February 10th is the Chinese New year! So what better way to celebrate and say “Kung Hei Fat Choi” (happy new year!) than with a homemade, healthy chinese feast!
I’m always a little unsure of cooking with tofu. I find it never ends up with the texture I want but I think, in this recipe, I may have found my answer! The tofu ends up deliciously crisp and chewy on the outside and still a little bit soft in the centre – perfect! and covered with hoisin sauce… well… it’s just divine!
So this little feast is made up of 3 parts – the crispy tofu pancakes, some marinated baby aubergines and chard and egg-fried spelt. Any of these would make a great meal on their own too (I did end up eating rather too much!). I’ve never cooked chard before and was looking for a good way to use it – it turns out that chard works brilliantly with asian spices and egg so this is a perfect combination! You can substitute the chard with spinach if you need to though and it will still be delicious. The mini aubergines were just too cute to resist, but you could use any sized aubergine for the recipe 🙂
For the Crispy tofu pancakes (makes approx 6 pancakes):
1 block (396g) of firm Tofu (I used the cauldron original tofu block)
1 pack of Chinese pancakes
small bunch of Spring onions
2 tbsp Sesame oil
2 tbsp Chinese five spice powder
1 tbsp Soy sauce (or Tamari)
Hoisin sauce to serve
The tofu needs to be removed from the packaging, drained and then wrapped in a clean tea towel and placed between 2 plates with a weight on top to remove the liquid. Leave it pressing somewhere cool, for a couple of hours if you can (or overnight if you are able). Once it’s pressed (it will halve in thickness), remove from the tea towel and slice in to 6 – 7 slices.
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Mix the sesame oil, chinese five spice powder and soy sauce together and place the slices of tofu in the mixture and ensure they are well coated. Place the tofu on to a baking tray and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Keep a close eye on the tofu and check it regularly. If you bake for too long it will be far too crispy, you want it crispy on the outside but still a little soft in the middle.
While it’s baking prepare the cucumber and spring onions by shredding them thinly. Once the tofu is ready remove from the oven. Steam the pancakes according to the instructions (usually 30 seconds in the microwave) and serve with the crispy tofu, hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onions.
For the chard and egg-fried spelt (makes 2 – 3 portions)
Approx 2 cups of Pearled spelt (you could use brown rice as a substitute)
2 cloves of Garlic
1 small red Chilli
1 bunch Chard (you could use spinach instead)
1 – 2 eggs (depending how much egg you want in it!)
pinch of Chinese five spice
1 large handful of cashew nuts
Chop the onion and sauté gently in a large pan in a little coconut oil. Once the onion is soft add the garlic, chilli (finely chopped) and chinese five spice. Let them soften and then add the spelt. Toast for a few minutes stirring continuously. Start to add water slowly to the spelt, little by little, stirring all the time. As the spelt absorbs the water add a little more. Continue adding small amounts of water until the spelt starts to soften. At this point add in the chard, chopped in to small pieces, fold in gently. Add a little more water if required and allow the spelt to finish cooking. Finally create a hollow in the spelt so you can see the base of the pan and crack the eggs in to the pan. Using a wooden spoon agitate the egg so it breaks up, stir it in to the spelt (you need to work quickly). In a separate pan toast the cashew nuts. Scatter them over the top and serve.
For the aubergines (serves 2 – 3):
6 mini Aubergines (or 1 – 2 large ones)
3 tbsp Sesame oil
3 tbsp Soy sauce (or Tamari)
1 tsp Chinese five spice
3 tsp fresh Garlic and ginger mix (see below)
If you manage to get hold of mini aubergines then slice them in a little fan shape. To do this you leave the tops on and make 3 – 4 slices from the bottom up (not quite to the top) and then fan out the slices. If you can’t get baby aubergines then just cut thin slices of aubergine. For the garlic and ginger I like to prepare this in advance as a batch and leave it in a jar in my fridge. Just take approximately equal amounts of garlic and fresh ginger and pop them in a food processor. Blend until smooth and then pop in a jar in the fridge and use whenever you need (particularly useful for asian cooking). Mix together all the ingredients (except the aubergines) in a bowl and then place the fanned aubergines (or slices of aubergine) in to this mix and allow to marinate for as long as you can.
Preheat the oven to 200 C and transfer the aubergines to a baking tray. Bake until soft (this will depend on the size and thickness of your slices so just keep an eye on them. My baby ones took about 20 minutes to bake).
Serve these on top of the chard and egg-fried spelt, with those yummy pancakes on the side and raise a toast to the Chinese New year 2013 and the year of the snake! 🙂