Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango – it’s totally addictive BEWARE!

It’s always a joy cooking for a foodie friend who eats everything and shares a similar enthusiasm for exciting flavours, textures and foods. Said friend is off to pastures new in California so I wanted to prepare a simple and yet interesting lunch that he may not have tried before, but that he was hopefully going to remember fondly.

In the last couple of years my love for tofu has grown exponentially, on average I would say I eat it once a week as a main meal. One of my all time favourite recipes – Ma Po Tofu – I  sometimes cook without the pork mince and add loads of spinach to compliment the tofu instead. I would really recommend you give this dish a go if you haven’t already, it’s absolutely superb.

Another dish using tofu, which I discovered more recently, is the one that I want to share with you today. It’s a perfect spring/summer dish bursting with colour and if the truth be told, totally addictive. Between the two of us we almost saw off a portion which Yotam Ottolenghi says ‘serves 6’. I know, I know, it  makes us sound rather piggy. Look we were hungry and it is so delicious I bet you too would have seconds or maybe thirds ;o). I think that as a main dish it’s serving is better suited to 4 than 6, unless your guests have sparrow appetites that is!

 Don’t be shy, once you’ve cooked it do write a comment below to let me know how you got on and  that you too had seconds/thirds.

Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango

Adapted  from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4-6

120 ml rice vinegar

40g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 lime, zest and juice

300ml sunflower oil

2 aubergines, cut into 1cm dice

396g firm tofu, cut into small cubes (a little more or less is fine so don’t worry about getting exact amount)

250g soba noodles

2 ripe mangoes, cut into strips or dice

small handful of Thai sweet basil, chopped

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 small red onion, finely sliced

1. To prepare the dressing warm the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan for a minute so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the chilli, garlic and sesame oil and leave to cool. Once it is cool add the lime juice and zest.

2. In a frying pan heat up  half the sunflower oil and gently fry the aubergine in batches. To save time I cooked the aubergine in two frying pans cooking simultaneously. When they have bronzed place on kitchen paper to cool.

3. Using the remaining sunflower oil (if necessary – you may have enough left from cooking the aubergine!) gently heat up the tofu and cook until it has a crispy light brown appearance. This should take 6-8 minutes. Similar to the aubergine place on some kitchen paper to soak up some of the oil.

4. Heat a pan of boiling salted water and cook the soba noodles for around 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water, shaking off as much excess water as possible. Place on a tea towel to dry.

5. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, herbs (save a few to scatter on top when serving),  red onion and tofu. Transfer to another serving plate/dish. You can eat immediately or set aside for a couple of hours.

The dressing resting whilst I prepare the rest of the ingredients (above)

The final result (below)

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Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

Foodies in London will be very familiar with the names Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who first set up the successful deli/bakery/patisserie cum restaurant  called ‘Ottolenghi’ back in 2002 in Notting Hill.  Their passion and flair for cooking was evident from the start and their venture soon became a food lovers magnet, in particular I remember the mounds of mouth watering salads piled high on large dishes for you to help yourself to. We are not talking about a few lettuce leaves with tomatoes and cucumbers thrown in. Oooooooooh no, their salads were, and in fact still are, on a whole different playing field. They are the most imaginative and more-ish that you will come across, to the extent that it is actually hard to decide which to tuck into. Decisions, decisions!

In 2010 Yotam published a book dedicated to vegetarian food called ‘Plenty’ and a number of his salads were put into the book. It’s beautifully put together and I am convinced it would persuade even the most carnivorous amongst you to try some of the recipes. He has in many respects made vegetarian food, and indeed salads, look sexy.

Today they now have four delis as well as launching a very successful restaurant called, Nopi.  Basically they are on a roll and London cannot get enough of their talents. That is not to say that Yotam and Sami only cook vegetarian food, far from it. Their cooking is heavily influenced from their childhoods in Israel and their style of cooking definitely has a Mediterranean edge to it, with wonderful meat and fish dishes to whet the appetite.  They cook all the kind of dishes that I am attracted to – basically ones that are full of bold flavours, which they describe rather endearingly as the ‘noisy’ flavours: ‘lemon, pomegranate, garlic and chilli’. The other cookbook, which is a definite must for those who like their style of honest cooking, is ‘Ottolenghi, The Cookbook‘. They also have a new book,  ‘Jerusalem’, in the wings, launching later this year, which I am looking forward to buying.

It was from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook that I discovered ‘Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey’. I was immediately attracted to the recipe as it had a wonderful range of interesting ingredients – in particular I like the fact that it had ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon, hazelnuts, honey and rosewater. I had never cooked with rosewater until I started cooking this recipe; I love the fragrance  and subtleness that it brings to the dish.  The  exotic smells coming from the oven takes me back to happy times exploring Morocco and the Atlas mountains.

 Roast Chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey

Sourced from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Serves 4

10 chicken thighs (or a combination of wing, leg and thighs)

2 onions, roughly chopped,

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g unskinned hazelnuts

75g honey

2 tbsp rosewater

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

1. Trim the fat of the chicken thighs and then mix in a bowl with the chopped onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, pepper and salt. Leave to marinate in the fridge for over an hour –  or overnight if you are really well organised. I wasn’t so left it in the fridge for a couple of hours!

2. In a preheated over – 180 degrees if using a fan oven (10 degree hotter if not), place the hazelnuts on a tray to roast for 10 minutes.

3. Roughly chop the roasted hazelnuts – I give them a quick wizz with my hand blender and set aside.

4. Place the chicken, skin side up, in an ovenproof dish/roasting tray in the oven with the onions and juice surrounding it and leave to cook for 35 minutes.

5. In a new bowl mix the honey, rosewater and nuts to create a rough paste. When the 35 minutes cooking time for the chicken is up, spread the paste over the chicken and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown.

6. Whilst the chicken is cooking for the final 10 minutes, put on the rice/or prepare the cous cous.

7. Serve the chicken with either rice or cous cous and garnish with spring onions – I preferred to do this over the cous cous. There will be plenty of sauce full of deliciousness to serve over the chicken.