Veggie mains

Veggie kebabs

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I’ve been making veggie and tofu kebabs for the BBQ for over 25 years and they’re still one of my favourite things to put on a BBQ. This will make about a dozen skewers. They’re really good served with satay sauce.

You can make them with your favourite veg or what’s in season.  Start by soaking some bamboo skewers in water to stop them burning on the BBQ. Then prepare the tofu. Take a block or two of firm tofu and  cube it into squares of 2-3 cms then shallow fry it turning occasionally until golden brown. This will add to the texture and flavor of the tofu. After frying the tofu make a marinade by crushing 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and about half a dozen pepper corns add a tbsp. of sesame or olive oil, a tbsp. veggie oyster sauce and a tbsp. soy sauce, a tbsp. or two of sesame seeds and a tsp. of turmeric powder. Mix the marinade together and then cover the tofu with it in a bowl.

Next prepare the other ingredients, chop a couple of courgettes a large bell pepper, a couple of onions and a bowlful of mushrooms into chunks that are a similar size to the tofu. Put them in a bowl and drizzle with some oil, sesame or olive work well. Then assemble the kebabs by putting skewering the various veggies on them putting something quite sturdy at each end to stop them falling apart. Place them on a plate and drizzle over and remaining marinade. Cook on a lowish BBQ turning occasionally until the vegetables are cooked, they won’t all cool at exactly the same speed but if some veggies get a little charred that adds to the flavor. For the satay sauce follow the recipe here.

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Thai Food, Veggie mains

Pad Thai

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I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get round to posting a recipe for Pad Thai, maybe as more often than not it’s a dish I eat at our local noodle shop and enjoy their version. There are probably as many versions of Pad Thai as people who make it, but I find many too sweet or too oily so making it at home allows you to control the flavours. If you don’t live in Thailand, surrounded by Pad Thai options, then it’s easy enough to make at home. This will make 2 servings which is about as much as you can make at a time in a domestic wok.

So what do you need?

  • 100g firm tofu
  • 120g flat rice noodles (I used brown ones)
  • 200g bean sprouts
  • a small bunch of garlic chives / spring onions
  • 4tbs vegetable oil
  • a handful of roasted peanuts
  • 3 tbsp. dried pickled Chinese radish
  • 3 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • 3 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. palm sugar
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 lime

So what do you do?

Start by soaking your rice noodles in water, brown ones will take about 20 minutes, white ones about 10 minutes. Then cut the tofu into small pieces and marinate with a tbsp. light soy sauce. If using unroasted peanuts then dry roast them in a wok for a few minutes, stirring, until they are golden brown and put them in a mortar ready to crush.

Next make the Pad Thai sauce, in a small pan warm together the tamarind paste, palm sugar and 2 tbsp. of soy sauce with a splash of water, the amount of water will depend on how thick your tamarind paste is. This should make a runny sauce that is sour with a hint of sweetness and saltiness. Then rinse and strain the beansprouts and garlic chives, reserve a handful of beansprouts and a few of the chives to use as a garnish. Cut the remaining chives into 4cms lengths. Crush the peanuts once they have cooled.

Next put the oil in the wok and fry the tofu until golden brown and pour out most of the remaining oil into a dish. Then add most of the tamarind sauce and fry the tofu in it for about 30 second. Drain the noodles and add them to the wok and stir fry them for a minute or two then add the Chinese radish, most of the crushed peanuts, the chili powder and the bean sprouts and chopped garlic chives. Fry until the bean sprouts soften and if it seems dry add the remaining tamarind sauce. Then push the noodles to the edge of the wok and add the reserved oil into the wok and crack in the eggs and break them up with the spatula and fry them when they are almost done mix the noodles back in and fry everything together.

Divide into two portions on plates and garnish with the remaining garlic chives, bean sprouts, peanuts, a wedge of lime and a sprinkle of chilli powder (optional).

 

 

 

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Snacks, Thai Food

Fried tofu with Thai herbs & cashew nuts

This makes a really tasty and attractive snack, starter or part of a bigger Thai meal.

Start by preparing your Thai herbs and spices. I finely sliced the more tender insides of four or five lemongrass stems lengthways, julienned a large red chilli, sliced about four red shallots, 3 cloves of garlic and tore a few kaffir lime leaves.

In a wok with about half a cup of hot oil I started by frying the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves, as they take a little longer, after about a minute I added the shallots and fried for another minute then added chilli, garlic, a couple of bunches of fresh green peppercorns and a couple of handfuls of cashew nuts and fried everything until it was golden and crisp and then drained them. You can use large dried chillis instead, of the fresh one, which will go crisp and can be crumbled on the risotto for an extra kick of spiciness (these don’t take long to cook so add them near the end of the frying process.)

Next I cube a couple of blocks of form tofu (about 500g). I then fried this in the same oil, turning occasionally) until crisp and golden brown (you may need to fry the tofu in two batches). I then drained the tofu and put it on a serving plate and scattered the herbs and nuts over the top. I served with a chilli dipping sauce with some extra dried chilli (optional) and coriander leaves in it.

 

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Thai Food, Veggie mains

Broccolini & tofu with sesame and mushroom sauce

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This dish is a meal in itself, served with some steamed brown rice. It’s similar to the sesame crusted tofu with charred broccoli I made a while ago but with a sauce.

I started by draining a large block of tofu which I cut into cubes and patted dry with a tea towel. Then I put it in a bowl and marinated it in about a tablespoon of light soy sauce. I then heated about 3 0r 4 tbsp. of sesame oil in a frying pan. I fried a handful of cashew nuts and then drained them and put them to one side. I sprinkled about a tablespoon of white sesame seeds on the tofu and then fried it until golden brown. I put the tofu on a tray in a warm oven. Next I strained any remaining sesame seeds from the oil and chopped up and medium onion and fried it in the oil. I added about 3 or 4 sliced cloves of garlic and grated in a similar quantity of fresh ginger. I fried this for a minute or so and then added about 250g mushrooms and a small bunch of Chinese celery. Meanwhile I steamed about 400g broccolini / Hong Kong kale. Once the mushrooms looked cooked I added a tbsp. of light soy sauce, a little dark soy sauce, some ground black pepper and the remaining sesame seeds from the tofu and a tsp. of black sesame seeds. Then I added a couple of tablespoons of mushroom (oyster) sauce and some hot water to make a gravy like sauce and cooked this down a little. I placed the broccolini on a serving plate poured over the sauce, sprinkled on the cashew nuts and arranged the tofu around the side.

 

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Thai Food, Veggie mains

Drunken spaghetti / Pad Kee Mao

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This is a try fusion dish a Thai-Chinese noodle dish made with pasta instead of rice noodles. The noodle version is similar to Pad See Ew but with spices. The Thai name translates as drunken noodles perhaps because the spicy version is good after a few drinks. It works well with pasta but if you prefer make it withy thick rice noodles. The quantities and ingredients below are just a guideline as you can mix and match the veggies you prefer and adapt the level of spice to suit your taste. This will make 3 – 4 servings.

So what do you need?

  • vegetable oil
  • 3 or 4 coves of garlic
  • 4-6 small birds eye chillies (prik kee noo)
  • 3-4 large red chillies
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 200g firm tofu
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 150g green beans
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • a handful of fresh green peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. veggie ‘oyster’ sauce
  • a bunch of holy basil
  • 300g pasta spaghetti / linguine

So what do you do?

Start by heating a pan of salted water to cook your pasta in and prepare your vegetables. Chop the tofu into small cubes, deseed and chop your large chillies and bell pepper, slice your mushrooms, tomatoes and onion. Take any stringy bits off the beans and take the basil of its stems, you’ll need about a cupful of leaves. In a mortar crush the garlic and small chillies together and lightly crush about a third of your peppercorns too.

Then heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a wok and fry your tofu until it’s golden then drain it and put it to one side. Then fry your garlic and chilli mix and onion in the remaining oil. While this is cooking put your pasta on. After a minute or so add the pepper and large chillies, and then add the mushrooms. Fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes and pre-cooked tofu. I lightly steam my beans over the pasta for a minute or too as this brings out the green colour in them. Add the beans to the wok along with the remaining peppercorns and the soy and veggie ‘oyster’ sauce also. You can add a little of the pasta water if it seems dry, make sure the sauce coats everything. Then add the holy basil leaves and stir them in. Finally drain the pasta and add this to the wok and cook for a mintue longer so that the pasta absorbs the flavours of the sauce.

 

 

 

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Thai Food

Laab tofu

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This is a popular dish from Issan, north-east Thailand and it’s usually made with minced meat this version is made with tofu and some mushrooms. It’s  a spicy dish so best eaten with sticky rice and fresh vegetables to temper the kick. Adjust the spice to your liking and aim for a balance of flavours. It takes a little preparation but is pretty easy to make. If you eat eggs then it’s good with either hard boiled eggs or a Thai omelette.

So what do you need?

  • 300g firm tofu
  • 150g mushrooms (I used Thai straw mushrooms)
  • 2tbsp toasted rice
  • 1cm galangal
  • 4 small red shallots
  • 4 spring onions
  • a few culantro (pak chii farang) leaves
  • a small bunch of mint
  • 2 limes
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. light (mushroom) soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • a few dry chillis (for decoration)
  • some lettuce leaves
  • a chopped cucumber
  • a bunch of Thai sweet basil
  • some blanched green beans

So what do you do?

Start by toasting the rice in a wok. Put 2 heaped tbsp. of rice in a wok on a medium heat and toast it, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown and starts to give off a nutty aroma. Put this in a mortar and grind it into a powder, which will have a lovely nutty smell ad flavor, and set aside. Cut the galangal root into about 4 slices / disks and also toast these until they are golden brown and then pound these in a mortar and set aside. Next crumble the tofu with your fingers into a bowl and add 1 tbsp. of light soy sauce and mix it up and leave it. Dice up the mushrooms and steam them for a few minutes, or cook them for a minute or so in some boiling water and drain them. Peel and finely slice the shallots, chop up the spring onions, chop up the culantro leaves and pick a handful of mint leaves off their stems. Now put a little (sesame) oil in your wok and quickly fry the dried chillis to crispen them up and put them to one side. Next put the tofu and mushrooms in the wok and fry them for a few minutes stirring so they don’t stick. You want to cook them so that they dry out a little. They will be crumbly and start to brown a little. Put the tofu and mushrooms in a mixing bowl add 3 tbsp. light soy sauce, the juice of one lime, 2 tbsp. toasted rice, about 1 tbsp. of pounded galangal, 1 tsp chilli powder, the shallots, onions, mint and culantro and mix everything up. It will probably be quite dry so add some warm water, you want the dish to have some juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning you might need more chilli, or a little more lime or more soy sauce. You want to balance these flavours, spicy, sour and salty. The chilli powder I have at the moment seems very spicy so I use it quite sparingly so adjust the flours until you are happy. Remember that you will be eating it with rice which will help balance the heart too. Serve on a bed of lettuce and garnish with some mint leaves and your dried chillis which will allow people to up the spice if they like by crumbling it on their laab.

 

 

 

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Thai Food, Veggie mains

‘Jap Chai’ stew


This is great comfort food and a popular Thai-Chinese dish. Make a big pot and eat it for a few days it gets better with age and more cooking.

Start by cutting a block or two of tofu into cubes and fry them until they are golden. Meanwhile in a pestle and mortar crush the roots of a bunch of coriander with about six cloves some sea salt and some pepper corns. Fry this in a large thick based saucepan in sesame oil an then add mushrooms I used a mix of shiitake and oyster mushrooms, about 500g in total, fry these for a while and add a couple of tbsp of light (mushroom) soy sauce, and a couple of tbsp of dark soy sauce. Then add in the fried tofu and fry for a short while so everything is coated in the soy sauce. Next add a large carrot and a daikon radish chopped in to chunks then cover with veggie stock to well cover the veggies and bring to the boil.

Then chop up other green leaf veggies e.g. Chinese leaf, pakchoy, Thai-style kale (pak kana) and cauliflower if you like. You need quite a lot (at least a colander full) as when they go in the stew they will boil down. You may need to do this in two batches and let them cook down a bit. I also add the coriander leaves and some white pepper and then simmer for a couple of hours until the veggies start to break down (a bit more than in the picture above). It won’t look so pretty but it will taste good. Below is the same stew on the second day. Serve on it’s own or with rice and other dishes if you like but I like to keep it simple so may just have it with rice and perhaps a Thai omelette.

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