Stop Press. Tempeh cooking demos Monday, 26 March. Morning and evening.
I mentioned in my last blog that I was planning to hold a session. These are the dates I’ve decided on. Book now! Space is limited. Send me a message via the contact form, or if you know my other contact details, call me, text me, or message me. Just let me know your preferred day and I will confirm with details.
I keep coming across a vegetable called chayote in Latin American recipes.
It’s also used in Cajun cuisine (they call it mirliton), and by a huge variety of different names throughout south and east Asia. In Malaysia it’s called, weirdly, ‘English gourd’; in Indonesia we call it labu siam, which means ‘Thai squash’. Whatever it’s called, I love it!
Chayote (pronounced chay-o-tee) is a member of the gourd family, so related to squash and pumpkins, melons and cucumbers. Its flesh looks a bit cucumbery, but firmer—and you normally cook it. It has a very delicate—some might say nondescript—slightly sweet flavour, and a beautiful soft but crispy mouthfeel, which makes it ideal for adding to a stir-fry or a soup or stew.
And here’s the big thing about chayote: it’s packed with folate (vitamin B9), and contains zero cholesterol and saturated fats. It also has useful amounts of vitamin C, other B-complex vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fibre. Quite a nutritional powerhouse!
You can find chayote in most Asian supermarkets in the UK—see ‘Where to find ingredients’ in my blog on Sambal.
The photos show a very simple one-pan Indonesian dish that I put together in about 20 minutes (most of which is prepping the ingredients). In the first picture, above, clockwise from top-left: chayote, coconut milk, dried shrimp, tempeh, shallots and garlic, galangal, dried salam leaf (bay leaf can be substituted), tomato, and of course red chillies.
Basically, chop everything up, and soak the dried shrimp.
In a large frying pan (ideally a wok) gently fry the tempeh in vegetable oil to soften it, then add all the other ingredients except the chayote, tomato, and coconut milk. After a few minutes add the chayote and carry on frying until it’s soft (about another five minutes). Finally add the coconut milk and tomato, and salt and pepper (don’t be stingy) for the last couple of minutes. Serve with rice. If you’d like a more detailed recipe do let me know. I’ll be happy to let you have one.
Enjoy! And think of all the goodness.
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.