A week of eating like Nigella at her purest and I found myself at a local gastropub-type joint eating steak smothered in butter, with chips and greens smothered in butter, with dessert. If you’re anywhere in the Oxford area, you should check out the Magdalen Arms, under new management: they’ll serve you a rare roast hare saddle on a giant floral platter, excellent salty bread, and drinks in cute little French farmhousey glasses. And, what I particularly liked, it was as if they’d somehow been inside my head when they compiled their drinks list: Americanos, negronis, whisky macs, dark n’ stormies, bloody marys, a sherry list – all of my very favourites!
After all that, it was time to eat some tofu. Our next book is ‘Spooning with Rosie’, the first book by a young lady by the name of Rosie who owns a cafe/deli in Brixton, and it was to her I turned for this, one of her ‘feasting fiestas’: a stir fry of tofu and vegetables with lime and honey, little cubes of rice with an intense, tangy dipping sauce, and carrot and sweetcorn fritters. I had to adapt it slightly to more conveniently use up our leftovers, but it worked well: I wouldn’t before have eaten vegetable fritters with an Asian meal, but I now realise the shortcomings in my imagination – it’s like an extra vegetable portion, but more fun! The rice cubes are cute, too, although mine weren’t quite as cube-y as they should have been. It’s really not as much work as it looks, either: apart from a bit of grating and chopping for the fritters, there’s almost no preparation required.
Tofu feast Serves 4-5
There was a mango, cucumber and mint salad in the original fiesta, as well, but I had none of those things, lovely though it sounded.
For the rice cubes & dipping sauce:
1 1/2 cups of Thai rice (I used cup for 4 servings, and short-grain brown rice)
1 red chilli (use a hot variety if you like things spicy)
8 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar (plain granulated is fine)
1 sprig of mint (optional – I left it out as I didn’t have any)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
This bit requires advance planning for the rice to cool properly (hence my irregular cubes). Overcook the rice by simmering it for 5 minutes longer than the instructions on the packet ask – 55 minutes for my rice, in one and a half times the amount of water to rice. It should be sticky and mushy. Break it up further with a fork or potato masher, then press it shallowly into a small tin lined with cling film. Cool it to room temperature before putting it in the fridge for 8 hours if you have time. I put mine in the freezer for a little bit. It should be served at room temperature, so take it out again a while before you want to eat. Slice it into cubes the size of your choice with a wet knife. Unmould the cubes onto a plate.
For the dipping sauce, finely slice the chilli (seeds removed or not, as you like) and place it in a pan with the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for about 15 minutes on a low heat – it should reduce quite a bit, so you have enough to half fill a ramekin. It is potent, so you don’t need a huge amount. Serve the sauce alongside the rice cubes for dipping.
For the tofu stir-fry:
400g fried tofu (you may be able to get ready-fried tofu from your local Chinese supermarket. I used regular tofu).
2 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
2 tsp ground ginger or 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
200g mangetout (I used shelled edamame beans)
120g enoki mushrooms (I used common or garden veg box mushrooms)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 dsp honey
juice of 1 lime (2 tbsp)
Slice the tofu into smallish pieces. Heat the oil until very hot and add the tofu, turning down the heat. Fry for a few minutes and then sprinkle in the ginger, beans and mushrooms. Stir and add the honey, soy sauce and lime juice. Cook for just a few minutes more and then serve.
For the sweetcorn and carrot fritters:
3 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 spring onion
1 clove garlic
a small handful fresh coriander
1 x 285g tin of sweetcorn, or about the same weight frozen and defrosted
1-3 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
Crack the eggs into a decent sized bowl and whisk thoroughly. Whisk in the cornflour and baking powder. Finely chop the spring onion, garlic and coriander. Peel and grate the carrot. Add all of this to the bowl along with the sweetcorn and mix well (I added a sprinkle of salt, too).
Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, about a heaped tablespoon at a time. I got 8 fritters in 2 batches, although the recipe notes say 10. They should only take a minute or so per side and should become golden and crisp, flipping easily. If oily, drain on kitchen paper. They are best served while still warm but I found a quick blast in the microwave to reheat the leftovers the next day didn’t do much harm.
Adapted from Rosie Lovell’s ‘Spooning With Rosie: Food, Friendship and Kitchen Loving’.