This blog is a celebration of the wonderful world of vegan cooking. Enjoy!

* The title of this blog refutes the dangerous idea that veganism is a weight-loss diet and that all vegans are skinny. Conversely, being a-not-so-skinny-vegan is also not the same as being overweight or unhealthy. All food intake must be part of a balanced lifestyle.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soy-Glazed Linguine with Ginger and Tofu

Cambridge is somewhat of a cultural odd pot. The town definitely basks in that British traditionalism that the university exudes in great loads but it can always surprise you.

When I was fifteen I visited New Caledonia with my French class. New Caledonia is a little lax on the alcohol (and a bunch of other) laws and being fifteen and from a small country town I, and the rest of the French class, went a little crazy. There was alcohol, French men (who I now have a rather low opinion of seeing as they were chasing after fifteen year olds!) and even smoking. I detest smoking but I'm also not fond of people disliking things they haven't tried (unless it's heroin or has moral implications like, say, the flesh of an animal).

I had a point here.

There were these drinks called Desperados there (a premixed beer and tequila drink) and we drank them by the gallon. When I returned to Australia I tried to find them again (although that was a little difficult until I was 18) but never succeeded. All my travels in France (and the rest of Europe), my travels in Canada and the US have never discovered these little bottles of beer/tequila gold.

The thought of beer and tequila now makes me want to vomit so I gave up my quest a little while ago. However, Geoff and I walked to Mill Road the other day in search of rice paper to make rice paper rolls (Mill Road houses most of Cambridge's Asian grocers) and we spotted a bottle shop, popped in to look at the wine and there, sitting in a small little fridge, were Desperados.

Of course I had a small girly fit.

The guy behind the counter said: "That's Cambridge for you. You never know what you'll find."

I thought he was being a bit sentimental and gave him my awkward I-think-you-are-a-giant-weirdo-so-please-shut-up-now smile.

However, it turned out to be very true.

An example of this weird Cambridge culture happened on Saturday. Geoff and I were walking back to our bikes with groceries and saw some people coming out of a church (there are many old, old, old churches here). Geoff suddenly walked into the church demanding I follow.

I don't know if I've told my readers this before but Geoff has a special power. He has special book detecting skills.

The entire church was full of second hand books. They were selling them at pretty good prices too! My most precious find was a book called Virtually Vegetarian. It cost me £1.

It's an interesting book. It's written by a British chef called Paul Gayler and it consists of a bunch of vegetarian recipes that use gelatin and chicken stock (hence the virtual bit) with meat additions suggested on most recipes. So it's not really a vegan cook book at all but we've discovered that most of it can be veganised and that this chef gives great instructions and has some quirky tastes that seem to work!

So here is the first veganised recipe we made from it. It tasted great too!

Soy-Glazed Linguine with Ginger and Tofu

450g linguine
1 tbsp vegan butter
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
25g fresh ginger, finely shredded
1 carrot, finely grated
2 spring onions, finely shredded
75g (about 7) shiitake mushrooms, shredded
2 bok choi heads, shredded
1 yellow pepper, finely shredded
2 tbsp dry white wine*
4 tbsp ketjap manis**
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar***
90ml vegetable stock
100g firm tofu, cubed
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
2 red chillies, deseeded and cut into thin rings****

Okay. First of all, don't freak out about all the shredding. I just basically grated everything. I'm sure a food processor would be easier but make sure you keep the ginger and garlic separate from everything else. Also, everything happens quickly so have everything prepped before.

Cook the linguine until al dente. Drain well and keep aside and warm.

Heat the butter and oil in a pan with the garlic and ginger for 1 min over moderate heat. The stir in the carrot, spring onions, mushrooms, bok choi and yellow pepper and stir for another minute.

Add the wine, ketjap manis and vinegar and bring to the boil. Once it has boiled cook it for a further 2 minutes. Add vege stock and cook until it is "light and syrupy". The more finely your shredding the syrupier***** the sauce.

This is my version of  "light and syrupy". It looks soft and mushy to me.

Add the drained linguine to the sauce and stir. I would suggest doing this in small parts since the pasta will stick together and you want to get every strand covered in a nice yummy glaze.

Stir in the tofu and garnish with coriander and chilli. Don't neglect this step; the coriander really makes the dish.

* Or dry sherry.

** This is a sweeter, thicker Indonesian soy sauce. You could get it in supermarkets in Australia (sometimes spelled kecap manis). I just made my own with agave nectar and soy sauce. Honey and soy sauce or even sweet chili sauce and soy sauce would also work.

*** If you don't have some you can get it at supermarkets. And it comes in handy with a lot of Asian dishes so don't be afraid to buy some.

**** Please deseed them and cut them into rings and don't put them in the sauce. They are garnish. My darling boyfriend put three extra hot chillies, seeds and all, into the sauce and my entire mouth went numb.

***** Not a word.

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