Kung Pao Tofu

January 20, 2014

Kung Pao Tofu Bowl

This recipe is a Dan special. Dan is my husband, for those of you new to this corner of the internet. He grew up eating kung pao chicken at Big Bowl in the States and after his friend started working there and making it, he taught Dan the recipe.

I’ve wanted to share it here for a long time and now that we’ve been reunited, after four months of living apart, this seemed like a really fitting time.

Dan cooks a lot of the food in our house – I think he’s quite brilliant in the kitchen: unafraid, experimental, bold, with a real sense of how to keep things simple but make flavours work. I am quite in awe of his cooking skills. Living alone, one of the things I’ve loved most is getting to know our new kitchen and starting to cook again after two months of living out of a suitcase, but I’ve desperately missed evenings at home with Dan trying a new recipe or making one of our classics.

Kung Pao Tofu Recipe

Quick, fiery and deeply satisfying to eat, kung pao tofu (or kung pao tizzy, as it’s known around here) is a huge favourite of ours, especially on a weeknight when we crave something salty-sweet, hot and filling. It’s one of the dishes that I’ve always let Dan just cook solo since it comes together in the wok in a flash and there’s not much room or time for an extra body to get in the way. Being apart for four months changed that.

I got a mad craving for kung pao a month or two ago while we were still an ocean apart and had Dan text me the recipe immediately. My first attempt didn’t taste as good as I remembered his tasting, but since he’s joined me in London we’ve made it together and now I’m pretty sure I’ve got it down. Or maybe it just tastes better when he’s with me? Either way, consider this a celebratory kung pao tizzy/my husband is finally here blog post. Feels good to be back.

Kung Pao Tofu

Kung Pao Tofu

Make sure you have black bean paste and hoisin sauce for this dish. You can make a delicious stir fry without those two ingredients, but it won’t be kung pao. Also, don’t be shy when frying the tofu. You are essentially deep frying, not sautéing it, and you need a lot of hot oil for this job. The result is lovely crispy tofu. Finally, this dish comes together quickly so make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and laid out ready to go before you begin cooking.


  • 400g (14oz) package tofu, drained and pressed to remove as much moisture as possible
  • 175 – 200ml (3/4 – 1 cup) organic rapeseed oil (or other neutral oil that takes high heat well)
  • 1 small onion, chopped to a large dice
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 or 2 dried arbol chilli peppers, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp black bean paste
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • small handful peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced, to serve
  • Cooked rice (we use jasmine or basmati), to serve


  1. Cut the tofu into into half-inch cubes and set aside.
  2. Heat a wok over high heat for a minute. Once very hot, add the oil and let it heat up. It should be sizzling hot. Add half the tofu and fry until golden brown and crispy, turning over to ensure all sides are equally crisp and coloured. Remove from the wok with a spider strainer or slotted spatula and put aside on a plate covered with paper kitchen towels to soak up some of the oil. Repeat with the rest of the tofu.
  3. Carefully remove most of the hot oil from the wok, reserving about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fresh ginger, garlic, and dried chilli pepper to the wok and cook for a further minute, keeping everything moving and coated in oil. Add the fried tofu and peanuts to the wok and toss to coat with the other ingredients.
  4. Add the black bean paste, hoisin sauce, tamari, and rice vinegar to the wok, stirring and tossing the other ingredients in it. Finally, add the sesame oil, give everything a final stir and remove from the heat.
  5. Add rice to a bowl and top with kung pao. Scatter green onions on top and serve, piping hot. Serves two with some leftovers (if you don’t go back for more, which you will).

Plum and Apple Crumble

September 10, 2013

Apples and Plums

Here I am, typing to you from England where everything is so very British and familiar. Buildings are ancient. It rains, then shines, then rains again. Everyone understands everything I say (at least I think they do, if not, then they’re too Britishly polite to tell me my accent has been mangled). I’m home and it feels pretty wonderful. The only thing missing is my mister, but I’m working hard on changing that and getting him over here quick-sharp.

On my third day back in the UK, I drove out to Wasing Park in Berkshire with my best friend and her dude, to see where they’ll be getting married next summer. Afterwards we three stopped into her future in-laws for coffee and cake and left with a heavy bag of cooking apples and a smaller bag of plums, picked that morning from their garden.

Plum & Apple Crumble

I was slightly giddy at this gift and knew pretty quickly that a crumble was in the making. Plum and apple crumble! It just seems brilliantly British. I love the lack of fuss in a crumble and how it becomes a jumble of soft warm fruit, crunchy topping, and cold-but-rapidly-melting ice cream.

I didn’t expect to have an opportunity to bake nearly so soon after moving (ahem, please excuse the iPhone photos) and I spent a lovely hour peeling, coring, and chopping apples, then softening them over heat with the plums under a generous dusting of sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest.

As the crumble baked, I tap-tap-tapped away at my keyboard but soon enough I was completely distracted by the smell and by the time my friends were home from work, the crumble was cooling and I’d already eaten a bowlful which soon became three helpings. Let’s just call it dinner and leave it at that.

Apple and Plum Crumble

Plum and Apple Crumble
adapted very slightly from Good Housekeeping

I found this to be a delightful crumble – the topping is pretty substantial yet light, with a lovely crunchy sweetness giving way to a really perfume-y mix of plums and soft cinnamon-scented apples. Do taste your apples and plums before adding sugar. My crumble was quite tart, which I liked with the sweet topping and is magnificent with the addition of a scoop of ice cream, but you may prefer to add more sugar.


  • 6 large plums (or 10-12 little ones)
  • 3 Bramley apples (or other cooking apples), about 500g (1lb 2oz)
  • 50g (2oz) light brown soft or caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

For the crumble topping:

  • 175g (6oz) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 125g (4oz) butter (or non-dairy alternative), chilled and cut into cubes
  • 50g (2oz) rolled oats
  • 75g (3oz) demerara sugar


  1. Preheat oven 200°C/400F. Halve and stone the plums, then roughly chop and put into a large pan. Peel and core the apples, roughly chop, and add to the pan with the sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and 5 tbsp water. Cover and heat gently until apples are softening, about 5 mins.
  2. Empty fruit into a shallow, ovenproof serving dish. Set aside.
  3. To make the topping, put the flour into a bowl and rub in the sunflower spread (or butter) with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine rubble. Mix in the oats and demerara sugar, then scatter the topping over the fruit.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Try to serve it immediately (it can bake as you eat dinner) or re-heat it 10-15 mins before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream (optional).

Sweet Corn Pancakes

I’ve been desperately trying to find time to write here and tell you something pretty exciting. After over six years together in this incredible city, it’s time for a new adventure. Dan and I are moving to London!

It still feels entirely surreal but we are so excited to take a big leap and experience something new and completely different together. I can’t wait to experience living in a city as vibrant as London and to have all of Europe on our doorstep.

Despite our heady anticipation we’re also very sad to be saying goodbye to Minnepolis and all our friends and family here. In the midst of the dog days of summer we’ve been packing, selling and donating things, paring down, and planning our hearts out.

I had my last day at work earlier this week, which filled me with melancholy. There’s so much of that feeling right now, as we prepare to say goodbye to so much that we love: family, close friends, and an incredible city. The rest of this week has been a daze of organising madness and yet, Dan and I have been trying to inject it with moments of relaxation by taking breaks for smoothies and walks by the river, sunny (sweaty) runs, lots of time with friends, afternoons at the beach and – this morning – pancakes for breakfast.

Sweetcorn Pancakes

Sweetcorn, as I’m sure you are well aware, is at its peak right now — maybe even passing its peak — and we are doing our best to consume as much as possible. Dan bought a dozen cobs from a farm stand the other day and since then there have been tacos filled with grilled corn salsa and many evenings where we just eat it plain off the cob. (Other corn favourites include arepas and these moreish sweetcorn fritters.) This morning we decided something sweeter was in order.

I have America to thank for bringing pancakes into my life. I never ate them growing up (unless it was Shrove Tuesday, and that’s a very different kind of pancake). Since living here I’ve experimented with blueberry cornmeal pancakes, buckwheat pancakes, pumpkin spice pancakesfresh cranberry cornmeal pancakes, and many more that never made it to this blog. Now, we have sweetcorn pancakes which I know I’ll carry on making wherever we live. Thanks, America.

Sweetcorn Pancake

Sweetcorn Pancakes

These pancakes are sweetly studded with corn throughout so you might decide to reduce the amount of sugar used in the recipe. I like a sweet breakfast pancake so I loved them like this – Dan prefers something a little more savoury and said he could have used less sugar. I’ll let you decide.


  • 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup / 4oz / 113g wholewheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup / 4oz/ 118ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 2.5 tbsp canola oil
  • Heaping 1/2 cup / 2.9oz / 82g of cooked sweetcorn kernels (from about 2 cobs)


  1. Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Slowly add the almond milk and oil, then the corn, mixing just until the mixture is smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little more almond milk. Set aside to rest for a moment.
  2. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Ladle some batter into the hot pan and allow to sit until bubbles appear, about four minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for another few minutes. Serve with maple syrup. Makes two pancakes.