Crispy Sweet & Sour Tofu

On Saturday mornings I love strolling through the Warwick Market Street with a freshly made coffee in my hand. The colourful characters that occupy the area make me smile, the live music is energising and the amazing smells of international cuisine that fill the air are mouth-watering.

I don’t usually brave the markets with my children so I don’t get to go as often as I would like these days. When I do go, I usually spend the morning rummaging through piles of pre-loved vintage clothes, scanning the jewellery stands for quirky pieces, sorting through mountains of old books and of course, eating a lot of food.

On my last visit to the markets, I was very excited to catch a live cooking demonstration hosted by a gorgeous Chinese lady who was a very proud, self-proclaimed housewife. It was wonderful to spend the morning watching her cook her family’s favourite meals and share her passion for traditional Chinese style home cooking.

She cooked two dishes, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian – Sweet & Sour Fish Fillet and Crispy Bean Curd with XO Sauce. She also very generously printed both recipes on paper for her audience members to take home. I have adapted the Sweet & Sour Fish recipe into a vegetarian version, Sweet & Sour Tofu, which is today’s featured recipe. My wife and I now have Sweet & Sour Tofu on a fortnightly basis, the recipe is to die for – I just love it.

This Tofu recipe is simply delicious.

Ingredients

  • 500g tofu – cubed
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 onion – sliced
  • 1 stick celery – sliced
  • 1 red capsicum – sliced
  • 1 green capsicum – sliced
  • 1 tomato – cubed
  • 300g pineapple – cubed (fresh is best)
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • Fresh coriander

Marinade

  • 2 tbsp vegetarian ‘oyster’ sauce
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Sauce Mix

  • 100ml Mae Ploy sweet chilli sauce
  • 50ml vegetarian ‘oyster’ sauce
  • 30ml white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 50ml tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock

Method

  1. Mix together ingredients for marinade and add tofu cubes, marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Heat oil in a wok, place flour on a plate and coat tofu well. When the oil is hot, place tofu into the oil until golden brown, drain.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan and sauté onion and garlic until fragrant.
  4. Add red capsicum, green capsicum, celery, pineapple and tomato, and then stir-fry.
  5. Pour in sauce mix and simmer (at this point you can use a little cornflour to thicken sauce if it is too runny).
  6. Add tofu cubes to sauce and mix to coat, serve over rice and garnish with fresh coriander.

Post Workout Flapjacks

These flapjacks are perfect to have as a post workout snack.

One of the things I love about flapjack recipes is how versatile they can be. You can just make bog-standard golden syrup bars, or maybe jazz it up with chocolate chips or dried fruit. Anything is possible! (Within reason here: I’m still not convinced by bacon flapjacks, but willing to have my mind changed.)

I decided to take up the flapjack challenge, which I have made up just now for the purposes of this recipe, and address I recurring food problem in my life.

I am a keen runner and am currently running about 20-30km a week. One of my main goals is to improve my times for 5 and 10K and to do this, I will need to put on a bit of muscle and loose some fat, this means upping my protein! I do buy whey powder as it’s a cheap source of protein for my student budget. However, I’m normally too lazy to mix it up when I get in from a run and I’m also usually craving some sort of food.

So, my mind being as baking oriented as it is, I thought – make whey protein flapjacks, or as I like to call them, post workout flapjacks.

Even if you aren’t a runner or gym person, just omit the whey protein and keep everything else, these flapjacks are still packed with milled flax seed, oats and other seeds. Perfect for a pick me up anytime!

Ingredients

  • 200g Porridge Oats
  • 75g Butter – You can use low fat spread if you wish, I prefer not too as they are usually packed full of additives, it’s a personal choice though!
  • 60g (2 Scoops) Chocolate Whey Powder – Any flavour will work, Vanilla or Banana perhaps
  • 40g Milled Flax seed
  • 30g Mixed seeds or nuts
  • 2tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 100g Honey

You could also add Cocoa nibs, dried fruit, dark chocolate chips, chopped pistachios, etc. The list is endless!

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients: oats, whey powder, flax seed, seeds/nuts and cinnamon
  3. Melt the butter and honey in a saucepan over a low heat and mix until the butter is melted and fully combined.
  4. Tip in the dry mixture into your saucepan and mix everything together until well combined
  5. Turn out the mixture onto the baking tray and squish everything down until 2cm thick and flat! Don’t be afraid to really use your hands for this and get stuck in there (but remember to wash them!)
  6. Put your tray into the oven and cook the flapjacks for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Wait 10 minutes after taking out the oven before cutting them into your desired size, they will need to have cooled down to make this easier.
  8. Enjoy as a snack for a boost of energy, or pre/post run snack! Maybe even for breakfast on the go.

As always, let me know if you try them!

Soup Maker Recipe: Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup

Thanks to our soup maker, we were able to make creamy tomato and basil soup in no time.

If you haven’t got the memo yet then I should probably tell you now. Soup makers are making their way into almost every household. At this moment in time when we’re just halfway through, we probably need the comfort of a delicious hot soup.

If you haven’t got one yet then there are many different ones to look at. I think that the Morphy Richards machine is great but you need to be sure by checking out the reviews of different products. One way you can find the best soup maker is by checking out this page.

The Morphy Richards one surprised me a little because I didn’t expect it to make soup that efficiently. But in reality, it really exceeded my expectations especially due to how thick it was. It tasted great, felt like a soup and was super easy to cook. Since then, I’ve been trying to try out different recipes and vary the taste and basically try out new things since I’ve got a bit of spare time these days.

The particular recipe is based on tomatoes because I know that people love canned tomato soup. The only way better this would be to make fresh and healthy homemade soup quickly and efficiently. The recipe is extremely simple and the Morphy Richards machine or any similar machine will allow you to simply put the ingredients in and the machine will take care of the rest.

Depending how many people you wish to cook for, you can use 5 or 6 fresh tomatoes. You’ll have to peel these and dice them before cooking. You’ll also need some basil leaves – after all this is tomato and basil flavoured. In addition to these ingredients, you’ll also need a few cups of tomato juice along with a tiny bit of butter and a bit of whipped cream! All you’ll have to do is put these ingredients into the machine and when every thing is cooked, you’ll have to melt the butter and keep stirring until this has been infused with the rest of the soup.

As you can probably guess, this is a very simple recipe but one that will be very satisfying in taste and filling. The amount of ingredients described above should be plenty to make enough for a family of 5 or 6 people and you can adjust this according to the number of people you’ll be serving. However, I don’t usually place too much emphasis on following a recipe to perfection. They say cooking is an art so I tend to experiment around with different ingredients and their quantities.

If done correctly, a high quality soup maker should be able to finish cooking within half an hour. There won’t be any stirring or manual checking but just waiting for that half hour to be over. You can then pour the soup directly from the machine into the bowl followed by a few minutes to let everything cool.

This isn’t the only recipe that I’ve tried and to be honest it’s not even much of a recipe – it’s just a basic meal that you can make very easily but it does taste great and will fill you. The good thing about using these types of machines to make soup is that they are usually multifunctional. They can often be used to make smoothies, juices and even sauces, and this is what pleased me about the Morphy Richards model.

This Morphy Richards soup making machine is easy to use and makes delicious soup in a matter of minutes.

Recipe: Kale & Basil Soup

This Kale and Basil soup surprisingly tasted delicious.

Louise and I have got into the habit of visiting our local supermarket at around 9-10pm to hunt for reduced bargains. As she is currently writing up his PhD and my business is still in it’s early stages, our food budget is pretty tight.

Despite living well within our means, we have found that a varied and healthy diet is definitely possible if we are willing to keep waste to the minimum and be flexible with our ingredients.

Often in the reduced section there is a multitude of vegetables at ridiculously low prices, as they have usually reached their sell by date. With a little common sense involved in their storage, most vegetables usually keep for up to a week longer than stated on the packet, just check before use for any mould or rot.

The caveat here is – buying these items is all well and good, though only worth it if you intended to use them. It’s not only a waste of money, but also a waste of resources if a week later they can be found stuck to the back of your fridge, destined to go straight into the bin. (I’ll make allowances if you end up composting them, though it’s an expensive way to generate it!)

Whilst you are never guaranteed the selection of your choice, this method of buying food has certainly added variety into our cooking routine. Soups are a great way of using up veg, as you can experiment with an unusual combination of things and freeze any leftovers for another day!

Earlier this week I was confronted with the question of what to do with bags of 10p kale, 2p basil and 1p potatoes.

The obvious answer was of course, soup! I was slightly hesitant about how this would turn out, as i have never made a soup with kale before, however the result was light, aromatic and delicious. The only thing I found was that the texture remained slightly chunky, as kale is pretty fibrous.

It may be pretty self evident, but this is also one hell of a healthy meal!

Making this soup was quite easy and didn't take long at all.

Ingredients

  • 1 Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Rapeseed or Vegetable Oil
  • 200g Kale (Spinach would also work wonderfully!)
  • 30g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 300g Potatoes, chopped into small 2cm chunks
  • 600 ml of made up Vegetable Stock (I use Bouillon powder)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

(I used a soup maker, however this can easily be made on the stove with a hand blender).

  1. Heat up the oil in the bottom of your cooking vessel on a medium heat (on the hob I like to use a big stockpot to made huge vats of soup!)
  1. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 3-4 minutes until they are beginning to become golden. Then add the potato chunks and fry together for another minute or two. This is a good point to make up the vegetable stock.
  1. Add the stock to the onion/garlic/potato mixture and bring to a low simmer. Slowly start adding the kale, waiting for each handful to wilt before adding another. Salt and pepper the dish to taste. (I added 1tsp of salt and a LOT of pepper.)
  1. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes on a low heat with the lid on.
  1. Blend after this time is up and serve! Alternatively, tub it all up, wait for it to cool and then freeze.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the way I get my bargains!

Does anyone else shop in the reduced sections? Maybe you have some top tips for getting a food bargain that you want to share! As always, comments are much appreciated.

John

Fettuccine in Burnt Butter Sauce with Kale & Capers

Kale has a wonderful reputation. Regularly referred to as a ‘super food’ this gorgeous vegetable is packed with antioxidants and is said to have cancer preventative benefits.

I have just started growing my own kale and have found that it is super easy to grow but unfortunately I have limited garden space at the moment and find that I am using it faster than I can grow it.

Luckily this week I found a green grocer in my local area that has added kale to their permanent stock. This saves me a 30-minute drive on the weekend to the closest street market in Warwick. I’ve looked everywhere in Warwick but apart from this street market, I haven’t been able to find fresh Kale anywhere.

Kale can be used in so many ways, in salads and soups, blended into green smoothies or added to stir-fries, just to name a few. This recipe for fettuccine in burnt butter sauce with kale and capers is an indulgence that can be enjoyed relatively guilt free. Although it contains calorie-laden butter, the kale is super good for you so it cancels it out.

Anyway, enjoy it and let me know how it turned out for you.

Fettuccine with Kale and Capers

Ingredients

  • 250g Fettuccine
  • 100g Butter
  • 1 cup Kale – roughly chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic – finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • Half a lemon
  • Sea salt & cracked pepper

Method

  1. Place a saucepan of water on the stove, add some salt and bring to boil.  Add fettuccine and cook until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, place cubed butter into a fry pan and melt over a medium high heat. When the butter starts to froth add garlic and kale.
  3. Cook until kale is wilted and the butter smells nutty, and then remove from heat.
  4. Stir in capers and cooked fettuccine, add cracked pepper and squeeze over lemon juice.
  5. Serve immediately.