Thursday, 4 June 2015
Are you a tofu hater? At the Lovlie Cocoon we are tofu lovers even though we limit our consumption because we have an occasional intolerance to it. But I have been eating tofu well before my vegan days and have always loved it. Tofu is not regarded as a meat replacement in Mauritius and is in fact enjoyed by a lot of omnivores too.
The most common way that tofu is prepared in Mauritius is fried or sauteed then served as a finger food with some dipping sauce or added into anything you fancy — noodle dishes and Chinese-style soups being among the most popular.
As such, we most of the time tend to pre-fry or lightly saute the tofu before adding it into sauces. The crispy outer layer contrasting with the pillowy tender centre makes a most appealing texture. It could probably win the hearts of the haters with some tasty seasonings perhaps.
So, this week Kevin is back with another one of his delicious curries which is a braised tofu and vegetable curry. Braising is a very common method of cooking, especially vegetables, in Mauritius where we saute them on high heat in a little fat first, then cover and simmer at a lower temperature until the vegetables are tender.
The amount of fat used to sear the food first does not have to be much, just enough to create a caramelised coating. This releases a rich deep flavour into the cooking liquid.
In this curry dish, to really plump up the flavour, Kevin is pre-frying the tofu then pot roasting the tomatoes and potatoes first before adding them to the curry sauce. This is the sort of curry you'd want to make to impress your guests especially if you have a few omnivores around.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
7 oz. [200g] tofu, fresh (not frozen) and unpressed
2 medium [300g] tomatoes
1 [150g] courgette/zucchini
4 medium [600g] potatoes
1 [135g] chayote (substitute with one courgette/zucchini if unavailable)
1 green chilli
12 curry leaves, fresh or dried (or substitute with a couple of bay leaves)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/3 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (optional or omit if you don't have this)
Few dashes of ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Oil as required for sauteing and frying
Chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish
First start by cutting or slicing the tofu in any way you like. For this curry we made triangular slices of about 1 cm or ½ inch thick. (Note: we haven't pressed the tofu as we want to keep a soft texture).
Then, fry the tofu in a skillet on medium-high heat with a couple tablespoons of cooking oil, we used sunflower oil but any oil will do. Cover the pan to keep the tofu soft. Occasionally check on the tofu and turn them onto the other side. Once golden and crispy on both sides, remove them from the pan and drain on absorbent paper.
While the tofu is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and slice the courgette/zucchini (about 1/2-cm or 1/4-inch thick).
Fry the tomatoes in the same pan and oil as the tofu until they are lightly caramelised. This will give the curry its distinct roasted flavour.
Now continue preparing the other vegetables. Prepping the vegetables while other ingredients are cooking, helps us save time rather than preparing everything first then starting to cook.
Cut the potatoes in chunky pieces of about 5cm or 2-inch cubes.
Chayotes are prepared in the same way, peel then cut it into chunky pieces. If you prefer smaller pieces you can do so but not small or they might disintegrate in the sauce.
Add enough or about 2-4 tablespoons of oil in a wok or deep pan and set the heat on a high-medium. Once oil is heated, add in the potatoes. Season with about ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder, this is both for colour and taste. Add a few dashes of ground black pepper. Stir and then cover and let cook.
Occasionally stir the potatoes so that they cook evenly on all sides. At this stage, we are not cooking the potatoes all the way through. Once they pick up a nice golden and crispy outer layer, take them out of the pan and drain on absorbent paper.
Now for the curry sauce, toss out almost all of the oil from the wok and leave just about a teaspoon in there. Add in the spices (curry powder, one teaspoon turmeric, paprika, garam masala, a few dashes of black pepper) followed by the curry leaves.
Roast the spices on medium heat for a minute until they release their delicious fragrance. Then add one cup of water. Let the mixture thicken as you gently stir it to prevent it from burning. This allows the flavours to develop. Then add more water (about 1 cup) followed by the potatoes.
Cut or slice the chili. If you don’t like too much heat, you may omit the chili or deseed it. Add the chili into the sauce.
Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes. Occasionally stir the sauce to avoid burning.
The edges of the potatoes should be soft and have melted a little bit. The starch that has been released in the sauce will add creaminess to this curry.
Now add about 1 and ½ cups of water, then add the chayotes, the tofu and the tomatoes. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the chayotes and potatoes are soft.
You can then increase the heat to evaporate some of the water in the sauce and thicken it to your liking.
Add salt to taste.
And lastly add the courgette or zucchini and some chopped coriander or cilantro.
Now turn off the heat, stir, cover and let the curry stand for 5 minutes before serving.
If you plan to serve this curry at a later time, then reserve the courgettes and coriander and add them in when you are reheating it before serving.