Tofu is a high protein food that is packed with minerals and vitamins. It is made from soy milk, which comes from soy beans. Soy beans are a versatile source of protein that can be eaten on their own as edamame, or turned into milk and tofu, and even cheese, cream and custard substitutes.
Tofu is also known as beancurd. The process of making tofu from soy beans involves turning the beans into milk, and then coagulating the milk to turn it into tofu.
You will need:
- 500g soy beans
- Straining bag
- Large container
- Coagulator, such as nigari
- Mould to shape your tofu, such as an old margarine tub
You can either buy soy beans in health food shops (check to make sure they are organic and certified GM free) or grow them yourself. There are a couple of varieties now available to grow outside in the UK. If you buy the beans they are likely to have been dried and will need rehydrating. Soak them in water overnight so they are soft.
First, grind the beans to extract the milk from them. The easiest way to do this is to use blender but a pestle and mortar will do. Simply blend the beans with approximately 500ml water until they have formed a thick, white paste.
Then boil a medium-sized saucepan half full of water and pour the bean puree into it. Stir the mixture over a moderate heat until a froth develops. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir for a further ten minutes.
Use a nylon straining bag, piece of muslin or old pillowcase to strain the milk into a large container. Squeeze the soy lumps to drain any excess moisture out of them. The remaining soy lumps can be added to casseroles or soups and added to flour mixtures to make bread.
Making Your Tofu
Turning soy milk into tofu is not dissimilar from the process of turning cows’ milk into cheese. A coagulator is used, in this case nigari (derived from sea salt). Add about 2tsp of dry coagulant (nigari or Epsom salts) to 250ml water and stir well. Then pour your liquid coagulant over the warm tofu milk, cover and leave it stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
You should end up with several curds floating in a yellow fluid. Filter the curds through a colander and press them into a mould to shape them into a tofu block. For firm tofu, place a flat, heavy object on top of the mould to press the tofu overnight. Keep the resulting tofu in water and preserve it in the fridge for up to a week.
The tofu can then be used in salads and stir fries, marinated or scrambled to use as an egg substitute. It is a tasty alternative to meat and can help lower cholesterol as part of a healthy diet. Making your own tofu is a cheap and interesting way of using soy beans, which can be grown easily in your vegetable garden.