Can you spot the twist with this tempting turkey ?
Beautifully bronzed and surrounded by a halo of spuds, sprouts and stuffing, it’s a centrepiece worthy of the most classic of Christmas tables. But look a little bit closer at the festive feast i’ve just spent the morning slaving over and not everything is quite as it first seems. Because while it may look like a meatlover’s dream — a beautifully plump, perfectly cooked bird — this is, in fact, an entirely meatfree main.
a case of goodbye turkey — hello tofurkey!
instead of being reared on a farm, this little beauty has been sculpted entirely from tofu, which, for the uninitiated, is a type of processed soya bean curd. that means it’s not just suitable for vegetarians, but vegans, too.
While the prospect may fill sworn Christmas carnivores with horror, it’s good news for those who are heeding the latest advice from health professionals and trying to cut down on the meat they eat. and good news for those who, like me, have got a family of veggies coming around for the main meal on Christmas Day.
Of course, i won’t be the only one preparing a plantbased Christmas platter.
One in eight Britons is now vegetarian or vegan, and a further 21 per cent are ‘flexitarian’ — and this week none other than Carole Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s mother, revealed she, too, would be turning down the turkey. ‘i’ve recently gone vegan,’ she said. ‘for Christmas, i’d probably serve two options — very traditional and something vegan.’
Well, Carole, follow my lead and you can combine the two — a vegan turkey. and, who knows, if it proves a hit, then the next generation of royals might grow up not just talking to plants but exclusively eating them as well.
Of course, as any non meateater will know, alternatives to the traditional Christmas lunch have in the past been distinctly uninspiring.
SO When my wife announced that this year we were entertaining vegetarian friends, i decided to find something that would not only taste good, but look good, too.
after hours spent searching online i came across recipes for the lesserspotted tofu turkey — or tofurkey. Seemingly a recent american invention for thanksgiving, at its simplest it’s a tofu ‘loaf’ filled with stuffing.
Others, in a bid to mimic a turkey crown, have developed the look by creating a dome of tofu with stuffing inside. My plan is to take it to the next level. to do so will require a bit of creativity — and lots of tofu.
Made from soya beans, tofu is a staple of asian and vegetarian cooking. it’s available from most supermarkets, comes in blocks of varying firmness and is not dissimilar in texture to halloumi cheese.
for my dish i buy ten 225g packs of extrafirm tofu costing £2.50 each, enough to make a meal for ten. With other ingredients for the stuffing and the baste bringing the total cost to about £30, that compares well with a real topnotch turkey, which can cost more than £12 a kilo (carcass included) and can work out at about £80 for ten people.
Of course, with a real turkey it’s simply a case of chucking it in the oven and cooking it.
Making a tofurkey is more timeconsuming — but following the steps below took me no more than a couple of hours.
and not only is the finished product much quicker to cook — just 90 minutes — than a real turkey, but because tofu can be eaten uncooked there’s none of that anxious lastminute poking with a skewer to try to work out whether your Christmas turkey is, finally, safe to eat. Of course, the proof is in the eating — and the carving.
taking a sharp knife i’m impressed that the beautifully browned outer shell of the tofurkey actually carves in to clean, white slices that hold their shape sufficiently well to allow me to transfer them to a dinner plate.
the tofu itself is fairly bland — but is saved by the flavoursome stuffing inside and the exterior baste of sesame oil, soy sauce, miso paste and mustard.
Combined with a roastie, half a sprout and a splash of vegetarian gravy, it’s a pretty tasty, texturefull mouthful. and, don’t forget, real turkey can be the blandest of meats. a good Christmas lunch is all about the accompaniments.
Only time will tell, of course, if my version hits the spot with my vegetarian guests. and, if not, i’m pretty confident that my own chickens won’t turn up their beaks at a turkeyfree ‘turkey’ treat on Boxing Day.
first, break up the tofu as finely as possible. i start by dicing it with a knife and then place it in a bowl and attack it with a fork and potato masher, turning it into a moist crumb. next, i line a colander with cheese cloth (a clean teatowel will do), and fill with the crumbled tofu, packing it tightly down with my hands as i go. STEP TWO: for the tofu to take the shape of the colander — the
turkey’s ‘torso’ — it’s important to squeeze out all the liquid. to do this i place a weight (a heavy casserole dish) on top of it and put it in the fridge overnight. With the added weight, drips of milky liquid, collected in a dish, emerge through the holes at the bottom of the colander. STEP THREE: to make the drumsticks, i improvise with two halves of an easter egg mould that i find in a cupboard, puncturing a few small holes in the plastic for drainage before filling with tofu. STEP FOUR: the stuffing. follow whatever recipe you fancy, but i combine onion, mushrooms, garlic and celery with breadcrumbs and lots of herbs and seasoning. Plain tofu has little flavour, so don’t scrimp. the same goes for the baste — a generous and punchy mix of sesame oil, soy sauce, miso paste and mustard. not only will this add flavour, but it will colour, too. STEP FIVE: Once the tofu has had time to ‘set’, remove from the fridge and, with a spoon, carefully hollow out some of the tofu from the centre of the filled colander. Make sure you leave at least an inch around the edges or it won’t be thick enough to stand up once turned out of the colander. then fill the hollow you have created with the stuffing, placing the excavated tofu back on top of the onion mixture to seal it back in.
STEP SIX: after that, turn out the tofu mound on to a baking tray lined with tin foil, flatside down, hump facing up. While care should be taken at this stage, the tofu should be fairly robust and easily hold its shape. then baste generously and bake at a temperature of about 200c.
after an hour, remove, baste again and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes or so. the same goes for the legs. after that put together your turkey, adding details such as a carefully carved carrot ‘bone’ to create the drumsticks. Carve and serve.
A meat treat? Tom’s homemade festive feast