Before I get on with this post, I just wanted to say a thank you to everyone who visits this blog and leave your comments. Akshaya also thanks you all for her birthday wishes.
Most of you would have noticed that I haven't been around blogdom much in the past month or so. There are demands on my time which often leaveme just enough time to continue posting here as regularly as I can. I do miss "bloghopping" and shall come visiting as soon as I can.
As is our practice every month, four of us (Alessio, Asha, Pamela and I, a.k.a The 4 Velveteers) set ourselves a new kitchen challenge this month. So far we have tackled artificial colour-free Red Velvet Cake, Savoury Verrines with squash, zucchini, cheese and chocolate, dessert using any one fruit and two kinds of nuts, and a dish using a seasonal fruit/ vegetable and mint.
As you can see, its been fun all the way.
This month’s challenge was to make home-made tofu and then make a dish of our choice with it.
I must say my first reaction to making tofu, in general, wasn’t very positive. No one in my home likes the stuff, no matter what is made with it. I really cannot blame them, as the tofu I get here is slightly chewy and rubber-like and so not something one would want to eat, unless it was the only choice.
The only way I have managed to use it so far is as a substitute for egg in some bakes.
Imported tofu of better quality is available but is so expensive, I don’t think it is worth buying despite being a great source of protein.
And then the thought of making tofu scared me a bit because it brought to mind an episode on the Discovery channel I had watched some time back. It was about different types of tofu made in China and what stayed with me was some people in remote villages of China stirring vats full of soya milk and the commentator mentioning that making tofu seemed to be a smelly business!
However, a challenge is a challenge, and must be faced and completed in the spirit of things. Pamela also assured me that good tofu is supposed to be soft and somewhat like paneer (a fresh and soft Indian cheese). Now I do know that paneer can also be chewy and rubbery if not made or cooked properly, so the idea of making my own tofu started feeling good.
I guess the true challenge of making tofu from scratch would be to start with the soya beans. I shall do that some day (maybe), but this time I started halfway using readymade soya milk.
A lot of things going on at home this month meant that this post almost didn’t happen. By the time I decided I could do this challenge, I didn’t have much time to meet the deadline. I also spent a lot of time searching for soya milk before I found it, so I wasn’t going to complicate things for myself by looking for soya beans now. So my tofu is made with store bought soya milk.
My mound of home-made tofu!
If you have made paneer or ricotta at home, making tofu isn’t all that much different. The process is more or less the same, and it’s just the raw material that’s different. Even if you haven’t made anything like this at home, it’s still not something very difficult to do. You don’t really need any fancy equipment either but stuff most cooks have in their kitchens like pots, a wooden spoon, a couple of thin cotton kitchen towels and a colander/ sieve for draining.
As for the ingredients, all you need is some soya beans (if you’re making your own soya milk) and a coagulant of choice to turn the soya milk into tofu.
Here’s a good video showing how to make tofu from scratch.
Traditionally, the Japanese use “nigari” which is mostly magnesium chloride and made from evaporating sea water. The Chinese prefer gypsum (naturally occurring calcium sulphate) to make their tofu. Both of these may be difficult to find in stores everywhere and ordering them online isn’t always a viable option.
Another coagulant is glucono delta lactone (GDL) which is used to make silken tofu. More commonly available coagulants are Epsom salts (magnesium suphate), lime juice or vinegar. The texture and taste of the tofu would depend upon the coagulant used, the amount of it used.
The amount of pressure applied to pack the tofu and for how long it is left, also determines how soft or hard your tofu will be.
I have used vinegar and lemon juice to make paneer and wanted to see how Epsom salts worked as I’ve never tried this before. Epsom salts are considered a laxative but that shouldn’t be a concern as it is used in a very small amount here.
There are a lot of recipes on the net for making tofu at home and they all seem to start with soya beans. I just started with 1 tsp of Epsom salts and and then added another 1/2 tsp later to get my soya milk to curdle.
1 litre soya milk
1 1/2 tsp magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts)
Pour the soya milk into a pan and heat it till it reaches approximately 80C (about 175F). I don’t have a kitchen thermometer and I just dipped the tip of my finger in a bit of the milk to to judge how hot it was. This isn’t very scientific or very safe, but it works for me!
Dissolve the Epsom salt in 1/2 a cup of water and add it to the soya milk. Stir gently with a wooden spoon and you will see the soya milk starting to curdle. It took me about 5 minutes of gentle stirring on low heat (not boiling) before the soya milk curdled well.
The milkiness of the soya milk should have given way to clear amber/ light yellowish coloured whey and curdled solids. If there is some milkiness, add a little more coagulant (about 1/2 tsp Epsom salt in a little water) to the mixture and stir gently till no milkiness is visible.
Take the pan off the heat and allow the curdled mixture to stand for about 10 minutes.
If you have a tofu mould, line it with cheesecloth and pour the curdled mixture into it. I don’t have a mould so I used a strainer which I lined with a thin cotton kitchen towel. I placed over a bowl so that the whey could drain into it.That is why my tofu is mound shaped rather than the usual rectangle.
Once most of the whey has drained out of the tofu, tightly wrap the ends of the towel or cheesecloth over the tofu and place some weight (I used a jar of dried beans) over it so the excess moisture is pressed out and the tofu is packed into shape.
Remove the weight after about 20 minutes and open out the towel. I believe pressing it down for longer (about 30 to 40 minutes) will give you firmer tofu.
Turn out the tofu and its ready for use. Use it within a day.
If you are not going to use it immediately, place the tofu in a sealable container and cover it with water. Change the water everyday and use the tofu within a couple of days.
One litre of soya milk gave me about 1 1/2 cups of soft tofu.
Now that the tofu was made, all I needed was to figure what to make with it. According to various sources, tofu made with Epsom salts should turn out soft and sweet. So I did a taste test, and though the tofu was really soft (but firm enough to hold its shape), I didn’t even get a hint of sweetness. I can say with much conviction that tofu is a taste I am yet to acquire.
In case you are wondering why my tofu is a dirty brownish colour, that’s because the soya milk was a light brown colour! I thought soya milk was meant to be white or very light creamish in colour.
In case anyone is interested, I used the Godrej brand of natural soya milk.
Given that tofu isn’t on anyone’s list of favourites here, I thought it was best to make something where the tofu had a large enough presence without taking the leading part in the show!
The perfect kind of recipe for this seemed a Tropical Tofu Smoothie that I adapted from MyRecipes.
I must say that while I haven’t become a tofu fan, I have no objections having my tofu in a smoothie like this. The tofu gave the smoothie some volume and a creamy texture, and if I didn’t actually put it into the blender I wouldn’t have known there was any tofu in it!
Tropical Tofu Smoothie
(Adapted from Cooking Light, January 2000)
2/3 cup soft tofu, drained
3/4 cup pineapple juice, chilled
1 cup chopped mango
1 small banana (optional)
1/2 cup plain yogurt, frozen
1/4 cup orange juice, chilled
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey or sugar (optional)
seeds from 2 pods cardamom, crushed (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
Process the tofu, chopped mango pieces and the banana (if using) in a blender till smooth. Add all the remaining ingredients and process again till smooth.
This recipe makes 2 tall glasses of delicious smoothie.
The four of us go velveteering, as we like to call our kitchen adventures, with a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine every month. Each of us will share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs.
If you would like to join us, please leave a comment at this post or send me a mail and we’ll get back to you.
This month, Ken and Jaya are joining us in our adventures. Their posts will be on their blogs soon.
Alessio : Tofu mousse with sesame seeds and matcha green tea.
Asha : Mapo Tofu
Pamela : Tofu Onde-Onde