Going plant based can be challenging at times, especially if you are being entertained and your hosts don’t know what to cook for you or you are doing the entertaining and your guests are not ones for a full-on veg dining experience. I had this problem recently, and spent some time wracking my brain about what to do. The starter was easy – tasty spring salad; the dessert a no-brainer – raw banoffee pie, as no-one can argue with that. But what to do for the mains?
Finally, I remembered a delicious Leon spicy coconut fish recipe I used to love in my pre-plant days. Each portion is individually wrapped in tin foil then covered with a gorgeous sauce consisting of coconut cream, garlic and ginger. As the sauce is the same for all, the solution was simple – one parcel was chicken based, three fish and two tofu. And as each person has their own parcel, the flavours can be altered according to taste, as the chillis and spring onions are sprinkled over the top. So you end up cooking three different dishes, without having to cook three different dishes – inspired!
Tofu is a great plant based protein and contains good amounts of iron and calcium as well as other vitamins and minerals. As it’s made from soya, tofu contains phyto-oestrogens that mimic the actions of oestrogen produced in the body. Because of this, it’s been link with reducing breast cancer as well as helping ladies of a certain age deal with the unpleasant effects of the menopause.
Unfortunately, soya products have become unpopular in some circles, mainly due to the fact that most soya in the US is now genetically modified. I always check where my tofu has come from, and if I can’t find out, buy organic.
Many people don’t like tofu as by itself as it’s pretty bland and unpalatable. But it absorbs flavour brilliantly, so if cooked in the right way, it’s a great plant based product to work with.
This recipe uses extra firm tofu. It still needs to be drained of any packaging fluid, then pressed for a while to remove more fluid to stop it falling apart when cooked. To press, place a few sheets of kitchen roll on a plate, pop your tofu block on top, place some more kitchen roll on top, then put another plate with a weight on the top (like a tin of beans) and leave in the fridge for an hour or so. Water is pressed out and you’ll end up with tofu with a firmer texture.
This dish is great served with sticky red rice and steamed pak choi or spring greens. And it doesn’t take ages to prepare or cook, leaving you more time to enjoy your entertaining.
Spicy coconut tofu (or fish or chicken!) Serves 6
150ml tin coconut cream or the thick cream off a tin of coconut milk
1 small clove garlic chopped
4 spring onions, 2 finely diced, 2 chopped obliquely
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
15g fresh grated ginger
1 red chilli finely sliced
10 lime leaves
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
100g extra firm tofu per person (so if
feeding 6 you’ll need 600g (see below)
* if you are serving this with chicken it will need cooking for 25 minutes, the fish for 15; they both need to go in the oven before the tofu.
Pre-heat the oven to 200oC.
Place the coconut cream, garlic, finely chopped spring onion, turmeric, zest of the limes, ginger, fresh coriander, a couple of crumbled lime leaves and salt together in a bowl and mix well so everything is combined.
Tear off a piece of tin foil about 30cm square and spray a little olive oil in the centre, wiping around with a piece of kitchen roll. Pop 2 lime leaves on the middle of the foil, then place the tofu on top. Spoon over 1/6th of the coconut mixture, then sprinkle some of the sliced spring onion and chilli according to diner’s taste. Drizzle a dash of sesame seed oil over the top, then close the foil up, sealing each edge firmly to create a parcel. Place on a baking tray and repeat the step.
When you’re ready, pop the parcels in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest until you’re ready to serve. At the last minute, open up the foil and squeeze in a shot of lime juice straight away. Slide onto your plate with the rice and greens, and delight your tastebuds with the sumptuous flavours!
NB: I sliced each 100g portion into two thick slices just because it looked better, but it also absorbed more flavour so is definitely worth doing.