Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Two-course Vegan, Asian-Inspired Feast

Asparagus Tempura


Miso Tofu with Asian Salad

Asparagus Tempura

Miso Tofu
I tend to not use tofu very often, as it has eggy/wibbly tendencies which I'm not too sure about, but this version being roasted in the oven after being simmered in a marinade firms it up no end. The recipe was originally from Good Food magazine (read it here), but was a non-vegan version containing egg.  I used more tofu to compensate for the egg which, handily enough, also corresponded with the pack size of the most readily-available brand of tofu (Cauldron).

I felt very virtuous while doing the supermarket shop for this one, as many of the ingredients are available in seasonal British versions right now - radishes, asparagus, even yellow/orange and green peppers.

These two courses are both completely vegan and are intended to be relatively quick and easy to whip up. For that reason I've suggested using a ready-made sweet chilli sauce rather than making your own dipping sauce, but feel free to make your own if you're not in a rush. This recipe, for example, sounds dead nice.

You may notice in the picture of the tofu that only one piece of it appears to have any miso glaze on it. This is because I ignored the pan while watching telly, and let it reduce too much into a thick, burnt-ish jam - so don't do that.

Serves 2

For the tempura

What you need

50g plain flour
Half a tbsp cornflour
75ml lager or fizzy water
1 bunches of asparagus
any flavourless oil for deep-frying e.g. sunflower oil
sweet chilli sauce for dipping (or a dip of your choosing!)

What to do

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus, and get a pan of water onto a rolling boil. Drop the asparagus in and let it cook for 2 minutes, then drain. Blast with cold tap water to stop the cooking process, or better yet drop it into a bowl of iced water. Leave to one side.

Add enough depth of oil to deep fry into a wok or deep frying pan - you need less than you think, a couple of inches should do it - and put it onto a medium heat while you make up your batter.

Sift the flour and cornflour into a mixing bowl. Grab a balloon whisk and gradually pour in the beer or fizzy water, whisking all the while with the other hand. Get a friend to do the pouring if you're not terribly ambidextrous.

Check whether your oil is up to temperature - they say until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. I didn't have any bread, so a beansprout had to do, but the effect was much the same. When you're happy that the oil is hot enough, get a plate ready with a layer of kitchen roll on and grab a slotted spoon. Coat each piece of asparagus with the batter one at a time before dropping it in.

I would suggest doing the tempura in small batches - each should only take around 3 minutes to start browning. Fish them out as they're done with the slotted spoon, before transferring to the kitchen roll plate to soak up any excess oil.

Serve with your dipping sauce.

For the tofu

What you need

400g firm tofu (I used a 396g block of Cauldron tofu, close enough)
1 tbsp miso paste
150ml mirin
75ml soy sauce, plus 1 tbsp for the dressing
150g beansprouts
6 radishes, thinly sliced
half an orange or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced
handful of pea shoots
handful of plain roasted peanuts
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
half a tbsp caster sugar
a nubbin of grated ginger - about half a cm
1.5 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 crushed garlic clove

What to do

First of all, press the tofu to squish some of the liquid out of it - take it out of the packaging, wrap it in some layers of kitchen roll and put it under a biggish book or two. Leave it to press while you prepare the salad, as you do want it quite firm for this recipe.

Next, prepare the salad. Blanch the beansprouts in boiling water for two minutes, then drain and flush with cold water to stop them cooking. Transfer to a large bowl with the sliced spring onions, radishes and peppers.

For the dressing, whisk together the rice vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, the ginger, garlic and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour in the oil in a steady stream, whisking all the while so it combines properly without separating (emulsifies, if you want to get technical). Stir the dressing into the veg and pop it in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Unwrap the tofu from its kitchen roll, and cut into 8 triangles - cut once width-ways down the whole block so you have two thinner halves, then cut each half into 4 triangles.

Now you can start preparing the glaze for your tofu. Put the tbsp of miso paste in a mug and add 2 tbsp of boiling water, then stir with a fork until smooth. 

Get a large, deep-ish frying pan and pour the miso 'stock' in. Stir in the mirin and soy sauce, then bring it to the boil. Once boiling, add the tofu in a single layer. Let it cook for 15 minutes, turning the tofu over halfway through.

Turn the oven on at 200 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment. Fish the tofu out of the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon - but don't turn off the heat - and transfer to the baking tray. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes. While it's cooking, keep the heat on under the miso until it reduces and becomes syrupy - this will be your glaze! Keep an eye on it as it easily reduces down too much - which is exactly what happened to me! Just take it off the heat when it looks like the consistency you want.

When the tofu is done cooking, allow it to cool slightly and spoon the glaze onto each triangle, spreading it with the back of the spoon.

Pile the beansprout salad onto each plate, with the tofu slices arranged on top. Scatter over the peanuts and pea shoots.

Serve and enjoy!

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