Mapo tofu

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a very popular Sichuan Chinese dish made from tofu, Douchi or fermented black beans, rice wine, pungent Sichuan peppers and a double hit of chilli flakes and Douban, a chilli and bean paste. Classically the dish is made with ground beef or pork and so spicy as to make the diner sweat. In this recipe, I have substituted roughly chopped Shiitake mushrooms for the meat to make a tasty vegetarian option. Last year I posted a serious of recipes from one of my favourite Chinese cuisines to celebrate Chinese New Year including My Cantonese Pork and Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. This year I am going to post some Sichuan dishes to add to the collection.

Mapo tofu
Mapo tofu

Mapo Tofu History

The origins of the dish are a little confusing but one thing is for certain and all of the experts agree on the meaning of the name ‘ Mapo ‘. Ma stands for pockmarks and po is derived from the Chinese for old lady or grandma. So Mapo tofu is a shortening of the name Pockmarked Ma’s Bean Curd. This lady may have owned a restaurant, or been a relative of a restaurant owner, or simply being hospitable. whatever she created a stunning dish packed with flavour. Today there are many variations and recipes that are often adapted with less spice, but you should really give the authentic recipe a try. Enjoy.

Mapo Tofu Ingredients

Sliced tofu
Sliced Tofu

Tofu or bean curd is made from soy milk. In a process similar to making cheese it is first made into curds which are pressed into blocks. The finished product has a soft yielding texture and is quite bland in taste but is often used in really highly-flavoured dishes such as Mapo tofu.

Sichuan Pepper
Sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper is not like any of its namesakes the smell and taste is unique. It has a citrus aroma, in fact, it is a member of the citrus family and creates a mild pleasant numbness in the mouth.

Doubanjiang or douban is a salty spicy paste made from fermented broad beans, soya beans and rice and red chillies. It is known as ‘ the soul of Sichuan cuisine ‘.

Fermented Black Beans
Douchi – fermented black beans

Douchi ( 豆豉 ) are semi-dried fermented and salted black soybeans used in Chinese cooking. The finished taste is both sweet and salty so the beans are used sparingly as a flavouring to dishes. Douchi are one of the oldest know products made from soybeans dating back over two thousand years.

Top Tips

Use a wooden spoon or flat spatula to gently stir the dish when cooking to avoid breaking up the tofu. As both the fermented black beans and the douban are salty check the flavour of the dish before adding any additional salt. If you want a little more Sichuan hit sprinkle the finished dish with extra freshly ground Sichuan pepper.

As you will be making this quickly in a wok it helps to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking.

Roasted Vegetable Curry

Roasted Vegetable Curry – National Curry Week

It is time for you to open the cupboard and find that half used tin of Madras curry powder. It is National Curry Week . I want to start with an easy recipe, nutritious, and full of flavour, a Roasted Vegetable Curry. As an added bonus for everyone, this is my first vegan recipe. I can totally guarantee it is so tasty, great for everyone to eat and enjoy. Roast Vegetable Curry is a comforting supper dish you can serve just as it is. Or serve it as a side as part of a larger group meal. Why not try it with my Butter Chicken, rice, poppadums, and pickles.

Every one Loves Curry

Curries are now a staple part of English cooking. Chicken Tikka Masala is now the most popular takeaway dish in the UK. Our tastes have definitely changed from the days of early Indian influenced dishes such as kedgeree. This recipe was bought home from India by colonial civil servants. We now eat curry dishes from around the world. Curry recipes from turmeric and ginger spiced Malay to the fantastically popular Thai green variety. Finally please remember curry does not need to be fiery hot. The key is developing layers of flavour through using different spices and aromatics.

Roasted Vegetable Curry

Roasted Vegetable Curry

Spices

My recipe uses chilli, ginger, garlic and curry powder as the key flavours. If you are a little more confident you can substitute ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and mustard powder for the curry powder.

Believe it or not, curry powder was not invented in India. The most common theory is that it was invented by Chinese cooks to emulate the recipes the British had grown used to. The most used spice mixes in India are Garam Masala.

Any spice mix and ground spice you may have has a limited shelf life. Spices are best stored in an air-tight container in a cool environment away from direct sunlight. Over time the intense flavours will be lost and the taste can become stale in time.

I have used several vegetables, but this recipe is a great fridge clearer whatever you have in your salad drawer can go into it, cauliflower, aubergine, boiled potatoes, tomatoes you can really experiment. You can save time by omitting the garlic, chilli, ginger, and spices and use a quality Tikka Masala curry paste if you are in a hurry.


Cauliflower Veloute with Cauliflower Pakora and Curry Oil

This week I’ve been looking at some of the soup recipes I have put online and while I had several classics such as Gazpacho, French Onion and Chowder I wanted something a little more elegant so today’s recipe is a sophisticated soup ideal for a dinner party and perhaps as the starter for your Christmas Dinner. This rich, silky smooth cauliflower soup is an ideal partner to the spicy flavours of the pakora’s and curry oil. A veloute is a traditional soup made with a stock thickened with a roux, this recipe also contains potato for extra body.

Cauliflower Soup.jpg

Cauliflower Veloute

Cauliflower Veloute

1 kg ( approximately ) 1 large Cauliflower, cut up

1 large Baking Potato, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 ltr  homemade Chicken or Vegetable stock

600ml full-fat Milk

142ml carton Double Cream

60gr Plain Flour

40gr Butter

4 tbsp Olive Oil

A small sprig of fresh Thyme

Small Bay Leaf

Sea Salt and White Pepper

A few drops of fresh Lemon Juice

A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the cauliflower, potato, and onion. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for about ten minutes without colouring, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and cook out stirring continuously for two further minutes. Add the nutmeg, bay leaf, and thyme and pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then pour in the milk and return gently to a gentle simmer. This prevents scum forming from the milk solids. Simmer, uncovered, for fifteen minutes until the vegetables are soft then, add half the cream.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly then take out the thyme and bay leaf before blending in a food processor. For an extra smooth finish, push the purée through a sieve with the back of a ladle. Reheat gently do not boil, stir in the rest of the cream, the lemon juice, season to taste and serve.

You can prepare the soup ahead of time, cool, cover and chill then reheat as required.

Curry Oil

100ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil, warmed in a small pan

2 level teaspoons of Curry Powder

1 tsp crushed Coriander Seeds

1 tsp yellow Mustard Seeds

½ tsp Turmeric

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 stalk of Lemongrass, peeled and roughly chopped

Grated Zest of 1 fresh Lime

Generous pinch of Sea Salt

 In a small frying pan, toast the curry powder, turmeric, coriander and mustard seeds for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn the spices, add the garlic, lemongrass, lime zest, salt and warm olive oil. Set aside to cool and infuse in a warm place for at least an hour. Strain the oil through a fine sieve cover and set aside until needed.

Cauliflower Pakoras

 Half a second Cauliflower ( around 500gr trimmed  into 2cm florets )

For the Batter

100gr Gram / Chickpea Flour

175ml ice cold Water

1 tsp ground Coriander

1 tsp ground Turmeric

1 tsp ground Cumin

A couple of generous pinches of Cayenne Pepper

¼ tsp fine Salt

Neutral Vegetable Oil for frying

Sieve all of the dry batter ingredients into a bowl to remove any lumps. Slowly pour in the water whisking together to make a smooth batter. The finished batter should be the consistency of double cream. Add a little extra cold water if required. Add the cauliflower florets to the batter and mix thoroughly to ensure they are all coated in the batter.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, it needs to be around 3 centimeters deep. When you can gently fry a piece of stale bread to golden brown the oil is hot enough. Place three or four spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and cook for two minutes until golden brown on one side then turn over and cook for another couple of minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep cooking in batches until all the mixture is used up.

To serve ladle piping hot soup into bowls and add two or three pakoras, drizzle over curry oil and garnish with a little freshly chopped coriander.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Flour   Milk   Mustard

Please see the Allergens Page

 


Super Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup – A Bonfire Night Staple

Autumn is one of my favourite culinary times of the year, root vegetables are becoming abundant, it is the season for game, hearty stews and fiery curries and it is when soups really come into their own. As it is Bonfire Night I thought I would pass one of our family favourite recipes. There is nothing as comforting after walking on the beach or kicking up some leaves up in the park with the children and coming home and eating a nice bowl of soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup 2

 

We love creamy chowder, carrot and coriander but in our house, the girls love roasted red pepper and tomato best. This is a really easy, comforting recipe that freezes exceeding well so could be made in advance, it is a fantastic thick, full of sweet, smoky flavours and great served in a mug as you stand to watch the fireworks. Passed through a sieve it can be dressed up as a lovely lunchtime treat or simple supper dish. So, for the perfect fifth of November feast make sure you have some crisp-skinned jacket potatoes freshly baked in the oven, a plate full of toffee apples for the children and a big, big pan of this delicious soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup            serves 4 to 6

2 large deep Red Peppers, halved & de-seeded.

1 large Onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled.

2 sticks of Celery, washed and thinly sliced

1 large Carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 x 400 gr tins of chopped Tomatoes

1/2 litre of Vegetable Stock

100 ml quality Olive Oil

50 gr Tomato Purée

1 heaped teaspoon dried Basil

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

Juice of one fresh Lemon

A generous pinch of dried Chilli flakes

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C /  360 F / Gas Mark 4. Place the pepper halves and garlic cloves on to a baking tray and drizzle with a little of the olive oil. Bake at the top of your oven for thirty minutes until the vegetables are roasted and nicely caramelised. In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, over a medium heat, and sauté the chopped onion, carrot and celery for about ten minutes until soft.

In a second pan heat up the vegetable stock and add the tomato purée and the chilli flakes. Whisk and then add to the onions, celery and carrots. Peel any very dark, burnt spots from the peppers and add them, the garlic and remaining ingredients to the stock and vegetables. Bring the soup to a low boil, turn down the heat and simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to completely cool then using a hand blender or food processor blitz the until the soup is smooth. You can pass the soup through a sieve if you want a more refined dinner party finish. To serve, reheat and season with salt, pepper and lemon to taste.