Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt
I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’.
The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.
On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.
I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry.
I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.
The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.
My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.
250g pack firm tofu
200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces
A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu
2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra
For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste
For the sambal
30g chopped coriander
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar)
The juice of one lime
4 green chillies
Salt to taste
½ tsp. turmeric
3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses
4 cloves of garlic
3 inch nob of ginger
5 shallots, diced
1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil
- Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients
- To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste.
- On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.
- Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky.
- Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat.
- You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.