Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

24/12/2010

Kenchinjiru: Shōjin winter vegetable stew.

Kenchinjiru is a traditional winter recipe originating in Zen temples, and there are many variations. The basic recipe adapts well to the sort of winter vegetables that are available in Scotland right now. It’s dead simple, and really warming. The amounts given makes a large bowl suitable for a meal for one. It’ll serve up to four as part of a larger meal. This is more of a formula than a recipe, and it can be made gluten-free by using a proper tamari instead of shōyu.

For the soup:
2 cups dashi
½ tsp frying oil
¼ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp shōyu
1 tsp sake

1 shiitake mushroom, both fresh and reconstituted dried ones are fine. If using dried, include the soaking water in the dashi.

2 large leaves spinach, a similar quantity of any green leafy vegetable, or a few green beans.

½ block (100g) tofu, cubed – either silken or “ordinary” will do

Vegetables: (choose three)
Peel (if needed) and slice them thinly. The first four are traditional:
Half a small carrot
5cm length of daikon from the thin end of the radish
1cm lotus root (quarter, then slice)
5cm burdock root
a quarter or a golden or striped beetroot (the traditional red one will colour the soup)
half a small parsnip
10cm length of salsify
a quarter of a small turnip, more if very small.
a similar amount of whatever root vegetable you happen to have.

Extras (choose one):
½ block konnyaku, any savoury variety, broken into lumps, boiled and drained.
1 sheet aburaage, rinsed and sliced thinly.

Heat the frying oil in a medium saucepan and add the vegetables, mushrooms and konnyaku (if using). Stir fry very briefly, then add the dashi, shōyu and sake. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked through. Add the spinach and tofu, and simmer until the tofu is warmed through and the spinach slightly wilted. Stir in the sesame oil and serve.

10/04/2010

Japan: Hotel breakfast buffets

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 01:24

I go to a lot of science fiction conventions, all over the world, and the breakfast buffet is something I universally avoid unless I’m really starving and need some beans on toast. All there is for me usually is cereal (if I’ve remembered some soya milk), the toast, beans, hash browns and maybe the mushrooms depending on how they’re cooked.

I am currently in a hotel in Ōmiya, a little north of Tokyo. I already know that the traditional japanese breakfast is miso soup, rice and pickles, plus some leftovers, and breakfast is included in the room rate so I thought I’d give it a go.

Today’s breakfast was: simmered silken tofu topped with ginger; various pickles including a bright blue plum of some sort; hijiki salad; herb konnyaku with mustard, some toasted nori (sprinkled on the second batch of tofu) and a bowl of multigrain rice. If I had brought my little bottle of shōyu with me, I’d have had nattō, too (suspect fish in the little sachets provided). To drink I had acerola juice and the coffee, which was naff, so I changed to hojicha (roasted green tea). I will be buying stocks of hojicha when I get home!

I will also be eating breakfast this weekend.

28/11/2009

Japanese tofu article

Filed under: Ingredients, Japanese, Reading matter — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 12:14

Kimiko Barber goes In search of traditional Japanese tofu in today’s Financial Times.

03/04/2009

German bean soup

Filed under: Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 17:07

I needed a quick tea, so I just had a go at veganising a German soup. It seems to have come out okay.

1 litre water
1 can cannelini, haricot or other white beans.
3 carrots chopped.
2 onions, chopped.
1 block smoked tofu, cut into small thin slices.
1 tbl vegan beef-style stock (or use yeast extract)
1 tbl ajwain (celery seed)
1 tbl dried parsley, or fresh equivalent.
1 pack taifun tofu wieners, sliced.
Olive oil for frying

Bring the water to the boil and add the beans, carrots, ajwain, parsley and stock powder. Turn the heat down to low and simmer.

In a separate pan, heat up the olive oil and stir fry the tofu. It doesn’t matter if it breaks up – it’s going into soup – and you want it to be a bit crispy. Once the tofu starts to go crispy, add the onions and turn the heat down. Continue to fry slowly.

When the carrots are cooked, blend the soup. Add the contents of the frying pan and the sliced sausages. Heat through and serve – you should be able to feed two as a meal and four as a snack or starter.

Korean-style spicy tofu

Filed under: Ingredients, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:46

This is one of my staple recipes, based on a dish you could get at the Korean food stall in the late, lamented Oriental City mall in north London, and a few recipes from around the internet.

2-3 tbl olive oil
At least 5 cloves garlic, sliced.
1 medium carrot, sliced.
1 medium onion, sliced.
1 sweet red pepper, or equivalent other vegetable of your choice.
1 block tofu, 300-400g.
4 spring onions
2 tbl water

For the sauce:
3 tbl kochujang
2 tbl rice syrup or 1½tbl sugar
2 tbl soya sauce

Options:
Fresh red chillies to taste
Up to 1 tbl sesame oil

Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. You’ll have to stir it well to get the kochujang to blend with the soya sauce. Add extra chillies if you want.

Using a wok or a large frying pan, fry the onions, garlic and carrots for a few minutes in the olive oil. You want them to soften, but not to start turning brown. Then add the peppers/other veg, the tofu and spring onions and gently stir in the sauce until all is well-coated. Add the water, stir again, cover and simmer for a few minutes until the vegetables are cooked through. Optionally mix in some sesame oil just before serving. Serve over rice.

Notes:
Kochujang (sometimes transliterated gochujang) is a Korean paste which is basically a hot and spicy dark miso. It comes in bright red plastic tubs and is available from most Chinese supermarkets. A similar, but non-spicy, bean paste comes in tan-coloured tubs, should you not want the heat.

23/03/2009

Bukkake Soba

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 18:19
Bukkake soba

Bukkake soba

Yes, that really is the Japanese name for this dish, and I have no intention of calling it anything else. Even though the word bukkake is just a form of a verb meaning “to splash” or “to sprinkle”, its colloquial meaning is very appropriate for this dish.

Bukkake soba is essentially cold buckwheat noodles topped with a thick sauce and drizzled with tsuyu, a thin dipping-type one. The thick sauce is usually white, too. The version below is based on a recipe from a Japanese-language cookbook and is for a single portion.

1 bundle soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)

for the thick sauce
approximately ½ cup very soft tofu, such as microwave tofu
50g yamatoimo (about 5cm or 2 inches)
a bowl of water with about 1tsp vinegar added

for the tsuyu
3 tbl water or konbu dashi
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl mirin

to garnish
1 small spring onion
a lump of wasabi to taste (optional)

Put the yamatoimo to soak in the bowl of water for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, slice the spring onions and make up the wasabi, if necessary.

When the noodles are ready, drain them and plunge into cold water. Drain again, thoroughly, and place in a large bowl.

Put the tsuyu ingredients into a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and set to one side.

Grated yamatoimo;

Grated yamatoimo


Peel the yamatoimo and grate finely—the finest Microplane is good for this job. It will come out as a sticky liquid. Don’t panic. Stir it into the tofu. It will be slimy. This is deliberate. Pour this mixture on top of the noodles.

Dribble the tsuyu into the bowl around the edges and garnish with spring onions and the wasabi. The wasabi can be mixed into the tsuyu.

Eat and enjoy the expression on your flatmates’ faces—this is one of those dishes that tastes much better than it looks! Then tell them what it’s called.

Notes
Yamatoimo is available from the Japan Centre in London, and in the massive See Woo supermarket in Glasgow. I used the King Soba brand of organic 100% soba this time round, and I’m afraid I was not impressed. They’re not chunky enough, and stick to one another far too easily.

Microwave tofu experiment FAIL WIN

Filed under: Experiments, Japanese — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 14:39

I need yosedoufu—a very soft tofu made in a bowl, usually as needed—to make bukkake soba (yes, that’s the real name of the dish), but it’s not the sort of thing you can get here. I was wandering around the web when I encountered (in context, I’m not going to use the phrase “came across”!) this Japanese recipe for making tofu in a microwave, which looked as if it was just what I needed and used ready-made soya milk as a basis.

The sort of soya milk you need

The sort of soya milk you need

I gathered together my ingredients and equipment. I chose Plamil Organic soya milk. It’s important that soya milk used for tofu contain nothing but soya and water, and the recipe suggests that it needs to be at least 10% soya beans. The Plamil milk is 14% soya. The only other similarly simple brand I could find was a Provamel variety that was only 8% soya beans. As well as that, I needed nigari, of which I had two types in stock – a liquid Japanese brand, and a more natural-looking mix of salty stuff and water from the wholefood shop over the road:

Two types of nigari

Two types of nigari

The recipe appeared to be using the Japanese liquid type, so I went with that. I used a microwave saucepan, as that was large enough to hold 500ml of soya milk. The instructions were to mix the soya milk and nigari while cold, then divide between single portion bowls and microwave for 4 mins 30s in a 500w oven. I kept it all in the pan, and set my 850w oven to 600w, then microwaved it for 3mins 30s.

It did not turn out as tofu. I let it stand, and it didn’t curdle at all. Eventually, when it was cooled, I added a second teaspoon of nigari and repeated the process. The nigari was out-of-date, but it’s a mineral, so I can’t see why there’d be a problem. When it had heated, I checked the temperature and it was over the 75°C needed for coagulation to work. Again, it was liquid, so I let it stand. I checked again when it had dropped below the coagulation temperatute and I did not have tofu. I did, though, get fresh yuba! Which I ate, there and then.

Fresh yuba.

Fresh yuba.

Next I plan to use the more natural nigari and see what happens. (Update: this worked. Now to make bukkake soba.)

10/03/2009

Sichuan Aubergine and Tofu

Filed under: Chinese — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 11:38

This recipe is based on one in Classic Food of China by Yan-Kit So, a book which is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in Chinese cuisine. Very few of the recipes are vegan, but the background material on the history and variety of Chinese food is fascinating.

The quantities below serve two when served as a single dish with rice.

2 aubergines
½ block of tofu
8-10g Chinese black fungus
vegetable oil for deep frying
2-3 cloves garlic
2cm (or so) fresh ginger
as many small, hot, dried red chillies as you can bear (start off with about 10)
1 tbl sake (shaoxing wine is more authentic)
½ tsp sugar or other sweetener
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl rice vinegar
1 tbl strong stock or water
2 spring onions, cut into rounds

Cover the black fungus with warm water and leave to soak for an hour. Rinse them well – there will be grit – and break off the thick knobbly bit at the base. Break into small pieces and set aside.

Chop the garlic and ginger finely and put in a small bowl. Set aside.

Mix the sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar in another small bowl. Make sure the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Cut the aubergine into large cubes, leaving the skin on. Dice the tofu similarly. Heat up the oil in a deep fat fryer, a chip pan or a wok and fry the aubergine in batches until it begins to brown. Deep fry the tofu until golden. Set aside, draining on a few sheets of kitchen roll.

If you used the wok for deep frying, find somewhere to put the oil – it can be re-used. Leave a tablespoon or so of oil in the wok, and make sure you have all the ingredients to hand. Heat the oil in the wok on a high heat until it starts to smoke. Don’t panic. Add the garlic and ginger and stir it a couple of times, then add the chillies and stir. They should puff up a little. Add the tofu, aubergine and fungus to the pan and continue to stir fry for a few seconds. Dribble the sake around the edges of the food – it should sizzle in a satisfying manner – then add the sugar/soy sauce/vinegar mix and the stock. Cover the wok and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the spring onions and serve. Optionally, you can dribble a little bit of sesame oil over it, for added flavour.

19/02/2009

Japanese recipes so far

As a way of getting this kick-started, here are my Japanese vegan recipes which I’ve already posted to my LiveJournal and elsewhere.

There are plenty more of these, and the observant might have noticed references to a cookbook. Yes, I’m working on one.

31/12/2008

My ozouni.

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 19:35

Ozouni is a traditional Japanese dish for New Year’s Day. It is generally had in the morning, after having toasted in the sunrise with sake, and is a significant cause of death for old people. There are as many recipes as people, plus a few more. Mine is vaguely Eastern Japan-ish, but vegan. Serves four-ish.

For dashi:
Piece of dashi konbu

For fake fish roll:
about a third of a block of konnyaku
a few drops of red food colouring (yes, there is vegan red food colouring out there)
very strong konbu dashi

The rest:
3 dried shiitake
about half a carrot
a block of firm tofu, cut into big triangular chunks
some greenery (not available this time)
1 tbl shouyu
1 tbl sake
one piece mochi per person
dried yuzu peel

Set the shiitake to soak. Slice the carrots and use a fancy cutter to make them an interesting shape. Bung the konbu and the bits of carrot you cut off into a pan with plenty of water, bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour or so. Drain, retaining the liquid.

Cut round or flower shapes out of the konnyaku. Put it in a small pan with enough strong dashi to cover (I cheated and used instant for this) and the food colouring. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, and don’t forget about it! Strain – no need to reserve the liquid.

Put the home-made dashi back into the big pan, and add the shiitake soaking water, the shouyu, the sake and more water if needed (you know how big your soup bowls are!). Bring back to the boil whilst thinly slicing the shiitake, discarding the stems. Add the shiitake and tofu to the dashi and simmer for 5 minutes, the add the carrots, the fake fish rolls and the greenery.

Continue simmering while you prepare the mochi.

The best place to get mochi is a health food store – I use the Mitoku brown rice ones which Real Foods sell, because I am a Bloody Hippie. Grill the mochi on both sides until they swell up then put one in each bowl. Ladle the soup over the mochi, making sure everyone gets a bit of everything. Sprinkle some yuzu peel over. Eat the mochi carefully – they’re sticky and choking on them is what kills people in Japan.

For a more Western Japanese style, add white miso.

09/12/2008

Kinugoshi no gomadare (Silken tofu in a sesame sauce)

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:36

Kinugoshi no gomadare (Silken tofu in a sesame sauce)This is a really simple recipe, that can be made to look incredibly posh.

Ingredients (four servings)
One cake firm silken tofu (e.g. Mori-nu)

sesame sauce:
8 tsp white sesame seed
4 tsp soya sauce
4 tsp sake
8 tsp mirin (use an expensive one, like Clearspring’s Mikawa Mirin)

topping:
2 tsp white sesame seed
A sprinkle of nori flakes, or perilla if you can get it.

Blend the sauce ingredients together and divide between four small bowls.

Cut the tofu as shown below and place one piece of tofu in each bowl.

cutting-tofu

Toast the other sesame seed in a heavy pan and put approximately ½tsp on top of each piece of tofu. Sprinkle the nori or perilla on top of this. Serve as one element of a Japanese meal.

Variations:
This dish is made chilled. It could be heated in a microwave before the toppings are added, but I haven’t tried this. Adding brown rice syrup to the sauce would turn it into a dessert.

11/02/2008

Goth rice, Lotus Balls in An Sauce, Tofu steak

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 21:33

My partner expressed satisfaction with tonight’s meal, so here are the recipes, all of which are likely to end up in the cookbook.

Goth Rice

1 cup short grain brown rice
1 tbl black sesame seed
2 cups water

Add all to a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid, bring to the boil and simmer gently (with the lid on) until the water is absorbed – about 40 minutes. It will come out black. Needless to say, “goth rice” is not the Japanese name for this fairly traditional combination, but it ought to be.

Lotus Root Balls in An Sauce

About a 10cm length/200g fresh lotus root.
1 small-medium onion
1 tbl wholemeal flour
1 tsp oil for frying onion
Oil for deep frying

2 tbl kuzu
1½ cups water
2 tbl soy sauce
A big knob of ginger

Chop the onion finely and fry gently in the oil until just brown. Meanwhile, grate the lotus root really finely. Add to the pan of onion. It will be a sticky mess – do not worry. Cook briefly then remove the mixture to the bowl and allow to cool for long enough to handle. Knead the flour into the mixture to make a sticky dough. Remember to put the deep fryer on – a fairly low-medium heat is best. Divide the dough into four pieces, then four again, and make 16 small balls. Bung them in the hot oil and slowly fry them until they are a deep golden brown. This is a good moment to wash your hands and make the sauce.

Grind the kuzu finely and mix to a paste with a small amount of water. Put the rest of the water in a pan to heat up and add the soy sauce and kuzu paste. Stir lots. If it looks like it’s turning into lumps, get out a hand blender and use that to really stir it! It will thicken rather impressively. Chop the ginger finely, or grate it, and add to the sauce. Turn the heat off and transfer the balls to the sauce while you finish whatever else you are cooking. Remember to turn the frying pan off, unlike me.

Tofu Steak

A great big lump of tofu.
Sunflower oil.

Cut the tofu into two large “steaks” whichever way looks best to you. Make them 2-3 cm thick. Place them in a shallow frying pan with the hot oil and fry each side at a medium heat until golden. It will turn golden part-way up the sides, too, making it easier to tell when you need to turn it over. It will probably weld to the pan, so use a metal spatula or something when you are ready to flip over or serve, as it will come off without damage to the tofu if you are careful. The tofu should be crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle.

27/01/2008

Black sesame smoothie

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 15:16

I had a large shopping accident at amazon.co.jp the other day, and one of the books I bought was 豆腐でおうちゃくダイエット (toufu de ouchaku daietto), which appears to translate as Lazy Diet with Tofu! It’s in the Orange Page シンパルマクロビオティック (Simple Macrobiotics) series, so I suppose it makes sense in a way. This recipe is from that book.

100g (3.5 oz.) tofu (it says “cotton”. I used firm silken)
2 tbl black sesame seeds
1 tbl rice syrup (I used maple syrup, which works surprisingly well in Japanese food)
2 tbl black sesame paste (see note)
½ cup water

Blend it all thoroughly and serve in a glass over ice. Sprinkle a few more black sesame seeds on for decoration.

Note: Japanese black sesame paste is unobtainium, at least in the UK. It’s not sweetened. You can make it by roasting a couple of tablespoons of black sesame, then grinding them. If there is not enough oil to make it into a paste, add a teaspoon or two of sesame oil. Chinese black sesame paste is available from Chinese supermarkets. This has been sweetened, so if you use it reduce the amount of syrup.

Update 15th April 2008: Arigato on Brewer Street in London sell black sesame paste in handy resealable pouches.

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