Monday, November 14, 2011

Sesame and Asparagus Tofu

Yesterday was a hot and sunny day in Wellington. We were invited over to our friends for lunch. They have a beautiful backyard and it was so nice to sit in the sun and eat and talk.

We went to the market in the morning and it was so exciting. As the season changes all the delicious spring fruit and veg are arriving. We bought large punnets of sweet, strawberries for $5 and huge bunches of asparagus. I love asparagus. I think it's because it's only out for such a short time. My ayurvedic practitioner suggests only eating what's in season and I find it a really nice way to eat - things are at their best but also, I find there is this off thing that my body seems to need what's in season at the time it's in season. Like how citrus fruit tends to come into season when there are a lot of colds and flus around. Also, apples seem to be at their best when I am at my sleepiest (the end of the year) - I find apples really wake me up if I am having a low energy afternoon.

Asparagus is a bit of a wonderfood I reckon. It's is very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is rich in this compound. It's a good detoxifier, which I always need after those winter months of being inside in heated offices. It can reduce reduces pain and inflammation and I reckon it tastes really nice.

My friend Natasha mentioned to me last week that she has been stir frying asparagus in sesame oil and that got me thinking about how nice asparagus would be in a light Japanese-esque stir fry. So I gave it a go yesterday for our lunch out. I wanted to try and make something which would be okay cold because I knew we were eating outside. My test kitchen was our friends and Brent and the kids and they said it tasted nice, which hopefully they weren't lying about. Anyway, here's the recipe.


1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp olive oil
A sprinkle of Braggs
Three or four stalks of Spring onion
A bunch of asparagus, cut into bits an inch and a half long (I think it was about two cups worth of asparagus)
1 tsp miso paste
Optional: chili flakes (I reckon this recipe was hanging out for some heat, but I as I was making it for kids I didn't put any in - but oh, the red in with the green would have been awesome and a bit of a kick is always nice with tofu I reckon)
One block of firm tofu
2 tblsp sesame seeds (toasted)

In a frying pan or wok heat the oils and Braggs.
Add the spring onions and cook until shiny (don't cook them soft)
Add the asparagus and stir fry a wee bit (the key I reckon to this whole recipe is don't overcook the asparagus - I like it still crunchy)
Add the miso paste and 'dissolve' it - it will thicken everything a wee bit.
Add the tofu and really I just heated it through
Take it off the heat and sprinkle the sesame seeds over it.

A note about miso: I have a lot of trouble buying miso paste because I I'm allergic to alcohol and I don't eat fish. My miso shopping experience is usually a rollercoaster of products that don't have alcohol but do have fish and ones that don't have fish but do have alcohol. I've found a couple that work for me and I'll post those if anyone is interested. I actually found it easier to shop for miso at the organics/health food shop. I have been known to replace miso with Marmite (thanks again Sanitarium) - which is not exactly the same but sometimes does the trick, especially in pumpkin dishes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not like us

In Aotearoa we are served extremely well by exceptional public radio. There aren't many days when our house doesn't have Radio New Zealand National on in at least one room of our house. As well as delivering really good real-time broadcast RNZ has an excellent website from which you can download most of the programmes after they have been aired. The website also offers some extended programmes and full interviews which had to be edited for broadcast. RNZ is 100% non-commercial and I often wonder if it is because of this that they broadcast such a wide range of opinions and perspectives.

Last Saturday there was an interview with Dr Annie Potts, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies at Canterbury University, in which she talked about her new book Chicken. Dr Potts' new book is the latest in a series distributed by Reaktion Books each of which looks at one animal, it's history and relationship with people.

You can listen to the RNZ interview with Annie Potts here.

Now, I probably need to admit that I don't like Chickens. I'm terrified of them. I'm a really jumpy, nervy person and chickens seem to be the same, so when we get together it's really, really uncomfortable. I've never been around a chicken and felt, 'Oh, that was nice.' When people talk about how nice chickens are I just don't get it. But, I found the interview really interesting. I always like hearing people talking about our relationship with animals and I particularly enjoy listening to people talk about animal rights, mainly because it often helps me challenge and reassess my own thinking about these things.

Ironically, I listened to the interview in the carpark of Arohata Women's' Prison in Tawa. I was waiting for a volunteer training session to start. It really did something strange to my thinking to be sitting outside fences and barbed wire listening to someone talk about animals in cages. I often wonder what would happen to our human to human relationships if we challenged our species to species relationships more. For me animal rights are so often about power and I see so much of the same use of power leak into other parts of our relationships with our own species. I remember a psychologist talking about a link between violence against animals and non-verbal humans (children and the aged). Dr Potts talks a bit about how we often judge sentience on a human scale. I have always found this really interesting especially when it comes to communication and intelligence. After the interview Brent and I had a discussion about how we often feel much closer to animals that look like humans or act like humans than we do to ones that don't resemble us. We both reflected on how fish was the last meat we gave up. I said how I still have trouble with shell-fish and insects, how in I'm pretty sure I could easily eat an oyster or an ant and not feel too bad about it. I always have to remind myself that shell-fish are animals not plants. We talked about what 'animal' actually is. About where the line is drawn. It was a good conversation that left me kind of confused which I think is a really good place for me to be. Any time I get really sure of something I reckon I'm in trouble.

Anyway, I really appreciate RNZ for continuing to broadcast really interesting shows that offer a variety of perspectives. I thought Kim Hill was awesome, as usual. Years ago, like probably ten or more, I heard Kim Hill talking about a book called 'The Single Vegan' and she said, 'Oh my God. This is the saddest book in the world!' It always makes me laugh.

Image: Licensed under Creative Commons by Flickr user kusabi (looking for this image I saw a lot of chicken meat on plates and it reminded me that while chickens freak me out I would far rather look at one alive than one fried or roasted).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


'Wow, Pip did you try and find the most awkward family photo you possibly could?'

'Why, yes I did because it's World Vegan Day and everyone deserves a giggle.' (I think I may have even managed to make a Bailter Space t-shirt look nerdy - and that's not easy!)

Today is the end of Vegan Month of Food. I've enjoyed doing this blog a lot more than I thought I would and thanks everyone for your comments and awesome information. I'm going to carry on with the blog but after a month I feel like I have pretty much said everything I have to say about being vegan, so I might wait a week to post again. But yeah, thanks again.