Autumn has arrived and at lunch time, I have been in the mood for something a little more warming than a sandwich, so have been opting for soup. Pret do a lovely range and last week I had a delicious corn spicy soup nearly every day. At £2.99 a pop, I started to feel a bit poor and I especially resented spending the money knowing I can make 4-6 portions for roughly the same amount. Feeling inspired, I decided to try to re-create it and I am pleased to say I did a fine job. The recipe is below.
Freezing – Freeze once cooled – defrost over night or in microwave. I like to freeze individual portions so they are ready to take to work.
1 Brown Onion
3 Cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon Sunflower oil
3 Corn on the cobs (or 3 handfuls of frozen sweet corn)
1 Large potato
1 Inch of fresh ginger
1 Red chilli
3 Stalks of lemongrass
200ml Reduced fat Coconut milk (1/2 standard tin)
1 Litre of veggie stock
Salt and pepper to taste
- Finely slice the onion, garlic and chilli
- Peel and grate the ginger
- Alternatively use a blender to chop the above ingredients
- Heat oil on a medium heat in a large pan
- Gently sauté the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger for about 10-12 minutes until onions are translucent – being careful not to let it burn
- While this is cooking, chop the potato into little cubes and set aside
- If you are using fresh corn, slice the corn off the cob and set aside with potato retaining the cobs
- If you are using frozen corn skip the above step
- Peel and chop the ends off the lemongrass and score it several times with a knife
- Add the potato, corn and lemongrass and stock to the onion mixture
- If you have fresh cobs add these too as they will add flavour
- Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes
- Remove the lemongrass and corn if you used fresh corn
- Add the coconut milk and heat through
- Split the mixture in two and blend half until smooth
- Return the blended mixture to the unblended mixture and stir
- Serve – lovely with crusty bread
In case anyone is about to turn their nose up at the thought of tofu, let me tell you that before I tried this dish, inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi, I never really cared for it either. It seemed a bit…well…bland and boring, probably the sort of thing that someone who doesn’t really like food would eat. However, since my good friend introduced me to this recipe, I love tofu – I believe it absorbs flavours far more than meat. This meal is one of the most flavoursome treats you will devour and, in my view, it beats a chinese takeaway anytime. Far cheaper too, so happy days all round.
I have adapted this recipe as, despite being a chilli fan, the original was too hot – even for me. This meal is vegetarian without trying. Replace the butter with 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and it can be vegan too.
Some of the ingredients may not be in your store cupboard so I have offered some substitute ideas, however you will get a better result if you use the ingredients listed. I have also adapted the recipe to make it a bit less faffy than the original.
No freezing this dish – Gobble it up straight away
400g Firm tofu
2 x Tablespoons cornflour
Sunflower oil for frying
6 x Shallots or 1 x large onion -peeled
5 x Garlic cloves -peeled
1 x 5cm piece of ginger
1 x Mild red chilli – deseeded
75g x Butter
4 x Teaspoons light soy sauce (if you don’t have it substitute it with 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce, mixed with 2 x teaspoons water)
4 x Teaspoons sweet soy sauce (available in oriental supermarkets but could be substituted with 2 x teaspoons honey and 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce)
2 x Teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 x Tablespoon sugar
1/2 x Teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
3 x Spring onions (shredded into strips or chopped finely)
- First open and drain the tofu. Wrap it in kitchen roll and place it on a clean tea towel. Put a chopping board on top of it. Place some full tins, or anything heavy you have lying around, on the chopping board to weigh it down. This method is called pressing – it makes the tofu firmer and easier to handle. The longer you leave it, the easier the tofu will be to handle. I usually do this a few hours before I plan to make the dish.
- When you are ready the meal take the shallots, garlic, chilli and ginger and chop very finely. I use my food processor to make this part less time consuming. If you have one, I would recommend you do this too.
- Heat the butter in a wok or frying pan and add the chopped up veg. Reduce the heat at let this cook for about 15 minutes stirring occassionally until the veg is very soft and translucent.
- Whilst you are doing this, take another frying pan and tip in the sunflower oil until it is about 1cm in depth. Heat the oil on a high temperature
- Unwrap the tofu
- Cut the tofu into one inch cubes and dust in the corn flour
- When the oil is sizzling hot , turn it down to a medium heat, then add the tofu.
- Fry for 4 minutes, then turn over – I recommend using tongs for this
- Fry for another 4 minutes. The tofu should now be crispy on both sides
- Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on a plate with kitchen roll
- Turn the heat off for that frying pan
- Add the three types of soy sauce and sugar to the transluscent veg mix. Allow the suar to melt and the ingredients to bubble.
- Next add the pepper and stir well. This dish should not require salt as the soy sauce is salty enough.
- Next stir in the tofu and heat for a couple of minutes
- Add the spring onion
- Serve with rice
This lovely chilli is the vegan alternative to chilli con carne that has the meat eaters asking for more. It is a delicious smokey supper and despite being rather healthy, it is satisfying and filling. This is loved by adults and children alike, however if your kids aren’t keen on heat, then add then chilli at the end (if you aren’t keen, just omit it). This portion is more than enough for 6 adults. My family consists of two adults and two children so it makes two meals for us. I freeze half and indulge a cooking free night another time… I hope you enjoy
Serves 6 adults (or in my case makes two dinners for 2 adults and two children)
1 x onion
3 x carrots
2 x celery sticks
3 x cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of red chilli or one chopped red chilli
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 x bell peppers (I use a mixture of colours)
1 x tin of tomato puree (or 2 x tablespoons)
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
3 x teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 x teaspoon of chipotle paste
1 x 400g kidney beans
1 x 400g tin borlotti beans
1 x 400g tin black eyed beans
125ml glass of red wine
1 x teaspoon of sugar
1 x veggie stock cube
Salt and pepper to taste
3 x cubes of dark chocolate
- Chop onion, garlic, celery and carrots finely. I use my food processor, but you could grate or just chop as small as possible. The aim with this is to bulk the dish out and give it flavour. Chunky veg is a no.
- Cut pepper is to 1 inch pieces
- Heat the oil in a large (preferably non-stick) pan
- Tip in the onion, celery, carrot and garlic mixture
- Cook until the vegetables soften, this will take about 15 minutes
- In the meantime open your tins of tomatoes and beans, drain and rinse the beans
- When the veg has softened add the peppers to the pan and cook for a couple off minutes
- Stir in smoked paprika
- Stir in the tomato puree and, if using, the chipotle paste and cook for a few minutes
- Add the chopped tomatoes, wine, beans, stock cube and stir well
- Add the sugar and dark chocolate and stir well
- Bring to the boil.
- At this point I either: transfer to a slow cooker for several hours, transfer to an over proof dish and cook on gas mark 7 for about 90 minutes, cook on the hob on a low hear for 90 minutes.
- If using the oven or hob method, I stir occasionally
- The finish result is a thick rich chilli
- Serve with rice or tortilla chips and cheese
- I always make my fresh guacamole to accompany this dish but sour cream is great too