Tempeh. The super-food.

Tempeh. The super-food.

I’m planning a demonstration of some super simple but tasty ideas for cooking with tempeh. Watch this space!

Seems like you can’t open a lifestyle magazine at the moment without finding an article about gut microbes. You know the sort of thing: we have ten times more bacteria in our bodies than human cells (a highly questionable estimate) and many of these bacteria are essential to the proper functioning of our digestive system. As a result we are bombarded with advertising trying to sell us ‘probiotic’ supplements.

Now I am not a food-faddist. I believe that a balanced diet of predominantly natural foods (by which I mean not processed industrially) is what you need to stay healthy. But I reckon if there’s a chance that some of those natural foods could benefit the gut’s microbiota by providing ‘good’ bacteria, and they’re great to eat, then you have little to lose by eating them!

Most of the foods that contain beneficial bacteria are made through the process of fermentation—the conversion of sugars and starch by microbes into acid or alcohol. Some of the well known products made this way are yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi (Korean), miso (Japanese), and sourdough bread.

But there is one that I’m particularly fond of, because it is so delicious, and it comes from Indonesia! I’m talking about tempeh—apparently the only soya-based product that didn’t originate in China.

Tempeh is made from whole soya beans, bound together by the fermentation process into a cake. It is quite unlike the better-known tofu, which is made from soya milk. Tempeh has a firm texture and a nutty flavour, with a high protein, fibre, and vitamin content. Bit of a super-food really! My husband, Kevan, is luke warm about tofu. He absolutely loves tempeh. It seems to be cropping up more and more in the media, and becoming easier to get hold of. I get mine from my usual Chinese supermarket, but you can find it in health food shops, and as I write I see that Crossways Fruiterers, the charming independent greengrocer in Fernhurst, has just started stocking it.

Tempeh is so versatile. Recently I posted on Instagram a simple, yummy Javanese snack called tempeh mendoan sambal kecap, which makes a wonderful canapé. Thinly sliced tempeh is coated in a spicy batter, fried quickly, then topped with a fresh sambal made with sweet soya sauce.

Yesterday I made a batch of the delicious stir-fry called, in Javanese, oseng-oseng tempeh. Here’s how I make it.

1. Slice a block of tempeh into strips. Fry these for a minute or so in very hot oil—I use sunflower oil; rapeseed oil is an alternative. They should stay soft—don’t overcook them. Remove the tempeh from the oil and set aside to drain.

2. Coarsely chop shallots, garlic, chillies (red and/or green), and galangal, and fry in the same oil with a few lime leaves and bay leaves.

3. Once the vegetables have softened and their fragrance released, add the tempeh and stir together with kecap manis (sweet soya sauce), a little tamarind sauce, and salt and pepper.

4. Finally I might add halved cherry tomatoes for the last few seconds of frying.

5. Put everything onto a serving plate, or a freezer container. We like our food chilli hot, so I top with whole grilled green chillies. Let the dish stand for a few hours for the flavours to develop before warming and serving, or freezing.

All the ingredients can be found in the bigger supermarkets, even the galangal and tamarind sauce. I don’t think it will be long before they start selling tempeh too.

Give it a try. I hope you love it as we do. And who knows, its fermentation genesis might give you a bacterial boost!

And in case you’d like more inspirational ideas on what to do with tempeh I’m planning a cooking demonstration some day soon. Meanwhile let me know if you think it’s a good idea.

My latest job: our own party!

My latest job: our own party!

Every few years Kevan gets together with his old Churcher’s College school friends. For some reason or other it tends to be at our house! I guess we are the geographic centre of gravity. And anyway I love the chance to cook for myself for a change.

With a few extra family members we were 20 people this time. We have been so lucky with the weather on previous occasions, but this year the party was a bit later in the year, to coincide with a visit by the Australian branch of the Old Churcherians, and sadly we weren’t blessed with sunshine. But everyone spent most the afternoon eating so they didn’t really notice! At least it didn’t rain, and we managed to keep the dining room doors open all afternoon.

Here’s what I served:

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Lamb kofte with jalapeño mayo dip

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Duck & vegetarian spring rolls with sweet chilli sauce
Fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce

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Chicken meat balls with tamarind dip

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Croustades with quails eggs in Mary Rose dressing

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Dates with goats cheese, pistachio & pomegranates

Plate food
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Smoked mackerel salad with heritage beetroot,
fennel & croutons

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Camargue red rice salad with almond flakes

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Barbecued pulled lamb with Asian-style green sauce

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Persian sausage rolls

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Carrot & parsnip fritters

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Grilled peppers with anchovy, garlic & caper berries

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Summer pudding

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Brownies with white & dark chocolate nibs

Happy New 2014!

Happy New 2014!

Well it’s been a while. I have to admit that a very busy autumn has led to the sad neglect of my blog. But new years being what they are, it seems only right to start this one with a resolution. Which is, of course, to try and update it more often.

I do have quite a lot of news to tell you about, but I thought for now I’d at least make a start by wishing all my friends and customers a very happy new year. I hope to see you during the next twelve months; meanwhile here are just a few pictures from the last twelve. (Click on one to see them bigger, in a carousel.)

I’ll be back soon. I promise!