Good evening my ravenous readers! As the evenings draw in, I am forced to come to terms with the necessity of natural daylight in which to take photographs, specifically of food. I am snapping shots of finished dishes on my phone to post on Instagram, and even thought they can be tweaked, brightened up and contrasted, they will never look as good as a photo which has been taken in daylight in the spring or summer. We have also this week removed everything from our kitchen worktops on order to sand and re-oil our oak worktops, which haven't been tended to since we installed the kitchen four and a half years ago. I love my oak worktops, but it is hard to keep them looking nice around the sink, and places where one is constantly pulling things back and forth across the surface, such as food waste bins, scales, a utensil pot. You get the idea. So I've been doing everything at the kitchen table for the last couple of days. Making school sandwiches, chopping up ingredients then travelling with them to the oven, serving dinner directly onto plates. I'm very much a serve-everyone-myself kind of person, rather than letting people serve themselves. It makes life so much easier and there is far less washing up, as if there isn't enough already!
The recipe I'm going to share this evening is from BBCGoodFood and was inspired by an item I picked up at playgroup from the FareShare food; tofu. I'd always been intrigued by tofu, although never enough to actively seek it out in the supermarket, or deliberately search for a recipe online in which it could be used. However, on this occasion, it leapt from the table into my hand, and I thought it was an ideal opportunity to do some experimentation and then tell you all about it. Having acquired my tofu, I did a quick search on BBCGoodFood and immediately this recipe came up, containing two of my all time favourite ingredients; butternut squash and mango, so it was the obvious choice. In my humble opinion, the way the original recipe is worded is a little confusing, so I've decided to re-word it here for your benefit. You can view the original recipe here and maybe see what I mean. If you have a look through it, you will see that one of the ingredients is tamari. Tamari is basically a gluten and wheat free soy sauce, mainly obtainable from health food shops. To be honest, soy sauce is much nicer, so if you don't have any tamari but have soy sauce, don't bother making a special trip to find some, unless, of course, you are gluten intolerant or following a gluten-free diet, in which case it's the ideal substitute.
Ingredients (for two adults and two small children)
One butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1" chunks
Half a 397g pack of firm tofu (I used Cauldron, as does the original recipe)
One onion, finely chopped
Small piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
One garlic clove, finely sliced
One lemongrass stalk, woody tip and outer leaves removed (bash the end to release the oils)
1/2 a red chilli (or use cheats squeezy chilli, about 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
One ripe mango
Couple of handfuls of baby spinach
200ml veg stock (from a cube)
Half a can coconut milk (I use Pride - it's amazing!)
A shake of soy sauce or tamari
Juice of one lime
Small bunch of coriander
150g brown rice
Pre-heat the oven to fan 180C.
Peel and deseed the squash then chop into 1" chunks and arrange on a baking tray. Give it a good lug of oil and twist of seasoning, then place in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
Prepare the onion, garlic and ginger by chopping as shown.
Prepare the lemongrass by chopping off the end and outer stalks, then squashing it with the flat end of a chef's knife.
Put the rice into a saucepan with approximately one and a half to two times its depth in water, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down to a medium simmer for about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the water because brown rice takes significantly longer to cook than white long-grain or basmati. Once cooked, set aside.
Meanwhile, put a frying pan on the hob, add a generous lug of olive oil and heat to medium-high. Prepare the tofu: open the packaging, drain, then remove the tofu and pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut the whole block in half.
Cut into cubes...
...then add to the pre-heated saucepan.
Fry, turning occasionally, until the tofu is beautifully golden all over, then remove from the heat.
When the butternut squash has about 10 minutes left, heat a lug of oil in a wok then add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes until soft but not coloured.
Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, lemongrass and spices and fry for a few more minutes until nice and fragrant. Whilst this mixture is cooking, peel the mango with a swivel peeler, then slice into approximately 1" pieces.
By this time, the squash should be ready, so add it to the wok, along with the chopped mango and stir together.
Add the spinach, followed by the veg stock and coconut milk. Stir well to combine, and increase the heat to bring to a simmer so the spinach can wilt.
Prepare the lime.
Once the spinach has wilted, remove the lemongrass stalk, then add the tofu cubes, soy sauce or tamari, chopped coriander and a splash of lime juice. Stir well to combine and check the seasoning, adding more lime juice, salt and pepper according to taste.
Serve with a helping of brown rice.
There you have it. My mouth is actually watering at the thought of this absolutely yummy meal. All those tastes; the tofu (which I highly recommend, by the way - it's delicious when fried until golden), the roasted squash and the mango, all brought together in my favourite-coconut-milk based sauce. All healthy and really, really enjoyable to eat and fun to prepare.
As you know, I'm not a fan of calling a recipe "vegetarian" just because it happens to be meat-free, but I'm well aware that tofu has connotations of 80's hippies who eat only it and vegetables. I say it's a great ingredient and one to at least try out, if not to use again, as a tasty addition to a meal in its own right, not as some poor excuse for meat. As you can see from the above photograph, this meal translates really well into a family meal to serve to children. The inherent sweetness of many of the ingredients will make everyone unable to say no!
Have you cooked tofu before? What was your experience? I know I'm jumping on the bandwagon pretty late, but better late than never. I hope you've been enjoying some delicious home cooking lately too, and have maybe experimented with a new-to-you ingredient. I'd love to hear about it.