Tuesday, August 10, 2010

tofu and eggplant in a gingery tomato sauce

There are two types of cooks, those who worship recipes in the same way that scientists reproduce experiments or some like me (and maybe you) who can almost taste a dish by reading the recipe and use the imagined experience to bounce off.

I’ve learnt not to be deterred by missing members of the supporting cast ingredients-wise. Sometimes substitutions don’t work as an exact replica but create something else entirely that is equally delightful to dine on. With last night’s experiment, having never tasted the original version, I can’t say how authentic it is but I do know, it sure tasted great.

Just reading the title of Sophie’s dish “Tofu in a moriesh tomato and ginger sauce” and her excellent introduction in what the balance of flavours was aiming for, I could taste the tang of the ginger in the slightly acidic sauce. But with no fresh lemongrass for the citrus element or molasses for the depth of flavour, it was a challenge. Fortunately the stash of Kaffir lime leaves I keep in the freezer meant the first ingredient could be substituted but the “umami-driven moreishnes” from the “dark and sticky” molasses, I wasn’t so confident about but figured kecap manis would tick the box. It did, though I had to add more than the equivalent of molasses and play a little with the tamari to balance it.

I’ve also jiggled the quantities, not just for the recipe to serve two versus four, but adding a bit more zing and extending the cooking time. The eggplant was in need of using and melted nicely into the sauce.

Tofu and eggplant in tomato and ginger sauce
(serves 2 or more as a side dish)

1 block (250g) firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieced
vegetable oil for frying (I used raw sesame but any light flavoured oil will do)
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 – 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped (depending on your heat tolerance)
3 Kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
1 (400g) can, chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon kecap manis (sweet soy) OR 1 tsp molasses
2 tsp tamari
small knob fresh ginger
1 small – medium sized eggplant (variety of your choice), sliced into half moons
Lime wedge – to garnish
Handful of fresh coriander leaves – to garnish

Drain the block of tofu, wrap in a clean tea towel and place between two plates with a weight (e.g. a can of beans) on top.

In a heavy based fry pan, heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté the onion on a medium heat. When transparent add the garlic, chilli and half of the Kaffir lime leaves. Stir through the onions and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the crushed tomatoes.

Give the tomato/spice mixture a few minutes to get acquainted then add the kecap manis and tamari. Stir and taste for a balance between sweet and salty. Now get out your fine grater or ginger grater. You need at least a generous teaspoon of the grated pulp and juice, or if you have a fancy ginger grater that collects the juice aim for a teaspoon of the juice. In my usual slapdash manner I just grated the peeled knob over the pan, stirred, tasted and added more til the ginger was noticeable but not overwhelming.

Simmer covered with a lid, on low for 15-30 minutes to let the flavours develop. You may need to add a little water so the sauce doesn’t dry out. Stir frequently.

Don’t walk away. Once the sauce has begun cooking, get another fry pan, cover the base with oil to shallow fry and heat on high. Get the pressed tofu, cut into pieces and fry on both sides. Set aside to drain on paper towels or an old clean tea towel. Now add the eggplant cut in bite-sized slices to cook in the pan in batches, add more oil as needed. Set aside.

After cooking the sauce for the initial 15 minutes add the eggplant. I gave it another 5 minutes before adding the tofu and the rest of the shredded Kaffir lime leaves. Stir and allow the tofu to heat through, about another 5 minutes.

Serve on basmati rice, with a wedge of lime to sprinkle and a generous handful of coriander leaves.

* I reckon fried tempeh and green beans, instead of tofu and eggplant, would make another great variation of this dish.

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Blogger Ann ODyne said...

Just reading that was scrumptious.
I love cubed tofu after it has danced around in a pan with chopped ginger and garlic, bit of tamari, handful of beanshoots at the finish.
10-minute tummyfull.

7:15 pm  
Blogger Johanna GGG said...

love the addition of eggplant to this dish - when I made Sophie's recipe I found that the molasses didn't make as much of an impact as I expected but the lemongrass gave a wonderful citrus fragrance that I image the kaffir lime leaves would also do

7:48 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Ann nothing beats simple and tasty :)

Johanna - good to hear all not lost by omitting the molasses. I know what Sophie was after though, that depth of flavour.

7:55 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Have made this dish a second time. No eggplant but instead added green beans a couple of minutes before serving, with the tofu. Its a a great sauce and reckon it would go with most veggies.

Note to self: For round two I added more Kaffir lime leaves (chopped lemongrass now in freezer to use next time), chili and ginger. Wonderful!

2:36 pm  
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6:13 pm  

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