Monday, 2 March 2009

To bean or not to bean

Guess what - my mum bought herself a copy of Lighten Up! I've inspired someone to get the book! Admittedly that person is a) my own mother, and b) the person who gave me my copy in the first place, but still.

Our kitchen didn't see much action over the weekend - we grabbed a snacky Saturday lunch at the farmers' market, then had dinner at Alana's (who, in a feat of co-ordination which leaves me feeling vaguely inadequate, made six separate dishes. Six! Some days I don't even remember to cook vegetables). Sunday evening Mike was away so I reached for my usual eating-alone fall-back dinner: porridge. (Just for the record this is also my fall-back lunch, elevenses and afternoon tea. On occasion I've even be known to eat it for breakfast.) All of which just left Sunday lunch, which, for reasons of complicated timetabling, we ended up eating at 3.30 in the afternoon.

16. Chilli Bean Tofu ('Veggo Food')

I hadn't actually planned on making this on Sunday (do other people make detailed lists plotting out what they're going to cook each day, or is this symptomatic of an unhealthily obsessive relationship with food?), but it was just about the only recipe on the week's "to do" list which didn't rely on crucial components that were frozen solid. I had everything to hand except the chilli bean sauce, and I didn't think getting hold of it at short notice would be a problem because we live round the corner from the aptly named 'World's Finest Foods'. Seriously, this place sells everything - if you have a chickpea flour emergency or a sudden craving for truffle salt, World's Finest Foods will come to your rescue. Unfortunately, though, of the twenty-five different types of chilli sauce they sell (yup, I counted; and that doesn't include stir-fry sauces), not one of them is chilli bean sauce. Foiled! It being a Sunday the local Chinese supermarkets were closed, too, so I ended up just getting minced chillies. Is it still chilli bean tofu if it doesn't actually contain beans?

Ingredients-sourcing sob-story behind me I got on with the recipe, which, in true stir-frying tradition, mostly involves chopping things up. By 'things' I mean one aubergine (which you've previously roasted whole for 40 minutes so it's delectably squishy), a block of tofu, some ginger, garlic and spring onions. I decided to three-quarters the (four person) recipe for the highly scientific reason that my tofu happened to come in a 350g pack rather than a 500g one, and (not to spoil the ending or anything) it was a good-ish amount for the two of us.

The cooking itself is just a question of stir-frying the ginger and garlic, adding the aubergine, chilli bean sauce (or minced chilli, in my case), some sugar, rice wine, soy sauce and a bit of water, then simmering for ten minutes before adding the cubed tofu and simmering for another five - I ended up giving mine a little less as the sauce thickened up pretty quickly. Sprinkle in some Sichuan pepper if you like an extra zing, scatter over the spring onion, then serve ladled over rice and curse tofu for being so woefully unphotogenic:

Oh well, it tasted good! I was quite impressed, actually - I've tried heaps of versions of mapu dofu (including a very tasty one as part of Alana's smorgasbord the night before), and this one had a good kick to it as well as being a great partnering of textures. Pre-roasting the aubergine was a stroke of genius - you get the same gorgeous squidginess which deep-frying gives you (seriously, if you've never had deep-fried aubergine, get thyself to a deep fat fryer! Your arteries will forgive you just this once) but without the fat. The only change I might make next time would be to keep things a bit saucier so that there was more liquid for the rice to absorb. Oh, and I imagine the dish'd be even better made with chilli bean sauce (duh!) to give it extra depth.

Mike says: "I have not told many people this, but I was in fact born a piece of tofu, so when asked to eat some avec chili bean sauce I felt bad. This soon passed and I was overcome with nice flavours. It made me happy about my decision to become human. Yum."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too was born a piece of tofu, which school did you go to?