September 2009


Ethiopian omelette

I haven’t had much time to cook this week. It’s the first few days after the summer holidays, and so much work has piled up that I’m practically glued to my computer screen, replying to hundreds of emails and trying to get on top of things. You know the feeling well, right?

To be honest, I haven’t really cooked anything interesting worth sharing this week – except for this omelette. I first tasted the omelette – known as enqulal t’ibs – when an Ethiopian chef I once interviewed served it to me for brunch. She told me it could be eaten alongside ginfilfil, a spicy stew made from torn up, leftover injera bread – the soft, fermented flatbread of Ethiopia with a slightly tangy taste.

I have never made that stew – or indeed the bread – at home, but I do like to order it in restaurants. I like making this omelette for supper when I have little time to cook as it takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. As for the dried garlic and ginger – I wasn’t being lazy or too busy to use fresh: this traditional recipe really does require them to be dried and powdered.  Eat the omelette with some hot chilli sauce if you like, accompanied by baguette or crusty bread and a tomato-based green leaf salad. Serves 1.

2 large free-range organic eggs
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 shallot or very small onion, trimmed, peeled and finely chopped
½ small green bell pepper (or a mild chilli), trimmed and finely chopped
½ small red bell pepper, trimmed and finely chopped
¼ teaspoon dried powdered garlic
¼ teaspoon dried powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly crushed in a mortar
2 tablespoons corn, groundnut (peanut), or sunflower oil

1.    Lightly whisk the eggs with the milk until fluffy. Add all the remaining ingredients except oil and beat well.
2.    Heat the oil in a medium frying pan. When hot, add the egg mixture and cook for a few minutes until the omelette is set.
3.    Finish the omelette under a grill if desired. Serve hot.

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Tofu burger with Asian flavours

These light, nutritious and colourful tofu burgers are far removed from the mundane, ready-made supermarket variety in terms of taste and texture.

Serve them either in a bun with sliced onions, tomatoes, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and a little chutney or ketchup or, alternatively, accompanied by brown rice and stir-fried green leafy vegetables. They also taste great with a deep-flavoured mushroom sauce, along a side helping of potatoes, grilled tomatoes and sautéed spinach. For a variation of flavour, add a pinch of curry powder to the tofu mixture.

If you don’t eat eggs, you may substitute the egg – which only acts as a binder in this recipe – with a tablespoon or two of cornflour (cornstarch), though to be honest I have not tried this myself.

Panko – which are available in Japanese grocers – can be replaced with ordinary dried breadcrumbs if you can’t find them. Remember to go easy on salt because it’s already added to soy sauce and panko, and you don’t want your burgers to become too salty. Makes 6 to 8 burgers/ Serves 3 – 4.

1 lb/ 450g firm plain tofu
5 tablespoons corn or groundnut (peanut) oil
3 spring onions, trimmed and very finely chopped
4 large shiitake mushrooms, stalks removed and finely diced
3 oz/ 75g carrot, trimmed, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons celery, trimmed, peeled and finely chopped
1 or 2 green chillies, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium egg, beaten
Around 8 to 10 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1.    Place the tofu between several layers of kitchen paper, and weigh it down with a heavy kitchen utensil or a bag of sugar. Leave for about an hour to drain off excess water so that you get the dry texture that’s necessary for this recipe to work.
2.    In a large bowl, crumble and mash the tofu with your fingers until it resembles fine soy mince.
3.    Heat a large frying pan (or a small wok) on high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, and stir-fry the spring onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery and chillies for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Let them cool a little.
4.    Tip the vegetables into the crumbled tofu. Add the coriander, soy sauce, and a little salt and pepper. Mix well.
5.    Add the egg and about 5 tablespoons of the panko, or enough to make a mixture that can be formed into patties. Mix well, and adjust the seasoning.
6.    Shape the tofu and vegetable mixture into 8 round burger-shaped patties.
7.    Spread the remaining panko in a thin layer onto a large plate. Roll the burgers in the panko so as to cover them lightly on all sides, including the edge. (If you are not cooking the burgers immediately, you can refrigerate them for up to 3 to 4 hours).
8.    A few minutes before you are ready to eat, heat a large, non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in the pan and, when hot, put in the burgers 2 or 3 at a time. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until they are well browned.
9.    Drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.