Small pleasures

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

I can actually feel the stress shredding my immune system.  My whole body aches, I grind my teeth so much it hurts, I just had a melt-down about MS Word being the piece of merde it is, and I still have four analyses on my to-do-list for this Sunday afternoon.  If I met academia in the street I would give that bitch the cut direct.

However.  It ought to be noted that it’s a lovely afternoon outside (though I am tethered to my desk).  We’ve also had a few simple but tasty meals recently that deserve recording.

Today for lunch, it was roast cherry tomatoes with thyme, eaten with a tin of decent sardines,  ciabatta toasts, and a mixed leaf salad.  Roast tomatoes and oily fish are a heavenly match.

Last month I made pesto in a mortar and pestle for the first time ever, using Marcella Hazan’s recipe. I was frankly amazed that it worked, and that I managed to pound a gigantic bunch of basil into a smallish amount of pesto, all inside the not-that-huge bowl of my stone mortar.  It was extremely satisfying and the texture was excellent, very silky.

And last week we were inspired by an asian chicken and purple cabbage salad at the Little Larder, and made our own version at home using tofu instead of chicken. A rough recipe is below.

Tofu with crispy cabbage and herb salad

Mix together a couple of tablespoons each of fish sauce and rice wine vinegar, the juice of a lime, and  a tablespoon of grated palm sugar.  Stir to dissolve the palm sugar, and taste.  Now the tricky part begins.  If it needs more salt, add more fish sauce. If sweetness, sugar.  If sharpness, vinegar or lime.  You might need to add quite a bit of one or more ingredients to get it right – the proportions will depend on the strength of your fish sauce, lime, etc.  Keep going until it tastes good.

Mix together some very finely sliced red cabbage, chopped spring onions, and finely chopped red onion, and dress with half the sauce.  Set it aside for 15 minutes or so, tossing occasionally, for everything to get very slightly wilted. Just before serving, toss through some finely sliced cucumber and red capsicum, mixed tasty small lettuce leaves, and lots of picked mint and coriander leaves.

Cut tofu into cubes and marinate in half the sauce, plus some fresh or dried chilli, for 20 minutes or so.  The fry the cubes, drained of the sauce, in a little peanut oil in a wok, stirring only occasionally.  Let the tofu get crispy and browned before turning.  Add drizzles of the sauce as necessary to prevent sticking. Serve the tofu on top of bowls of the salad and eat at once.

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