Get the cream
Soya is good for you, says Susan Jane Murray, but you need to eat it in its whole-bean state, and in moderation
Many people think that adding tofu to a dish is about as exciting as adding Pat Kenny to a rave. But beneath its blandness lies a goodness that should be appreciated. Give it a chance to shine by providing it with the right ingredients. This week, we'll be doing just that.
Tofu is made from the soya bean, a popular source of protein in south-east Asia. You're probably familiar with other soya-bean products such as miso soup, soya sauce, tempeh and soya milk. Milk is extracted from protein-rich soya beans and used to make soya curd, referred to as tofu. It's a process that's not unlike cheese-making.
Made this way, tofu is replete with isoflavones, a big pal of calcium. Isoflavones have been found to assist in bone density as well as hormonal imbalances. These compounds are also linked to the prevention of breast and prostate cancers.
Interestingly, incidences of breast cancer in Japan are one sixth of that in the West. Yet, when Japanese women move to the West and they adopt our diet, their breast-cancer rate rises to Western levels. Our diet is largely devoid of these protective isoflavones.
Once soya's health benefits became clear outside of Japan, consumer demand rocketed. However, its meteoric rise here in the West encouraged food companies to find cheaper ways of producing it. Consequently, soya's reputation has been muddied with chemical isolation techniques, synthetic adulteration and genetic modification, all of which spoil the beneficial effects of the original bean. That's why soya is so controversial. The chemically altered soya is an entirely different creature to the whole-bean soya associated with the Asian diet. Frustrating, isn't it?
The only way you can tell the difference is to read the manufacturers' label on food before you buy. Avoid soya protein isolates. Up to 60 per cent of packaged supermarket foods use this synthetically debased soya as a cheap bulking agent. So don't be fooled into thinking soya is synonymous with health!
To tap into soya beans' bona fide health benefits, my advice is to stick with organic, non-GM tofu, and eat it no more than twice a week. For even the Japanese don't eat as much soya as we now do.
Non-dairy Sour Cream
Introducing sour cream's cousin, without the artery-clogging saturates. You'll find this dressing on sale at Blazing Salads takeout in Dublin's city-centre. I nicked their recipe.
Swap the onion and garlic for lots of fresh mint if you plan on serving it to anyone younger than 16.
Poppadoms and flatbreads love this dip. As do weight watchers, cholesterol curbers and menopausal felines.
You will need:
Approximately 150g soft tofu
4 spring onions
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
Drizzle of fruity olive oil
Seasoning to taste
Whizz everything together with as much filtered water as you fancy. I like mine thick and mayonnaise-y, so use around eight tablespoons of water. You may prefer it thinner and lighter, so just add more water.
Serve on top of a simple salad of grated apple and carrot, or with a plate of chopped beetroot and crushed walnuts. It's also an excellent alternative to creme fraiche with hot winter soups.