The best recipes have a balance to them; salt and sweet, hot and sour. And if you’re lucky they have that something extra too, maybe a hint of the fifth taste, umami.
This sauce is inspired by Bill Granger’s recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks in his book, Holiday. Bill’s recipe is deep and spicy and incredibly moreish, but not the kind of meal I like to make for healthy, everyday eating. How to keep the flavour without the lamb, and as I promised last week provide a boost for your bones? I’ve taken this deconstructionist approach to recipes before and know that tofu works as the perfect foil to a sauce that is ‘the main event’.
There are still reasonable amounts of added fat in this tofu version, included to carry the flavours of the spices, but the fat is a healthier oil predominant in monounsaturated fats rather than the heavy, saturated fat from the lamb. Some of the umami-driven moreishness of the original dish came from the meat but also from the tomatoes and soy sauce which I’ve kept in, in fact the vegetable and taste of the dish has been oooomphed up considerably with extra tomatoes and onion. I’ve added a third umami element too, dark and sticky molasses (did you know that MSG is made from fermented molasses? I didn’t know this before but I’m guessing there’s some taste connection there).
Tofu is a favourite of mine to recommend to my osteoporosis patients. Not every brand of tofu is calcium rich but those that are tend to be really rich in calcium. 100g of a tofu made using calcium sulphate contains around 510 mg of calcium; about twice the calcium you would get from a glass of milk. To put this into more context, the UK recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is 700mg while Australia and US recommend that we have 1000mg. I suspect it’s us Brits that are a bit behind, but a serving would provide at least half of what you need in a day.
I’m usually a brown rice gal but prefer this with the clean flavours of basmati rice. With a green veg on the side this meal provides at least 3 servings of vegetable. Still don’t fancy the tofu? Try this with lean diced lamb, cubed paneer cheese, chicken thigh or a mix of chickpeas and butter beans.
If you like the sound of this recipe, try this tofu with hot and sour rhubarb sauce
Anna and Kristina have a nice guide to buying and storing tofu
Leslie Beck has tofu as a featured food, with good ideas of how to include more in your diet
Elaine at Greens and Berries has some excellent links on How to build and maintain healthy bone on a plant based diet
Recipe for Tofu with a moreish tomato and ginger sauce
2 blocks firm tofu (2 x 250g packs)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (rapeseed oil)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
1 stick lemongrass, chopped
1 red chillli (medium hot)
2 medium onions
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tsp molasses
2 tbsp soy sauce or shoyu
2 limes (optional)
Remove the tofu from its packaging and press between two plates, with a piece of kitchen towel or a clean tea towel either side to soak up the moisture. Leave for at least 10 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
Cut the tofu into large, bite-sized cubes and season with pepper and a little salt.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a deep frying pan on a medium to high heat. Fry the tofu until lightly browned then remove it from the pan and put it aside.
Add the second tablespoon of oil to the pan and turn down the heat. Add the onion and cook for about five minutes.
Once the onions have softened a little, add the lemongrass, chilli and garlic. Cook for three minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, molasses and soy sauce to the pan. Grate the ginger directly in to the pan to catch all the juices. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Return the tofu to the pan and heat until the tofu is thoroughly warmed through.
Serve wth a grain and a green and half a lime to squeeze over.