Vegan Mofo 17: S is for Sesame Tofu (Goma Dofu)

Think tofu has to be made from soy? When I first came across this Japanese dish called Goma Dofu or sesame tofu, I thought it was an ingenious idea – a soy-free tofu made from sesame paste!

Tofu, in the traditional sense, is made by coagulating proteins in soy milk. Common coagulants used are magnesium chloride (nigari), calcium chloride or calcium sulphate (gypsum). (The divalent cations of these salts react with the anionic groups of the soy proteins, which destabilizes their structure and cause coagulation.) However since sesame does not contain as high levels of protein as soy, Goma Dofu is solidified using a starch, typically kuzu or kudzu starch, although arrowroot or potato starch may also be used. On the differences between the different starches, kuzu starch, which is extracted from the root of the kuzu plant, imparts a more elastic texture than arrowroot or potato starch.

I bought the Goma Dofu from a Japanese supermarket although it can be easily made from just three ingredients – sesame paste (white or black), kuzu starch and water. My first thought? Bleah, just pass me real tahini instead! It was starchier than expected but less so than tapioca balls, slightly gelatinous and wobbly, and its consistency was firmer than silken tofu not quite as firm as an agar jelly. It had a mild hint of sesame just enough to be noticed, but left you craving more, and being the ardent tahini addict, I proceeded to smother the goma dofu in a coat of tahini. Much better!

Typically, Goma Dofu is served as an appetizer or as a course in kaiseki dining. It was probably invented by Japanese Buddhist monks and is considered the most symbolic food of Shojin Ryori (vegetarian temple cuisine). Apart from excluding meat and fish, one website even says that root vegetables are excluded! It is believed that harvesting will cause the death of the vegetables, which is against their principle philosophy of “don’t kill.” As such, only grains, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits are used. An in-depth article on Shojin Ryori can be found here.

So overall, I didn’t quite take to Sesame Tofu, although some has gone so far as to describe it as giving melt-in-your mouth experience. Sesame Tofu is not only the faux tofu; this can also be made with ground peanuts (peanut tofu), or also check out Shan tofu, a Burmese staple made from chickpea flour.

Vegan Mofo 10: L is for Lentil Sunday Roast

A flavourful roulade packed with meaty mushrooms, toothsome lentils and nutritious spinach. Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas or just a normal night’s dinner.

I stumbled upon this savoury roulade recipe by the Mouthwatering Vegan when I was actually searching for a vegan dessert roulade. But what an accidental fortuitous find! It looked absolutely scrumptious that I bookmarked it immediately. Furthermore it gave an opportunity to work with phyllo for the first time. Phyllo has a fussy reputation – a delicate and messy dough that requires tedious buttering and layering. But I’m always up to a challenge and so down to work it was!

But back to lentils (the post should be about lentils after all). Lentils are another favorite pantry staple; they are tasty, cook in a cinch and its uses highly versatile, from bulking up a simple salad to becoming a creamy base for soups and stews. Furthermore, the nutritional value of lentils is well-established. For example did you know that lentils pack the third highest level of protein of all legumes and nuts, trailing after soybeans and hemp only? There’s much to love about lentils!

Lentils come in a myriad of colors including brown, green, yellow, red. The difference between them is the cooking time and texture. Red and yellow lentils cook in about 30 mins and tend to break apart when cooked; hence they are often used in soups, stews and Indian daals or curries. On the other hand, green (or French/Puy) lentils are sturdier and retain their shape when cooked, which make them a better choice for salads. I also find that green lentils have a stronger, more earthy taste than the other varieties, which I adore. In case you were wondering, green lentils are also called Puy after their origin in the Puy region of France.


And for a final lentil tidbit – lentils have been eaten since antiquity and actually appears in the Bible four times (Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 17:28 and 23:11; Ezekiel 4:9). The most famous account is in Genesis 25:34, in which Esau exchanged his birthright to Jacob, his younger brother, for a bowl of lentil stew. Either Esau had been truly starving, or that must have been some serious stew!


For the lentil roulade I used green lentils for a more toothsome bite and extra flavour. I’m sure yellow or brown lentils would work too although it may turn out more mushy. Apart from lentils, the filling contains mushrooms and spinach. The trio are seasoned with Middle Eastern spices and reduced to a delicious stewy mix before spreading onto phyllo, then topped with a nutty mix. In fact if you are pressed for time, the filling itself makes a pretty good dish on its own!

The roulade came out fantastic. There were playful textures and flavours for the palate to take pleasure in – a fragile frame of crispy phyllo that shattered into a million delicious pieces upon stabbing with a fork. Then there is the filling – meaty and earthy mushrooms and lentils with the nuttiness of crunchy nuts in between. To balance out the savouriness, I served this with some crisp-steamed broccoli and fresh cherry tomatoes. This is a crowd-pleaser that will warm the hearts of both vegan and non-vegan friends.

Lentil Sunday Roast
Makes one roulade, about 10 1-inch slices.
Vegan.
Adapted from The Mouthwatering Vegan.

Ingredients
Lentil, Spinach & Mushroom Stuffing

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cups mushrooms, chopped into small pieces (I used a mix of portobellos and shiitake)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 250g cooked green puy lentils (can prepared from 125g dry or 1 400g can)
  • 6 oz (170g) spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3 whole sundried tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 slice of lemon (about 2 tsp)
  • Zest of half lemon

Nut Topping

  • 3/4 cup nuts, finely chopped (I used a blend of almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts; you can process them in a food processor, but don’t make powder of them, they still need to be in small pieces)

Puff Pastry

  • 5 sheets of vegan phyllo pastry, thawed (I used Fillo Factory Organic Whole Wheat Filo Dough)
  • Non-dairy milk to brush onto pastry

Directions

  1. If using dry lentils, cook the lentils. Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water to cover. Simmer for 25-30 mins until tender. Set aside. If using canned lentils, drain and rinse. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, sweat onions in about 1 tbsp of olive oil until they turn soft and translucent, about 10 mins.
  3. Add garlic, mushrooms and 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook until mushrooms release their juices and become soft, stirring often. This will take about 10-15 mins.
  4. Then add in the tomato paste and spices and mix well to combine. Cook on medium-high for about 2 mins until the spices release their aromas.
  5. Finally, add in the cooked lentils and stir, then the spinach and remaining ingredients for the stuffing. Cook on low for about 10-15 mins until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is thick, rich and aromatic. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm temperature.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Then prepare the pastry sheets. On a floured surface, fold the pastry sheets together in such a way that you create one sheet approximately 10″ x 7″ (25 cm x 18 cm).
  7. Spoon the thick lentil stuffing onto the pastry sheet. Flatten and evenly distribute it using the back of a large spoon, leaving a 1/2″ (1.3 cm) gap all round. Then top with the chopped nuts. Roll along the length to make log. If any bits fall out of the side, just push them back into place.
  8. Brush the roulade with non-dairy milk, then make horizontal cuts at 1-inch (2.5 cm) intervals on the surface of the dough. These will be your markers for each slice once cooked.
  9. Transfer the roulade onto a parchment-lined baking tray and bake at 400°F/200°C for 25-30 mins until golden brown.
  10. As the roulade is baking, you may want to prepare some steamed veggies (eg broccoli or carrots), potatoes or a salad to go with the roulade.
  11. Remove roulade from oven and let cool slightly before slicing (it will be very flaky). Impress your non-vegan friends!

Also, check out this interesting post about how to sprout lentils, and a sprouted lentil vegetable stew.

Loaded Spanakopita Money Bags with Rags to Riches Tomato Balsamic Sauce

This dish is an entry for the Nom Yourself Birthday Challenge. Mary Matten is the amazing chef behind the creative dishes at Nom Youself. To celebrate her first year blogaversary, she is holding a contest with amazing prizes to be won, including a Vitamix and Nom Yourself cookbook! All you have to do is to recreate any dish from the Nom Yourself instagram account (@nomyourself), but to put your own creative spin on it. You can read more about the contest description and rules here.

NomYourself blurlots backgd final

The dish that I chose to recreate was Crispy Spinach Puffs with Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce. Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes, typically rectangular slices or triangular parcels. Yet another fun way to pack in those delicious creamy spinach fillings would be in the form of money-bag-shaped dumplings. I borrowed this idea from the classic Chinese wanton money-bags, a perennial dim sum favourite. To make the money-bags from phyllo, simply cut the pastry into circles then fold inwards to form a pouch.

Spanakopita_04

To make it a more wholesome and satisfying meal, the filling comes with lentils in addition to the staple spinach and “ricotta” cheese, which is based on a cashew/tofu blend. Plump phyllo pockets loaded with lentils, tofu, cashews and spinach – now, you’ve got a balanced mix of carbo, protein, greens and healthy fat. I’ve seen versions of spanakopitas that come with chickpeas and black beans; it’s pretty versatile so you may use whatever you have on hand.

As for the accompanying sauce, the original Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce was given full-blown upgrade to a rich and hearty tomato sauce, with lots of garlic and just a hint of sweetish balsamic dancing in the background. It is certainly the tomato sauce that made this dish so nom-worthy!

Nom Yourself Crispy Spinach Puff
Spanakopita Money Bags with Tomato Balsamic Sauce

 

So that’s my take on Crispy Spinach Puffs. In case you were wondering about the pun with money, that’s because NomYouself has a way with words and the name of her dishes always tell a story. So this is my (amateur) attempt at word play. I hope you enjoy!

Loaded Spanakopita Money Bags with Rags to Riches Tomato Balsamic Sauce
Makes about 12 money-bags; Serves 4.
Vegan.
Ingredients

  • About 18 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
  • Bunch of spring onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 150g box fresh spinach
  • 3/4 cup cooked green lentils (prepared from 1/4 cup or 50g dry)

Cashew Tofu Ricotta (adapted from Vegan Yumminess)

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked 2+ hours
  • 3/4 cup crumbled firm silken/pressed tofu
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Tomato Balsamic Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

  1. The night before making the dish, defrost phyllo pastry in the refrigerator and soak cashews in water.
  2. The next day. If preparing lentils from dry, place the lentils into a saucepan and fill with water to cover the lentils. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 mins until tender but not mushy. Set aside. If using canned lentils, measure out about 3/4 cup and set aside.
  3. In a medium frying pan, saute onion with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onion turns translucent, about 3-4 mins. Then add in garlic and saute 1 min, followed by the spinach. Cook the mixture until the spinach is just wilted.
  4. Next, prepare the cashew tofu ricotta. In a medium sized bowl, mash about 2/3 block of tofu with a fork until it fall aparts. Take about 3/4 cup of your crumbled tofu and put it in the food processor with the soaked cashews and the remaining seasonings. Process on high until the mixture is smooth. Then add in the cooked spinach mixture and pulse a few times until the spinach is just chopped up.
  5. Remove the spinach/ricotta mixture and place into a large bowl. Add the cooked lentils and fold in to incorporate. This will be the filling for the money-bags.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Cut out phyllo circles for the money bags. Take a stack of phyllo pastry and place on a flat surface. Place a 7″ dish or cake tin over and using the knife, trace around the dish/tin to make an indentation. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut out the circles fully. Altogether you should get 36 circles to make 12 money-bags (3 circles per money bag).
  7. To make each money-bag, brush each circle generously with olive oil. Lay another circle on top. Brush again with olive oil. Lay one more circle on top. Place about 3 tbsp of the filling into the center of the circle and fold to create a bag. Secure with spring onion stalk. Repeat the same for the other money-bags. Finally, brush each money-bag with olive oil and bake for 20-30 min until the outsides are browned and crispy.
  8. Meanwhile as the spanakopitas are baking, prepare the tomato balsamic sauce. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Stir in tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, wine, and basil. Simmer 15 mins.
  9. To serve, ladle tomato balsamic sauce onto a plate and place about 3 money-bags on top. Garnish with chopped parsley.