“Buddha Bowls” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

IMG_7334I could relabel this post as, “Searching for Massaman Curry Paste.” (Spoiler alert: I found it. Eventually.)

As loyal readers of this blog will know, if I can’t find an ingredient in any of my local shops, it’s not worth making. I say this because we’ve got an amazing butcher, greengrocer, fishmonger, cheesemonger, health food shop and  three major supermarkets (Waitrose, Co-Op and Sainsbury’s Express), all within walking distance of the house.

In this case, I was fairly sure that Waitrose would have the massaman curry paste. Where I went wrong was searching high and low for it in the Indian section, forgetting that massman is actually a Thai curry. Once I was in the appropriate international section– Thai– I did eventually find it, and breathed a sigh of relief because I meant I didn’t have to make my own paste.

The Buddha Bowl is a nice assortment of potatoes, green beans, peanuts, rice, carrots, tofu and the aforementioned massaman curry paste. The adults rather enjoyed it, though we both thought it could have used more sauce. However, that might be down to operator error as I may have boiled it down too much in my pursuit of a thick sauce. The children were less impressed, though they did empty their bowls.

This was the first time I’ve ever used tofu, despite having enjoyed our Meat Free Monday for several years now. I am obliged to report that the boys were not impressed. At first I tried to pass it off as, “a type of vegan cheese,” but they weren’t buying it and guessed it was tofu. They didn’t like it. For me, I didn’t mind it, but I”m not sure it added much to the dish, if I’m honest.

As we’re marching ever closer to the end of the month, I feel that now is the time to express my frustration of the time estimates included in the book to get a recipe cooked. I consider myself somewhat skilled in the kitchen, so I figured I would be able to knock these recipes out in the time estimated. I’ve yet to do so. Even tonight’s dish, when I took the shortcut of using the curry paste rather than making my own, took about an hour and 15 minutes to finish (30 minutes more than the estimate).

On the one hand, I can understand why Anna did it this way. She probably wanted to show that vegetarian cooking can be done in a reasonable amount of time, despite all of the prep a typical vegetarian recipe takes. But for me it’s a source of constant frustration and I feel as though she’s setting me up to fail. The time estimates bum me out, and probably will continue to do so whenever I cook from this book.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this paragraph to find the recipe in the Guardian. 

“Buddha Bowls” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“Pad Thai” from “Bill’s Everyday Asian”

Peter: Bloody hell! I’m full! Were we making that for all of Bangkok?!

Anna: You like a good noodle, I’m surprised you’re complaining……

Peter: I do love a good noodle, but as the commentator on German Eurosport says: ‘this is EXTREME’.

Anna: I see. There certainly is a lot to go round.  I’m just pleased that we’re finally getting to eat Pad Thai together. Usually I can’t order it at a restaurant or takeaway because it has peanuts in it. Do you remember the grief you gave me at that takeway in Sydney when I ordered it? You’d had a few pints that night, and you were quite vocal in your disgust at my order!

Peter: A) they were schooners, not pints. And b) you know I don’t like peanuts so you just ordered it to annoy me.

Anna: Well this recipe only had the peanuts as a garnish so you were able to eat it.  Did you notice it was vegetarian?

Peter: Yes. It wasn’t like a proper Pad Thai. It was more like a Pie Thai. It was so dense. I thought it would be lighter.

Anna: To be fair, it was light it’s just there was a lot of it.

Peter: You know me, I’ll never walk away from a noodle.

“Pad Thai” from “Bill’s Everyday Asian”

“Stir-fried tofu with chilli and basil” from “Bill’s Basics”

Anna: What are your thoughts on tofu?

Peter: I think tofu is very boring.  After the first couple of mouthfuls you’re a bit fed up with it.

Anna: So what did you think of this stir-fry then?

Peter: I liked it.  It was nice and sweet and salty, and had things plenty of things in it to distract me from the tofu.  If you closed your eyes it could have been meat.

Anna: Well, except for the spongy, soft texture.

Peter: That could have been spleen.  Like the sandwich we had at the exceedingly posh Italian restaurant.

Anna: Bocca di Lupo.  I didn’t eat that sandwich.

Peter: You nibbled at a lung.

Anna: No I didn’t.  Tonight’s vegetarian night so we mustn’t speak of offal.  So the flavours of the sauce and the nice crunchy veg were enough to persuade you to eat this again?

Peter: Yep.

Anna: And I’m happy that this recipe has pushed the memories of the dreadful, nausea-inducing, Faff-Olenghi disaster to the back of my mind.  Tofu will live once more in our house!

“Stir-fried tofu with chilli and basil” from “Bill’s Basics”

“Black pepper tofu” from “Plenty”

Anna: I’d noticed this recipe straight away because it had lots of pepper and chillies in it, and the photo in the book looked very yummy.  And because he describes it as ‘quick and easy’ I thought it would be good to do on a weeknight.  I was wrong.  It took me over an hour to make, most of this time used in preparation.  Halving the recipe I still had to peel and slice 6 shallots, 6 garlic cloves, 4 chillies….. then fry up a huge quantity of tofu so it took 3 batches.  And sadly the tofu pieces perhaps predictably turned into sponges of oil.  I used up about half a roll of kitchen towel trying to drain them.  I took the liberty of halving the amount of butter stated to fry up the shallots after seeing all that oil, but it was still 35g.  Ugh.

Peter: I didn’t realise it was 35g of butter! That’s 17.5g each…..

Anna: It should have been 75g!!

Peter: I was looking forward to a Szechuan-like taste, which was present, but it probably didn’t require so much pepper.  With the rice it was quite filling.  Just as well it arrived when it did, I was beginning to black out.

Anna: I stir-fried some spinach too, to give us some veg.  The first few mouthfuls were nice but to be honest, I feel a bit sick now.  Would you like me to make it again?

Peter: I don’t think you’re going to are you?  Maybe something like it.

Anna: No.  I’m not going to make it again.

“Black pepper tofu” from “Plenty”