Jamming into July, and the Best of all Tofu Dishes

Little wild strawbs ready for jamming!

Little wild strawbs ready for jamming!

straining the fresh jam into sterilized jars

straining the fresh jam into sterilized jars

Ready to try with spelt, orange zest and date scones

Ready to try with spelt, orange zest and date scones

So, an unexpected gift arrived this week in the shape of some pretty squishy strawberries ( 8 punnets) some of which were slightly past their best. “Jam” we said, and began tailing the tiny wee things. We added in some sugar but not too much, the juice of 2 lemons, and gently cooked it down to a pulpy mass. The smell was divine and went right to the top of the house, bringing a smell of summer even if the sky said, no, not yet, but very soon. We sterilized our extra jars and lids by simmering them in a soup pot for 5 minutes. And then we poured, ladled, prodded and tasted. Naturally we left a small sample dish to try and then we had to make scones, because you just do, don’t you. Three guests dropped by for a taste and some added in the whipped cream flavoured with vanilla pod they found in the fridge. The verdict – total deliciousness in both taste and perfume. How can we go back to commerically made jam ever? Go on try your hand at jamming. It will make your summer!

My favourite Tofu dish of all time (and I have tried a few!)

Garlic and Ginger Tofu

Garlic and Ginger Tofu

So, yes, Tofu is rather bland, well extraordinarily bland. Yet it is a great source of protein, particularly for vegetarian families or those who have cut back on meat! I only buy organic tofu so I don’t have to worry about the very many chemicals used to grow non-organic soy beans.  I have been experimented with this product for quite some times but it was Yotam Ottolenghi’s black pepper Tofu dish (from his book Plenty) which really showed me just how gorgeous soy bean curd can really be. Try it, it will literally blow your socks off with its 8 chillies and 5 tbsps of black peppercorns. Here I am erring on the side of delicate palates but I think this dish has enough oomft to win over a dedicated non-veggie. The secret is ginger and garlic so buy in liberal quantities of each, you won’t regret it.

Tofu

1 cm chunk of fresh ginger, peeled

1 large clove of glaric (or 7-10 small cloves)

finely chopped spring onions

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp tamari

1 tbsp sweet Indonesian soy sauce

1 packet (for a family of 3-4) of organic pressed tofu not the silken sort, drained and chopped into small cubes of the same size. You can pat dry if it is particularly wet.

Fry the tofu cubes gently in Rice Bran oil or olive until it is crispy on all sides. Don’t be in a hurry, it may take 5 minutes of gentle frying to achieve this. Drain on kitchen paper and put aside.

In a small blender mince one of those huge cloves of garlic or if you can’t’ get hold of them, 7 small cloves of garlic and the peeled cube of ginger. Add in some water to make it a creamy blend and some whole peppercorns. If your small grinder is like mine, it will do a fairly good job but there may be one or two whole peppercorns left.

In a wok or heavy bottomed frypan  fry the garlic blend in some oil. Don’t let it burn but fry very gently for about 3-4 minutes. Add in the different soy sauces and cook slowly for a few minutes. Taste and adjust accordingly. You may like to add more of the soy sauces or some palm sugar.  You may like to add in some water to make more of a sauce or some lemon juice if you think it too sweet. Take off heat until you are ready to serve.

Cook some rice, couscous, udon noodles or bulgar to serve with the tofu dish.

To serve, add the tofu to  the soy mixture and warm through. Serve on top of noodles and garnish with spring onions, or coriander. It is just as good cold as hot. It has become a firm favourite in our family. Do let me know what you think!

Make a fresh Thai style cucumber and carrot salad to compliment this and a fresh honey lemonade. And yes, summer will come next week! I’m sure of it……. ingreds for lemonade

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Summer, dear Summer, you are here at last!

peppers, herbsOh, it’s been a long time coming this year. Yes, there have been tasters, a warm day or three, the hazy sound of a lonesome bumble bee on the wing, but just as we went to put away our mittens and our heavy winter coats, there was a fresh burst of arctic air to keep us down and chilled. But now the plants are growing like the wind (as are the weeds), the birds are singing their hearts out and I am making a meal out of our small garden. It’s true the tomatoes are far from being harvestable but I can see the first beans, there are some little stalks of tender ruburb and celery, the chive flowers are ready for my goat’s cheese salad, the mint ready for iced teas and the lettuce leaves/herbs are being used everyday in sandwiches, bagels and salads.

 

garden is growingYou can see how my garden grows above, with the help of the Green Room’s organic anti snail pellets and a local toad or three to keep those slugs at bay and those plants are really powering along, which just shows you what you can do with a few metres and some earth. And below ladies, gentlemen, girls and boys is my very own organic compost (made with the help of quite a few hundreds of kindly worms) which will go into my little veggie gardens and enrich the soil. You can just see the traces of egg shells for that my good people, is our family left-overs, which I place diligently into my worm composters every morning.

I thought my clever little worms had frozen to death over that long winter but I have a healthy bin of them, breaking down the family scraps although I do worry about their coffee intake. They must be a little buzzy in there. Everything apart from bread, dairy products, meat or fish goes into 2 bins and therefore replenishes our garden after it is broken down – wonderful. No composter?  Never fear,for as a fabulous young woman explained the other day, blend up your leftovers (not stones or bones) and simply dig them into the garden directly but at least 6 inches away from the nearest tree! I managed to get on a http://www.cityplot.org edible gardens workshop this month and learned so much from the charming Suzanne about how little soil we actually need to grown a lettuce, 5 cms and a carrot, 7 cms and how we can all grow micro greens and our own sprouts. So, there is not excuse, grow we must!

compost

Lastly, this month I purchased a dehydrator which has been loads of fun. I have been dehydrating mangos from the market, cherries, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, bananas and apples. They are a taste revolution and it’s as easy as cutting them up really. I continue to experiment but so far I can thoroughly recommend this new generation of small 5 tray dehydrators ( I got mine from the Sligro wholesale stores but am willing to bet that Amazon will probably do them cheaply).

fruits of my new dehydrator

Above, strawberries, white fleshed wildman peaches (are there any other), cherries, strawbs, and mango. Below cherry tomatoes in olive oil, thyme and rosemary, sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper. It’s fun, easy and delish and it makes me kinda feel a bit Heston Blumenthal if you know what I mean. Next time garlic and ginger tofu with bulgar salad and pomegranate pearly dressing! Enjoy, enjoy!

dehydrated

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