Salt and Pepper Tofu – Two Ways – sort of…

These two dishes are essentially the same – just subtly different. Both are salt and pepper tofu, just the accompaniments differ. But why so much tofu?!

Even before lockdown we planned all our meals at least a week in advance. We had bought three packs of tofu to cook meals from the ‘itsu 20 minute cookbook’ – my favourite of the ‘really really quick’ meals books I own.

Due to skipping a couple of meals and the ‘leg of lamb that lasted 4 days’ saga we skipped the tofu meals in favour of food that was closer to expiry. Obviously you can’t do this forever – tofu has a lifespan too – and we ended up with out of date tofu!

Whilst watching Australian Masterchef Season 12 (it’s on – watch it – it is sooooo good) one of the competitors made a tofu dish where they served it cold, pressed, uncooked, raw basically. I wasn’t impressed – so I decided to come up with something myself.

All I have done here is press the tofu for an hour, toss it in white pepper, sea salt and cornflour and fried it until a little bit crispy. Using white pepper allows for a more subtle peppery flavour – black pepper can be overpowering if you use too much!

The one on the left is fried in left over pork fat (from a dish I made the other day) and the one on the left if fried in olive oil. The pork fat one was much more crispy – but obviously far less vegetarian.

The one on the left has pickled red onion (slice and leave in white wine vinegar), sushi rice, steamed broccoli, cucumber and red chilli – and a little herby sauce (left over from another meal).

The one of the right is just boiled new potatoes, hard boiled egg, cucumber, radishes, braised red cabbage, more pickled red onion – and a Satay sauce from the Gado Gado recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. The meal is almost the Gado Gado recipe but it is supposed to have green beans, bean sprouts, croutons and crispy onions – which I didn’t have to hand. I will try it again when I next plan some meals. The addition of the crunchy stuff will definitely make this a better meal.

The Satay sauce took forever to make – and I’ll talk about this another time. Suffice to say it took at least 90 minutes to make, is very very nice – and was more spicy than I expected.

One more pack of tofu left! Let us see what we are having later today!

The ‘Get You Through the Day’ shake.

Sometime back in December 2019 I decided that 2020 was gonna be different for me. I was going to lose weight and get healthier. Most of 2018 and 2019 was spent consuming a lot of food and even larger quantities of alcohol and I somehow had crept up to 91kgs – which might not sound like much but I am pretty short.

2020 I vowed to not drink any alcohol and was going to lose 20kgs. 125 days into 2020 I haven’t touched a drop. I have also lost 20kgs. Now I weigh 71kgs. Yay for me!

Anyone that has known me for any length of time will know that I am a semi-professional yo-yo dieter and will inevitably put weight back on – but so far so good.

These people that know me will also know I am a bit obsessive and when I say I am going to do something I do it!

My new regime, with a few exceptions, is this shake for breakfast and nothing else until 7pm when we have dinner. Lately 100+ days in I have had the odd sausage sandwich for breakfast; especially if we have some bread that has seen better days, but as a rule this shake is all I need.

There are slight variations, but generally, get the big Nutribullet cup, 1/3 fill with frozen dark fruits (it must be frozen), add a banana, a peeled orange (or grapefruit, once I did 3 limes), a scoop of Protein Works, and a small amount of water. Then blitz!

Sometimes I add a frozen spinach puck, sometimes I add a splash of Vimto or Ribena, and when there are vegetables in the fridge crying for the compost bin, they go in too. I rarely throw stuff away.

I used to add milk instead of water – but it really isn’t worth the calories or the potential to miss out on cups of tea – especially during lockdown where you only get milk every 2 weeks!

This can keep me going all day. I never get tempted to snack, and just go about my day without a thought for more food – until dinner time, where I just eat a regular meal.

I’m not suggesting anyone else does this. But this worked for me, and has changed the way I now eat.

Very Slow Cooked Lamb

In a change to the regularly scheduled Sunday Zoom call cook-along with Freya’s parents we decided to shift to Saturday for a change. Nothing like a bit of variety during these challenging lockdown times.

Mine was slow cooked in the over for 7+ hours; Freya’s mum did hers in her outside log powered pizza oven.

I’ve made this recipe up, and although you can’t see it yet (picture to follow shortly), the lamb was cooked in a traditional red wine sauce – which I’ll get to in a minute.

Main inspiration for this dish (rather than the Ottolenghi lamb dish we did a few weeks ago) was the rapidly fading vegetables we had knocking about, and my inability to throw any food away that isn’t already walking to the compost bin by itself. We also had a 3/4 full open bottle of red wine, and some stock that I made from the carcass of Ottolenghi’s Soffrito chicken. Together these ingredients were bound to make a good sauce.

Prep for mine started the day before. I stabbed the lamb (and it was a very big lump of lamb) with a sharp knife and filled every stab hole with a chuck of garlic and some rosemary. I then rubbed some of the salt from my friend Becca’s homemade Preserved Lemons over the lamb and left it for a good 12-18 hours.

The next morning I started dinner (it was around 9:30am and we were going to eat around 6pm)

In a large saucepan I added some olive oil and browned off the leg of lamb on a high heat, to get some colour on it – and to release some of the meat juices into the pan. I then put the meat to one side.

In the same pan I fried off some diced carrot, onions, celery and garlic then added all the leftover wine, all the leftover stock, two tins of chopped tomatoes and some tomato puree. I had some left over thyme in the fridge which was borderline so this went in too. I brought this too the boil, let it blip for a while and they poured it all over and around the lamb and popped it in the oven at 160 degrees (uncovered) – and that was basically it!

I only seasoned with pepper as I thought I’d used enough salt already on the lamb and didn’t want to ruin it.

After about 4 hours it started looking a bit dark so I turned the lamb over in the sauce and covered it in a sheet of tinfoil.

After 7 hours it looked pretty epic (as you can see in the picture). I separated the sauce from the meat and blitzed the sauce in the Thermomix to made a rather thick and very very tasty Ragu like wine sauce. Traditionally you’d remove the veg by straining off the liquid to leave a glossy sauce. I don’t really do refined and I prefer a thicker sauce with this sort of meal.

We had about 20% of this melt in the mouth, falling apart lamb with the Ragu sauce, mashed potatoes and garlicky Cavolo Nero.

Our Scotty dog Bruce was very pleased with the lamb bone too – it kept him busy for hours.

A very successful meal indeed. We used up all the borderline veg, leftover wine and stock and probably have enough Ragu sauce and lamb to have it with some pasta today – and perhaps the next couple of days too!

Freya is now making Tattie scones with the leftover mash potatoes. We don’t throw anything away in this house!

Ten Minute Tiramisu

Weekends during lockdown are now a regular excuse to do a cook-along with Freya’s parents. We’ve done a few now and this week we both cooked leg of lamb (more on that in another post).

The In-Laws advocate that all meals have a starter and a dessert. We don’t tend to bother so we patiently waited for them to eat their beetroot, goats cheese, and salmon blinis before tucking into the main event.

After some lengthy shouting into computers we were ready to down tools until Mummy Two Two whipped out a Tiramisu and made Freya wish she could have some.

As luck would have it we had a packet of sponge fingers left over from Christmas. We were going to make Jamie’s Christmas dinner (in it’s entirety) but we didn’t get round to making his dessert.

So this was a bit freestyle but seemed to work. I whisked 4 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee, caster sugar and some very hot water with an electric food mixer until the sugar dissolved (this is the beginnings of a Dalgona coffee – but that’s for another time). To the coffee mix add some brandy then pour it over the sponge fingers.

While the fingers are absorbing all the coffee and brandy goodness, whip together a tub of marscapone cream, some double cream, vanilla bean paste and caster sugar until it comes too (careful not to split it).

Next grate some chocolate (traditionalists say to sift cocoa powder but I didn’t do this). We used Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Milk.

Finally layer the fingers, the cream and the chocolate.

It obviously isn’t a Tiramisu that the Italians will approve of – but for 10 minutes it wasn’t bad.

I imagine the 80% of it that is left will mature nicely in the fridge. I intend to add a coffee foam to my next portion. Simply whisk the same quantities of coffee, sugar and very hot water AGAIN but this time keep going for 3 or 4 minutes until soft peaks form. Spooning this over the tiramisu is bound to make it taste better. Alternatively just spoon it over iced milk.

Pancake Day

Bacon, Spinach and Cheddar Pancake

In the UK it was Shrove Tuesday yesterday; or pancake day if you prefer.

Most people forget pancake day these days. It was always a big deal when I was growing up – but the only pancake you’d ever get was dressed in a squeeze of lemon and some sugar. Maybe I was just deprived but it’s all I knew in the 70’s and early 80s.

We already had pancakes this week; Freya and I met up with her brother and his girlfriend in Chelsea for Dutch Pancakes in My Old Dutch. It wasn’t bad although £10 for a pancake with a few pizza toppings is a bit much. That said the beer was reasonably prices and I have a very nice Kriek Boon – which usually costs a lot more.

I promised Freya pancakes this week – and hoped to have a few for dinner before going to our regular Rock’n’Roll dancing class  – but North Circular traffic put a stop to that. It did allow us a good two hours to think about the pizza toppings. It also allowed an amusing text exchange between a couple of my friends – who eventually admitted defeat to my relentless pancake puns.

Bacon, Spinach and cheese was the eventual winner – going totally against the ‘no cooking meat on the boat rule’. Rules are made to be broken though.

Pancakes are pretty easy to make – it’s only eggs flour and milk. Some people add melted butter to the batter, some add and extra egg yolk, some add oil. I opted for the extra yolk option but only because I had one lying around from a previous recipe.

You need your pan to be super hot. I always make my pancakes in a mix of butter and oil – and wait for the butter to brown. I also tend to make savoury pancakes a bit thicker than the sweet variety as the toppings tend to tear the base and it all goes horribly wrong if you need to grill the cheese afterwards. You just can’t shift them out of the pan! Thicker is better in this case.

I fried the bacon in a pan first – I used really cheap bacon bits from Morrisons – I think they were only 89p – in keeping with the frugality of pancake day. In hindsight a better quality of bacon might have been better – less salty for a start – although it didn’t bother me.

Once you’ve make your pancake, top it with trimmed spinach leaves, your cooked bacon and a generous handful of grated cheese. Pop it under the grill and let the cheese bubble.

When it’s ready slide it onto a plate and serve.

I made enough batter for two each but one was enough really. It was very filling and very very tasty.

I think I might start making pancake pizzas from now on. It uses up eggs and milk and there’s always something you can put on a pizza/pancake.