Crispy Sesame Fried Tofu

Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside with a hint of nuttiness – this Japanese appetizer is a perfect summer treat when served along with some chilled lemonade. Or relish this vegan starter with some sweet & spicy Asian flavored dipping sauce. This appetizer is a perfect side to some light and clear soups too! It is easy to put together but is a nice touch to your vegan or Asian or summer menu!

 

Preparation Time : 15 mins

Cooking Time : 10-15 mins

Makes 12 pieces

 Ingredients :

Tofu – 12 pieces of 2″x1″

Vegetable oil – to pan/ shallow fry

Spring onion greens (optional) – to garnish

For the batter :

Plain Flour – 1/2 cup

Cornflour – 2 tbsp

Baking powder – 1/4 tsp

Black pepper powder – 1 tsp or to taste

Salt – to taste

For crispy coating :

Cornflakes – 1/2 cup crushed or as needed

Black sesame seeds – 1 to 2 tbsp

To Serve :

Sweet Chiili Sauce or Chilli Jam

 

Method :

1. Take tofu block and put it in a bowl of hot water for 3 to 4 mins (not more). Drain well. You can keep this tofu in  a muslin cloth and put it between two wooden blocks for few minutes to drain well as tofu contains large quantities of water. Cut into cubes.

Crush the cornflakes with hands or in a blender till almost fine (leave it slightly coarse).

2. In a bowl combine all the ingredients for the batter. Add enough water to make a thick batter of fritters batter consistency.

3. In another shallow bowl/plate  combine the crushed cornflakes and the sesame seeds. Mix lightly.

4. Dip the tofu cubes in the batter, roll in the cornflakes mixture and pan fry in few tsps oil till they turn golden brown on all sides.

5. Garnish and serve hot with Sweet Chilli Sauce.

 

Notes :

1. You could add white sesame seeds instead of black.

2. Soaking tofu in hot water will help to remove impurities if any and soften them enough to absorb the flavors of the other ingredients well.

 

 

 

 

The Most Annoying Thing To Ask Vegetarians

exasperated-womanThe most annoying thing you can ask a vegetarian is “you eat fish don’t you?” Firstly, let me point out that vegetarians do not eat fish, the clue is in the name. Secondly, if we ate fish we would be Pescatarians, easy to say. Sadly for us actual vegetarians this term is so seldom used that it doesn’t even come up on my Word Spellcheck.

Its quite simple, carnivores are animals who eat meat only. Omnivores can eat meat and vegetation, and herbivores can not consume meat, only vegetable matter. Vegetarians fall into the middle category as we are capable of eating meat, we just chose not to.

Whether this choice is based on religion, health or because we don’t agree with killing and eating animals, the resulting conclusion is still the same, we are vegetarians and we don’t eat meat or fish. I have met many so called vegetarians who give us a bad name, eating only white meat never red meat, apparently constitutes being a vegetarian. Eating just poultry apparently does too. Avoiding meat at home but eating a Big Mac when out of the house also constitutes being a veggie I am told.

For those of us true to the term vegetarian, being asked at social functions if we eat fish and seafood  is very grating.  The answer is always no. Fish are still living creatures and we have made the choice not to eat them.

vegetarianismVegans are more extreme and totally eliminate all animals and derivatives from their diets. Avoiding dairy and products containing dairy such as chocolate, which can be very restrictive. It is also not permitted to wear leather if you are a vegan. However it is possible to be healthy on a vegan diet and some of the fittest athletes and body builders have been vegans.

Raw vegans as the name suggests eat only raw vegetables, fruit, nuts seeds and grains. These food types can not be cooked over 40C as the heat is thought to kill the food, reduce nutrients and increase toxicity. Foods are eaten alive and supposedly full of nutrients. Though cooking does deplete the vitamin C and some B vitamins, overall, steaming vegetables releases the nutrients, increases bioavailability and makes food digestible. For example carrots, tomatoes and spinach release more vitamins if cooked slightly than when raw. Deep fat frying and boiling food is obviously not the answer, but a diet containing some raw and some lightly cooked or steamed food is advisable

Fruitarians are even more restricted as they consume fruit, nuts, vegetable and seeds and avoid eating grains, animals and derivatives. Although there is some evidence to show this holistic diet is similar to that of early pre human ancestors, followers typically have low amounts of protein and iron in their diet which can be unhealthy.

Radical fruitarians only eat fruit that has fallen from the tree and not been picked. More restrictive than normal fruitarians this is incredibly antisocial and difficult to maintain, but the least likely to affect the balance of nature. With the population of the world growing steadily, it would be impossible to feed many of the 7 billion people on this diet,

However whether a veggie, a raw or standard vegan, a standard or radical fruitarian, the answer is still the same, we still do not eat fish!

Spaghetti in Marinara Sauce

Think ‘Italy’ and you are instantly your mind is flooded with images of well dressed Italians, the Collosseum,  the gondola   and of course  – pasta! What are the reasons that make Italian cuisine so popular and acceptable worldwide – the liberal use of olive oil? the freshly plucked tomatoes? the aromatic herbs used in cooking? Probably all of them and many more reasons make up the highly addictive Italian cuisine!

Under pasta alone you have bewildering variety of pasta available – spaghetti, penne, macaroni, fussili, lasagne, gnocchi, ravioli, fettuccine, tagliatelle (flavoured fettuccine) and so on.

And when it comes to sauces, you are spoilt for choices! You have simple garlic based aglio oglio or tomato based spicy sauce or basil flavoured or  béchamel sauce, pesto and so on. The key feature of all these sauces is the fresh produce and herbs that goes into making these delicious sauces.

Marinara sauce or the ‘mariner`s’ sauce is a Southern Italian tomato based sauce garlic, onions and few herbs. The flavourings may be varied to taste and so you may find some versions of marinara with olives or capers. Traditionally this sauce has been used to flavour pasta, pizza, rice. While tomato sauce alone in Italy is referred to as salsa di pomodoro, the term marinara is used only in association with other recipes in which the sauce is used.

For instance,  you have the spaghetti alla marinara which literally translates to “mariners wife spaghetti”.

The version given below is delicious and creamy yet low cal. Vegans can easily skip the cheese and yet enjoy a comforting and lip smacking version of Spaghetti in Marinara Sauce.

 SPAGHETTI IN MARINARA SAUCE

Type : vegetarian/ vegan ; Ethnicity : Italian

Serves : 6

INGREDIENTS

[ Note : Quantity of uncooked spaghetti required per person is approximately how much you can hold in your fist.]

Spaghetti (uncooked) – 6 handfuls OR 300 gms (yields ~6 cups boiled)

Salt – to taste

Olive or cooking oil – 2 tbsp

For garnish (optional or select any of your choice) :

Extra virgin olive oil – to drizzle on top

Grated parmesan OR cheddar cheese

Chopped black olives

For Marinara sauce : (Makes ~ 3 cups)

Olive or vegetable oil – 2 tbsp

Onions – 2,  medium

Carrot – 1,  large

Green capsicum – 1, large

Garlic cloves – 5, medium

Tomatoes – 1 kg/ ~2 pounds

Tomato puree (tetrapack) – 3/4 cup

Jalapenos – 1.5 tbsp, chopped (optional)

Chopped cheddar or parmesan cheese – 2 tbsp (optional)

salt – to taste

sugar – to taste (optional)

black pepper, freshly ground – to taste

Mixed dry herbs/ pasta seasoning – 1 tbsp or to taste

Bay leaf – 1

 

METHOD

1. To cook spaghetti, boil plenty of water in a deep saucepan. Add salt, 1 tbsp oil, pasta and cook/ boil. Stir in between. Cook for about 7 to 8 mins till al dente (almost soft but yet firm stage). Remove pan from heat and set aside for 2 mins. Drain. Refresh cooked pasta with some cold water. Drizzle 1 tbsp oil to prevent sticking and mix gently. Cover and set aside till required.

OR

Cook the spaghetti as per instructions of the packet.

2. Wash and chop the onions, capsicum. Wash, peel and chop carrots. Peel and chop garlic.

Mark an ‘X’ in the bottom of tomatoes and blanch in hot water till skin peels off easily. Peel and chop the tomatoes.

3. To make the sauce , in a saucepan heat olive/vegetable oil, sauté onions, carrots, capsicum and garlic. Cook until vegetables turn tender.

4. Then add in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, pepper, sugar if needed,  mixed herbs, bay leaf. Bring to boil. Simmer for about 15 mins or till required consistency. Lastly add the jalapenos and chopped cheese if adding.  Remove from  heat.

Discard bay leaf. Now you could either toss cooked pasta in this chunky sauce OR puree half of the sauce and mix with the remaining chunky sauce. Pureeing half of the sauce gives the sauce volume and yet has the bite from vegetables.

5. At serving time, reheat the sauce. Add the sauce to cooked spaghetti/ pasta just enough to coat or as per taste. Let warm through and garnish and serve immediately with some warm and crisp Garlic Bread!

 

NOTES

1. In place of readymade tomato puree, you could add 3 to 4 tbsp tomato sauce/ ketchup.

2. For a vegan version, simply skip the cheese.

3. Replace spaghetti with any other pasta of your choice.

4. Adjust spice level, seasoning and cheese as per taste.