thick for kadhi, but that could have been because I put in too much gram flour (used to slightly thicken),  a half-deliberate, half-error. Part of my intention was to take the taste of the soy yogurt and soy milk away; they are oddly strong in their blandness. Or did I just think that up to compensate for my mistake. I don't know.

I don't think I will try to perfect the vegan recipe as there's not much call for it in my life.  My friend enjoyed it, which was the main thing, but if only she knew there was more to enjoy in it.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

I got one!

One courgette, I managed to grow, from about ten (badly tended) plants. One. Still. It is quite small, but firm. I picked it today and ate it, sliced and lightly fried with a bit of salt and pepper, no more. Of course it was delicious, because I'd grown it.

It was only a week ago

A week ago, I tried proper sushi for the first time and the working week has been so long that I forgot about it until now. I thought I better record it for the sake of posterity. Proper sushi, not that crap in a black plastic tray from the 'Hurried Work Lunches' section of the supermarket or its convenience outlet, with its tame cooked fish in because if it were raw, they wouldn't be able to make it so far in advance and sell it without killing someone. A tiny plastic bottle of soy sauce and an extra pound to pay if you have the gall to want wasabi.

Actually, it was sashimi that I tried. No rice, just the hardcore stuff. The fish was incredible. The salmon tasted like avocado. There is no other way I can describe the taste. The tuna tasted fishy (as you would expect it might) and very powerful. There were some other pieces of white fish. I think one of them was a sea bream which was quite fishy and I'm not too sure how much I enjoyed that but then there was some kind of superstar white fish on my place, which was delicate and smoky and delicious.

I tried all of the pieces of fish without seasoning first, just to get a taste of them on their own, as if to work out each of their personalities without dressing. Then with the wasabi. Normally with vegetarian dishes, even a tiny bit of makes my eyes water and my nose burn. With the fish, the wasabi had met a worthy opponent and the protein counterbalanced the heat perfectly so you could still taste both. Suddenly it all made sense.
I left the restaurant deliriously happy.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Stuff that, I'm using my own recipe next time

I made stuffed courgette flowers today from this recipe using the ricotta and herb filling.

Verdict: They looked like the ones in the picture. The batter recipe was good, but the filling was rather bland. It tasted like it should have done, but it needed more oomph. Dan has a vegan cashew, tofu and spinach filling for cannelloni, which he thinks might have worked better than ricotta, but the cheese has a nice fluffy texture; cashew and tofu are too dense. The risotto filling might have been better, but I didn't have any spare and wasn't going to make any from scratch just for this. In future, I might consider a more piquant filling, or, as I saw on one site, pine nuts and sultanas with the cheese. The actual flowers tasted lovely.

Update on my garden plants:
Huantzole: The trough I have planted them in is too shallow and some parts of the plant are very red, which means the plant is distressed.
Courgettes: Planted too many, too late and all the leaves seem to have a light fungal dusting on them. It's too late in the year for them to fruit, which is why I ate the flowers.
Strawberries: Not one! Very disappointing. Maybe next year.
Japanese mustard greens: Should have tried these when they were more tender because they didn't taste too nice.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A kitchen back yard and some aliens

It's been a just over a year since I last wrote anything in this.

This year, I've made an effort at gardening. I've been given some plants by Jo, which have made my back yard a place I want to spend more time in.
  • 'Pineberries': actually strawberries that are supposed to taste like pineapple. I think the first one will be ready in a week or two, so watch this space for the verdict. The mother ship plant has sent out many alien runners in an attempt to procreate. I tried to accommodate for them all, but it would have taken up too much space and too many pots, so I cut a few runners back. The most fun I have had with these is pegging runner shoots down into soil using old hairgrips and tugging them to see if they have taken root. Some of them have.
  • Edible day lily. The flowers and buds can be eaten. the flowers bloom for just one day each. I told my mum about this and she said, "Don't you go eating those edible lilies."
  • Huauzontle / Aztec broccoli
  • Komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach)
  • Cavolo nero
I've also been growing fenugreek. This is incredibly easy to grow. It even grows in containers with no holes drilled into them for drainage. It doesn't take long and then suddenly you have leaves which will add good flavour to curries and pakora. I combined two recipes to make these:

I wanted to know what fenugreek and banana would be like in pakora. The result: good, but needs improvement. very ripe, brown banana flesh would be sweet enough to be a match for the salty, savoury pakora batter. I would consider mashing the banana straight into the batter next time.

Taking advantage of the hot weather, I bought some basil plants and have left them outside to soak up the sunshine. They are thriving. The nasturtium in my hanging basket did well until a plague of blackfly decimated several areas of the plant. I've removed it and isolated it, waiting for some nice insects to do their work and eat the damn things. It's true, I've been neglecting it somewhat and not watering it thoroughly. The golden thyme in the same basket thrives and has sprouted some small purple flowers.

I planted some black peas because I was fed up of the jar of dried peas sitting around doing nothing. They are also known as maple peas or Carlin peas. They are very hardy and used to the cool, wet Lancashire climate. The peas aren't really suitable for eating raw or lightly cooked; they are more suited to being boiled or made into pease pudding. However, the young pods can be used like mange tout. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What to do with leftovers

I am the leftovers effin' QUEEN. The KING, even. I'm the entire goddamn monarchy.

I'd made some really rubbish houmous for my birthday party. I put too much salt in it, and having run out of chickpeas, tried to abate the saltiness by adding gram flour to the dip. It didn't work too well and added a dry taste to the proceedings. Needless to say, it hardly got touched all evening.

So I made some soup out of it, and with some other leftover ingredients from my party.  This is what I did:

1. Fried some onions in a heavy bottomed-saucepan until browned
2. Chopped up half a red chilli and added it to the onions
3. Fried some finely chopped celery separately, and added to onions and chilli
4. Added houmous to the mix, immediately followed by water to thin it down. Waited until soup was heated through
5. Final stage: stirred in chopped fresh coriander and fresh mint

As the houmous I was using was very well-blended, I added liquid aiming for a thin but creamy consistency. The consistency and texture of your soup will depend on your houmous.

It was good and I am hankering after more.

On a slightly different note, I tried some supermarket houmous recently, from Tesco. I was actually stunned by the taste. It was as salty as Marmite.