Homemade Tofu (Medium Firm)

When you are on a plant-based and low-carb  diet, tofu can be your best friend. I love everything about tofu – how versatile, nutritious, and tasty it is, not to mention being super low in carbohydrate. I also love how wallet-friendly and easy it is to make your own organic tofu.crispy friend tofu

Make your own tofu, you ask? Oh yes I do – and so can you!  It’s easy – just one little step away from making your own soy milk – and today, I’ll show you exactly how, step by step, with photos.

Homemade tofu is a revelation – so sweet and delicious straight out of the pot, with nothing but a tiny drizzle of soy sauce. You also will have two lovely tofu byproducts, the soy pulp (“okara”) and liquid whey. They are both nutritious and versatile (like tofu itself), so please don’t throw them away.

Did I mention how economical it is to make your own tofu? One cup of organic soy beans cost me about $1. From that, you can make 300-400g of  organic tofu, about 1.5 cups of okara, and 700g of whey. Now, isn’t that the best use of $1 ever?

Now are you convinced to give tofu making a go? I hope so!

Ingredients: First, let’s gather the ingredients – which are just two:

bulk soy beans

(1) organic soy beans (non-organic might be genetically modified, so avoid that if you can): I buy soy beans in bulk from this shop, which I think delivers Australia-wide. But to start out, try your local food co-op or health food shop.

(2) nigari  (magnesium chloride) flakes to coagulate tofu.. You can get nigari online. Nigari comes in either liquid form or as flakes. I much prefer the flakes. You never know how diluted nigari is in liquid, so flakes are easier to control the amount you use. A 100g bag of nigari flakes will last for years, if you don’t make tofu that often.

nigari flakes

Equipments: You don’t need any special equipments. But you’ll need these (which you probably already have in your kitchen):

(1) a blender (does not have to be high speed)

(2)  a BIG pot (the biggest pot you have, like a stock pot – the bigger the better)

(3) a wooden spoon

(4) a large metal strainer or colander

(5) a clean tea towel

That’s it – now you are ready to make your own tofu. The recipe and step-by-step instruction are below. You can double or triple the batch if you like, but I find it hard to squeeze more than one cup of beans at a time. So start with 1 cup and see how you go. Happy tofu making!

homemade tofu
homemade tofu

Tofu (Medium-Firm)

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December 5, 2017

Homemade "momen" tofu using a metal strainer - with step-by-step photos and instructions. It's easier than you think! The tofu made with a round strainer may not look as pretty as the store-bought ones, but much tastier. Plus, you can enjoy the bonus products of soy pulp and whey.

  • Yields: about 350g of tofu, 1.5 cups of soy pulp, and 700mil of whey

Ingredients

1 cup organic soy beans

1 tsp nigari flakes

1 3/5 liter filtered water for cooking, plus more for soaking

1/4 cup filtered water, for dissolving nigari flakes in

Directions

1Soak the soy beans in filtered water for 12-24 hours.

soaking soy beans

2Throw away the soaking water. Give the beans a quick wash. Drain, and put them in a blender. Add about 1 litre of the filtered water, and keep the rest in a jug. This is just because most blenders can't hold all 1.6 liters of water at one time.

blending soy beans

3Blend the beans and water. It takes about 30 seconds in my high-speed blender. You don't need the beans to liquify though.

blending soy beans

4Empty the blended soy beans/water into the largest pot you have. Use the remaining water (that didn't fit into the blender) to rinse out the blender, and add it to the pot. Put a lid on the pot (to speed up the cooking time). Set your timer to about 8 minutes (in case you walk away from the kitchen), and start heating the pot at medium-high heat.

cooking soy beans

5While the soy mixture is heating up, prepare for the next step. Place your metal strainer over a deep bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean cloth, like a tea towel or muslin. Get a container ready nearby to store soy pulp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6After about 8 minutes, the bean mixture should be close to boiling. Turn the heat down a bit, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom so burned bits don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Don't walk away at this point, and keep heating and stirring till the soy mix reaches a boiling point. You can tell immediately because the whole thing starts to rise up the pot, threatening to overlfow (and it will, if you let it!)

cooking soy beans

7Turn the heat down to low. Re-set the timer to 5 minutes. Then keep stirring/scraping with the wooden spoon, to prevent overflowing (and if it does, well, you are not alone. I've done this so many times. Just continue with the recipe and clean up without despairing - you'll still have some yummy tofu). You need to cook the beans here because raw beans are indigestible.

cooking the soy beans

8When the timer goes off, pour the soy mixture over the cloth-covered strainer. Leave it to cool a bit, so you can squeeze the pulp out. This takes about 20 -30 minutes. You want the soy mix not too hot (it'll burn your hands), and not too cold (it'll be more difficult to squeeze when cold).

straining soy milk

9Wash the pot meanwhile. But since you'll be using the same pot again to heat up soy milk soon, it doesn't have to spotless clean at this point.

10When the soy mix is cool enough, squeeze it to get as much soy milk out of it as you can. Think of it as a good workout!

squeezing tofu pulp

11Now you have rich, creamy soy milk, and a chunk of pulp ("okara") left in the cloth. Store okara in a container, and keep that in the fridge for another dish. Pour the soy milk back into the (clean) pot. Wash your hands and give the cloth a quick rinse (you'll be using the cloth again soon).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

12Heat up the soy milk at medium heat. It won't take long this time to heat up, so don't walk away from the kitchen. You want the milk to nearly reach the boiling point. You can tell by the tiny bubbles forming up around the edges, and then the surface of the milk start to move.

squeezing tofu pulp

13While waiting for the soy milk to heat up, dissolve a scant 2/3 teaspoon of nigari flakes in about 1/4 cup of filtered water. Put the strainer and cloth over the bowl again. You are nearly at the end!

nigari flakes in water

14When the soy milk is nearly at the boil, turn off the heat. Pour the nigari water into the pot, and give it a very quick stir with a spoon or spatula. Now leave it alone for 15-30 minutes, without stirring or moving the pot. You can leave it like this for an hour or more if you like.

nigari

15Magic happens while you wait - nigari coagulates the tofu, just like when you make ricotta cheese. After about 15 minutes, you can see gorgeous white tofu floating in a clear, yellowish liquid (whey).

tofu nearly ready

16Gently pour the tofu/whey combo into the strainer lined with cloth. Let it strain naturally, without disturbing it, for 15-30 minutes. Or if you are impatient, you can give the cloth a gentle squeeze to help strain the tofu a bit faster. The longer you let it naturally strain or squeeze the whey out of the tofu, the firmer it gets. So you can adjust the consistency of your tofu to an extent here, depending on what you plan to use it for.

tofu nearly ready

17Ta-da! This is your tofu. It may not look like a pretty rectangle tofu you get at shops (having used a round metal strainer for shaping), but it is way tastier. I now use a rectangle metal strainer that I found in Japan to make rectangle tofu - so experiment with what you have around your kitchen next time.

homemade tofu

18If you are not eating or using the tofu right away, gently store it in a container, and cover with a bit of water to keep it from drying out. Store in the fridge till needed. It'll keep for up to 5 days or so.

mome dofu

19Finally... don't throw out the whey! You can use it as soup stock - for miso soup, curry, vegetable soup, sauces, etc. Whey is tasty and nutritious. Also, I love using it in lieu of water when making bread. It makes the most fluffy, wonderful bread dough.

tofu whey

If the whey looks a little milky, and not clear, don't worry about it. You still have most of the tofu there. Next time though, make sure the soy milk is nearly at the boil before adding nigari water. You can try using a bit more nigari flakes as well, but nigari tastes bitter, so if you use too much, you'll end up with a bitter-tasting tofu and whey.

I make tofu while cooking breakfast or dinner - or while doing other food preps, just so I can keep an eye on the initial cooking process and avoid unfortunate overflowing accidents.

Also, you don't have to make tofu in one go. Do it in stages. Blend up the soaked beans in the morning, cook it at lunchtime, and finish it at dinnertime, etc. You can even keep the soy milk in the fridge (and drink a bit of it for your coffee) overnight, and use the remaining milk to make tofu the next day.

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Cashew Miso Tofu Dip (Vegan, GF, Oil-free, Low-Carb)

Cashew is magical. It can morph into anything, it seems. Milk, butter, white sauce, sour cream, and of course cheese. All nuts and seeds are amazing in their shape-shifting abilities actually (and godsend to people on vegan, plant-based and/or raw food diets). But cashew? Cashew is the reigning Queen of Creaminess. Plus it’s more affordable than, say, macadamia nuts or pine nuts.

Cashew miso dip

Here’s a quick cashew miso dip recipe that’s one of my current favorites. Miso makes it extra tasty, and tofu adds more creaminess, substance, and balance. Without tofu, the combination of cashew, miso and garlic create way too much flavor in my opinion – umami overload. Tofu brings the whole thing together.

The dip is diabetes friendly, but cashew does have a rather high carbohydrate content, and high calories, so it’s best to watch your portion size even if you are tempted to eat it by the spoonful.

cashew miso dip

Try the dip also as a sandwich or wrap spread, in lieu of mayo, as a salad dressing with a bit of thinning, or on (zucchini?) pasta, fritters, vegan schnitzels… anything really. I hope you give the recipe a go, and let me know how you like it!

cashew miso dip

cashew miso dip
cashew miso dip

Cashew Miso and Tofu Dip

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October 2, 2017

A quick, creamy, and addictive cashew dip with a subtle Asian flavor.

  • Yields: about 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup dry cashew, soaked for 2-3 hours or overnight

1/2 cup momen or medium-firm tofu (not hard tofu)

1 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped (optional)

1 tbsp tahini (optional)

1 tbsp miso (brown or white)

1/2 cup vegetable soup stock or water

Directions

1Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until very, very smooth. I have a high-speed blender and it takes 1-3 minutes.

2Taste, and adjust seasoning.

Garnish with chopped coriander, green onion, or chives for a pretty presentation.

If you are avoiding soy, try using vegan yogurt instead of tofu. I tried it with Nudie coconut yogurt (natural), but I wasn't crazy about the noticeable coconut flavor. But a different brand might be okay.

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The Breakfast Conundrum – and Sichuan Mushroom Sauce Recipe (Vegan, GF, Low-Carb)

Sichuan mushroom sauce

Breakfast is often a tough decision for me. What do I want to eat this morning, or rather, what can I eat this morning? Being diabetic, I gave up on sweet breakfast a long time ago, and high-carb items like wheat bread, cereal, rice, or even porridge are out. Fruit is also out (too much sugar), except maybe berries. Meat, fish, and dairy are also out because I’m trying to stick to a plant-based diet. Well, except I do eat occasional eggs from our happy backyard chooks.

What does that leave me with? Well, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts of course! And thank goodness there are so many delicious things you can make with these.

Here’s what I eat these days when I’m pressed for time, like getting the kids ready for school: a couple of slices of low-carb seedy bread with avocado. Plus a big mug of real coffee with homemade almond milk – because, friends, coffee is happiness. If I’m still hungry, I’ll munch on raw veggies or have a big spoonful of peanut butter. Yum.

seedy bread breakfast

On weekends though, I make something more elaborate. Last weekend, I made this Asian portobello mushroom sauce with garlic, ginger, chilli, and Sichuan peppercorns. I poured it over homemade tofu and devoured it. It was utterly delicious. It’s actually pretty simple to prepare, too, if you want to give it a try.

portobello mushroom sauce ingredients

The basic recipe is below. The key flavor here is Sichuan peppercorns. You can omit the chilli if you like but please give Sichuan peppercorns a try. It adds a distinct, strong and fresh flavor kind of like coriander or fennel seeds – but not really. It’s hard to explain but I love it. Using whole peppercorns also adds a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

You can use whatever mushrooms you have lying around, or in any combination. Portobello or shiitake would be great though, because of their meaty texture that can match the strong flavor combination. But if not, white button mushrooms would work just fine.

If you want to make the sauce but are avoiding soy, try pouring the sauce over lightly steamed broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, etc. If you are okay with carbohydrate, the sauce would be delicious over noodles, rice (cauliflower rice would also be fantastic for a low-carb option), quinoa, etc. Enjoy and, if you happen to make this dish, please let me know how you go!

Sichuan mushroom sauce
Sichuan mushroom sauce

Spicy Sichuan Mushroom Sauce (Vegan, Low-Carb, GF)

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September 27, 2017

Kickstart your morning with this spicy and scrumptious (and low-carb of course) Asian mushroom sauce with tofu!

  • Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1 cup portobello or other mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp sesame, olive, or coconut oil for cooking mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp ginger

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)

1 tbsp soy sauce (use gluten free if you like)

1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot, for thickening

1 cup water or vegetable soup stock

1 cup momen or silken tofu

Directions

1Slice or chop the mushrooms. You want relatively chunky bits - not too small, not too large. Mince garlic and ginger together.

2Preheat a frying pan over medium-high heat (I love my Lodge cast-iron pan). Spread whatever oil you are using, and when the pan and oil are nice and hot, carefully lay the mushroom bits in a single layer. You want the mushrooms to brown, so don't overcrowd the pan. Leave the mushroom alone (don't stir) for 3-4 minutes till one side has browned and shrunk a bit. Flip the mushrooms over with a spatula, and let the other side brown for 2-3 minutes.

3Add chilli flakes, Sichuan peppercorns, minced garlic and ginger to the pan, and cook for a minute or so. Add soy sauce and stir for a few seconds (it should sizzle), until it all starts to smell amazing.

4Dissolve cornstarch or arrowroot in water or stock, and pour it in the pan. Mix, until the water has boiled (shouldn't take long), and the sauce thickened. Reduce heat to a simmer, and let the sauce cook gently for a few minutes. If the liquid evaporates too much, just add more water or stock to bring it back to a nice saucy consistency. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

5Pour the sauce over a good chunk of tofu and any other vegetables you have around. Scatter a few leaves of cilantro / coriander or chopped scallions if you have any.

The sauce is great over homemade tofu. If you are buying tofu, organic "momen" (or medium firm) or silken tofu is best. I don't recommend hard-firmness tofu - it's a bit too tough to eat raw in my opinion. But you can cook slices of hard tofu until crispy in the oven or in another frying pan. That'll be delicious with the sauce. And of course, this will make a lovely lunch or dinner dish as well.

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