101 cookbooks: lessons from super natural cooking
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]

curried scrambled tofu sri lankan curry powder - 5 ingredients

When I first stated getting into food blogs, back in 2005, I remember stumbling across the brilliantly named 101 cookbooks. Heidi, a girl after my own heart, with a massive cookbook collection had decided to start her blog so she would actually cook from her books. Brilliant.

Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of Heidi’s blog. But I’ve always admired her style and approach to cooking. Heidi focuses on natural, whole foods and ingredients – vegetarian recipes that are good for you, with the occasional sweet treat.

Last year, with more time to spend on reading blogs, I started getting into Heidi’s blog even more. And decided to pick up a copy of her first book Super Natural Cooking: 5 ways to incorporate whole & natural ingredients into your cooking for a bit of Christmas holiday reading.

Not only was it a delight to look at, I found myself learning way more than I had expected. So I thought I’d share a few of my lessons with you today and a seriously delicious vegan recipe. But if you’re interested in natural food, I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself or at least checking out Heidi’s blog.

lessons from super natural cooking

1. natural is one of the most abused terms in food marketing
OK so this isn’t exactly news to anyone but I wanted to mention it because I liked Heidi’s approach to deciding whether something was natural herself. She asks herself whether it would be possible to make the food in her own kitchen and whether she would be able to explain how the food was made to an eight year old. A good yard stick, I think.

2. a new grain: teff
Originating from Ethiopia, teff is a brown, tiny grain that is rich in iron and gluten free. Heidi describes a tart crust made with 50% teff flour as dark, sophisticated and delicious. Sounds like something worth exploring.

3. a new flour: mesquite
A gluten free flour, mesquite flour or meal is made by grinding the pods of the mesquite tree. With a warming, malty, smoky flavour, Heidi recommends using it as an everyday seasoning like sprinkling over oatmeal (porridge) or adding to banana smoothies.

4. the difference between clarified butter and ghee
Is that the milk solids are left in the ghee for longer before being removed. This gives a richer, nuttier flavour in ghee.

5. pure maple syrup comes in different grades
Depending on the time of year the syrup was harvested. A grade comes from early in the season and has a lighter syrup. Heidi prefers B grade which has a fuller flavour and texture. I also didn’t know that maple syrup is rich in zinc and maganese. Heidi recommends storing it in the fridge.

6. brown sugar is just white sugar ‘painted’ with molasses
I was aware of this but thought it might be interesting for some of you. Heidi recommends seeking out naturally brown sugars like Muscovado, Barbados or Demerara.

7. miso can be used for more than soup
As we touched on earlier in the week on making soup without stock, miso, a fermented soybean paste, makes a great seasoning. Heidi suggests using it in stocks, sauces, dressings and marindes. The darker the colour of your miso, the more intense the flavour will be.

8. for a more traditional form of soy sauce, try shoyu
Apparently commercial soy sauces can be produced chemically rather than allowing the natural fermentation. Shoyu tends to be the real thing.

9. millet is a staple food for 1/3 the worlds population
Another new one for me, millet is supposed to be easy to digest, quick to cook and rich in magnesium. Sounds like something I need to try!

10. lutein apparently has the ability to prevent clogged arteries, combat arthritis and discourage some cancers
And where can you get it? The richest sources are leafy green veg, although it also gives egg yolks their wonderful colour.

11. there’s a whole world of dried beans out there
Living in Australia, I feel like I’m missing out on a wealth of dried beans. Heidi mentions some delightfully named beans that I’m dying to try out when I’m in the US in April. There’s black calypso, black valentine, butterscotch calypso, corona and red nightfall.

12. brazil nuts can be grated as a parmesan substitute
I had a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ moment when I read Heidi’s suggestion. Note to self for vegan pasta recipes.

13. to make nut milks, just blend your chosen nut with water

14. agave nectar is sweeter than sugar
Heidi recommends substituting 3/4 cup nectar for every cup of white sugar in a recipe. You’ll also need to reduce the other liquids slightly and reduce the baking temp to prevent overbrowning. And agave nectar won’t sieze up the way honey does in cold drinks – note to self for banana smoothies.

curried scrambled tofu

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
curried tofu scramble

serves 2

Adapted from Heidi Swansons recipe in Super Natural Cooking.

Heidi’s original recipe is actually 5 ingredients, although her curry powder is well over. I’ve skipped on the garlic and replaced it with a squeeze of lemon at the end.

The Sri Lankan curry powder has lots of turmeric which gives the scramble more of an eggy look and feel. I made my own 5 ingredients version of Heidi’s curry powder and it was delicious. Feel free to use your favourite commercial curry powder if you have one. Or just substitute a combination of chilli powder and turmeric.

This is a great dish for convincing non-tofu fans that tofu can be delicious. As Heidi says, she’s given up on trying to convince with argument and just slides a plate of this dish in front of her carnivore friends. Few are able to resist the urge to try it!

1 onion, peeled & chopped
4 teaspoons Sri Lankan curry powder (recipe below)
350g (12oz) firm tofu
1 bag washed baby spinach leaves
big squeeze lemon juice

1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan.

2. Add onion and cook, covered over a medium high heat stiring frequently until the onion is soft and translucent but not browned.

3. Add curry powder and stir fry for about 30 seconds or until it smells divine.

4. Crumble the tofu with your hands and add to the pan. Stir well then cover and cook for a few minutes – you just want to warm the tofu through.

5. Add spinach and stir until spinach has just started to wilt.

6. Season generously with sea salt, pepper and a big squeeze of lemon juice.

[5 ingredients]
sri lankan curry powder

Makes 4-5 teaspoons.

Adapted from Heidi Swansons recipe in Super Natural Cooking.

I’ve drastically reduced the size of the batch here because I prefer to make and use. I’ve also used pre ground spices and skipped the roasting and grinding that Heidi recommends. I find it’s a lot easier to just use fresh commercially ground spices from a good supplier and then toast them in the pan when you are cooking with them, rather than faffing around ahead of time. To me the results taste just a good, but by all means use whole spices if you prefer.

If you can’t find dried chilli flakes, use a couple of whole dried red chillies or substitute in 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli powder.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and you’re good to go.


video version of the recipe


  • Another note on the maple syrup – it will mold if left in the frige too long, believe it or not! I freeze it in 1-cup deli containers, and only have one in the fridge at a time. Great marinade for salmon – 1/2 cup grade B syrup, 1/2 cup soy sauce. Grill or broil to medium rare… Mmmmm…

    Where are you going to be in the US? (Cook)Book tour, or vacation?

  • thanks for the maple syrup tip marie!
    that salmon marinade sounds lovely.
    I’m going to be in New York for a month. just working and trying to pretend I’m a local. Then a week in San Fancisco visiting my old stomping grounds. can’t wait!

  • I love Heidi’s blog – she make whole food cooking extremely accessible. The curried tofu looks delucious. I would say that Heidi is onto something about the dry roasting of spices; it’s a crucial step for most Sri Lankan curry powders as there is a different combination for meat, seafood & vegetable.

  • I, too, can spend hours pouring over Heidi’s blog. And I am especially happy to find this recipe. The change-over to mostly wheat-free veganism is coming in my home, but a little challenging. Easy recipes are wonderful. Thanks.

  • I had to chime in as another HUGE fan of Heidi’s. I found 101 cookbooks right as I was striking out on personal mission to eliminate processed foods from my diet (eventually becoming vegetarian). So many of Heidi’s recipes have helped me discover along the way what is really and truly good for me. Thanks for this list from her book! I keep meaning to pick it up. I’ll have to try your adaptation of this tofu scramble =)

  • 101 Cookbooks is an exceptional blog. It’s beautiful and wonderful.

    I really enjoy millet, dark leafy greens, and brazil nuts. Thanks for the tidbits of info, the encouragement, and the reminder to try a few new items.

  • Super Natural Cooking was not Heidi’s first cookbook because Cook 1.0 was published in 2004. I highly recommend both though! Cook 1.0 is particularly helpful for the begining cook, and if I recall correctly there are lots of 5 ingredient recipes in it.

  • I love Heide’s healthy recipes, delightful words and inspiring photos, though have made more recipes from her blog than Super Natural Cooking.

    Just one point I disagree on is the supposed wonders of agave. The sap doesn’t go straight from the plant to the table, it’s actually starchy and relatively unpalatable and needs a high heat treatment. The molecular structure is very close to the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, with too much fructose to glucose making it hepato-toxic (potentially causing liver damage). It’s a complex issue, have more info here http://gillstannard.com.au/2010/07/28/the-skinny-on-agave-and-other-sweeteners/ (plus links to other articles) if you are interested in forming your own opinion.

  • I, too, enjoy Heidi’s cookbooks thoroughly. As a Dietitian, I think I often appreciate some of the information more than others. I’m glad to see you showcase her efforts, as well as one of her recipes that I make often. You’ve got a great thing going here on this blog, and I’m continually impressed.



  • Great video Jules! I’ve been away having a baby so I’m not sure if you’ve posted them before… I’ll back log your blog and find out, but for now I’m going to check out this Heidi character.

  • Very interesting post, thanks very much. I am part of the eating-for-pleasure school, and shy away from so-called healthy food, prefering to have less of the other stuff. I realise that I should just do my homework a bit more, and with a bit of effort cook food that is both delicious and healthy.

  • How fascinating about millet being such a common foodstuff for so much of the world! I haven’t got Heidi’s cookbook but I do enjoy her website. Shall be looking into teff, definitely. Agave is rather deliciously sweet. I love licking the spoon when I use it in baking ;)

    Thank you for the new curry blend, too! Shall be very useful in my “trying to be more natural” kitchen!

  • Hi Jules

    Tried your roasted mushrooms last night! But as usual, cant resist the more than 5 ingredients, so added some garlic, baby marrows and onion. Tossed it with some pasta and parmesan and it was good but will leave the baby marrows out next time.

    Welcome back! Hope Eire was amazing. Where did you go.


  • hey deb
    thanks for sharing that about sri lankan curry powders… I’m definitely not an expert!

    thanks for sharing about cook 1.0 – I hadn’t heard of it – will keep an eye open

    lovely to hear from you! and thanks for sharing your info on agave – i haven’t used it myself so very interesting to learn another perspective. thankyou!

    thanks katie
    started videoing about aug last year. have made a promise to myself to do a video for every blog post this year… and now it’s public so I’ll have to stick to it! welcome back!

    exactly healthy and pleasurable don’t have to be mutually exclusive!

    love the ‘trying to be more natural kitchen’ sounds very honest.

    yes the mushrooms…I’m looking forward to mushroom season here.
    had a wonderful trip – just stayed in limerick this time enjoying the white christmas and the guinness.

  • Another hit with the tofu (after that spicy one served with hummus). Have had such trouble making tofu tasty that I’d given up. Now I have two great recipes and they only take minutes to make. This Sri Lankan spice mix could go in ‘ordinary’ scrambled eggs (lightly) too or, for non-vegos, even be used as a rub on meat …

  • thanks for spreading the word lillie – really appreciate it!

    yay lesley – glad you’re loving the tofu – and thanks for the suggestions – live the idea of using the spice mix in other ways

  • This is the sort of dish that wouldn’t normally appeal to me, but all the excitement is making me want to give it a go. I love tofu, and spices, so really there shouldn’t be anything holding me back.

    Oh, the mushrooms, I’ve tried that roasted mushroom recipe on a few people now and it’s a winner every time. I haven’t sauteed for so long!

    I never knew maple syrup to get mouldy, but then I don’t leave it lying around for too long ;-) I rediscovered it this weekend, drizzled over some French toast, mmm.

    That’s interesting about millet too. Manonwheels has a budgie, and I was reading the ingredients on the birdseed one day, to discover that it was mostly millet. I was looking to see how hard it would be to grow, and stop buying the packaged stuff (incredibly frugal, or trying to turn the budgie organic? who knows!). I think it’s possible…will report back hehe.

  • kylie
    apparently you can eat the leaves of millet as well – I haven’t been able to find a source of seeds… do let me know how you get on

    foodie and the chef
    I picked it up online… not sure how much distribution it has to

  • Millet…do you know I had the same question (where to get the seeds), when I realised the blindingly obvious and embarrassing answer? The birdseed! To grow it for the bird, I just have to plant some of his seed. Possibly not suitable for human consumption though? Not sure.

    I had a quick look on the Diggers Club and they didn’t have any millet. I’ve just joined the local community garden so maybe someone there will know more.

  • The photo looks so yummy, but it’s tofu! I have to think about it! Growing up, I had too many run ins with badly done tofu scrambles.

  • I love Heidi as well – I just preordered her new book tonight. Good luck finding all the interesting beans – in Chicago, I’m hard pressed to find several ingredients she lists in her books. The hunt will surely be fun, though!

  • I live in a region where maple trees are a major industry. There are actually more gradations than that–both B and A have subcategories such as ‘light’ ‘amber’ and ‘dark’ which refer to the transparency and flavor clarity of the syrup. Do note that Canada and the US have different grading standards and provincial/state governments may have stricter or different standards.

    IMO Grade B USA and Canada #3 (dark) are infinitely superior to Grade A and #1 (light). But it isn’t just made later in the season, it’s less refined. Light syrups go through a series of refinements to remove sediments and minerals. This makes it lighter in color and texture and it has a finer flavor but you lose a lot of depth.

    Also, check that whatever you buy states that it’s 100% maple–other saps aren’t the same at all.

    I do wonder if you may have a difficult time finding it commercially? I think that’s not as considered export-worthy and the market for it is specialized…but I am not sure about that.

  • Great post, but I’m REALLY confused on one point–shoyu. To the best of my knowledge (from living in Japan), shoyu is just the Japanese word for soy sauce. I really couldn’t wrap my head around the comparison for a minute, but you’re right–if it’s actually labeled with the Japanese name, it’s probably much more authentic!

  • hi jules
    my dietitian as put me untwo your book the stonesoup 5/ ingredient-recipes ..how can i get your book..went stores or bookshops keeps it..also at went price are your books.thank-you ..also i live in australia.merrylands n.s.w and just over the hill is parramatta…kind regards colin.greening

  • Sorry but super healthy foods do not include anything synthetic added, gm’d or anything pasturised or fermented. Fermentation is just an accepted description for when food is spoiling! & did u know your coffee you drink is probably fermented along with most cocoa, ordinary tea, all cheeses & alcohol, all soy products- nasty! Canola oil should be illegal- this is also fermented. Remember too that olive oil heated too hot as in frying turns it rancid & that produces free radicals in our bodies & we age faster. Here’s to healthy cooking :)

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