20th century soy

After all those feijoa brownies – which on one particular day served as both my breakfast and dinner, all I can say is that the heart wants what the heart wants – I thought I’d rekindle my relationship with tofu, get some soy back in my bloodstream. The stuff I like to get comes from the vege market on Dixon/Willis Street and is $4 for a generous block of four squares, or fillets if you like, of firm tofu.

We went to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D that night and I wanted a fast-moving dinner planned for when we returned home. It all worked out fantastically – crisp slices of matzoh-crumbed tofu resting on a bed, no, a beanbag of chickpea and golden sultana-studded couscous, and a garlicky tahini sauce on top. It was all made very quickly – such is the joy of couscous, instantly puffing itself up into a meal, and tofu, which has no bacteria squatting within its meatless walls to be smoked out in the cooking process, cutting down on pan-time.

Yes, the photos aren’t great but 1) I was tired and hungry and 2) all that beige. What would you do? There’s only so much coriander in my fridge.
Tofu with Garlic Tahini, Couscous and Chickpeas
Half a block of firm tofu
3 fat cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons tahini
Pinch smoked paprika
1/2 cup couscous
Boiling water
1 tin chickpeas
1/3 cup golden sultanas (you could use normal sultanas, or currants, or dried cranberries etc)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Handful almonds (or other nuts)
Tip the couscous into a bowl, pour over boiling water to cover and sit a plate on top while you get on with the tofu. When you return to it, remove the plate and fluff up the couscous with a fork. Stir in the drained can of chickpeas and the sultanas (or whatever you’re using instead), the spices plus salt to taste.

Wrap the tofu in a couple of paper towels and press on it to let some of the moisture absorb away. Bin the paper and slice up the tofu. Put your breadcrumbs (I used matzoh meal) onto a plate and press the tofu slices into them, covering both sides of each slice. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil till good and hot, and fry the slices till golden, a couple of minutes each side.

Finally, crush or finely chop the garlic cloves, and fry gently (in the same pan that you did the tofu in is fine). Stir in the tahini and a tablespoon of water and adding as much water as you like till you have a smoothish pale sauce. Add the paprika. Serve the tofu slices on top of the couscous with the sauce drizzled over. Sprinkle with the almonds, chopped, and a handful of torn coriander.
The couscous thing was adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe and was delicious- buttery chickpeas, tender couscous grains and chewy, sweet golden sultanas. I’m always happy to be eating tofu but pressing the crumbs into it provided a bit more texture and welcome crunch. The sauce tied it all together with its garlic smoothness, although undeniably it was a really ugly colour…even with the ‘sprinkle-the-coriander-over’ routine I still couldn’t disguise its utter beige-ity.
We ate this for dinner, as I said, after seeing Alice in Wonderland in 3D. It was my first 3D movie (yeah, so I still haven’t seen Avatar) and once I’d stopped jumping every time a leaf swirled out in front of me off the screen it was really fun. Because I loved the Alice books so much as a youngster I was a bit suspicious about what a film version could offer me, especially since the trailer made it look pretty rubbish but…I absolutely loved it. Not since Step Up 2: The Streets have I been so pleasantly surprised by a film. It was visually gorgeous for a start, but the acting and the fleshed-out characters really made it a wonderful experience. Mia Waisakowska’s Alice is powerful, at first simply reacting to what’s around her then gradually becoming more powerful, overall a highly compelling character. Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter are stunning queens. Apparently Bonham-Carter drew inspiration from Nigella for her role, and yeah, I could see it. And Johnny Depp is as captivating as, you know, he ALWAYS is. It drooped occasionally but the only thing I really didn’t like about it was the Avril Lavigne song that blasts immediately over the ending credits. It’s so bad that it’s like a parody of an awful song rather than just a simply awful song. Disney kindly showed us several fancy trailers for upcoming 3D films prior to Alice in Wonderland starting, including Toy Story 3, something about owls, and yet another Shrek sequel. I wonder if 3D is proving to be an exciting platform for companies to re-thrash already thrashed franchises…

Title via: That other mad hatter, Marc Bolan, and T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy.

Music lately:

Martha by Rufus Wainwright from his new album All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu. I love Wainwright’s music, his theatrical imagery and endless voice, so a new album is always a bit of a treat. This is just him and a piano, not sparse in the slightest, I’m not sure he could do ‘sparse’ but utterly beautiful and stripped of any real excess. Martha, presumably named for his sister, is one particularly affecting track on this album, the first he’s put out there since his mother’s death earlier this year.
Night Hawkes from Wellingtonian Red Steer’s latest EP, The Fever Fold. It’s an exciting track with an enviable beat that sneaks in partway through and makes me want to choreograph something. Tim reviewed it at The Corner, an NZ website so awesome that we both write for it, and you can even download the EP for free once you’re done reading up on it (and my review of MGMT’s Congratulations, there’s no free download but I do reference Hair, almost as exciting…)
Sleigh Bells’ Tell Em, crunchier than sandpaper and very fun. Their relentless fuzzity could be hard on the ears but as someone who grew up rural, ears pressed to the radio at night with one finger slowly inching the tuner round to pick up any kind of signal, it all makes sense to me.
Do you know what I’m emphatically not listening to? Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate’s Ali and Toumani, the collaboration that has recently been released, five year’s on from Toure’s death. We walked from the top of Cuba Street to the bottom of Lambton Quay at the other end of town, entering every single music shop we found and not one place had it. I know, I should have bought it sooner…
Next time: Oh sure we ate tofu but…I also made a pudding of the ice-creamy variety. So you’ll find out about the all sharp change in direction when I next get time to update this.

7 thoughts on “20th century soy

  1. Hannah says:

    I think yours is the first positive review of Alice that I've heard! Have yet to see it myself, but really must, what with Mia being from Canberra and all…

    And I really need to get me some tahini (as soon as my five jars of peanut butter have dwindled somewhat).


  2. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    Alana: Cool – let me know how it goes πŸ™‚

    Hannah: Really? I haven't actually read many reviews…I really liked it though, and Burton doesn't always sit right with me (ie, Edward Scissorhands gave me nightmares for years πŸ˜‰

    Eleanor: Nooo…the cherry & chickpea couscous from How To Eat πŸ™‚


  3. Melissa says:

    you can always add saffron to cous cous for a nicer colour -if you use the threads, you get lovely flecks of red too (of course it's still the most expensive spice in the world). Will have to try this anyway.


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