Tofu scramble

Wouldn’t it be great to find a dish that is quick and easy to make, and suitable to eat at any time of the day? Well, I’m happy to say that tofu scramble fits the bill just perfectly. A great breakfast alternative to scrambled eggs, a quick and easy lunch option or bulked up with a range of vegetables for a more substantial evening meal, tofu scramble is super easy and packed with masses of flavour as well as a shed-load of nutrients.

I first came across tofu scramble in India on one of the cooking courses I attended. There’s an Indian breakfast dish called Akuri that is basically scrambled egg with vegetables and chilli. Replacing the eggs with tofu created tofu akuri and I have to say I really didn’t like it! Looking back, I think it was the type of tofu used but I avoided trying it again for some time. Then whilst in New York last summer, we found a fabulous boutique cafe that served tofu scramble, so I decided to give it a go and was delighted I did. It was amazing and I’ve been making it at home ever since.

There’s a lot of mixed opinions on tofu. Tofu is made from fermented soya milk, and it’s the humble soya bean that courts controversy. Many people are concerned about genetically modified soy that is grown mainly in the States along with the fact that vast swathes of land, including previously pristine rainforests, are used to grow it. But most of the soy grown is actually used for animal feed, not for direct human consumption, and as long as you know where your soya and tofu comes from, or buy organic, you can make sure that you’re not unwittingly consuming GMO if you don’t want to. My favourite is Dragonfly tofu, made down in Devon, but there a number of different options in the shops, it’s all a matter of taste.

Strictly speaking, tofu is a processed product and not whole food as the soya bean has been cooked and strained to get milk then strained again to separate off some of the fluid. Calcium carbonate (or traditionally seaweed) is added to help it set in a block. But even with this processing, it’s still a great product to include in a plant based diet as it’s high in protein as well as calcium, iron and manganese. Being dairy free, it can be used in dishes as an alternative to cheese and cream, as well as an ingredient in it’s own right. Soya products also contain phyto-oestrogens that are particularly useful for women especially around the menopause and research shows that it can help reduce the incidence of breast cancer. It can also help lower bad LDL cholesterol so suitable for both women and men!

There are a number of different types of tofu – silken, firm, extra firm, smoked or flavoured. By itself, it doesn’t score high on taste or texture, but it absorbs flavours really well and so can be a great asset in the plant based kitchen. For tofu scramble, firm works well. Silken is lovely and soft but can be a little watery, extra firm can be a bit dry. I have used lightly smoked and it gives a different flavour, but I prefer to use plain so I can taste all the flavours. The key is to experiment and discover which one you find most enjoyable.

There is an ingredient you can add to recreate the ‘eggy’ flavour and aroma of egg – kala namuk or Indian black salt. Which is not black but pink! You can find it in Indian food stores and online. Give it a sniff and your nose is hit by seriously strong sulphur wafts. It’s has a strong flavour too, so if you use it, use with caution – a pinch really is enough.

Cooking this for breakfast, I tend to go simple and just add in a few herbs or mushrooms. But if I’m using this for a quick but substantial supper, I cook a pan of additional vegetables such as courgette, mushroom, peppers and spinach, and stir them in at the end with whatever fresh herbs I have to hand. You can serve it on toast, or with saute potatoes or salad. Really, it’s up to whatever you feel like, and what ever you have in the fridge – there are no rules! So why not give it a try and see what combinations you can come up with. Let me know what your favourite turns out to be.

Tofu scramble (serves 2) basic recipe

A tasty breakfast or brunch lovely on it's own, with added veggies or as part of a bigger breakfast.
Prep Time 3 mins
Cook Time 4 mins
Total Time 7 mins
Course Breakfast, brunch
Servings 2 portions

Ingredients
  

  • 200 g tofu - silken, firm or extra firm drained
  • 1 small onion or shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • pepper to taste.
  • pinch kala namak or Indian black salt (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of waterl in a small pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion until soft. Crumble in the tofu and cook gently for a minute then add the turmeric, tamari, pepper and kala namuk if using. Continue to heat gently for another few minutes then serve.

Notes

I like to add mushrooms to my breakfast tofu scramble, so add in some finely chopped mushrooms when the onion is nearly cooked and saute them for a few minutes before adding in the tofu etc. Before serving, I sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the top and serve on a bed of baby spinach leaves.
Keyword breakfast, brunch, egg free, plant based, tofu

Half term breakfast pancakes

It’s half term this week for our region of the UK, a welcome break in the normal routine of chasing teenagers up out of bed, prompting, reminding and miraculously getting them out of the door vaguely on time and conscious! When the kids were little, I loved just spending some relaxing time with them, going out on little excursions and generally chilling out together; now they just enjoy chilling out with their friends and I don’t get much of a look in, apart from in the food producing department!

Breakfast on a school day is usually a case of getting something quick and nutritious inside of them; the holidays allow a little more time. This week I made these great wholesome pancakes; they are easy to prepare, but tend to be saved as a weekend or holiday treat as pancakes just seem to take longer to cook than I expect them too. My giant boy teenager, who had already consumed one breakfast, polished off four and said they were the best dairy free pancakes he’d tasted!

What’s great about these pancakes is that apart from being dairy free, they’re also gluten free, contain no refined sugar or oil and are packed with fibre and nutrients. I’ve used buckwheat flour which in itself is a fabulous source of plant based protein as well as fibre, manganese and magnesium. Flaxseed, which I’ve used as an egg replacer, is a fabulous source of omega 3 and cinnamon is just an all round fabulous anti-inflammatory that can help reduce cholesterol, maintain good blood sugar control and just tastes wonderful! And if you use almond milk as your non-dairy milk, you get fantastic amounts of calcium and vitamin E thrown in for good measure.

I’ve used maple syrup as the sweetening agent which is one of the least refined sugars you can get your hands on; you could use agave syrup or just normal sugar if you don’t have any maple syrup to hand, but that reduces the overall favourable nutritional profile of these pancakes. Having said that, the superb amount of fibre in these pancakes should negate the negativities of a little added sugar (unless you are on a specific disease reversing programme). If you don’t have buckwheat flour to hand, use wholemeal wheat flour, but add a little less milk as it shouldn’t need as much.

Give these a go one lazy morning and see how great a nutrient packed pancake can taste.

Apple and maple pancakes
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
2 1/2 tablespoons wate
1 apple grated
125g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
300mls non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon maple syru
First of all, soak the ground flaxseed in the water for a few minutes – it will become thick and gloopy. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and cinnamon together. In another bowl, mix together the milk, apple and maple syrup, then add in the gloopy flaxseed mix, stirring well. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix well. It should be very thick; add a little extra non-dairy milk if it seems too thick to come off the spoon.
Heat a non-stick frying pan and wipe over with oil.  Add a spoonful of mixture into the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until brown. Keep warm until the whole batch is cooked, then serve with additional maple syrup, fruit or whatever you like to add to your pancakes. Enjoy!

Buckwheat pancakes for pancake day

It’s pancake day today, or rather it’s Shrove Tuesday in the church calendar, the day that traditionally all the yummy food is eaten up ready for Lent. It’s another religious date that has been commercially hi-jacked; remember the slogan “Don’t forget the pancakes on Jif Lemon Day”? 
Pancakes can be a challenge for anyone eating a free-from diet, whether it’s due to excluding wheat, dairy or eggs. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives out there; my favourite for savoury pancakes is buckwheat. Despite it’s name, buckwheat is not wheat but the seed of a crop that’s related to rhubarb and sorrel. It tends to be classified as a grain because of it’s culinary use, but it is gluten free (some products such as soba noodles tend to mix it with wheat, therefore making it no longer gluten free). A great whole food source of protein and fibre, it’s also got a good whack of magnesium, iron, phytonutrients and is really low in fat. It does have quite a distinctive earthy flavour though, so can be an acquired taste to some!
Of course, galettes in France are traditionally made from buckwheat. Whenever I think of galettes though, I picture India rather than France, due to the wonderful creperie in Bangalore, Chez Mariannick. An oasis of European familiarity in the crazy overstimulation of an Indian city, it’s well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in the area (they’re on TripAdviser).
To make a truly free from buckwheat pancake, all you need is some buckwheat flour, baking soda, salt and water mixed together. You can use non-dairy milk and vanilla if you want slightly creamier and sweeter pancakes – just use one to one measurements i.e.: one cup of buckwheat flour to one cup of milk, one teaspoon vanilla and one of baking soda.
If you fancy something a bit more healthy (and hippyish according to my daughter!), then try these buckwheat and sunflower seed pancakes instead. Using the whole buckwheat groat ensures you are eating the whole food with all the nutrients available. Soaking makes the buckwheat more ‘alive’; you can soak this up to three days allowing it to sprout, releasing even more amazing nutrients. That’s if you plan ahead of course. If you’re more like me and plan things at the last minute, 20 minutes soaking will be just fine.
Buckwheat pancakes
2 cups buckwheat groats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
(apple sauce, cinnamon or vanilla if you want sweet)
First, rinse the buckwheat groats well and place in a glass jar or bowl. Cover with water and leave to soak – somewhere between 20 minutes to 3 days! When you’re ready, pour out into a sieve and rinse well. Pop into a blender along with the other ingredients. Add enough fresh water to cover the top of the the buckwheat and blend until smooth. Poor a ladle full onto a hot pan coated with a little oil. Cook as normal pancakes and enjoy!