The Shoreditch Grocery

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Always on the look out for places to buy varied vegetarian and health foods, I was delighted to stumble upon The Grocery on Kingsland Road a while back. This is a large and spacious store which sells a wide range of organic and fair trade foods, as well as plenty of vegetarian and vegan substitutes. I came across types of food that I hadn’t encountered before and ended up perusing the aisles for a good 45 minutes before I actually bought anything. Here’s a few things that looked particularly appealing to me…

Different brands of tofu, including ready marinated variations

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Vegetarian chorizo! Something I’d never encountered before…

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A selection of kale chips

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A huge selection of whole wheat and spelt pasta, including tofu-filled whole wheat tortellini! I was particularly impressed with this; I tend to eat a lot of pasta and often opt for the whole wheat variety for the health benefits. However, selections are usually extremely limited in standard supermarkets.

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I found the olive tubs to be really reasonably priced at approximately £1.75 and the variety included pitted, Mexican, chilli and barbeque marinated.

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The Grocery also have a selection of teapots and ceramics for sale!

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At the back of the store there is even a cafe which has a brilliant food menu. Unfortunately, as I took so long deciding what food to buy I ran out of time but will definitely pop in next time I go shopping at The Grocery!

So what did I eventually buy?

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Some vegetarian cheeses, freshly baked bread, vegetarian ham (which Ill be using to cook tonight), whole wheat conchiglie pasta, olives and tempeh. This is a fermented soy product which is chewier and more flavoursome than tofu. I first tasted it in Bali and have subsequently found it difficult to buy. I’ll be using it in my attempt at a Balinese curry later on this week.

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So whether you want a change to the standard supermarkets or just fancy sampling some alternative food, The Grocery in Shoreditch is well worth a visit!

54-56 Kingsland Road
London
E2 8DP
http://thegroceryshop.co.uk/home.html

Sun-dried tomato, goats cheese and spinach cannelloni

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After my super healthy curry last night, I fancied something a little more indulgent tonight! For this recipe, I took inspiration from my Easy Pasta cookbook, from which I’ve previously made a cherry tomato, ricotta and basil cannelloni. As I’m a goats cheese obsessive, I decided to use this as my main ingredient and thought I may as well use the left over spinach from yesterday!

I made this cannelloni extra cheesey but you can easily omit some of the cheeses to make a healthier alternative. I also used the same wholewheat pasta sheets that I used for my spinach and feta lasagne but regular sheets work just as well. This was slightly time consuming to make but well worth it in the end!

INGREDIENTS (makes 5-6 portions)
•1 tbs olive oil
•1 red onion
•1 crushed garlic clove
•1 can of chopped tomatoes
•A pinch of sugar
•100ml red wine
•A handful of chopped basil leaves
•12 lasagne sheets
•375g soft goats cheese
•120g wilted spinach
•50g chopped sun-dried tomatoes
•125g mozzarella, sliced
•A small block of grated vegetarian hard cheese
•A few pinches of black pepper

1) Pre- heat the oven to 200c. If not using fresh lasagne sheets, blanch until soft and set aside.
2) To make the sauce, heat oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic, simmering for 3 minutes.
3) Add the tomatoes and sugar, continuing to stir.
4) Pour in the red wine, stir in for a further 3 minutes and add the basil.
5) Lower heat and cover, leaving to simmer gently for 20 minutes.
6) In the meantime, crumble the goats cheese and mix in a bowl with the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

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7) Spread half the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 30x20cm oven-proof dish.
8) Take a large spoonful of the cheese mixture and spread onto a lasagne sheet. Roll it up and place in the oven dish.
9) Repeat until all the lasagne sheets and mixture have been used.
10) Spread the remaining tomato sauce across the top and add the mozzarella slices.

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11) Cover in foil and leave in the oven for 25 minutes.
12) After this time, remove foil and sprinkle over some grated hard cheese. Garnish with some black pepper and basil leaves then place under the grill for a further 10 minutes.
13) Leave to stand for 10 minutes then serve with some rocket and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Possibly the most delicious meal that I’ve ever thrown together. I will be making this again very soon!

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Sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry with quinoa

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I went to South West Four festival on Saturday AND Sunday this weekend. With lots of dancing and alcohol consumption, all I ate to keep me going was the odd sandwich. To aid the recovery process yesterday, I feasted off an extra large and extra cheesey Domino’s pizza all day long. Needless to say, I didn’t feel particularly healthy or energetic today and was in great need of some vitamin and mineral replenishment.

Cooked the right way, a vegetable curry is the perfect, low-calorie way of obtaining a good dose of your 5 a day. I used spinach for iron, chickpeas for fibre and served it with quinoa for protein. However, you can make this curry with just about any vegetables you like and serve with rice if preferred.

I’ve made many a veggie curry over the years but have finally found my perfect combination of ingredients. I like my curry spicy but if you’re not so keen, only use one chilli and de-seed it.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
•1 large sweet potato, chopped into bite-sized chunks
•2 cloves of garlic
•1 large onion
•2 red chillies
•juice of 1/2 a lemon
•3 coriander stalks
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp tumeric
• 1 tsp ginger
•1 tbs ground coriander
•2 tbs ground cumin
•1 tbs olive oil
•2 cans of chopped tomatoes
•2 tsp sugar
•1 can of chickpeas
•120g spinach, rinsed and chopped
•1 tbs natural yogurt (omit for vegan alternative)
•A handful of coriander leaves, chopped
•Quinoa or rice to serve

METHOD
1) Boil the sweet potato chunks for 10 minutes then set aside.
2) Roughly chop the onion, garlic, chillies and coriander stalks. Place in the blender along with the lemon juice and spices.
3) Add a little water then blitz to make a thick paste.
5) Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the curry paste, sizzling gently for 5 minutes.

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6) Stir in the tomatoes and sugar then stir in the chickpeas, spinach and sweet potato.
7) Cover and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Check occasionally, adding a little water if necessary.
8) Serve over a bed of quinoa/rice with a dollop of yogurt (optional) and the chopped coriander leaved.

This was spicy but delicious. I’m definitely feeling much more healthy now!

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Brick Lane Life

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Ah Brick Lane. The street where carrying a Nikon camera around one’s neck is a must. The street that’s so cool, even the dogs wear sunglasses (no word of a lie-I witnessed a total of three dogs in shades the other day). It was on this very street that I, two days ago, discovered Life.

Now when I say ‘Life’, this is not me getting all philosophical and/or spiritual. I literally found Life in the form of what can be described as a ‘creative lifestyle space’, providing healthy whole foods, music, art and even yoga sessions! As I bumped (literally-I’m ridiculously clumsy) into this menu, being a vegetarian food obsessive meant a visit was essential!

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The exposed brick work, green lighting and wall paintings gave this place a serene and calming ambiance. I visited around 2pm where there were only a couple of other people in there, making it all the more relaxing.

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The menu wasn’t exclusively vegetarian (I saw a mackerel option on there) but the vast majority of it was. Some of the salad options were highly enticing (halloumi and rocket-yum) but I was just in the mood for a snack so opted for babaganoush and kale crackers. The babaganoush was perfect and the fresh dill gave it a further depth of flavour. The kale crackers were really interesting; possibly not to everyone’s liking but they’ve definitely inspired me to experiment more with kale.

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To my delight, Life offers a selection of cocktails. Tempted as I was by a mojito, given the time of day I thought it more appropriate to choose from the smoothie selection instead. I opted for a ‘mood-enhancer’ (those who know me, insert joke here) which comprised of blueberries, strawberries, banana, yogurt and cacao powder. My snacks and smoothie came to around £7 which was very reasonable considering how healthy it left me feeling. Whilst my own dabble with yoga was somewhat short-lived (3 weeks to be precise), I feel it may be time to rediscover my downward dog and consider the yoga sessions at Life.

So next time you visit Brick Lane, veer away from those persistent curry house workers and discover Life. Whether it’s food, drink, music or art you’re after, Life has something to suit everyone.

Life Shoreditch
The Old Truman Brewery
Brick Lane
London
E1 6RU
http://lifeshoreditch.com/

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A little taste of Bali

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Back in April, I went to Bali for a week. I spent the first 4 days in a place called Lovina which is situated on the northern coast. I then spent the next 3 days in Ubud which is just south of the centre of the island. As is the case with most new places I go, I was apprehensive about the food. Would it be predominantly meat and fish based? Would they use animal fats in dishes? Will I actually be able to eat anything at all?!?

The Balinese use a lot of fish within their cuisine. As Lovina is a small fishing town, the restaurants buy fresh fish from the local fisherman to use in their heavily fish-based menus. On my first night, I went to this beautiful little restaurant, the name of which I fail to remember unfortunately!

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I scanned the menu, desperately hoping for a meal that did not contain fish. I was intrigued by the sound of a dish called Gado Gado which consists of vegetables, tofu and egg in a creamy peanut sauce along with rice. The dish is usually served with shrimp crackers but I requested that the waitress omits those, leaving my dish veggie friendly! Delicious!

After reminiscing about Bali recently, I thought I’d attempt to recreate Gado Gado today. I managed to track down some vegetarian spicy crackers too, adding a further dash of authenticity to to the dish. There are many Gado Gado recipes available online; I took inspiration from BBC Food and The Good Food Channel but put my own spin on it as I wanted to make it as close as possible to the Gado Gado that I had in Lovinia.

As there are many different elements to this dish it can be quite time consuming but definitely worth it in the end. The ingredients below make enough for 3 portions.

SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1 tbs oil
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushes
1/2 a red chilli, chopped
2cm ginger, peeled and chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, chopped
300g crunchy peanut butter
Half a can of coconut milk
A pinch of paprika
A pinch of sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup of water

OTHER INGREDIENTS
4 new potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
100g green beans
150g tofu
A pinch of tumeric
4 eggs, hard boiled and cut into halves
A few sprigs of coriander to garnish
Vegetarian spicy crackers
A few slices of cucumber
A cup of white rice

METHOD
1) To make the sauce, heat the oil in the pan and gently sizzle the shallots, garlic, chilli and ginger for 2 minutes and then transfer to a food processor.
2) Add a drop of water and then blitz until a lumpy paste forms.
3) Add the lemongrass, paprika, peanut butter and coconut milk and continue to blend until the mixture has formed a smooth consistency.
4) Add a small drop of water at a time until the sauce has the thickness of double cream. This can now be set aside and reheated when ready to use.
5) To ensure the tofu maintains a firm texture, wrap in kitchen roll then place a plate on top, allowing it to drain sufficiently.
6) Once drained, cut into cubes and place on a baking tray with a little oil drizzled on top.
7) Place under the grill until lightly golden on each side. The tofu pieces can also be set aside and reheated when ready.
8) Boil the potatoes and green beans with the tumeric for around 20 minutes, until soft.
9) To make sticky rice, place the cup of rice in a sieve and rinse thoroughly then allow to drain. Place in a pan with 1 cup of water and bring to the boil with a lid on. Gently simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, place a clean cloth over the pan with the lid on top and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

TIP: I wanted to make a neat dome with the rice so compacted some into a small wine glass and tipped onto a plate. It worked!

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To serve, add the cucumber, vegetables, tofu, egg and crackers to the plate. Pour some sauce over the vegetables and tofu and enjoy!

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Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate any Bintang Bali beer in the UK so I had to make do with a standard brand of lager. Nevertheless, I still have my Bintang beer cooler so it was just like being back in Bali. Until I looked out the window of course…!

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A veggie with a view

Yesterday was my boyfriend’s 30th birthday. As an architect, there’s nothing he likes more than admiring buildings. Apart from food of course. Therefore I thought what better way to celebrate this milestone birthday than by taking him somewhere with a great view of the city, as well as some posh nosh.

I did my research online and it seemed as if vegetarians don’t go to fancy restaurants. Ever. I looked up the restaurants at the Shard as well as the Heron Tower but not one of them provided vegetarian options. I’m sure if I asked nicely at one of those places they’d have whipped me up a plate of vegetables…then charged me £30 for the privilege. I knew that Tom wouldn’t enjoy his night if I was fussing over my food. As I’d just about resigned to the thought that we’d have to settle for a Brick Lane curry, I stumbled upon the menu for the OXO Tower Brasserie. They had vegetarian options. Several of them! I booked it online and last night Tom was very pleased with his birthday surprise.

We had cocktails at the bar first and were then escorted to our table on the terrace, overlooking the river with stunning views of St Paul’s.

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The service was incredible, a very luxurious experience. As we sipped on a beautiful red and nibbled on bread, I was handed my very own vegetarian and vegan menu!

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As Tom talked buildings and bridges, I had the very difficult decision of deciding what to eat. It was exciting to have some delicious sounding options to choose from. Eventually I decided to start with these flavoursome marinated artichokes, romoseco and grilled padron pepper bruschetta.

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After polishing that off, I opted for the grilled polenta with braised fennel and smoked tomato pomodoro. Just look at the presentation!

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Without a single crumb left on our plates, we were far too full for dessert and were more than happy to finish our wine and watch the sunset over the Thames.

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This was definitely no cheap evening out but worth every penny for the service, views, ambiance and food of an exceptional standard. If you fancy treating yourself, I’d highly recommend the OXO Tower Brasserie. Appealing to both meat-eaters and vegetarians and vegans!

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Aubergine & Chickpea Stew

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The thing I love about vegetable stews, curries and casseroles is that you can put just about anything in and really play around with the ingredients to suit your personal tastes. After an indulgent weekend I really needed to up the vitamin intake whilst reducing the calorie intake! I played around with some of my favourite ingredients and ended up with this!

INGREDIENTS
•Plenty of olive oil
•1 1/2 aubergines, cut into 1cm slices
•1 onion, roughly chopped
•2 garlic cloves, crushed
•1 red pepper, chopped
•1 celery stick, chopped
•2tsp tumeric
•2tsp ground coriander
•2tsp ground cumin
•3 tsp ground cinnamon
•3tsp ground ginger
•1/2 tsp dried thyme
•2 tbs tomato purée
•1 can of chickpeas
•2 cans of chopped tomatoes
•1 tbs red wine vinegar
•1 bay leaf
•A pinch of sugar
•1 cup of water
•salt and pepper to season
•handful of chopped parsley

METHOD
1) Heat some oil in a pan. In batches, gently sizzle the aubergines on each side until lightly golden. This should help to take some of the bitterness out. Drain on kitchen roll and set aside.
2) In another pan, sweat the onion and garlic on a medium heat then add the pepper and celery. Sizzle for 3 minutes.
3) Stir in the herbs then add the tomato purée.
4) Add the chickpeas then stir in the red wine vinegar.
5) Stir in the canned tomatoes along with a pinch of sugar. Season, cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
6) In the meantime, cut the aubergine slices into quarters and add to the pan, along with the water.
7) Sample the sauce-add more of the herbs if you feel necessary.
8) Add the bay leaf, cover and reduce heat, allowing to cook for 30 minutes.
9) Before serving, remove from heat and stir in the parsley.
10) Allow to stand for 5 minutes.

This would taste great with rice but I served it with cous cous for a healthy option. The above ingredients made approximately 5 portions so that’s my lunch sorted for the rest of the week!

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Health and Hibiscus Tea

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Over the past couple of years, I feel like everything has been all about green tea. Every magazine features it. Everyone drinks it. I had become quite bored of drinking it and was feeling that it’s time to change my tea habits a little…

Whilst flicking through Grazia magazine a while back, I came across an article about hibiscus tea which claims to have a whole array of health benefits such as:

•lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
•combating cold symptoms
•aiding digestion and weight loss
•decreases mood swings

To read more about the benefits of hibiscus tea, click here.

I couldn’t find the tea in any of my local shops so I took the 21st century option of buying it online. Whilst browsing eBay, I came across a company called The Cooking Source who sold a box of 20 tea bags for £6.99 with free delivery and a complimentary bag of granola-yum!

I’m going to attempt to drink 2-3 cups of hibiscus tea daily and will hopefully soon begin to notice some of the health be benefits. Time to put that kettle on…

Vegetarian?! What’s that?

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Abraham Lincoln, Morrissey and erm…Pamela Anderson. What do they all have in common? That’s right they are all (or were) vegetarian. We now live in an age where vegetarianism is more widespread than ever before and thanks to groups such as The Vegetarian Society, there is increasing awareness to all things meat-free. Yet, there still appears to be somewhat of a stigma attached to vegetarianism, making it the butt of many a rubbish joke.

Go into any decent shop or supermarket and what do you find? Whole sections dedicated to veggie food. Brands such as Quorn and Linda McCartney Foods specialise in offering meat-free alternatives and foods that are veg-friendly. Surely this is all indicative that a fair proportion of society are vegetarian, right? So why do many vegetarians still feel that they are subjected to much ignorance and even derogatory treatment from our meat-eating counterparts?

There are different variations of vegetarianism within the whole ‘vegesphere’ (if i can claim that as a real word). Some people eat fish but still refer to themselves as vegetarian. Some people are more relaxed than others about consuming animal products such as gelatine and rennet. Some vegetarians become distressed at the prospect of cross-contamination of their food, whereas others aren’t as fussed. People have a range of reasons for becoming vegetarian, from animal rights to simply just not liking the taste. Regardless of levels of strictness and reasons, vegetarians should not be made to feel almost discriminated against for their own personal life choices.

I was once at a barbeque with people that I didn’t know very well. Now barbeques are not my top choice of activity on a sunny day but as all my friends and family are meat-lovers, they sort of become unavoidable. Anyway, at this barbeque someone informed me that they had very kindly prepared me some vegetable and halloumi kebabs. Brilliant, I thought to myself, I can cook them before the meat goes on. Unfortunately I didn’t get there in time and my kebabs were grilled right next to a big slimy piece of duck and served up to me in all their duck-fat glory. What was I to do in this situation? If I spoke up, I’d face being seen as ungrateful and fussy, as well as creating a scene. If I said nothing and politely nibbled away at the kebabs, I would more than likely vomit…thus still creating a scene. I decided to go with the former option and faced some peculiar looks and questioning. “Why won’t you eat it, it wasn’t touching the duck?”, “Why is it that you’re vegetarian, anyway?” You get the idea. Vegetarians generally don’t want their food anywhere near where meat is or has been. Surely that’s just common sense?

So why do we still see so much ignorance veered towards vegetarians in this day and age? I’m of the opinion that it has much to do with the fact that vegetarians are still a highly under-represented section of society. I mean how many vegetarians do you know personally? I don’t know many at all. We are seeing some changes in relation to attitudes and the acceptance of vegetarians so my hope is that this can only progress as they years go by. Some of my recipe posts have been followed by comments such as, “now all you need is a big bit of chicken to go with that” (yes mother dearest, you are guilty of this). However harmless in their intent, those comments are swiftly deleted (sorry mum).

Due to just about everyone I know eating meat, I am constantly surrounded by it. I don’t preach. I try not to wince or complain. So this attitude really needs to be reciprocated. Afterall, vegetarianism is merely a life choice, not a disability (despite what some may say!). Now I’m off to munch on some carrot sticks…

Lemon grilled tofu with mixed bean salad

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Another tasty tofu experiment!

Over the years, I’ve fought many a losing battle with tofu. I haven’t drained it sufficiently. It doesn’t retain flavour. It crumbles completely as soon as I add it to a dish. However, in recent months I feel like I’ve conquered my tofu demons and am now I able to prepare it just to my liking!

So what was the inspiration behind my latest concoction? Fish. No, I don’t eat fish in any way, shape or form. Nor have I done so in a very long time. But the idea for this recipe came to me from watching salmon being prepared on a bed of mixed beans on one of the daytime TV shows. I realised how simple it could be to do something similar with tofu for a healthy lunch…

The key to preparing the perfect tofu (in my opinion) is to just have the patience to drain it as much as possible! Wrap it in wads of kitchen roll. Place something heavy on top. Change the kitchen roll. Doing this for around 20-30 minutes will prevent it from disintegrating as soon as you touch it. Making a good oily sauce to grill it in will also help it to stay firm and add a bit of flavour. The ingredients I used made enough for three portions.

FOR THE SAUCE
1 tsp olive oil
3tbs soy sauce-ensure it displays the ‘v’ symbol before you use it!
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 red chilli, chopped finely
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 block of tofu cut into 3 “fillets” like this:

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FOR THE SALAD
3 small cans of beans- I used barlotti, cannellini and kidney beans
1 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cucumber, finely chopped
5 tbs balsamic vinegar

For a creamy dip, mix 3 tbs of creme fraiche with 3tsp chopped coriander

METHOD
1) Mix the sauce ingredients together and cover the tofu “fillets” entirely.
2) Place the tofu under the grill and cook for around 10 minutes on each side or until firm and golden.
3) Mix the beans with the red onion, cucumber and balsamic vinegar.
4) Place 1/3 of the bean salad on a plate and place one of the lemon grilled tofu fillets on top.
5) Serve with 1/3 of the creamy dip and a piece of lemon to garnish.

Refrigerate the remaining portions and that’s lunch sorted for the next couple of days. See, who needs fish when you can have tofu?!!

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