We all have pre-conceived ideas. I must admit that before I became a vegan I had a lot of ideas about vegans. Most of them involved tofu, lentils, incense, and a lot of floaty cotton. Tofu scared me. You see I used to hate tofu. Some other good words were loathing, despise, repugnance and make me want to vomit. Tofu inspired feelings of everything unpleasant.
Tofu was the surprise ingredient you occasionally got in a Thai stir-fry that always seemed to taste slimy. Once you had it in your mouth it made you want to look for a serviette to discretely spit it in, so you could fold the serviette in a ladylike way and delicately place the folded serviette somewhere on the table. Yet generally, if I got a bit of tofu in my mouth it evoked such strong feelings in me that I did not care about being ladylike, I just spat it back on the plate, to hell with etiquette.
I met one of my Best Friends Forever when working in London many, many moons ago. Strachan was a confirmed vegetarian, but also a brilliant chef. So, occasionally, she would whip me up some amazing meals whilst we got regularly sozzled. I know the meals were brilliant, but I can’t remember anything she cooked for me because I was always so inebriated by the time I ate. I know they tasted amazing though, I just know it. The only meal I can remember distinctly is Fried Tofu.
I remember it because despite the state I was in, I was gobsmacked that tofu could taste so good. It was crispy and delectable, dripping in a sweet chilli sauce and I could not get enough of it. I had to keep checking with her, on numerous times that she had not snuck in a new version of KFC whilst I was guzzling cider. Despite that fact that I have never forgotten that tofu, I still did not like tofu. It was odd, it was weird, and it was, to be perfectly frank, unpleasant. Apart from that one time, but then, Strachan had a gift.
So the point of this little story, apart from the fact that I spent a large number of years in London permanently in a state of delirious happiness (alcohol) was that Strachan is a wonderful cook. I was lucky enough to catch up with her recently in the States and she is now a vegan (and a teetotaller) and her partner VP is also a teetotaller and a connoisseur of bloody good vegan food. Two things I learned while visiting Strachan and VP is that good friends remain good friends, regardless of how much alcohol you consume and that Strachan is still gifted in the kitchen. She actually was one of the people who inspired me to start writing Notes from New England. We both live in the New England region of our respective countries, and she gently reminded me without words, as I suspect she knew what a challenge I was finding everything, by surrounding me with amazing food, that my life of food obsession could continue as a vegan.
One of the sauces she made me when I was there was her Southern Mustard Sauce. Marinate tofu in it and bake it with a spray of olive oil and you have this amazing tofu – even I eat it regularly. There is actually some tofu in the salad pictured. Go figure! Drizzle it over your salads to transform the ordinary into the sublime. Decorate baked potatoes. Use it as a dressing on a sandwich. And along with my beloved chickpeas, I generally have a batch of this sauce in the fridge.
In my salads, I throw whatever I have in the fridge on the plate. For those of you who are curious, the salad pictured contains:
Cos Lettuce, Spanish Onion, Boiled Sweet Potato, Avocado, Tofu marinated in Strach’s sauce and baked, Cashew Nuts, Coriander, Cucumber. The whole thing was dressed with Strach’s Sauce. Amazing!
Strach’s Southern Mustard Sauce
- 2/3 cup American Mustard
- 1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 – 5 drops Tabasco sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Soy sauce
- Combine all ingredients and gently simmer for about 10 minutes
* Remove sugar completely and add more Dijon Mustard and adjust to taste
* Add curry powder instead of chilli powder
* Add garlic or onion powder
* Add peaches or other fruits and remove sugar
* Remove sugar completely and adjust with flavoured vinegars etc.
I make the above and pop it into an air-tight container and it tends to keep until it runs out which is not long.