Dinner for all

Going plant based can be challenging at times, especially if you are being entertained and your hosts don’t know what to cook for you or you are doing the entertaining and your guests are not ones for a full-on veg dining experience. I had this problem recently, and spent some time wracking my brain about what to do. The starter was easy – tasty spring salad; the dessert a no-brainer – raw banoffee pie, as no-one can argue with that. But what to do for the mains?

Finally, I remembered a delicious Leon spicy coconut fish recipe I used to love in my pre-plant days. Each portion is individually wrapped in tin foil then covered with a gorgeous sauce consisting of coconut cream, garlic and ginger. As the sauce is the same for all, the solution was simple – one parcel was chicken based, three fish and two tofu. And as each person has their own parcel, the flavours can be altered according to taste, as the chillis and spring onions are sprinkled over the top. So you end up cooking three different dishes, without having to cook three different dishes – inspired!

Tofu is a great plant based protein and contains good amounts of iron and calcium as well as other vitamins and minerals. As it’s made from soya, tofu contains phyto-oestrogens that mimic the actions of oestrogen produced in the body. Because of this, it’s been link with reducing breast cancer as well as helping ladies of a certain age deal with the unpleasant effects of the menopause.
Unfortunately, soya products have become unpopular in some circles, mainly due to the fact that most soya in the US is now genetically modified. I always check where my tofu has come from, and if I can’t find out, buy organic.

Many people don’t like tofu as by itself as it’s pretty bland and unpalatable. But it absorbs flavour brilliantly, so if cooked in the right way, it’s a great plant based product to work with.
This recipe uses extra firm tofu. It still needs to be drained of any packaging fluid, then pressed for a while to remove more fluid to stop it falling apart when cooked. To press, place a few sheets of kitchen roll on a plate, pop your tofu block on top, place some more kitchen roll on top, then put another plate with a weight on the top (like a tin of beans) and leave in the fridge for an hour or so. Water is pressed out and you’ll end up with tofu with a firmer texture.

This dish is great served with sticky red rice and steamed pak choi or spring greens. And it doesn’t take ages to prepare or cook, leaving you more time to enjoy your entertaining.

Spicy coconut tofu (or fish or chicken!) Serves 6
150ml tin coconut cream or the thick cream off a tin of coconut milk
1 small clove garlic chopped
4 spring onions, 2 finely diced, 2 chopped obliquely
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 limes
15g fresh grated ginger
1 red chilli finely sliced
fresh coriander
10 lime leaves
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
100g extra firm tofu per person (so if
feeding 6 you’ll need 600g (see below)
* if you are serving this with chicken it will need cooking for 25 minutes, the fish for 15; they both need to go in the oven before the tofu.
Pre-heat the oven to 200oC.
Place the coconut cream, garlic, finely chopped spring onion, turmeric, zest of the limes, ginger, fresh coriander, a couple of crumbled lime leaves and salt together in a bowl and mix well so everything is combined.
Tear off a piece of tin foil about 30cm square and spray a little olive oil in the centre, wiping around with a piece of kitchen roll. Pop 2 lime leaves on the middle of the foil, then place the tofu on top. Spoon over 1/6th of the coconut mixture, then sprinkle some of the sliced spring onion and chilli according to diner’s taste. Drizzle a dash of sesame seed oil over the top, then close the foil up, sealing each edge firmly to create a parcel. Place on a baking tray and repeat the step.
When you’re ready, pop the parcels in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest until you’re ready to serve. At the last minute, open up the foil and squeeze in a shot of lime juice straight away. Slide onto your plate with the rice and greens, and delight your tastebuds with the sumptuous flavours!
NB: I sliced each 100g portion into two thick slices just because it looked better, but it also absorbed more flavour so is definitely worth doing.

Scrambled tofu

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 scrambled tofu 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 scrambled tofu and I decided to give it a go again. 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.

Scrambled tofu (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 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes
Course Breakfast, brunch
Servings 2 portions


  • 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)


  • 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.


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