The accurately named “best tofu dish ever”: Mapo Tofu

I have been having a craving for Mapo Tofu for a few days now and I finally could be bothered attempting to make it for the first time. It’s odd that for a dish I really do quite like, this was my very first time attempting to make it.

Well… I was googling around and found this recipe: I didn’t have fermented black beans, so I left that out. I used the broth from the dried shiitake mushrooms (with a tiny bit of Massel stock added) and did take the option of adding pepper (chilli) flakes.

It was absolutely delicious and really quite simple to make.

The simmering of the tofu (I just used the Woolworths Macro Classic Tofu that you can pick up at any Woolworths store… because I’m often just plain lazy when it comes to acquiring tofu) was something I haven’t done before. It turns out that makes the outside of it more likely to keep its shape, which it rather did. Neat trick!

Did I mention this was delicious? I wish there was more!

Awesome grilled tofu marinade

The other night I made this marinade with some tofu (pressed in a TofuXpress to get more water out).

The recipe for the marinade is:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

I marinated the tofu (I used a really firm tofu – which is also really high in protein) and fried it in a really hot skillet (which gave it a lovely colour). It was delicious. I served it with some broccoli (quickly fried with garlic and ginger and a tablespoon or two of the marinade) and some cous cous.

Actually… I think I’ll have to make this again soon. Really simple to do (although pressing the tofu and marinating takes time, but time you can do other things) and really tasty.

Aloo Palak/Spinach with Potatoes

This is the most lazy food blogging ever: I made this and it was yummy. You should make it too: I was a it different to what I usually get when ordering Aloo Palak, and that’s a good thing as variety is the spice of life. I was doubly lazy and microwaved potatoes to speed up cooking time.

Delicious Bourbon Whiskey BBQ Sauce

I’ve made this wonderful Bourbon Whiskey BBQ Sauce a couple of times now and it’s been great. It’s pretty quick to make up a small batch, and you can immediately use it for whatever you have that requires BBQ sauce.

Below is a photo I took about halfway through reducing it. Unfortunately, I can’t convey the awesome smell and taste.

home made bourbon BBQ sauce

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale

More Vegan beer from Samuel Smith’s! I can heartily recommend their Nut Brown Ale to anyone who’s ever had a Newcastle Brown and wanted a bit more. This isn’t overwhelming and thoroughly enjoyable. I’m finding that this seems to be a good pattern in their beers – flavourful, drinkable and not overwhelming. You could easily pair this with food too… and I’m either craving lentils or they’d go well with it. The back of bottle suggests Thai, Malaysian and Chinese food, which would also go pretty well. There is a societal bias towards matching wine with food, and beer is often supremely overlooked. This is rather sad as the range and depths of flavours of bere is wide and varied, and pretty much always supremely more affordable. You can probably easily name several wines that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars; try naming a single beer that costs more than $100 for a six pack.

Edit: it’s not this beer that costs a lot, this one is quite reasonable. The expensive one is of you can’t easily get to a Belgian monastery.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

Another Vegan beer from Samuel Smith with the nice Vegan symbol on the back and everything. This isn’t a heavy stout, it’s quite lite and consuming more than one pint wouldn’t be taxing at all. The oatmeal part is not overwhelming, providing a subtle flavour more than overpowering the rest of the beer. A quite nice midweek beer.


Vegan Lentil and Kidney Bean Shepherd’s Pie

This started with Michelle Bridges’ Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe: and ended up with this. I’ve made some modifications, e.g. making it Vegan.

The biggest modification is in the cauliflower topping. Like the original I avoided putting mashed potato on the top. This greatly reduces the calorie content, dose low-GI something and a million other things that people try and sell you in food bar form. Basically: cauliflower is awesome, let’s see what we can do with it.

This should be gluten free too…

This serves about 4 people.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1/4 cup dried green lentils
  • 1/4 cup dried red kidney beans
  • 1 whole onion (small, peeled)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 bay leaf (or 2, depending on size and your addiction to the awesomeness that is bay leaves)
  • 1 large carrot, diced (I used a purple carrot, because, well, how awesome looking are they?)
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 capsicum, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed (I ended up using probably closer to 2.. but I like garlic)
  • 400g can diced tomatoes
  • 1tbsp oil (olive works, but Canola or similar should work fine too)

Ingredients: topping

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower chopped/broken into florets (you can double this part of the recipe to have a nice side of the topping too.. which is rather yummy)
  • 400g can of Butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • Up to 1/4 cup nutritional yeast.
Serve with: steamed broccoli and green beans

The original recipe also used mushrooms and didn’t have the zucchini or capsicum. I didn’t have mushrooms (I’d eaten them all) but I did have zucchini and capsicum, and they’re yummy. So feel free to vary.


You’re going to need a saucepan. Put the dried lentlis and dried kidney beans in it with 2-3 cups of water. Add the whole onion and bay leaf, bring to the boil and simmer for 40+ minutes, until the lentils and kidney beans are tender. When done, if there is an excess of water, drain it. You’ll want to have about 1/4 cup of liquid left in there. Remove the onion and bay leaf from the pot.

Pro tip: sprinkle a small amount of salt on the onion and eat it. Deny that it ever existed and enjoy your mid-cooking snack.

The original recipe used all lentils instead of half with kidney beans. I like red kidney beans. If you don’t use red kidney beans and just use lentils, the simmering time is probably the original 40mins, while it took a bit longer for mine – maybe 50 (it’s easy to tell. attempt to eat one of the kidney beans :)

At the same time, you want to grab the cauliflower and steam it for about 15 minutes. You want it to be very soft, you’re going to be mashing it (so if it’s not done at 15, wait a little longer).

Get a bowl that’s good for mashing and put the cauliflower in it. Add the butter beans (you may want to zap them in a microwave for up to 1 minute to get them warmer and easier to mash). Mash the two together, adding the nutritional yeast and perhaps a small amount of salt. The nutritional yeast will give a cheese-like flavour without, well, being cheese. I added the nutritional yeast a bit gradually and tasted along the way to get it right. You’ll know when you start to get close, as you’ll start getting this kind of creamy cheesey cauliflower taste.

In a large frying pan, add some oil (about 1tbsp is fine) and cook the onion, carrot, zucchini and capsicum until they start to soften, stirring regularly (this could be ~10mins). Add the tomatoes, lentils and kidney beans, season with salt and black pepper to taste. Depending on how much liquid was left in your lentil and kidney bean pot, you may need to add a little. Transfer to an oven proof dish, topping with the cauliflower+butter bean mash.

If you like, sprinkle some bread crumbs (or those gluten free quinoa crumbs that Ogram sells) on the top, and bung it in a 180C oven for anywhere from 15-30 minutes to get things all warm, a bit golden and depending on how hungry you are :)

Plate it all up and you can end up with something like this (cell phone pic, with awful white balance, lighting and generally the worst photo I’ve ever taken):

We really enjoyed this, and if you’re looking for a good sized plate of food that checks in at (i think) around 400calories, there you go.

Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Tadcaster Taddy Porter

I had this one a few days ago. When I was last in Acland Cellars I saw a bunch of Samuel Smith’s beer, and I noticed the small Vegan symbol on the back. Not one to shy away from vegan beer, I bought one of each I could see.

Beer doesn’t have to be explicitly labelled to be vegan, basically what you’re wanting to avoid is isinglass (obtained from dried swim bladders from fish) that is used as a fining agent.

Pro tip: if your beer has a bit of sediment in it (like Coopers does), it’s near 100% likely to be vegan (barring honey or somebody inventing a way to put bacon in beer).

A fining agent will accelerate the settling (clarification) of beer. If you’ve ever bottled your own homebrew, you’ll have noticed that the first 90% of bottles look a lot clearer than the last 10% (here you’re starting to stir up the sediment at the bottom of the brewing vessel). This then settles in the bottle and isn’t a problem – just don’t drink the last half mouthful. This is natural beer – “bottle conditioned”. Mass produced beers (think VB/Carlton/XXXX, not Coopers) are likely to use a fining agent such as isinglass as this enables them to pump out the beer quicker and not have to produce bottles that can withstand the pressure of secondary fermentation.

Pro tip: “bottle conditioned” likely means vegan too.

Basically, being vegan is a great excuse to not drink lots of shit beer.

Anyway, this is the beer I had the other night, and it was quite a pleasant porter. yay!

New York Times Curried Cauliflower Soup

I made the Curried Cauliflower Soup I found on the New York Times website:

Rather delicious I have to say. In the future, I aim to try adding some peas, maybe some parsnip or even carrot.

Damn delicious though.

Chickpea and green bean curry


oil (olive, canola, whatever you like)
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic
1 dried chilli (crushed/chopped) – or more, depending on heat preference and heat of chilli
2 teaspoon chopped ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 good handfulls of green beans, chopped into inch long pieces
1 can chickpeas (drained, washed)
1 can diced tomatoes


Put oil in saucepan, add the mustard seeds
As the mustard seeds start to pop, add the chopped onion
Cook until onion is soft, then add all the spices
Stir and cook for ~30 seconds, until aromatic
Add can tomatoes, chickpeas and beans.
stir and cook until chickpeas are done and beans are a little softer, but still nice and crunchy (you can cook for longer if you like your green beans more well done, but I like a bit of crunch)

This took not much time, and was invented this evening purely because earlier in the day I had felt the need for green beans.


This serves about 2-3 people (depending on how much you eat). For 3ppl, it’s about 215 calories and 9g of protein per serve.

Soap nuts

The other day I ordered some soap nuts from Green And Nutty – and they arrived (rather quickly) yesterday (or today… I forget.. a package on the doorstep anyway). Kristy (owner) was telling me about the soap nuts ages ago… and I finally got around to giving them a go (otherwise known as “stewart put two and two together when needing to buy washing powder”).

I don’t have an allergy problem to normal soaps and aren’t on some exotic “everything must be natural” trip (although it does have a certain appeal).

One bonus thing (for me) is that I *know* that what I’m using for washing clothes is vegan.

Anyway, first wash with them today and no problems to report. Seemed to produce clean clothes (although weren’t that dirty to begin with). Will report further in future washes.

There’s a 2-for-1 offer for December which I took (1kg for $17.99)… which should be enough to last a year (for the average household… and I’m smaller than that).

Vegan Bread Machine Bread (no preservatives)

I have purchased exactly one loaf of bread this year. The fact that it’s May is kind of amazing for this…. and it’s not as if I haven’t eaten any bread – I love the stuff. I’ve been making it.

Relatively recently, I bought a bread machine. It’s a breville and was only a couple of hundred bucks. The idea behind this was to still have bread when I was feeling too lazy to do everything by hand (or was time pressed).

I have discovered the following:

The 750g loaf is a bit small, the kneading can end up missing some ingredients in the corners of the bread machine. the 1kg loaf is fine, the 1.25 is freaking huge.

The area of the bread (as in how big a slice is) is much larger than any of the bread tins I use in the oven.

The crust on the side of the loaf is usually nicer than on the top (top isn’t as thick and crunchy).

To avoid using bread improver, instead use the juice of an orange (or I’ve also used about 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice). This gives lovely structure and texture to the bread without adding anything artificial.

Some recipes say add some milk thing, i’ve just ignored it and done fine.

Waking up to fresh bread smell is amazing.

We put on a friends bucks night last weekend, and in the afternoon we did food at a friends place. Sort of a lunch/dinner thing to keep us going with the nights drinking and general revelry. I baked 3 loaves of bread and it went down really well (10 of us finished all 3 off). Got lots of compliments for it too :)

Of course, the majority of bread from everywhere else now just tastes shit (because it is). If you’re going to buy bread – buy it from a *really* good baker. Or, take the hit – buy a bread machine and do it. Cost per loaf for yeast, water and salt is approximately nothing and bakers flour is cheap.

Join the war on bad bread, bake your own today!

Simple vegetalbe stir fry

Wasn’t feeling like spending a lot of effort on cooking last night, but still wanted something fresh, delicious and quick to prepare. So… I just made a nice, simple stir fry. I here try to reproduce what I did from memory.

Started by heating some oil in a wok, adding a teaspoon or two of mustard seeds. Leave until the mustard seeds start to pop (that gives the oil a nice flavour).

Add a finely chopped onion, a finely chopped chili (this is all the chili i used in this, adds nice flavour, a tiny bit of spice and it’s certainly not too much) and some crushed garlic (I used 2 cloves of some good organic garlic… may want more or less depending on the strength of your garlic).

Basically, you want the onions to start going clear… I also added a tiny amount of turmeric.

I then added some finely chopped capsicum, then some carrots. It’s about now that I added some light soy sauce. Keeps things moist and adds nice flavour.

In a mortar and pestle, I ground up some sesame seeds, cumin and cardamon (not much of each, the aim is to add subtle flavours) and then add to mix. I also added some roughly chopped swiss-brown mushrooms (button mushrooms would work too, I just felt like the swiss-brown as they have a nice flavour). I also added a bit more of the light soy, just to keep things moist.

I also added finely chopped broccoli and at the end snow peas.

Served on rice, delicious.

Was interesting for me as I usually end up using tofu and creating some sort of sauce to go over a stir fry. This was flavoursome (Michael also thought so, ended up coming over for food before we all went out), filling and there’s left overs :)

(I also used my Microwave’s wonderful “Rice” button… I love that. Obviously, put the rice on *FIRST* before you start any prep for the stir fry. Both were ready about the same time.)