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
- 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.