Tofu in BBQ sauce for hot, muggy days

One of the greatest delights of this blogging malarkey has been meeting (albeit virtually) many wonderful and interesting bloggers along the way. One of those peeps is foodisthebestshitever aka Graeme, aka Grazza, aka Mr Red Bearded Carnie Man. This witty blogger shares his fresh, vibrant recipes using his own unique turn of phrase and the odd spot of colourful language. (In others words, severe language warning to all of you who may be offended.) He resides in northern NSW with his missus Jen, who also knows her way around a kitchen and their two gorgeous lads. They opened their restaurant The Stockpot Kitchen in the Bangalow Bowling Club, about a year or so ago. I look forward to the the day that we find ourselves in the verdant NSW hinterland and we are able to chow down on some of the delicious sounding US-Southern style grub. Grazza lives and breathes food and surely could be named the Carnie King of Fiery Outdoor Cooking and Artisanal Condiments.

Around the end of November last year, Grazza sent me a muchly appreciated gift of four precious bottles of liquid gold. You see, he makes his own Big Red Brand condiments that they sell from the restaurant. The sauces are not just a sucker punch but have a subtlety in their blending and a deft balance of sweetness, tanginess and heat. Sadly, they are not yet for sale in these here parts but who knows what the future will bring?

Lately, the weather in Sydney has been very, very hot and extremely muggy. The humidity is a killer. The easiest meal I could think of for my annoying coeliac vegetarian beautiful husband was marinated tofu to accompany leftovers of potato salad and Lebanese green beans .

This is not really a recipe. Simply chop up a block of firm tofu (in this case 350g), throw it in a bowl and dollop a generous few slugs of Big Red Brand Smoky BBQ sauce over the tofu, stirring to coat it. (Of course, most of you will not have a bottle of this on hand so you can either make yourself a batch of one of Grazza’s barbecue sauce recipes which is surely the next best thing or purchase a top quality sauce from a deli or food purveyor.) Let the tofu marinate in the fridge for a few hours, overnight would be even better. Heat up a frypan, splash in a few glugs of olive oil and pan-fry the tofu on every side until a deep golden brown. This can also be grilled on a BBQ of course. Once the tofu is cooked, heat up the reserved marinade and dribble it over the top. Smoky, spicily sweet with a vinegar sharpness. This is the good stuff. (Annoyingly, I now have to hide this good stuff from Kid 1 who has discovered a penchant for quality sauces. Bugger.)

The Stockpot Kitchen Facebook Page

Thanks Mum and Moosewood, bean and tofu casserole

Growing up in the seventies, our Mum was part of a health-food co-operative. She purchased natural food in bulk that wasn’t your average store bought fare. Standout memories from those days include bags of wholemeal flour, copious legumes, lecithin (crazy stuff that), tins of molasses and brown sugar. (To emphasise this was the seventies, I remember Mum wearing a much coveted white peasant blouse embellished with red embroidery.) An orchardist’s daughter, she always stocked a cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables in the house.

Mum baked her own bread, made her own tomato sauce, bottled delicious preserves and for a time, a yoghurt maker graced the benches. Out of her kitchen rolled wonderful soups and heartily savoury casseroles. There was always a container holding tempting baked slices and biscuits made using recipes she had memorised from her own Mums wonderful baking. Our mum is not one to toot her own horn but we all feel lucky to have had such a solid grounding in eating and cooking good food.

One of the cookbooks that graced Mums shelves was The Moosewood Cookbook, one of the most iconic and revolutionary cookbooks of that time. This vegetarian recipe book was written by Mollie Katzen, who at the time was a member of The Moosewood Collective. (A natural foods restaurant founded in 1973 in Ithaca, New York.) My copy seems to have gone missing but recent reviews of updated editions state that many recipes are now ‘lighter’ than in the past. I imagine the author cut back on some of the larger quantities of cheese and sour cream. (Ingredients which were possibly the reason why the Moosewood food was so darned delicious!)

I took the inspiration for this dish from memories of the Moosewood Cookbook and the fact that I was housebound and needed to use whatever my pantry and refrigerator had to offer. It is great to soak your own beans but if you can’t, tinned beans are fine. These sort of casseroles are forgiving, so use what you have and experiment to your hearts content. The Yak and I happily scoffed our portions whilst the sproglets did a double take at the tofu. Kid 2 asked ‘what was that white spongy stuff?’ I said tofu. He said he thought it was chicken. (See, everything really does taste like chicken!) There is a good contrast between the crunchy munchy topping and the piquant, Mexican style sauce underneath. If you like your food really spicy, just bump up the chilli.

Peace out and enjoy.

Thanks Mum and Moosewood, bean and tofu casserole

3 tbl Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 large yellow or red capsicum, diced (or 1 small)
2 carrots, diced
3 small zucchini, diced
200g Mushrooms, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbl ground cumin
1 tbl ground paprika
2 tsps salt
Black pepper to taste
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin red kidney beans, drained
1 tin cannelinni beans, drained
1 tbl molasses
250 hard block tofu cut into 2cm cubes (don’t like the curd of beans? Don’t put it in!)
50g Parmesan, grated
1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs (or regular, try and use wholemeal or wholegrain)
Extra olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C.
Oil a casserole dish or if you have an ovenproof casserole dish that you can cook everything in and then transfer directly to the oven, use that. I used my sturdy Le Crueset cast iron pot.
In a large saucepan saute the onions and carrots in the olive oil for a few minutes until they start to soften.
Add the capsicum and zucchini and cook for another few minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few more minutes.
Add garlic cook and for 30 seconds or so then add chilli flakes, cumin, paprika, salt and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the tomato and molasses and stir to combine.
Add the beans and tofu. Bring to the boil.
Adjust the seasoning. If using another baking dish, pour the mixture into it. If you are using the same casserole dish, make sure you wipe the rim so it doesn’t look too messy.
Combine the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and a few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the breadcrumb mixture over the bean mixture.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the mixture beneath is bubbling. (Turn the dish half way through cooking to ensure even browning of the crust.)
Serve with a green salad or steamed veggies.

A Cheergerm creation

Soul Cages and Japanese Food

My current musical obsession is Sting’s latest album ‘The Last Ship’, a musical inspired by his childhood experiences and the shipbuilding industry in the north of the UK. The music and lyrics are beautiful, folksy and are a moving and melancholy delight.

I am particularly struck by a song in which Sting suggests that we keep our souls in a cage. That is, before they are set free from this mortal coil and sent to the ‘Island of Souls’ for eternity. He talks about his father’s soul, living in the same cage as the carrier pigeons that he lovingly tended to. My understanding is that his fathers soul resides in the place it feels whole, happy and rounded. Which gets me to thinking, where would my soul cage be?

Probably somewhere in our kitchen. Perhaps squashed between the pages of one of the many loved recipe books or nestled in a well used mixing bowls? Is it tucked away in the motor of the KitchenAid or possibly lounging in the base of my cast iron casserole dish? I do know that one of the places I feel most content and most, well, myself, is the kitchen.

This is how I show my sons, husband, family and friends; my love and appreciation. Through baking and cooking food that nourishes them, warms them, cheers them up, heals them and sometimes even challenges them.

The Yak is a vegetarian and a coeliac and these dishes were cooked because I love him. Well, most of the time, except when he ships me. (That is not a mis-type.)

The inspiration came from a giant eggplant that needed to be eaten and a Hairy Bikers episode in Kyoto, Japan. The Hairy Bikers (like Sting and The Yak), herald from the north of England. Their passionate love of food and delightful turn of phrase is an absolute joy.

The silken eggplant combined with the umami miso paste is a revelation. Teeny miso angels rose up and played little eggplant trumpets whilst we ate…really, they did. Combined with crunchy bites of tofu, we were replete and content.

As the Hairy Bikers, Sting, Northern English shipwrights or The Yak might say, this was a right cracking feed.

NASU DENGAKU (Miso glazed eggplant)

1 ginormous eggplant or two medium sized
1 tbl sugar
1 tbl mirin
3 tbl miso paste
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbl water
1 tbl toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Slice the eggplant in half lengthways and score with a criss cross pattern, this helps retain the sauce.
Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, scored side down and bake in oven for 20 to 25 minutes until tender. Remove and set aside.
Whilst the eggplant is baking, place all the remaining ingredients (except the sesame seeds) in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until they are combined.
Brush sauce over the cooked eggplant and grill for 3-5 minutes until dark golden brown and bubbling.
Serve and garnish with sesame seeds.


400g silken tofu (I only had firm so I just used what I had, you can make this recipe with less tofu.)
1 cup Vegetarian dashi (which I didn’t have, so it was really Tofu Age?)
2 tbl Soy sauce
2 tbl mirin
Vegetable oil for shallow frying
5 tbl brown or white rice flour for coating
1 Spring onion, finely sliced ( which I also didn’t have)

Wrap the tofu in paper towel and drain by placing a dish upon it to get rid of excess moisture.
Put the dashi, soy sauce and mirin in a saucepan, bring to the boil then take off the heat and set aside.
Discard the paper towel, slice the tofu in half lengthways and cut each piece into 9 pieces.
Heat 1 cm of oil in a frypan or saucepan. Coat the tofu in brown rice flour and fry on each side until they are light golden brown.
Drain on paper towel.
Serve the tofu with the dashi sauce poured over and garnish with the spring onion.

Both recipes are based on past experiments and the recipes from websites listed after the photos.