Well hello to you all and a happy new year! I hope you had a fantastic Christmas full of fun, laughter and of course, damn good food. My Christmas was everything I hoped it would be and my rich roasted tofu was a perfect accompaniment to the festive meal – a dish definitely to be repeated.
So it occurs to me that perhaps I should explain exactly what I mean by the headline of this blog. No, I haven’t after all these years, started smoking sixty Marlboro Red every day thereby indecently assaulting my bank account and kissing my lungs goodbye. Nor have I taken to a pipe or joined a Gentleman’s club where a large Port, fat Cohiba and smoking jacket are the order of the day. Aside from the gut wretchingly foul taste and the cocktail of unpronounceable chemicals i would be invading my bloodstream with, my asthma would force me to live in an oxygen tent; something at my age I’m just not prepared to do thank you very much. What I actually mean is, smoking my own food. Again, I’m not rolling up carrot ribbons and julienning sweet potatoes for some weird vegetable/cigarette hybrid project, but actually putting ordinary food in a smokehouse and turning it into smoky, woody heaven.
On the way up to spend Christmas with my Mother and Father-in-law, I spent Christmas Eve night at my Sister-in-laws farm with her, my other sister-in-law and my lovely wife. Now my sister-in-law has a wonderful farm in Yorkshire and one of the brilliant things she has is her own smokehouse. She suggested I bring up some blocks of firm tofu for us to smoke to see how it turns out.
I had never smoked my own tofu before and was intrigued to find out how it was done. As you can see from the picture, it’s a clever little contraption; even though it may look a little like a barbeque with a piece of piping sticking out of it, attached to a giant wardrobe, Iooks can be deceiving – this barbeque/pipe/wardrobe thingy is a bloody marvel.
Now I don’t know about where you guys live but commercially smoked tofu is readily available in shops and stores in Brighton and it is very good indeed. We decided to smoke our tofu with a mixture of Apple wood (straight from the Apple trees in the orchard) and Maple wood chips and nothing and I truly mean NOTHING, compares to the sheer awesomeness of your very own home smoked tofu. The level and depth of flavour is incredible; you can actually taste the smoke, the burnt wood and burning cinders right through it all, each hitting you with different levels of flavour as you taste it. I can’t wait to go up there again with a giant box full of vegetables and strings of garlic and smoke them all. Hmmmm… smoked asparagus and shallots anyone? (Please restrain me when I get out the bananas and peas as by then I would have totally lost the plot.)
The only downside is it’s my food version of cigarettes; I want it all the time and can’t rest till I get my fill. Sadly, I used my last block of tofu on the recipe I made for this blog; (Smoked Balsamic Tofu, Mushroom & Tarragon Risotto) and looks like I’ll have to go cold turkey seeing my supplier lives in Yorkshire and my habit just can’t support a 500 mile round trip to get its fix every other day. Well, it was nice while it lasted……
I don’t suppose nicorette do a smoked tofu patch by any chance?
Don’t be scared, it’s just food!
Smoked Balsamic Tofu, Mushroom & Tarragon Risotto
This is a delicious risotto recipe with a light tarragon flavour complemented with the deep smoky yet sweet tofu sitting on top of it. Feel free to add a little more tarragon for a stronger taste if you wish or even swap it for basil if you prefer. If you don’t have smoked tofu, you can use plain, adding a big pinch of smoked paprika:
Preparation: 20 minutes Cooking: 30 minutes
(For the tofu:)
1 block Smoked tofu (finely cubed)
Big splash Balsamic vinegar
Big splash Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & pepper to taste
(For the risotto:)
1 White onion (finely diced)
2 sticks Celery (finely sliced)
3 cloves Garlic (finely sliced)
2 handfuls Closed cup mushrooms (sliced)
3 to 4 cups Arborio or Carnaroli Risotto rice (depending on your appetite)
1 heaped tsp Dried tarragon (or fresh if you have it)
1 cup Frozen peas
2 ½ pints Hot vegetable stock
Big splash Vermouth (or white wine)
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste
Turn the oven to 250 oC
For the tofu: Place the tofu on a baking/roasting tray, add the ingredients and mix well. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, tossing regularly until the tofu is crispy and brown. (Feel free to add more balsamic vinegar throughout the cooking process to intensify the flavour.)
For the risotto: In a saucepan, gently sautee off the onions in the olive oil till soft. Add the celery, stir and cook for a further minute. Mix well and add the garlic, cooking for a further minute stirring regularly so the garlic does not brown and burn.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to soften. Add the rice and stir well, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid. Add the vermouth and stir till the liquid has been absorbed.
Next, add the vegetable stock a half pint at a time and stir well, ensuring the risotto does not stick to the bottom. Add the tarragon and bayleaf. Keep on stirring the risotto, adding the stock when the mixture starts to dry up. (Note: you may not need all of the stock so if the rice is cooked and you still have left over stock, do not add it.)
Cook the risotto for 12 – 15 minutes under a gentle heat until the rice is al dente (it still has a little bite to it.) Be sure to taste the rice regularly checking the seasoning and cooking stage of the rice and 5 minutes before the rice is cooked, add the peas.
Serve the risotto with the tofu stacked on top with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lemon juice drizzled over.
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