24 August 2009

it's all grand and it's all green

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Overheard in our kitchen...

Tim: Imagine if all this time, tofu was actually made out of meat.
Me: All those vegans. All those people being good to the environment by eating tofu.
Tim: And it takes...four kilos of pork to make one block of tofu.
Me: What if there's an actual tofu beast out there? Literally an animal made of tofu?

two days later

Me: So if there's a tofu animal, what do you think it would look like? I'm thinking an oblong block of tofu with four little legs.
Tim: What kind of noise would it make?
Me: It would go "soy, soy, soy"
Tim: Maybe it calls out "tofu!" and that's how it got its name.

Lengthy discussion over whether this is plausible ensues, because there aren't even that many animals named for their animal call.

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So the best place to buy tofu as far as I can ascertain is the vege market on a Sunday. I branched out this week and went for soft tofu instead of firm; the name doesn't lie. It near on falls to pieces if you look at it sideways. I guess it's kind of the minced beef to firm tofu's rump steak.


I ended up with a whole lot of root vegetables that needed eating on Sunday night. Usually my fallback option in this situation is some kind of pseudo-Moroccan would-be tagine-esque thing, which is seriously what I thought I was cooking last night until I realised it had actually shifted direction altogether into a curry. It's a fine line - all that cumin, tumeric, coriander... suddenly I found myself wondering whether I should add more tomatoes and feta cheese or biff in a can of coconut milk. Coconut milk won out and I suddenly had this rather gorgeous vegan curry on my hands.



I defrosted some unshelled soybeans (I go through bags of them these days) and popped the beans within into the stew for a little colour contrast...to stop it being overwhelmingly like a braised curtain from the 70s (or, in fact, the curtains I remember us having at home while I was growing up - I have distinct memories of some yellow and brown floral motif...Mum?) The soybeans were awesomely elphaba-green against the earthy vegetables, their colour softened by the coconut milk.

While licking the lid of the coconut milk tin, to catch the sneaky extraneous cream that gathers there, it occurred to me that chocolate ice cream made with coconut milk could potentially be mindblowingly nice. Especially with chunks of milk chocolate and toasted coconut shreds, like a posh version of the Choc Bar ice creams of my youth (and occasional nights in town - for some reason I always crave ice cream if I'm out and about of an evening, you can keep your kebabs and pies thank you). If you haven't had a Choc Bar it's basically the above but in a $2.50 icecream-on-a-stick form and laced with palm oil (yeah, I went there. And while I was there, through rigorous testing, discovered that Whittaker's white chocolate is comparitively amazing.)



The recipe for this suddenly-curry is chilled out, the only thing I measured out with any strict attention to detail was the rice. Nevertheless I'll tell you exactly what I did in case the idea takes your fancy. It made a fantastic relaxed Sunday dinner. Warming and hearty, the creaminess of the coconut milk soaking into the ridiculous amount of vegetables (seven veges - eight if you count the tofu, which you might as well.) You basically can't get it wrong which is also nice.

Root Vegetable Curry with Tofu and Soybeans

1 Onion
3 garlic cloves
1 swede (is Swede a root vegetable?)* diced
1 carrot, diced
1 parsnip, chopped
1 kumara, diced thickly
1/2 a cauliflower, chopped into small florets
Good handful soybeans

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons tumeric
1 teaspoon ginger
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped (optional if it's not your thing)
Zest and juice of a lime
1-2 teaspoons of honey

1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
As much tofu as you like

Chop onion and garlic finely and gently saute in a wide pan. Once it has softened a little, add the spices, chilli, honey and lime juice. This will caramelise the onions slightly, you want to keep stirring it so the spices don't char.

Add the vegetables at this point and stir thoroughly to coat them in the spicy onion mixture which by now will be quite dry. Tip in the tin of tomatoes, half fill the tin with water and swish it into the pan. Stir, cover and allow to simmer till the veges are tender (the swedes are the slowest to kick into action I've found).

Stir in the podded soybeans, tofu, and as much coconut milk as you like. Allow to simmer for ten minutes or so. Serve over rice (or ree-cheh if you will)

Serves 4



This was delicious. The vegetables (and inevitably, my entire face) all stained yellow by tumeric, the coriander seeds providing bursts of subtle citrus to complement the lime, the strident warmth of the spices cutting through the creamy coconut...the emerald-bright soybeans doing no wrong as per usual...
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Further hopelessness overheard in our kitchen...
Me: Do fish bleed?
Tim: .......................Yes.
Me: Yeah, but when you cut into them...there's no arteries...they're not like, say, sheep, which are basically built like humans in that they've got leg bones and muscles and...
Tim: They're just like sheep. They bleed.
Me: Yeah, but you cut open a fish and there's the skeleton, but it's just...surrounded by fish fillets.
Tim: I was thinking more like fish fingers.
Me: Yeah. Tightly woven fish fingers.

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Tim and I went to see Wizard of Oz at Embassy cinema yesterday afternoon. It was wonderful seeing it on a big screen, partying like it was 1939. The technicolour made me gasp and the Wicked Witch was still as terrifying as I remember from my youth. But, this is the first time I've watched this film since reading the jaw-dropping Wicked and making a connection with the musical of the same name. And it was impossible to remove that context, to view it without that lens. Why does no one show sympathy when the Wicked Witch's sister has died? Why did the Wizard get away with lying like that? How is Glinda so 'good' when, let's face it, she appears to be on valium? She can hardly connect with Dorothy's feelings of fear - although let's also face the fact that the film wouldn't have been so satisfying if, 23 minutes in, Dorothy was safely assisted back to Kansas.)

I actually cried during Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Judy Garland - so tragic! And it's a beautiful song). And again when the Witch dies - it's an emotionally fraught moment! I couldn't help but imagine Glinda somewhere behind a curtain or pillar watching it happen a la the musical. Or the Witch being frantic by lack of sleep and an inability to communicate effectively a la the book. And I might have cried again when Dorothy said goodbye to the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion. (Who, in retrospect, are deeply camp, yes? Also: Fiyeeeeeeeroooooo!) I really never cry in films or books or things like that so I'm always a bit interested to note when I do. And...I really want to see Wicked now. I know, it's so done by all the cool people already but as I've said many times, it's not as easy when you're in New Zealand.
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On Shuffle whilst I type:

Die, Vampire, Die by Susan Blackwell and the rest of the cast of [title of show] from the cast recording of [title of show]. Had a slight epiphany Monday morning while unable to sleep (I woke up at 5:00am! And remained awake! It's not fair!) that I could so do the role of Susan Blackwell. It's like it was made for me (except it was made for the real Susan Blackwell. Confused? Maybe you should be. But if you've made it to this segment of the blog unsullied by confusion then you're doing pretty well, all things considered. Also, Wikipedia it, my children.)

Rez, by Underworld, from INCredible Sound of Jo Whiley. It's this compilation from the nineties that I found. I don't know why the first letters of Incredible need to be emphasised. I would have preferred it if it was iNCRedibLE just to mess with people trying to pronounce it. I wish I'd had this compilation back in the actual 90s because it would have made life a lot easier. Instead I lay awake at night with my ear pressed to the radio and its hopelessly crackly signal, waiting for Flagpole Sitta - back in the days before the internet when I didn't even know what the song was called, but the lyrics "the agony and the irony they're killing me" seemed so meaningful to a 13 year old - or something by Radiohead to come on. Anyway Rez by Underworld is incredible - like what I imagine the fairies from Shirley Barber's beautiful picture books would dance to if they went to a rave on a lily pad. See? Also, who knew Jo Whiley had a biography? Not I.

Galang by MIA from Arular. Have been a fan of hers since I saw the video for Bucky Done Gun in a hotel room in Germany in the summer of 2005. Didn't realise music was capable of sounding like that.

Is it bad that I have this urge to make some kind of dish (probably ice cream, my default flavour-carrier) heavily featuring galangal so that I can use galangalangalang as my blog post title?
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The title for this post is bought to you by: One Short Day from the musical Wicked, where Glinda and Elphaba travel to the emerald city for the first, fateful time...pausing only for a kicky song-and-dance number.
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Next time: Considering this post bears little resemblance to what I promised would be happening I'm not sure if it matters what I write here. Truth be told I'm a bit terrible at snappily rounding things off so this is like an 'out' for me. Like on Whose Line Is It Anyway when Colin Mochrie would pretend to faint so that he didn't have to come up with a verse in an impromptu hoedown. Does anyone remember the vastly superior British version of that show? Whatever happened to it?

17 comments:

  1. Your dish looks gorgeous and delish, but your description of a braised 70s curtain cracked me up. Our house was built in the 70s by elderly Serbians. When we moved in, before we had time to Do Things to it, it boasted not only a harvest gold stove and dishwasher, but large floral -- in some cases flocked-- wallpaper on every available surface. Shades of gold, green, brown and even celery and silver adorned walls and floors. A friend's comment? "Add some brass lamps and you could open an Indian restaurant."

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  2. Hey Laura, I am so making that curry!! How long did it take for the veggies to cook? Crock-pot an option for this busy lad?
    Haven't seen you two in a while, hope all is going swimmingly, everything's cricket and life is peachy.
    Do you like the band Gossip? (with Beth Ditto). I am obsessed.
    See you! x

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  3. This curry sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing:)

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  4. Tofu monster hilarious. And you would love Wicked!

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  5. I like my tofu crispy, so the soft stuff doesn't nail it. ALthough as a topping for a winterfruit pie, the soft tofu is really good.

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  6. Ahemmmm.... The curtains were definitely 1980s - when you were a baby. And... they were light gold and light mint and light salmony pink. You might be confused with the uber-70s orange, gold and brown large flowery swirled couches in the same room. Either way, I'm sure they were evocative of something delicious you have recently cooked.
    I am still looking for peanut slab ice cream and am now wondering if I really did buy it in Wellington or just imagined it.

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  7. I often make tagine-esque type meals too! I love the sound of your tagine turned curry!

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  8. Oh, you MUST see Wicked as soon as possible. Twice in Melbourne just wasn't enough. i hope it comes here and tours since it's now pretty much on the road in Aussie.

    I'm thinking of getting a blogger account... to post my photos. So watch this space. :P

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  9. Laura, the thought of that silken tofu collapsing in a mouthful of delicous curry is too much to bear . . . I will have to get my vegetarian brother round for a feast.
    And please pass on a message to Kay (your Mum presumably?): The amazing Whittakers Peanut Slab icecream is born of Dunedin:
    When I lived there, you could pop into the Gourmet Ice Cream Co factory and buy a little punnet for $1
    Check their site: http://www.gourmeticecream.co.nz/4.htm
    And on the topic of icecream, Laura, you HAVE to try the Kapiti Black Doris Plum & Crème Fraiche. I tried it for the first time yesterday - it's indescribably good.
    PS: Make sure you've entered the Kohu Road competition on MenuMania - you never know your luck!

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  10. We have a pet rabbit named Tofu. He's very handsome, but no, you cannot eat him. He's pretty much a block of tofu with 2 little front legs, 2 big back legs and a paper hat.

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=332684&id=1048979201

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  11. HA the discussions in your home are classic. I would think that tofu would probably go soy soy soy too. It's a simple, affirmative response it would make. It can be happy or sad too, based on inflection.

    I'm glad you went for the curry dish too, complete with soaked up coconut milk. You totally have to go for that ice cream idea. That's gold buddy.

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    ReplyDelete
  13. That post was SOOO long I'm struggling to remember what I was going to comment on! I'll do my best, however. 1. LOVE your convo's with Tim. Is it nerdy of me to say they are LOL or that they make me ROFL? I just don't know how to express myself non-digitally anymore. Anyway, they did. They reminded me of the salad days when Ben and I were wondering about such non-sense, vs. the more kid-based non-sense we talk about now...

    Also, TOTALLY feel you on what direction the dish is taking! I do that a lot with Thai food to, though mine is confused between Thai and Chinese or Thai and Mexican. I know it sounds weird, but Thai and Mex share a TON of similar bases with the lime, coriander, capsicum...

    Anyway, whatever this curry is it sounded great!

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  14. Robin: LOL that wallpaper sounds intense.

    Scotty: Yeah maybe? The whole thing didn't take too long - maybe half an hour? I LOVE Gossip. Been all over that for years now, child. Beth Ditto is a very cool lady.

    Karine: Thanks, no worries!

    Gourmet Chick: I would indeed!

    Foodycat: I think I prefer my tofu crispy too. But the soft stuff was yummy - nice to have variety.

    Mum: You're right, I was TOTALLY thinking of our old couches...

    Sam: Cheers :D

    Livi: For some reason I can't imagine it coming to NZ. But I would be so happy. I'd probably live in Auckland for a month while it was there ;) Might have to check out if there are any deals for the Sydney one.

    Karen: Glad you liked it! I might have to try that Kapiti ice cream, sounds amazing...

    Genie: Genius name for a rabbit :D

    Hot Garlic: LOL I do ramble on a wee bit...a lot...but yeah it can be very easy to change direction mid-cooking process.

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  15. Your kitchen conversations are so funny! Tofu beast or not, this curry looks delish.

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  16. Just stumbled on your blog... seriously awesome! I'm in the UK and always like to cook classics like these. You're really good at this, keep at it, you might just find a career along the way!

    Now following you on Twitter (@yBCmels)

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  17. HAHAHA!
    I'm reading through your vegetarian recipes and I came across this. I love the little thing about the tofu animal! I think the sound should be "Soy, soy, soy."

    also... I googled it.... the fish circulatory system
    http://www.biology-resources.com/drawing-fish-circulatory-system.html
    Fish do bleed. Thats why Sharks can smell blood from a mile away.

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