Tofu salad

Ingredient of the Week: Tofu

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A staple in vegetarian diets, tofu can be delicious if cooked right, says Bettina

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Each week plant-based cook Bettina Campolucci Bordi, founder of Bettina’s Kitchen, gives us the lowdown on a particular seasonal fruit, vegetable or ingredient, offering cooking tips and a recipe. This week it’s tofu.

Ingredient of the Week: Tofu

Tofu, which is a plant-based staple, has been around for rather a long time and is said to go way back to 950 AD, so it’s not just a recent discovery for the growing vegan and vegetarian population.

It’s is a fantastic source of plant protein, containing a well balanced amino acid profile, it is a very anti-inflammatory food, and is full of magnesium, fibre, iron and calcium.

How Is Tofu Made?

Soybeans are the main ingredient in tofu and it’s easier than you may think to make it (you can even do it yourself if you are feeling adventurous!). The process is to first soak soy beans overnight, then they are rinsed and blended with fresh water to make soy milk. This is then filtered to remove the pulp, the milk is heated, a coagulant (usually nigari which is magnesium chloride but you can also use lemon juice) is added and then the curdled soy milk is pressed into firm blocks. The amount of pressure used at this stage is what makes the difference between softer or harder tofu. 

How Can Tofu Be Used?

It’s important to make sure you are buying the correct firmness of tofu, if you are following a particular recipe as they do vary.

There are so many different ways to use this ingredient and while it is quite mild in taste, it absorbs marinades, spices and sauces very well, so can take on many different flavours. You can also buy smoked tofu in more supermarkets which is delicious sliced in a sandwich, or added as cubes into soups, especially a miso soup (miso is also made from fermented soybeans).  

You can also crumble it into a frying pan with some fresh herbs and diced veggies to make scrambled dish, a great replacement for scrambled eggs, especially if you add some turmeric for colour and kala namak salt for an eggy flavour.

Firm tofu is commonly used in stir fries, curries, stews and salads, whereas the soft or silken tofu is often used in smoothies or plant-based desserts for that creamy texture where dairy is not used.  

It’s important to store it the right way as you can really extend the shelf life if done properly.  Keep your tofu in a container in the fridge and cover it completely with water. Change the water daily and this will last a good few days. 

Recipe: Sweet Sticky Tofu

Crispy tofu

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 280g firm tofu
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced, greens and all
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced into half moons
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 30g ginger, grated
  • 1 pear, grated (no need to peel)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Handful of black sesame seeds
  • Olive oil, for frying

Method:

  1. Wrap the tofu in a kitchen towel and squeeze, to remove excess water.
  2. Slice the tofu into 1cm thick slices.
  3. Add the grated garlic, ginger and pear to a bowl and mix to combine.
  4. Add a generous amount of olive oil to a large frying pan to coat the base, and heat over a medium to high heat. Add the tofu slices and fry on each side for a few minutes until nicely browned. Set aside.
  5. In another pan, heat up a generous glug of olive oil, add the red onion and a pinch of salt, and fry over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until caramelised. Then add the grated pear, ginger & garlic, mix well and cook for a further 10 minutes. Then add the maple syrup, tamari and sesame seed oil and stir to combine.
  6. Arrange the tofu slices on a nice serving platter, spoon the pear mix over the top, then finish off with by sprinkling over the spring onions and black sesame seeds.

Featured image: Getty Images