#14: Indonesia: Kering Tahu

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Although I have been a vegetarian for more than 15 years, I have never been a big fan of tofu.  Now this feisty dish from Indonesia might just have changed all that!

After a bit of a break from this blog, I decided I wanted to resume my vegetarian cooking adventure with something from Asia and somehow ended up plumping for this Kering Tahu.

The intrigue from the outset was not actually about the tofu but this mysterious (to me) ingredient called galangal. Galangal is a member of the ginger family and is widely used in Indonesian cooking – but it’s definitely not widely available in my home city of Norwich!! I ended up picking some up in the Loon Fung oriental foods supermarket in Stratford, London. Great shop, by the way; I get the feeling I’ll be making return visits!

I was a little bit worried that all of the flavours might be too strong, but they combined perfectly in the soy sauce and – even with a pretty strong kick from the chillies – the end result tasted delicious. The galangal was a real revelation: echoes of ginger, in taste and texture, but more earthy and not as overpowering.

But perhaps the biggest revelation of all was the tofu – it just soaked up all of the flavours and was light and delicious. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Great for warming you up on a cold autumn evening!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 400g tofu cut into cubes
  • 2 red chilli peppers, chopped
  • 2 birds eye chillies, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 small shallots, chopped
  • 1.5cm of fresh galangal, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of  soy sauce
  • 100 ml water
  • rice

Method

  1. Shallow fry the tofu in a pan until about half cooked.
  2. Add the chopped shallots, garlic, chillies and galangal and continue frying until all the ingredients are cooked and filling your kitchen with a nice fragrant aroma.
  3. Add the soy sauce and water and cook for a further few minutes until you can see the sauce being absorbed in the tofu.
  4. Serve with plain rice.

Acknowledgement: Based on a recipe I found on tasty-indonesian-food.com.

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#13 The Gambia: Benachin

Benachin

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With memories still fresh from an amazing recent holiday to The Gambia, my next recipe in this series had to be a Gambian dish.  I have chosen a vegetarian version of Benachin (literally “one pot” from the Wolof) which is basically Jollof rice, typically served with fish or beef.  This was the first meal I ate in The Gambia and was also what I was served when I visited the home of one of the hotel security guards (a really nice guy named Lamin) after he took me on a day trip to Serekunda market, Kachikally crocodile pool (see pic below!) and Tanji fish market.  These were experiences that will live long in my memory.  The people were so warm and friendly.  If you get the chance, visit The Gambia – it is an amazing country!  This is a great dish, especially if you like your food hot!!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 4 chillies (crushed)
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 Maggi cubes
  • 3 cups long grain rice
  • 1 aubergine
  • 2 peppers
  • 1/2 small cabbage

Method

  1. Blanch, peel and then chop the tomatoes.
  2. Finely chop and fry the onions in oil in a large pot for 5 minutes, before adding add the crushed garlic and crushed chillies. Fry for a further 5 minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and crushed Maggi cubes.
  3. Next add the chopped vegetables to the simmering sauce for about 5 minutes – this is mainly to get the flavour onto the veg. Then remove from the pot and leave to one side.
  4. Rinse 3 of cups long grain rice and add to the pot with 6 cups of water.
  5. Stir well and then bring the liquids to a boil, before reducing to a simmer. Cover and leave to cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Add the vegetables to the pot, to sit on top of the rice, together with the bay leaves. Season well and then re-cover and cook for about 25 minutes, effectively steaming the vegetables with the rice, until the vegetables are tender.

Acknowledgement: Adapted from a recipe I found on Celtnet Recipes.

036 Kachikally crocodile pool

# 10 Samoa: Palusami (Coconut creamed spinach with tofu)

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Think Samoa and I think of beautiful pacific beaches and rugby, but I really had no idea about its cuisine before embarking on this next recipe.  Turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, that coconut figures prominently in many dishes; so I decided to give this coconut-based Palusami a go.

A more authentic version of this recipe would use taro leaves, but spinach is deemed to be a good substitute if that is not an ingredient that is readily available to you.  Also the recipe I adapted this from featured corned beef, but I have replaced this with tofu.  If you want to get a feel for what a really authentic Palusami looks like, then check out this video on YouTube where coconut is wrapped in leaf pouches and baked underground.  I wanna cook outside like that!!!

I enjoyed cooking and eating this dish, although it was a little on the sweet side for me.  In researching this recipe I also stumbled across some really tempting Samoan desserts which I might have to try out now!

Ingredients (serves 4-5)

  • 400g pack of tofu
  • 200g baby leaf spinach
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare the tofu pieces: press out the excess water; cut into cm square pieces; and gently stir fry in a little olive oil for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  3. Alternately layer a casserole dish, with spinach leaves, onion and tofu pieces, until the dish is full to the top.
  4. Add the coconut milk, topping up with a little water if necessary, so that the liquid covers the other layered ingredients.
  5. Cover and bake for 55 minutes. Season to taste and then serve.

Acknowledgement: I adapted this recipe from one I found on Sasha Martin’s ‘Global Table Adventure’ blog.

#9 Nigeria: Itiakiet stew (kidney bean stew with a peanut sauce)

Itiakiet stew

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The whole purpose of this blog is really about giving me a reason to try cooking and eating some new things. This red kidney bean stew from Nigeria, served with fried plantain, green beans and rice provided a couple of firsts for me: the first time I’ve used peanut butter as a cooking ingredient (I am much more used to spreading it on toast!); and the first time I’ve cooked plantain. Result!

This is quite a hot dish – the bird’s eye chilies make sure of that – but if you’re ok with that then this is a great recipe to try. The peanut sauce blends well with the other ingredients, to create a distinctive nutty taste, but one which doesn’t override the other flavours.  This is absolutely delicious and I am really glad that I decided to give it a try.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 2 cans red kidney beans
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 8 green bird’s eye chilies, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 5 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter

Method 

  1. Fry the onion, garlic, chilies and green pepper in a pot using groundnut oil if you have it (I used vegetable oil instead) until the onions become clear.
  2. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper and fry for a couple more minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and lemon juice. Stir the mix well and then bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  3. While the tomato mixture is simmering, put the peanut butter in a small bowl. Add the liquid from one of the cans of kidney beans and mix together to make the peanut sauce.
  4. Next add the peanut sauce and kidney beans to the pot, stir, cover and simmer for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with basmati rice, fried plantain and green beans.

Acknowledgement: I came across this recipe on Maninas: Food Matters blog, which had been adapted from one published in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

#8 Lebanon: Maghmour

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With both time and money in short supply at the moment, the choice of this latest recipe was very much dictated by needing something that was going to be quick, easy and not expensive in terms of buying new ingredients. Happily I stumbled across this Lebanese aubergine and chickpea stew, or Maghmour to give it its proper name, which ticked all of those boxes.

As hopefully conveyed by the photo, this is a cracking little dish. In my opinion there are few things that can match the taste of melt-in-the-mouth aubergine – just make sure you give this one long enough to allow the aubergine pieces to reach that sweet point of tenderness and you really can’t go wrong. I will definitely be making this again!!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley + a little extra to garnish
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins chickpeas
  • 200ml vegetable stock

Method

  1. Chop the aubergine into chunks of about an inch-square and gently fry in olive oil for 10 minutes, until the flesh starts to brown. Then remove from pan and leave to one side for now.
  2. Add some more oil to the pan and sautée the onions and crushed garlic for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the parsley and season generously with pepper. Fry for a further 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and chickpeas to the pan and return the aubergine to the mix.
  5. Cover and cook on a low heat for 40-50 minutes or until the aubergine is tender.
  6. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve with pitta bread and houmous.

This recipe is adapted from several different ones that I looked up online. While the basics are the same in different recipes there is quite a lot of variation in the balance of ingredients suggested… so I have gone with what seemed ‘right’ to my taste buds!

#5 Mexico: Mexican quinoa

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2000px-Flag_of_Mexico.svgFresh from visiting the amazing Dia de los Muertos exhibition in London at the weekend, there was really only one place I was going to pick for my next dish for this blog.  With Mexican food being so popular, I was really spoilt for choice for recipes.  I ended up going for this quinoa-based dish, simply because it is a little bit different to the more familiar enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and nachos that I could have picked.

Although I am a little unsure how authentic this dish actually is, it certainly makes great use of that combination of sharp, fresh ingredients – jalapenos, garlic, tomatoes, lime juice, avocado, coriander – that is instantly recognizable as Mexican (which is good enough for me!).  Quinoa gets rave reviews for its properties as a ‘super-food’, but I have sometimes been disappointed with quinoa recipes in the past.  Not this time!  This one is really delicious and the quinoa works perfectly as the base for the dish, combining well with the black beans (a new favourite of mine after trying Brazilian vegetarian feijoada recently) and sweetcorn.  This recipe is also ridiculously easy to prepare – and it’s very healthy to boot. What’s not to like?!

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 jalapeno chili, chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 380g carton black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Method

  1. In a large pot, gently fry the garlic and jalapeno in oil for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add in the quinoa, vegetable stock, black beans, tomatoes, sweetcorn, chili flakes and cumin, stirring well.
  3. Bring to the boil and then cover, simmering on a low heat for about 20 minutes until the quinoa is cooked through and has absorbed most of the liquid.
  4. Add in the chopped avocado, lime juice and coriander, and stir through, before serving.

Acknowledgement: This recipe is adapted from one I found on the Damn Delicious blog.

#4 Brazil: Vegetarian feijoada

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brazilThe next port of call in this vegetarian odyssey is Brazil (which in my mind is Braaaa-ziiiil accompanied by whistles, whoops and cheers). Let’s make this one a real culinary carnival! First thing’s first: before you start any of the cooking, get some Brazilian music playing in your kitchen. Now you’re ready! I might do the musical accompaniment thing for all subsequent dishes, as it adds to the whole experience!

I have chosen a vegetarian feijoada. Feijoada is a stew of beans, beef and pork, traditional in Portugal, variations of which have also become traditional in its former colonies, including Brazil. Although a meat and bean-based dish, it can be made as a vegetarian stew too. All of the ingredients are readily available in UK supermarkets, although I did have to hunt around a bit for the chipotle chillies. Chipotles are jalapeno chillies that have been smoke-dried. Full of flavour, but also very hot; “Firey” according to the label on the pack I bought, so handle with care!

This is a cracking dish; easy to make, filling and with great flavours. I took a chance by using 2 of the chipotles and it was fine, not too fiery. I am sure that this stew is great nutritionally: it feels like it could give you the energy to samba all night long!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 x 380g packs of black beans in water
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 – 2 chipotle chillies, chopped (up to you how hot you want to go!)
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Cooked rice (white or brown)

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and chipotle chillies for 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the black beans (including liquid), chopped sweet potatoes, and thyme and cook for a further 25 to 30 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the parsley and salt and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more.
  4. Spoon the rice into bowls and ladle the feijoada over the top.

Acknowledgement: This recipe was adapted from one I found on Food.com.

#1 Thailand: Thai green vegetable curry

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thailandSo I’ve decided to start this vegetarian food blog in Thailand with this simple yet delicious Thai green curry recipe.   I am a normal person with a busy life, not a hardcore foodie, so these recipes may include some shop-bought/pre-made ingredients.  In this case I bought the Thai green curry paste from the Asian food stall on my local market, rather than something from the supermarket.  It is well worth seeking out the real thing – I used Mae Ploy which is made in Thailand – as the strong authentic flavours in the paste are what make the curry so good (and give it a real kick too!).  The curry is equally good served with rice or rice noodles and is especially tasty with curried (Singapore) noodles.  This recipe also works well with Quorn pieces instead of the mushrooms.

A nice optional extra – which I forgot this time – is to add some roasted cashew nuts on top to serve.  Dry roast a handful in a frying pan as the very first thing you do, then put to one side until you need them at the end.

Ingredients

  • Baby corn
  • Mange tout
  • Chestnut mushrooms
  • 2 yellow peppers
  • 2 tbsp Green Thai curry paste
  • 2 400 ml tins Coconut milk
  • Rice noodles
  • Unsalted cashew nuts (optional)

Method

  1. Chop the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes in a little oil.
  2. Add the green Thai curry paste and continue to stir fry for another 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk, stirring well to make sure the paste has fully mixed in.
  4. Gently simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Whilst the curry is simmering, heat through the noodles, and then serve together. Top with roasted cashew nuts.

Acknowledgement: I adapted this recipe from one I found on realfood.tesco.com