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Homemade Salt and Pepper Tofu

Salt and Pepper dishes (or as we call it at home, Chilli and Salt dishes) are very popular in Cantonese cuisine, high in flavour and savouriness with a punch of chilli heat. You might be surprised that making your own Salt and Pepper Tofu is surprisingly easily to do at home.

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Tofu’s got a bit of a bad reputation. It’s associated with blandness in appearance and taste and it’s only for the health conscious. But tofu is a fantastic food that is high in protein, cheap and not difficult to work with at all. I’d much prefer working with tofu than with a piece of chicken and sometimes I’d much rather eat tofu than chicken.

Tofu blocks are made by preparing soy milk from pressing and crushing soybeans with water. Then nigari, which is a coagulant, curdles the soy milk into water and the curds, which is the tofu. It’s then compressed in a mould to firm it up and the longer it is compressed for, the more water is released and the firmer the final tofu. Because of this, there are lots of different firmness of the tofu and each of them has their own purpose.

Soft block tofu is used in both sweet and savoury dishes. The sweet tofu fa is one of my favourite desserts. But in savoury cooking, it can be deep-fried so that the crisp outside contrasts with the soft and silky centre. But the one that is most versatile is the firm block tofu. It holds its shape much more readily than soft block tofu and so can be used in soups and broths, as the Chinese often do, simply pan-fried, thrown into a stir-fry as well as deep-fried. I think it’s also a lot safer to use the firm tofu for my Salt and Pepper Tofu because it will hold its shape and once drained well, won’t spit in the pan which could be dangerous in a domestic kitchen. But do not confuse it with silken tofu!

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I prepare my tofu by draining it well before cutting it into 1 inch cubes and then tossing into cornflour. I then panfry the tofu in my wok until it is crisp on all sides. Whilst it doesn’t stay crisp after tossing it in the vegetables and spice mix, it does absorb a whole lot of that flavour and provides a slight textural contrast that you would get if you were to deep fry soft tofu for example.

But coming back to the salt and pepper itself, I found a way to recreate the flavour of the takeaway dishes and it does involve using quite a few spices and different ingredients but the savouriness, almost umami, quality of this dish is addicting. I recommend going to an Asian supermarket and buying your spices there, it costs probably around 50 – 70p to buy a 100g bag of spices which lasts ages and is much cheaper than your supermarket which sells the jars.

This recipe will be enough to serve 4 people.


500g pack of firm tofu

60 – 75g cornflour

3 tbsp sunflower oil, plus 1 tbsp

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

4 whole dried chillies, sliced

2 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp white pepper

½ tsp table salt

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp dried chilli flakes (you can adjust this according to your heat tolerance)

1 onion, sliced

A large handful of spinach leaves, roughly sliced

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

Salad leaves, noodles or rice, to serve


Cut out the pack of tofu and drain away all of the liquid. Then transfer to the blocks of tofu onto kitchen roll to dry as much as possible. Then slice the tofu blocks into 1 inch cubes; the pack I bought has 3 blocks and each block can be sliced in 2 halves, giving 16 cubes each.

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Heat a frying pan or a wok over a medium high heat. Once it’s heated up, then add in the 3 tablespoons of oil. Transfer the cornflour into a dish and then toss the cubes of tofu well in the cornflour and place onto a plate ready to pan fry; they sort of resemble marshmallows but try not to do this too far in advance, more than 2 minutes before you are ready to fry.

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Place the coated cubes of tofu gently in the hot oil and still on the medium high heat, fry the tofu on each side until the tofu is coated in a light golden crispy layer. Drain the pieces on another plate lined with some kitchen roll and repeat until all the tofu cubes are fried.

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Remove any excess oil from the wok and then throw in the coriander seeds and cumin seeds until they are browned and toasted. Remove them and place them onto a chopping board and use a knife to crush the seeds up. Add to a small bowl with the chopped dried chillies, garlic powder, white pepper, salt, ground ginger and cinnamon and the dried chilli flakes.

In the same wok, put the oil over a high heat and when hot, add in the onion and stir around to absorb the flavour from the wok. Then add in the spices in one go with the spinach leaves and toss around to wilt the spinach leaves and colour the onions slightly.

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Add in your tofu cubes and toss the contents of the wok to coat the tofu in the spice mix and heat the tofu through. Once they are coated and hot through, add in the soy sauce and sesame oil and give it a few final tosses before transferring to a plate to serve.

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Simple Rich Chocolate Pots

Desserts are a fantastic time to show off a little bit of skill and flair using your culinary skills to leave a lasting impression on your guests. My Rich Chocolate Pots take hardly any time to make, uses only 1 bowl so there’s hardly any washing up and are rich tasting and a delicious way to end any meal.

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Some of the chocolate pot recipes around faff around whipping up egg yolks and egg whites – which to me feels more like a mousse rather than a rich chocolate pot – but I’m keeping mine both simple and easy by using only 3 ingredients: single cream, cocoa powder and dark chocolate (which has 56% cocoa solids) as well as assorted toppings.

The method is similar to making a ganache but the quantity of single cream means that it doesn’t set as firm as a ganache does if it were made with equal amounts of chocolate and double cream. It has a brilliant smooth and silky texture with a lot of richness, which comes from the dark chocolate and the addition of some cocoa powder.

To offset this texture, I top the chocolate pots with lots of different things to add a lot of interest once I’m ready to serve. These include cacao nibs which adds deep chocolate flavour, desiccated coconut and digestive biscuit crumbs. I also had a chocolate truffle leftover from another recipe which I threw on top too.

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I used a teacup to serve my chocolate pot but you can also use ramekins if you have those. This recipe is enough to make 4 chocolate pots so it’s easily scaled up and down.


300ml single cream

175g dark chocolate, broken into chunks; I used 56% cocoa solids

1 tbsp good quality cocoa powder, sifted

Cacao nibs, desiccated coconut, digestive biscuit crumbs, toasted nuts, to finish – you can personalise it here; maybe add fresh fruit to cut through the richness


Heat the single cream in the microwave in a bowl for about 1 minute on high. The cream should be warm enough that you can’t hold your finger in the cream for longer than 3 seconds. Add the broken up chocolate and sit for 3 minutes before stirring until the chocolate has all melted and it is silky, smooth and shiny. If the chocolate hasn’t melted fully, return to the microwave for 20 seconds and then stir until melted.

Sift in the cocoa powder and beat the chocolate pot mix for a good minute, this slightly aerates the chocolate pot mix and also makes sure the cocoa powder is well dissolved. Divide the mixture equally between your 4 serving dishes and allow to cool down. Then refrigerate for around 30 minutes or until the surface has just set. Remove from the fridge and finish with your toppings and serve.

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White Chocolate Hemispheres with Truffle Centre

Chocolate shops all over the country will see a boom in sales as some frantically rush around to find a Valentine’s Day gift for their loved ones. I tried making my own chocolates which I think could possibly eclipse many of the chocolates you’ll find on your high street. My White Chocolate Hemispheres have a white chocolate shell with rainbow sprinkles and a soft dark chocolate truffle centre.

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I employ my ‘quick temper’ method for melting my white chocolate. By this, I mean that I melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds to begin with, stirring and then continuing to microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring after each one and stopping when most of the chocolate has melted before stirring the chocolate to melt the last bits of chocolate to prevent overheating. Then, depending on the quantity of chocolate and what I’m using it for, I will add in 20% more chocolate and stir to melt that in too. For the shells, I will employ this latter method because it’s the visible chocolate but to fill and cover the bases, I will just melt it using the former method.

It doesn’t always guarantee shiny well-tempered chocolate (as you can see in my pictures, it did bloom) but it is a good practice of melting chocolate. The blooming may have come from the fact that I refrigerated the chocolate for 15 minutes before turning the chocolates out however it doesn’t affect the texture or taste of the chocolate.

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I used single cream for my ganache. I have started to use single cream to make my ganache because I prefer the texture of it in this chocolate. The ganache ends up being slightly softer which contrasts well with the white chocolate shell but still tastes rich and smooth.

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The mould I used was a silicone 30mm diameter hemisphere mould with 24 holes. They can be found very easily in any kitchen retailers or online. I recommend using silicone moulds for making chocolate as their flexibility lends to popping out the chocolate both quickly and easily. The technique I use is to turn the mould over, push down on the hemisphere with my thumbs whilst peeling the silicone mould away so they pop out with ease.

The chocolate I recommend is the cheap 100g bars from the supermarkets. I find that they melt really nicely and are just as good quality as your high end brands. I tend to leave the high end, more luxurious chocolate for eating on their own. The dark chocolate I use has minimum 50% cocoa solids but don’t mistake this for cooking or baking chocolate or chocolate covering, they aren’t the same.

I can make these 24 chocolates for exactly £1, which is significantly cheaper than a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. So you can really impress by making these chocolates which look expensive but cost absolutely nothing to make! Also make sure to check out my similar recipes:

White Chocolate Sprinkle Hearts

Valentine’s Day White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

White Chocolate Confetti Popcorn

White Chocolate Mendiants


Rainbow sprinkles

100ml single cream

100g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces

170g white chocolate, split into 90g, 20g and 60g


Prepare your 24-hole 30mm hemisphere moulds by placing a few sprinkles in each hemisphere. Set aside.

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Make your ganache by heating the cream in the microwave for a minute on the highest setting. Add in the broken up chocolate and leave for 2 minutes. Then stir to combine into a smooth, shiny and silky ganache. If the chocolate doesn’t melt fully, return to the microwave for 20 seconds to melt and stir again. Leave to cool and firm up at room temperature.

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Take the 90g of white chocolate and break it up into squares and place into a microwaveable bowl. Melt the chocolate starting with 30 seconds, stirring and then reducing the time to 20 seconds, stirring after each interval until the chocolate is almost fully melted. Then continue to stir the chocolate until it has all melted.

Leave the chocolate to cool for 5 minutes, stirring it every so often. Then place the chocolate into a piping bag. Twist the top of the bag and then wrap around your finger so you can squeeze it easily. Cut off a small hole off the end (allowing you more control) and fill each of the hemispheres with enough chocolate to come up to one-third of the hemisphere mould. Then using the handle of a teaspoon, guide the chocolate up the sides of the hemispheres, covering them completely. Repeat for all of the holes, adding more chocolate into the holes if the coating looks a bit thin. You might need to keep an eye on them to see if the chocolate drops down to the base; just use the spoon to coax it back up the sides. If you’ve got a cool room, the chocolate should set up fairly quickly but do not refrigerate at this stage.

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Once the ganache has cooled and thickened up to the right consistency – firm enough to hold its own shape, but not too firm that it can’t be easily manipulated; this takes around 15 minutes – then transfer to a piping bag. Cut off a small hole off the end and pipe some of the ganache into each of the holes. Avoid overfilling (as tempting as it is) the holes with ganache or you will find that getting a smooth base is almost impossible, although you can very gently manipulate the ganache with a spoon dipped in hot water.

Then melt the remaining 60g of white chocolate (with any leftover chocolate from earlier) following the same procedure as above (not adding any extra chocolate) and after cooling and putting in a piping bag, fill the hemispheres with chocolate, making sure there is also enough to cover the surface. Use the spoon to again level out the chocolate, removing any excess if there is any. Give the mould a shake to level out the chocolate, removing any air pockets and smoothing out. Leave the chocolates to set up at room temperature and then I refrigerated for 15 minutes. If your room is cold enough, they should set at room temperature.

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Once set, turn the mould over onto a board and peel away the silicone mould from the chocolates. Store the chocolates in an airtight container. If it is cool enough, you should be able to keep them at room temperature.

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Valentine’s Day White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

The combination of white chocolate and cranberry is classic in a biscuit; in fact I even used as the basis of one of my 12 Days of Christmas recipes, my White Chocolate Cranberry Crunch Biscuits. Instead of doing a crunchy biscuit, I’m combining white chocolate and cranberry with my signature soft cookie recipe and as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I decided to make them pink too.

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I like to keep the white chocolate fairly chunky so that there are large chunks of sweet and creamy white chocolate which are still slightly soft in the cookie. The dried cranberries add a different flavour dimension as well as a good pop of colour.

I think that I’ve probably baked around 600 cookies using this recipe for charity events, open evenings at school and for friends. It still produces perfect cookies which are soft and chewy in the centre with a slight crisp edge. This is the first time that I’ve experimented with white chocolate in the cookies but it won’t be the last!

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You can find my original Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe by clicking on the name.


115g margarine

160g granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

170g plain flour

1 tbsp cornflour

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g white chocolate, each square chopped into 6 cubes

50g dried cranberries

Red food colouring paste or gel

Heart shaped sprinkles


In a mixing bowl, cream together the margarine with the sugar until they are incorporated and it is fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract well. There’s no need to worry if the mixture curdles as next, sift in the dry ingredients into the bowl all at once and using a spatula, fold them in.

When the dry ingredients are 50% folded in, add in the white chocolate chunks and dried cranberries and continue to fold through until a soft but not sticky cookie dough is formed. Add in enough red food colouring paste or gel to make the cookie dough pink enough to your liking.

Transfer the cookie dough into a plastic container, put the lid on and chill for 45 minutes (or in the same bowl if you have enough room).

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Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Line a few baking trays with baking parchment.

Half fill a standard ice cream scoop with the cookie dough and then roll the dough into balls, spacing them 2 inches apart on the baking tray; I can fit 9 on my baking tray. Top each cookie with some of the heart shaped sprinkles.

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Bake the cookies for around 13 – 17 minutes, depending on the size of your dough balls. They should be evenly spread and have started to turn a slight golden brown around the very edges of the cookie. Leave the cookies to cool completely on the baking tray before lifting off the baking parchment.

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They will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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Product Review: Beech’s Fine Chocolates Milk Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

I’ve written a few recipes and reviews of Beech’s Fine Chocolates on my blog and they have been fantastic enough to provide me with some of their products ranging from Lime and Chilli Dark Chocolate to their Crystallised Stem Ginger to review and use in some of my recipes.

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Beech’s Fine Chocolates is a UK-based company which uses all natural ingredients to produce chocolates which are suitable for vegans as well as being gluten-free. Traditional and quality chocolates are being produced by a British chocolatier in Lancashire and have been since 1920.  You can find their full range here on their website.

Over Christmas, I took some of Beech’s Fine Chocolates Milk Chocolate Macaroons home with me for my family to try to get their thoughts on the product. Beech’s mix natural shredded coconut with luxurious 35% cocoa milk chocolate to create the most perfect blend of delicious chocolate and crunchy coconut by hand. These macaroons are also gluten free.

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Taste wise, the milk chocolate balances perfectly with the flavour of coconut. Some milk chocolates can be too sweet and sickly but this milk chocolate is not too sweet on the palate. There’s the initial hit of chocolate flavour and as it mellows out, the coconut flavour profile dominates over the chocolate (in a pleasant way). The flavour overall is incredibly reminiscent of a Bounty bar.

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However unlike a Bounty bar, this doesn’t give as easily by which I mean the chocolate has a snap when you bite into it. The macaroons have a good texture and mouthfeel and because of the shredded coconut, there’s also a significant chew to it.

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In the pack, there are 9 squares, not identically sized (meaning you know they’re handmade), each weighing around 10g. The 9 macaroons weigh 90g and the product retails at £2.99. This tips into the expensive market however Beech’s is a very high quality and luxurious product so why not treat yourself to a box (or two) of Beech’s Milk Chocolate Coconut Macaroons?

You can check out my other reviews and recipes using Beech’s Fine Chocolates’ products:

Ginger Dark Chocolate Welsh Cakes

Bonfire Chilli Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes

Crystallised Stem Ginger Cookies

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Crystallised Stem Ginger Cookies

Ginger is one of the building blocks of Chinese cuisine and it is well known (and increasingly backed up by science) that ginger has many health-bearing properties; Confucius said “do not take away the ginger” because ginger can reduce internal heat and fever. With all that, here’s another, less traditional, recipe that would be perfect for Chinese New Year, my Crystallised Stem Ginger Cookies.

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You can check out the recipe for my Sweet Beancurd Soup (腐竹糖水) by clicking on the name. It’s a much more authentic Chinese recipe. However in saying that, these cookies have a very similar appearance to Chinese Walnut Cookies called 核桃酥 (Hup Toh Soh) so I guess there’s a Chinese influence somewhere.

I added some of Beech’s Chocolates’ Crystallised Stem Ginger to the cookies for a chewy burst of sweet gingery heat. Their stem ginger is “large chunks of the highest quality Chinese stem ginger dusted in fine cane sugar” and is a new product on their website and I was lucky enough to pick some up back in November at a food show. It retails at £6.99 and you can find it online by clicking here.

One of my favourite things about this product is the packaging. I love the oriental feeling the packaging has which comes from the red dragons on the box. It plays on the fact that it is Chinese stem ginger and it makes this product stand out for me.

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Sometimes crystallised ginger can be quite tough and hard to eat but Beech’s Stem Ginger has the fantastic crunchy sweet sugary coating which is easy to bite into and then you have soft, sticky and chewy Chinese ginger which is spicy, warming on the tongue and throat and full of ginger flavour. It’s something that I could enjoy on its own as well as using it in my baking.

I’ve also reviewed and used Beech’s Chocolate’s Lime and Chilli Chocolate in my Bonfire Chilli Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes, and you can find that recipe by clicking on the name.

This recipe is adapted from Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea. I changed the spices to what I had in the cupboard as well as adapting the recipe quantities, adding in the stem ginger pieces and baking them for a bit longer so the edges are nice and crisp.


85g margarine

135g granulated sugar

1 egg

185g self-raising flour

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

6 pieces of crystallised stem ginger, chopped into small cubes, saving 16 cubes for the tops of the cookies

Demerara sugar, for sprinkling


In a bowl, cream together the margarine with the granulated sugar until it is pale and fluffy. Add in the egg and beat well until the egg is incorporated.

Sift and then fold in all the dry ingredients to form a soft but not sticky dough. Before it all comes together to a dough, add in your chopped crystallised stem ginger. Leave the dough to sit for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

I found it easy to portion out the cookies using a half filled ice cream scoop. Roll the dough into a ball between the palms of your hands and place onto the baking trays, leaving a 2 inch gap between each cookie. Top each cookie with a cube of the stem ginger and then sprinkle Demerara sugar over each cookie, tipping away the excess.

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Bake the cookies for around 13 – 16 minutes until the edges are a golden colour, the cookies are browned nicely, they have a cracked appearance and they have spread. Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for 10 minutes before leaving to cool on the parchment. The cookies should lift off very easily.

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Sweet Beancurd Soup (腐竹糖水, Fu Juk Tong Sui)

Millions of people across the world will be celebrating Chinese New Year on January 28th and it’s the Year of the Rooster. And in honour of Chinese New Year, I’m showing you how to make one of my most favourite Chinese desserts, Sweet Dried Beancurd Soup, 腐竹糖水 (fu juk tong sui).

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Fu pei is the Chinese for dried beancurd. It comes in sheets which, when rehydrated in warm water, can be rolled around a meat or vegetable filling (this is called fu pei guen, 腐皮卷, literally dried beancurd roll) or in sticks which can be fried with meat and vegetables or added to stews or soups, the latter of which I’m doing. This recipe is courtesy of my nan and she told me it was very easy and having now made it myself, I concur, it’s ridiculously easy.

You might be quite unfamiliar with dried beancurd. When soy milk boils, a film/skin forms on the surface, which is the beancurd. It’s then collected and dried to form ‘fu pei’. But fu pei itself is quite a common ingredient in the Chinese cuisine, often found stir-fried with vegetables. One of my favourite ways to eat it is in a braised lamb belly stew which I have absolutely no idea how to make but I will definitely get my nan to teach me one day!

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But it also goes fantastically in this soup. The Chinese aren’t big dessert and cake people and desserts at the end of a family get together usually consists of fresh fruit and then tong sui, literally sugar water. There are many different types with lots of ingredients in them, including red bean, taro, sweet potato, tapioca pearls and beancurd. My favourite is sai mai lo, 西米露, which contains the sago or tapioca pearls and sweet potato but again, I’m yet to learn that recipe.

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You might be surprised at how little sugar there is compared to the volume of water but as the water boils and evaporates, the sugar concentration increases and it becomes sweeter however going slightly under on the sugar means that we can easily adjust it at the end to taste. I actually found that 4 tablespoons was the right amount for me personally and it tasted exactly as how my nan makes it, but it all depends on how sweet you like it.

1.2L recently boiled water

3 – 5 tbsp granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you want it

2 sticks of dried beancurd, you can find these in the world food section of supermarkets

1 egg, beaten

In a large saucepan, bring the water up to a rolling boil. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of sugar and then crush in the 2 sticks of dried beancurd.

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Place a lid on the pan and leave for 4 – 5 minutes until the beancurd has softened completely and is a pale creamy colour.

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Remove the pan from the heat and whilst stirring constantly, pour in the beaten egg. The egg should cook immediately but put the pan back on a low heat with the lid on for a couple of minutes just for thoroughness. Taste and adjust the sweetness if necessary.

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Serve the soup hot, warm or even cold on its own in a bowl as a great light dessert to end any meal. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and eaten cold but it has to be eaten within a day of making.

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