When we’re at university, we can’t have store-cupboards as well-stocked as they are at home: it’s sad, but it’s a fact of life. We don’t have the space, time or money to buy things like pomegranate molasses or jaggery if it’s only needed for one recipe. As students, our approach to food shopping should be calculated, and strategic.
This is where tahini comes in. Tahini is one of the greatest food gifts I’ve come across. A blended sesame seed paste, think of it as being similar to nut butter in taste and texture. Aside, therefore, from being a great substitute for nut-allergy sufferers, it’s also cheaper than most nut butter (peanut butter being the only cheaper alternative): it’s £1 per 100g at Sainsbury’s, but if you go onto Mill Road, you get can get even cheaper tubs at Spice Gate. Just last week I got 900g for £5.
I've given two sample recipes below, but it's useful for much more. Have it as a snack on a cracker, as a snack with pitta bread, as a dairy-free yoghurt subsititute (it's really creamy!), or as a garnish on rice and vegetable dishes. Go wild and experiment!
No question about it – hummus is a classic, and has been fully adopted into British food culture. The problem is that we don't make it ourselves often enough! Shop-bought hummus has its place – it’s dead handy when you need a snack – and speaking as someone who ate Tesco hummus for years before I had the real stuff, I feel that its flavour is interesting and appreciable in its own right. But it’s not a patch on freshly made hummus: I’d even go as far as to say that they’re almost different beasts entirely.
I assume the use of tinned chickpeas below, because as students the alternative is hugely time-consuming. I highly recommend trying out freshly cooked chickpeas, however; it again produces a slightly different flavour, because you add some of the cooking water to the hummus in place of the oil. Not only is this cheaper, but it also creates a nicer flavour, which is strange, because I always operate on the assumption that the more olive oil, the better. Tahini is central to either recipe: you’d be surprised by how much the flavour of hummus relies on tahini.
- 1 tin chickpeas
- 1/3 cup tahini
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Salt + pepper
- Paprika, to garnish
- Handful parsley, to garnish
- Drain the tin of chickpeas (reserving the liquid, if you like, for baking). Place in a blender and blend until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Add the remainder of the ingredients, except for the garnishes, and blend further. It’s completely up to you as to how much you want to blend it. Rough and smooth hummuses are both acceptable, and I enjoy both, depending on my mood.
- Taste, and add more tahini/oil if you see fit. These are the two ingredients I often find I want to add more of to my hummus. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with paprika and/ or parsley as you like, then drizzle generously with olive oil. Best eaten served at room temperature.
This recipe is one of my more recent inventions, and I’ve become completely reliant on it. It can be added to stir-fries (just after the onions) or served with stir-fried vegetables in a wrap for a quick and portable wrap.
Be careful in buying tofu. This recipe requires fresh tofu that comes refrigerated. Silken tofu, which you find on supermarket shelves, won’t work in the same way. Pressing the tofu beforehand isn’t essential, but it will render the final product firmer, crisper, and less watery. Tofu is a tricky ingredient to learn to cook with – I know lots of people who avoid cooking with it out of fear, and in truth, I was one of those people until a few months ago. However, once you learn how to prepare it properly, you’ll love how convenient and delicious it is. Just follow the recipe careful and you should have no cause to fear!
- Around 1/3 block of Cauldron Original Tofu (you can of course use other brands – this is just my preferred brand)
- ~ 1 tbsp vegetable/ groundnut/ sunflower oil
- 1 tsp flour/ semolina/ nutritional yeast
- A marinade of a 1:3 tahini: soy sauce ratio. 2 tbsp tahini with 6 tbsp soy sauce seems to work well for this amount of tofu, with extra to add to your stir fry or vegetables.
- A dash of tamarind (optional) – this lends an interesting extra flavour, but is by no means essential.
- At least an hour before cooking, take the amount of tofu you want to cook, drain it, and press it between two chopping boards, or a chopping board and a plate. You want to put something heavy-ish (like a saucepan or a bag of rice) on top. It’s best to leave it beside a sink so that any water which is pressed out can drain easily away.
- Just before starting to cook, cut the tofu into thin 2”x2” squares.
- Place the oil and flour to the pan and stir to combine the two. Add the tofu to the pan, and fry until both the top and bottom sides crisp up and turn a light brown. This should take about 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the tahini and soy sauce (and tamarind if using) in a bowl, and add to this the fried tofu pieces. Stir well to coat the tofu pieces and set aside. It only really takes ten minutes for the marinade to sink in properly, which is a perfect amount of time to chop some vegetables.
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