Making tofu at home

Home made tofu stirfry… yum

Tofu is so easy to make and it is such a satisfying thing to whip up and have in the fridge for making stir fry, sauces and various desserts. I have been making about 200g of tofu a week (and my partner still has no idea how much tofu he is eating) and using it to make cheesecake like desserts in various flavours. There isn’t much actual work in making tofu, but there is a bit of planning and thinking ahead. This is how I go about it.

I make a huge batch of soy milk using 2 cups of soy beans. How I do that is described here.

After bottling a litre of milk for home use and putting the okara (the pulp) in a lunchbox in the fridge or freezer, I put the rest of the milk back on the stove on a low heat to warm up again.

When the milk reaches 71 degrees Celcius, I add the juice from a lemon mixed with 1/2 cup of warm water by pouring half the mix into the pot and stirring for a few seconds. I wait a minute or two before adding the rest of the lemon juice and gently stirring the lot a bit. I usually put the lid on the pot and leave it to sit for a half hour or so while I do something else (I have forgotten it and left it until the next day at this point, but it isn’t to be recommended).

When I lift the pot lid, I should see lots of white curds in a clear or slightly yellow/green liquid. Now I know it’s time to pour the lot into a tofu mold lined with some wet muslin or cheesecloth. The liquid that drains out is really rich in nutrients and can be watered onto the garden outside (it gets smelly after a day or two).

This is not a great example of the curds, but you can see how they form

When a bit of the liquid has drained out of the mold, I fold the cloth over the tofu and put the press lid on. You can use anything heavy to weigh down the lid. I usually use a 3 litre juice bottle. Leave the weight on the press for three hours or so. This presses the tofu together and makes it firm.

Curds in the press
Folded over neatly, ready to press
I put a container under the mold to catch the liquid that drains out as it is pressed. The 2 litre juice bottle is just heavy enough to weigh the tofu down

When the tofu is all pressed out, I unwrap the block and put it into a lunch box filled with water in the fridge.

Ready to use tofu

It really is that easy. I plan to plant a crop of soy beans in the garden this year, so I can make tofu, okara and soy milk from my own crop. I wonder if it will taste different?

Sourdough discard brownies

Since this is my digital cook book, I thought I would share yet another sourdough discard recipe. I do love brownies, and these ones use some more of the sourdough discard. I used this recipe as inspiration and, of course, went slightly off track.

Ingredients

1/2 cup aquafaba (chickpea water)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup + 2 tbsp icing sugar

100g vegan block ‘butter’

150g dark chocolate chips

1 cup sourdough discard, 100% hydration

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

70g ground almonds

3 tbsp cornflour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/4 tsp fine table salt

flaky salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Method

Pile all the ingredients on the bench so you can throw the mix together quickly

Whisk the aquafaba:

  1. Place the aquafaba and cream of tartar (if using) in a food processor or a bowl with a mixer thingy. Whisk on high speed until it becomes a thick pale foam, like whipped egg whites.
  2. Whilst continuing to whisk, add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time.
  3. Once all the sugar has been added, continue to whisk for 5 minutes more to ensure as much sugar as possible has dissolved. It should look glossy, thick and opaque white, like egg whites whisked to semi-stiff peaks.
The aquafaba whip turned out really stiff, it is so interesting

Melt the chocolate & butter:

  1. Place the vegan butter and broken up chocolate into a small pot and place over a low heat. Stir until almost fully melted. Remove from the heat and set aside so the residual heat can melt it all fully.
  2. Once fully melted, stir the sourdough discard and vanilla extract into the pot of melted chocolate/butter mixture. It may look kind of split/grainy but this is fine.
I love the swirl patterns when mixing this stuff in

Combine & Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 19 x 25 cm rectangular brownie pan with baking paper.
  2. Mix around 1/4 of the whisked aquafaba into the melted chocolate mixture. You don’t have to be gentle here as this step is to help loosen the texture of the chocolatey mixture.
  3. Now pour that loosened chocolatey mixture into the bowl of whisked aquafaba. Sift the cocoa powder, ground almonds, cornflour, bicarb and salt on top (see notes if you don’t have a sieve).
  4. Use a spatula to fold the mixture together gently, trying to maintain as much of that air in there as possible. Make sure you get right to the bottom of the bowl and scrape the sides too!
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes – the top should look dry, matte and the brownies shouldn’t wobble when you shake the pan. If you insert a toothpick into the centre, it should come out with some thick, gooey batter (NOT loose, drippy batter!) attached to it.
  6. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges whilst they’re hot to loosen any bits which may be stuckLeave to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from the tray and cutting into squares. They will sink in the centre as they cool so may crack a bit as this happens. You can sprinkle them with some flaky salt as well now.
Ready for the oven
Just out of the oven

This was a great tasting brownie; so light and tangy with a gooey centre. It was really crumbly though and didn’t hold together well in the container.

Making soy yoghurt

One of the things my daughter misses most from the animal protein world is yoghurt. I admit, I love it too and often keepa litre of homemade yoghurt in the fridge (torture for her when she’s home). I have been wanting to try plant based yoghurt for a long time and now I have.

I was online shopping for soap nuts (my latest soapnut tree seeds have yet to sprout by the way) on the Biome shop site and I happened to see a listing for plant based yoghurt culture. Yes, I know that is nowhere near the laundry section. Yes, I know I’m trying to spend less money. What can I say? I’m easily distracted. I bought the culture (and some soap nuts) and when it came I followed the instructions and stored it in the freezer and promptly forgot I had it.

It wasn’t until a month or so later that I overheard my daughter talking to a friend on the phone saying she really misses yoghurt and remembered I had some starter.

Immediately I began planning to make some yoghurt for her. I made a big batch of soy milk and set some aside to cool in a yoghurt maker container.

The starter culter needs to be stored in the freezer, so I labeled this jar, because there are other things in the freezer in specimen jars that I wouldn’t like to mistake for yoghurt starter.
Waiting for the milk to cool to 40 degrees C
This is how much starter to use per litre
Stir it in well
Plonk it into the yoghurt maker filled with hot water
We have yoghurt

The first batch is a success. It is firm and creamy, but there is a lot of liquid around the yoghurt. I have just drained the liquid off as I use it. It doesn’t affect the taste at all.

Yoghurt is back on the menu!!

Making kunnu aya or Tigernut milk

I discovered a new staple crop!!! It’s amazing how many plants we eat as a species, and how many plants we don’t know we can eat as individuals. I had only heard one reference to tigernuts in my life before (that I can remember); an old Woody Allen movie I watched as a child, where he asks for tiger milk for breakfast on being woken from cryogenic slumber in the distant future. I remember being puzzled at why anyone would risk milking tigers when goats are so easy to find. I dreamed of this scene one night a week ago (don’t ask me why, my mind is an enduring and deepening mystery to me) and I decided to google tiger milk. What I found has sent me on a whole journey of discovery.

Tigernuts are closely related to what I have always known as yellow nutgrass. I have spent years trying to get rid of this plant from various gardens, only to now discover that their relatives taste great and crop hugely. I have planted some seed in pots in the garden to see if I can grow them in captivity.

My first experiment with tigernuts is to make kunnu aya (a traditional nigerian drink) or tigernut milk. Woolworths sells tigernuts, so I bought a small packet to play with. I put a cup of tigernuts to soak overnight, then rinsed them off.

I put the tigernuts and some dates into the blender with just enough water to cover them. I then blended the lot until it was soupy.

I strained it through a nut bag into a jug, then I returned the pulp to the blender with a bit more water and blended it all again. The second lot of milk was not as rich and creamy as the first, but it did boost the yield a lot.

The resulting milk is smooth, creamy and refreshing. The flavour is slightly nutty and a little coconut like. I do love it as a drink. The left over pulp was spread out on a baking tray in a low oven and dried to make tigernut flour.

This little tuber has real potential as a crop here at the humpy. I hope my plants grow and produce in their pots, so I can process my own kunnu aya from tigernuts I grew. The flour is useful as a gluten free option in baking and as a thickening agent. The nuts can be ground as a base for vegan cheeses and creams (in place of cashews) and they can even be boiled and served as a vegetable or added to soups, casseroles and stews. What a useful little plant.

Sort of gardening- growing potatoes

The potatoes are starting to come up! I have one peeking it’s head above the mulch.

I have been dragging triple used hay up to the potato patch for a month in an attempt to tidy up the sheep feeding area before fire season (not very successfully) and watching every day to see when the potatoes would pop up… and now one has.

The potatoes I planted in the yard garden have been up for ages and have just been mulched for a third time (and need more already). These potatoes get more water than the ones in the patch, and I think that has made a huge difference.

We will see if this experiment is a success.

Local insects and animals – Green tree frog

 
 

The green tree frogs are back!!! We haven’t seen them here for years. First the extended dry period then the massive fire season seem to have knocked the population down so much that spotting a tree frog is cause for excitement.

Green tree frogs were once so common here at the humpy that we had invasions of froglings hopping through the humpy some nights as they left their spawning dam and went out into the world in search of adventure. After finding a tree frog on the pillow at bed time once or twice, we invested in mosquito nets for the beds that were tucked under the mattress to keep them out. In recent years we have missed seeing them around. I am so pleased that we have a few popping back up.

They eat mostly insects, but have also been known to gobble up the odd gecko and sometimes baby mice. In return, a lot of creatures eat them, black snakes love the taste of tree frog, as do brown snakes and pythons. Our ducks will chase them if left to their own devices too (we have rescued more than one big frog from the duck pen). They are mostly seen at night moving from their day beds to the hunting ground, or around the dam when it is raining, looking for love in the karaoke bar.

I love the sound of tree frogs calling from hidden places in the afternoon, it always predicts that a storm or rain is coming. They call in the rain; singing a song of joy and coming fertility until the rain has no choice but to fall on them (and us).

 
Apparently, this poor frog is depressed. She is a brown colour which means her mood is not good. Who knew frogs are like mood rings?

We have plenty of places a tree frog can hide and stay damp in the humpy garden. If you don’t have any place for them to hide outside, they will find a way into your house and look for a place there; they are particularly fond of flush toilets (everyone wants a house with a pool), behind paintings and under pot plants. Outside they like plants that have big leaves, damp pots and piles of rocks or old wood.

This girl is in need of a good meal and a quiet pond to swim in.

I find tree frogs charming and quirky, I know some people are afraid of them and find them ugly, but I can’t help but see the stoic joy they find in settling into the perfect place for the day, the glee they exhibit when they find a huge moth to eat and the self satisfaction of their measured hop…hop…hop on a tin roof at night. Welcome back Australian tree frogs, we missed you.

Home Biogas system- changing the filters

Recently the biogas started to smell a bit, it had the particular odour of sewage when the burner was lit. This is not what you want to smell when you put the kettle on for your morning coffee. The smell means it is time to change the gas filter, luckily I had ordered a kit months ago. The gas filter is a plastic pot filled with activated charcoal, the pot has holes in the top and the sides so gas can travel through it. A rubber seal around the pot makes sure the gas has no option but to travel through the charcoal filter. They are fairly easy to change, having been designed that way, but there are some important things to note when doing this routine maintenance.

All you really need to do when changing the gas filter is;

  1. remove the stickers from the new filter canister.
  2. lever the lid of the gas collection pipe up until you can open it.
  3. pull out the old gas filter using the handy rope handle.
  4. place the new filter in the gas collection pipe.
  5. replace the lid of the gas collection pipe.
  6. open the old filter and add the charcoal to the compost pile or the worm farm.

However… I made several mistakes that led to us having no gas for several days and smelled fairly bad too.

My first mistake was not looking to see which way up the rubber seal on the gas collection pipe lid went. In fact I mistakenly threw the seal out as I thought it was from the old canister at first. This seal stops the filtered gas from escaping into the atmosphere, so it’s pretty important. The seal is contoured, so it needs to face the right way.

My second mistake was to try changing the filter when the balloon was full of gas. Nobody wanted to use the burner because of the smell, so the balloon was very full of lovely methane (and sulphur compounds). I levered off the gas collection pipe lid and got a face full of smelly gas as the balloon deflated entirely.

Other than those two mistakes, the whole process is fairly easy and no fuss. Next time I will change the filter as soon as I get a tiny whiff of smell and make sure to use all the gas before I change it. I wish I had taken photos of which way the seal goes in the lid, but I didn’t. Instead I took a screen shot from the assembly app to remind myself which way the rubber seal goes.

This system is so easy to assemble and maintain that I wonder why everyone doesn’t have one. It needs a little bit of maintaining now and then, but what system doesn’t? The benefits far outweigh the inconvenience.

The toilet is going to need a new water pump seal soon and the chlorine filter for the effluent needs replacing too, I am hoping those go as easily (but with less mistakes) as the gas filter change.

Local insects and animals – social native bees

We have social native bees at the humpy. They have been visiting the garden since we moved here. I do love to see them busily picking over flowers or having a drink at the rock tray in the garden, they remind me that life holds a lot of joy. They always seem so happy in their work.

Australia has 1700 (approximately) species of native bee. Some are the familiar stingless, social bees, others are solitary species who only talk to another bee for mating purposes.

We see many species of native bee in our garden, both solitary and social. The species I am talking about today is Tetragonula Carbonaria (the Sugarbag bee). These little beauties build a spiral shaped hive and have an irritating bite, but no sting.

20170408_131222(1) (2018_01_13 05_47_19 UTC)20170408_131228 (2018_01_13 05_47_19 UTC)20170408_131230 (2018_01_13 05_47_19 UTC)

We have a tray filled with rocks in our garden on a low pedestal which is regularly topped up with water. This is our insect watering station, for bees and other insects that need water during the dry months. The honey bees love to gather here and have a cool drink; they buzz and struggle to be the first to the water. I often sit nearby and listen to the buzzing and squabbling. The native bees are quieter and more patient; they can be seen earlier in the morning, in the cool of dawn, having a quiet drink before work. They do make a noise, but, like so much of Australia’s wildlife, they are understated and require a bit of work to notice. If you are still and silent yourself, you can sometimes hear the subsonic vibration that is the native bee buzz.

These little bees pollinate tropical crops such as macadamia, mango and watermelon. Something that was surprising to me when I first started learning about different species of bees, was that individual species are better at pollinating certain flowers. Some species are evolved to pollinate a certain flower shape (or is that co-evolved?) efficiently, for example; solenaceae family (potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum, chilli, etc) plants are best pollinated by ‘buzz pollination’ which needs the bee to be heavy and rounded and a little clumsy to get the best effect. Honey bees, Blue banded bees and Bumblebees are all good at buzz pollination. The small, delicate and gentle social native bee is not so good at pollinating tomatoes, they are designed to get their small bodies into narrow and deep flowers, like the mango or macadamia flower. That small fact is why we need the many species of native bee to survive and thrive; without all those different pollinators, we run the risk of losing fertilisation of many plant species (some we eat and others that support non-human species).

We grow some annual flowers in our funeral forest, to encourage insects and to enjoy the colour and joy that flowers bring. We also grow as many vegetables as the season and our time limits allow, to make use of those insect pollinators we attract.

Tomato flowers in Spring
Elder flowers, theses are perfect for native social bees
A small patch of green vegetables, just because they make me happy
Peaches on our peach tree, Honey bees are the most important pollinator of this kind of fruit tree

Consider putting a tray of rocks out for insects to drink from, in long dry periods, it could be the difference between surviving and dying for many insects in your garden. We need all the species around us to survive, I am not equipped to pollinate flowers all day, are you?

Kugel – how to use excess eggs

Kugel is basically a mix of a starch (like noodles or potatoes), oils and egg. It began life as a way to make a side dish by floating a lidded pot in the stew or soup over an open fire and filling said pot with a pudding mixture to steam. Now they are mostly baked in a shallow dish in the oven. No matter where they evolved, they use a lot of eggs and other fairly cheap and filling ingredients. I decided to give a potato kugel a go. I followed this basic recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium onions, peeled and grated
  • 6 eggs (I used a mix of duck and chook)
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional (grated cheese, herbs, etc)

Directions

  • Preheat an oven to 175 degrees C. Grease a 9×13 inch pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Heat up the pan in the oven while you prepare the mixture. This helps to give the bottom of the kugel a crispy, well cooked taste.
  • After grating the potatoes and onions, squeeze as much moisture out of the mixture by dumping it into a colander and squashing it down a bit.
  • Combine the potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Mix in the eggs, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. This is where you add any optional extras too. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Since my daughter can’t eat eggs or cheese, and my partner doesn’t like onion, this dish is my comfort food. It tastes lovely and fills you up fast, as well as using a lot of eggs in one go, what’s not to love?

Spring flowers at the humpy

Lately, I have been forced to slow down and look at the ground more (to avoid falling over a lot), that has led to noticing a lot more of the small and unnoticed flowers that grow here. I don’t have any idea whether most of these are native plants or not, I don’t know what they are called at all, but they are beautiful. I thought I would share the beauty with you. If you know the names of any of these little beauties, leave a comment.

And a few from my garden (I know what these ones are).

In some ways, I am grateful for my dizzy spells; they have let me slow down and really see all the beauty that surrounds us again. On the other hand, it will be wonderful to be able to move around fast without falling over again too.