Saag Tofu

In keeping with saying I am partial to Indian food, today’s post is one of my go-to healthy Indian recipes.

I find Saag – the generic Indian name for any leafy greens cooked with spices – particularly appealing as it’s a tasty way to get loads of veg inside you. I've been reading loads about how absurdly healthy spinach is (read about the benefits here) and this recipe is a great way to consume loads of it while still being exciting with the addition of fried mushrooms, potatoes, or as I've done here, tofu.

Though untraditional, I’ve used tofu here as, once baked, it brings a delicious golden crunch to the party. It’s kinda like finding small pieces of treasure in an earthy moss-ridden trove. Kinda.

Don’t get me wrong though, the saag isn’t the boring part! It is a wonderful blend of ginger, garlic, chilli and spices.

To those of you unfamiliar with tofu, I would like to clear something up. Tofu is not just a weird tasteless meat-substitute eaten by hippies. In fact, it is something of a delicacy in Japan, revered in the way fresh buffalo mozzarella is in Italy. What's more, it's super good for you. Tofu is a good source of protein, iron and calcium, with a low fat and calorie content.

Some advice on baking the tofu: wet tofu won’t brown. So make sure you don’t skip the draining between paper towels step. If you'd rather fry, or deep-fry, the tofu, by all means go ahead! This will give the tofu a deliciously crisp outside that contrasts with its soft centre. I've gone for baked tofu here just because it is easier and healthier. Oh yeah, dusting the tofu in turmeric beforehand will give it a gloriously golden-yellow hue.

To serve, I find a dollop of coconut yoghurt is a nice last-minute addition. Your friends who aren’t very spice-hardy will certainly appreciate it as the fat from the coconut yoghurt combats capsaicin – the burn-inducing chemical culprit.

Saag Tofu Recipe

Saag Tofu

Yield:
Serves 4
Hands-on time:
30 minutes
Hands-off time:
25 minutes

Ingredients:

350g/12oz extra-firm tofu
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp olive / groundnut oil
2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1"/2.5cm piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 large tomato, chopped
500g/18oz baby leaf spinach-
-(or use 5 pucks of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed to remove the excess water)
1 tsp garam masala

Process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Cut the tofu into 1 inch/3cm blocks. Place onto several layers of kitchen paper and cover with a few more layers of paper. Place something heavy (I use a saucepan) on top and leave to drain for 15 minutes.
  2. Mix the tofu with the turmeric and salt, then toss in the oil.
  3. Line a baking tray and bake the tofu for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, mixing it around halfway.
  4. While the tofu is baking, heat the coconut oil over a med-high heat. After a few minutes (it should be very hot by now), add the mustard and cumin seeds. The mustard seeds should pop after 30 seconds or so.
  5. Now turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat down a little again. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric and chili powder, and cook for for 10 minutes.
  7. Add the tomato and cook for a few minutes more. The onions should be very broken down by now.
  8. Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time. Stir the mixture round to incorporate the spinach. After each handful cover the pan and wait until it wilts. Then add the next handful. If you're using frozen spinach, you can add it all at once.
  9. Mix in the tsp of garam masala. Now, using a hand blender, blitz half of the saag in the pan its cooking in until smooth. If you don't have a hand blender, leave this step out.
  10. Add all the tofu and mix it in. Season with salt to taste. Cook for a few minutes more. Serve into warm bowls accompanied by basmati rice and naan bread.