food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘tofu’ Category

miso grilled tofu and vegetables

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Here’s a lovely way to eat tofu and should appeal to both vegetarians and omnivores.

You will need a firm tofu for this meal. For the vegetables I used butternut pumpkin (squash), zucchini (courgettes) and whole Swiss brown mushrooms but the choice of vegetables is flexible as long as they keep their shape reasonably well. Combine white miso paste with some sesame oil, a little brown sugar and enough water to make a paste which is thin enough to spread and thick enough to stick. The amount of ingredients here are flexible as miso paste varies quite a lot and you must taste this mixture to make sure it’s not too salty or too sweet. Cut the tofu and vegetables to the size you wish to serve and coat them all with vegetable oil. If you don’t have a griddle or barbecue you can roast the vegetables in the oven. Cook them first until they are a little brown and softening then brush them with miso paste and continue to cook until coated and delicious. Watch them carefully at this stage as the miso and sugar can burn quite easily. Serve garnished with finely sliced spring onion and toasted sesame seeds.


Written by michelle picker

June 13, 2018 at 12:04 am

shiitake mushrooms

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Shiitake mushrooms are used widely in Asian cuisines and considered to have many health benefits. They are widely available in their dried form but are a little harder to find fresh, although Asian stores are a good place to try. We decided to attempt to grow them. This a lengthy procedure with some inherent difficulties for those of us living in urban areas. The first problem was finding living branches from a suitable tree. This took some time but we finally found some fairly large oak branches without any signs of fungus or mould. Shiitake are grown by drilling holes into the branches and hammering in dowels impregnated with the mushroom spores – we ordered these online. The holes are covered with beeswax and the logs then need to be kept damp and in a nice semi-dark place, similar to a forest floor. We waited approximately 18 months before we induced the first crop by soaking the logs for a day and then dropping them to shock them into fruiting. This can be done in Spring, Summer or Autumn. Hopefully they will now fruit twice a year. Although our first crop wasn’t very large it was exciting to finally see the mushrooms growing and they tasted amazing!

This recipe for a Chinese-style omelette is perfect for featuring shiitake mushrooms. Begin by slicing some medium to firm tofu and fry it in a little vegetable oil. Season with soy sauce and honey and set aside. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (Shiitake stems don’t soften when you cook them) and slice the mushrooms. Heat a pan and add some finely shredded ginger into the dry pan until it is fragrant. Add some sesame oil and the mushrooms, season with a minimal amount of salt and cook them until they are just softening. Add the tofu to reheat it along with some spring onions. Keep this mixture warm while you make the omelette. Whisk 3-4 eggs with a little water and a drop of sesame oil, and season them with soy sauce and white pepper. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a wide frypan, add  the eggs and allow them to cook, without turning, until almost firm. Place the mushroom and tofu mix onto one half of the omelette and, using a wide turner, flip the other half over the top. When the omelette is cooked carefully slide it onto a serving plate and garnish with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Written by michelle picker

April 11, 2018 at 12:33 am

spicy tofu with oyster mushrooms

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Oyster mushrooms have great texture and robust flavour making this a very satisfying vegetarian meal.


Heat oil in a large flat frypan or wok until smoking hot then add 2 brown shallots, 2-3 cloves of garlic and 2-4 red chillies, all finely diced. Next add large squares of tofu (classic Chinese style) and allow them to fry on both sides to add a little colour. As the tofu is frying add an equal amount or more of oyster mushrooms which have been torn into smaller pieces. When the tofu is sticking and the mushrooms wilting add 1½ tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of dark soy (caramel) sauce, some ground white pepper and a sprinkling of black rice vinegar (this is available at Asian stores or you could try apple cider vinegar). Serve with steamed rice and seasonal vegetables and make sure you scrape all the good bits off the bottom of the pan.

Written by michelle picker

May 25, 2015 at 6:56 am

tofu with mushrooms + water spinach stir-fry

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The people of Sichuan (Szechuan) Province in China are fond of hot and spicy food. This recipe, adapted from Eating Well Magazine, is no exception although you can moderate it to suit your taste.


Drain your fresh tofu on several paper towels. Sprinkle with a little salt on each side. Place more paper towels on top and weigh the tofu down with a plate. Set this aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Make a sauce by mixing together 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of black rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, ½ a teaspoon of sesame oil, ¼ of a teaspoon of cornstarch, ½ a teaspoon of crushed dried red chillies and 3 tablespoons of water. Finely dice 4 cloves of garlic, slice 2 spring onions and slice mushrooms – I used 200g (7 oz) each of fresh shitake mushrooms and fresh oyster mushrooms. Heat some oil in a flat fry-pan and briefly add the garlic and then the mushrooms and spring onions. Cook until just softening and remove to a plate. Now remove the paper towels from the tofu and slice the tofu into squares. Add more oil to the fry-pan and fry the tofu over medium heat until brown on both sides. Return the mushroom mixture to the fry-pan along with the sauce. Gently mix through and continue to cook until the sauce is clinging to everything. Serve with rice and a green vegetable.

Here is a recipe for a Sichuan style stir-fry of water spinach (avaiable at Asian grocery stores).


Finely dice 4 cloves of garlic and finely slice 2 fresh birds-eye chillies. Wash 2 bunches of water spinach and slice into shorter lengths. Heat some oil in a wok and when hot add the garlic, chilli and ½ a teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns (also available at Asian grocery stores). This step will only take a few seconds as the garlic should not brown so have the water spinach ready to add next. Cook the water spinach until the stems are just tender enough to eat. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of sesame oil, stirring through before serving.

black pepper beancurd

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A birthday request was fulfilled with Yotam Ottolenghi‘s inspiring cookbook Plenty. This first recipe I tried didn’t disappoint.

Cut 400g (14oz) of firm tofu (beancurd) into cubes and toss in some cornflour. Shallow fry in batches in hot vegetable oil and remove onto paper towel. Discard the oil and sediment and melt some butter in the same pan. Gently fry 6 thinly sliced brown shallots, 4 thinly sliced long red chillies, 3 finely diced cloves of garlic and an equal amount of finely diced fresh ginger until soft. Add 1½ tablespoons of kecap manis, 1½ tablespoons of  soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of dark soy, 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and 2½ tablespoons of coarsely crushed black pepper. Return the tofu to the pan to reheat. Lastly add some thinly sliced spring onions. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Written by michelle picker

October 6, 2012 at 9:45 am


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This traditional Malaysian salad is a refreshing accompaniment for a spicy barbeque.

From your Asian grocer buy a jar of rojak sauce (made in Malaysia), a packet of bean-curd puffs (deep-fried squares of tofu) and either a Chinese turnip or a daikon radish. The other ingredients in this salad are green apple, pineapple, cucumber and peanuts. First crisp up the beancurd puffs in the oven or a dry fry-pan. When cooled, slice each one into thin slices. To this add 1 large green apple, ½ a small pineapple, 1 small cucmber and a turnip or ½ a radish cut into similarly sized pieces. Now dress the salad with 2-3 tablespoons of Rojak sauce (or more to taste). Lastly add ¼ of a cup of roughly chopped peanuts.

Written by michelle picker

February 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm

mapo tofu

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Mapo Tofu (Grandma’s beancurd) is a favourite of mine. In this version I cook 500g of minced beef in a hot pan, making sure it’s broken up into small pieces to form the basis of the sauce. No oil is necessary as the meat first loses it’s water content and then fries in it’s own fat, intensifying it’s flavour. Next comes the onion, 2 cloves of garlic and a knob of ginger, all finely diced. These are cooked with the meat for 3-5 minutes before adding up to 2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes (according to personal  taste), ½ a teaspoon of ground roasted szechuan peppercorns, a pinch of five spice and a liberal sprinkling of ground white pepper. After another minute or so, a splash of Chinese cooking wine (this step is optional), then 2 cups of stock, 2 tablespoons of thick soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and ½ a teaspoon sugar. I use cornflour to thicken the sauce, about 2 tablespoons mixed into cold water, added bit by bit until it reaches the right consistency. Now the diced soft tofu is heated gently in the sauce. Delicious served on fluffy white rice.

Written by michelle picker

January 2, 2011 at 1:03 am