What do you do with tofu?

Tofu used to belong to a common vegan stereotype, along with lentils and sandals. That's not why I've devoted a whole page to it. It is, however, one of my favourite foods and a very versatile ingredient but also slightly confusing for anyone who's never cooked with it before, therefore I'll explain what I do with it.

Tofu is made from soya beans and generally comes in blocks. It's a very good source of protein and calcium, especially the calcium-set varieties. There are two main types of tofu: firm, which is what you'd use in stir fries and other recipes that call for solid chunks, and silken or soft, which is very useful as an egg replacer in baking and as an ingredient in smoothies, sweet 'creamy' sauces, cheesecake and so on. It doesn't have much of a taste of its own, but firm tofu is great for marinating.

If it just says 'tofu' on the pack, chances are it's firm tofu.

There are also flavoured varieties of firm tofu, Cauldron do some nice smoked varieties and you can also get tofu flavoured with basil or other herbs. These are usually easier to find in wholefoods shops or Holland and Barrett than in supermarkets.

If you haven't tried it before, I recommend trying a tofu dish in a good restaurant to give you an idea of what it's supposed to taste like.

(An example of) How to prepare firm tofu

Firm tofu usually comes in packets surrounded in water. Drain the water and blot the tofu dry with kitchen roll to get rid of excess water. Cut into whatever shape is required by your recipe, usually chunks or slices.

If using plain tofu, marinate in something interesting, or if you haven't got time just add something interesting to it while it's cooking. For stir-fries this could be soy sauce, ground ginger, sesame oil, Henderson's relish, groundnut oil or ground coriander, or a combination of these. For Italian dishes such as tagliatelle, I like to marinate it in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, black pepper and dried basil or mixed herbs.

Cook it. I usually fry it, but it is also possible to cook it by grilling or baking. To fry tofu chunks or slices, heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan (groundnut or sesame oil is nice for stir fries and Thai dishes, but vegetable or sunflower oil will work fine), add the tofu and fry over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the outsides have gone firm but not crispy.

Alternatively, crumble it and use it as an alternative to scrambled eggs. Americans are quite keen on this sort of thing for breakfast. Google 'tofu scramble' and you'll see what I mean.

If you're just after some tofu pieces to throw in a quick stir fry, Cauldron make marinated tofu pieces which don't require any preparation and are sold in most supermarkets, although you might get a better result for your recipe by preparing and marinating plain tofu.