Monday, 25 June 2007

Tofu and fresh herbs tart

I am getting really upset about the "English summer", this is becoming like a big joke, it seems like it's never going to stop raining and I almost got used to go to work by bike and get inevitably wet.
If we have to look at the bright side I could say that this weather gives me the chance to bake that is one of my favourite cooking methods.

Ingredients for the shell:
50 grams buckwheat flour
50 grams wholewheat flour
50 grams all purpose flour
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
4 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried majorain
1 cup water (or less, add the water slowly till achieved the right consistence)

For the filling:
1 silken tofu pack
2 tbsp soy milk
Fresh herbs: Basil, terragon, oregano, chive etc.
1 bunch chopped spring onion
tamari to season

Mix all the ingredients for the shell and create a dough (elastic but not too wet). On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out dough into a 3 mm thin pastry and fit into a 10- or 11-inch round tart pan with a removable rim. Prick dough all over with a fork.
Preheat the oven to 180 C°, bake tart shell for 10 minutes, or until almost cooked through but still pale.
In a food processor blend the ingredients for the filling and stir in the herbs at the end.
Pour the ingredients in the shell and bake for 20 minutes (the filling should set).

Sarah brought a slice to work today and she thinks that it could go well with chutney and salad.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

A meat substitute: homemade Seitan

In Italy when you turn into a vegetarian you eat a lot of seitan, as it’s probably the closest thing you can get to meat.
In the UK this is not really popular, and I have to explain fairly often that what I am eating is not chicken…

Seitan and watercress in brown mini pita bread

I used to buy it from health shops at ridiculous prices, but once I arrived in London I just stopped having it.
Thanks to a lovely food blog written by Vera a Vegan girl from Naples that has a brilliant blog (in Italian).
I started making my own.

Seitan is a meat substitute, very high in proteins. It is a meat looking product obtained by the wheat gluten that is left once that the starch has been washed away.

• 1 kg wholewheat flour (I use the Waitrose one and it works well for me)
• Salt
• Shoyu
• Herbs to taste, and fresh vegetables to make fresh stock
The objective is to make quite elastic dough, by an energetic kneading; the dough should be compact but soft.

Leave the dough to rest for one hour.

Fill a big bowl wit water and immerse your dough (cold water is better), try to massage the dough and keep it together…
Change water often till it becomes clear; you can use two bowls as this makes the job easier.
Once that the process is finished you end up with a sticky ball of gluten.
In the meantime prepare the stock with fresh vegetables, water (I added kombu seaweed too.)
Wrap the dough in muslin so tight that it doesn’t fall apart and boil it for 30/40 minutes.

You can now slice your seitan and use it like if it was a cold meat, or a sliced tofu…
I quickly sauté a couple of slices with garlic, added some soy sauce and used it as a filling for a sandwich with watercress and mustard.
From a dough you can get a reasonable quantity for the week so if you are having a lazy week (like me) you can just grill a slice, or even make ragu’ (bolognaise sauce) with it etc.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Pressed salads

I just moved to a new flat, and I have been too busy to look after my blog.
I haven’t really been cooking either, and in the past three weeks this is the first time I can relax on a Sunday, buy some ingredients and put the apron on! It’s nice that time when you start feeling home, in my life I moved to so many different places (certainly more than 20) that this feeling is rather familiar to me.

Today I prepared the pressed salads, which are a fermented dish and a classic of macrobiotic cooking, they are going to last me for a while and they’d help my tummy when I have a drink too much (I know I shouldn’t but these are tough times!).
I finely sliced some vegetables: cucumber, red spring onion, radish, celery and carrots. Everything was seasonal and British, a part from the red spring onion that were French and I bought them at Waitrose as I have never seen them before. I should have taken a picture, as they were so pretty!
I put the slices in a glass container and covered them with a liquid made from half shoyu, half water that has been brought to the boil for 30 second and then left to cool down to room temperature.
I put a little saucer on top and then some weight (a bag of pulses would do) so that the vegetables are all under the liquid.
Normally I leave them out and just put them in the fridge the day after. I find that they go nicely with boiled grains, silken tofu, and they are they ideal start of a meal. Sometimes I add some grated ginger to add a little zing ☺
I am preparing quite a few things to have in the fridge to take to work; it’s great that you can quickly add them to your brown rice to take to the office. So to all the people that ask me how can I always find time to cook my own lunch, Id like to ask them, how can you eat that Tesco sandwich or that sad salad every day?