Tofu and Red Lentil Masala

Tofu works like a dream in curries – the fragrant, spicy sauces go perfectly with the soft creaminess of tofu, pressed and cubed and determined to absorb all the colourful flavours. If possible, make this curry a few hours before serving it, or make enough for leftovers the next day as everything continues to infuse in the fridge overnight. Cubes of tofu can play the part of paneer in Indian food so it also works really well in sag or spinach dishes, or with aubergine, cauliflower, chickpeas,.. I could go on.

Ingredients

400g packet firm tofu, well-pressed

1/2 cup plant-based ie coconut milk or tinned coconut milk

1 large onion

6 garlic cloves

2cm fresh ginger

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp black mustard seed

5cm cinnamon stick

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp coconut sugar or 1/4 tsp agave nectar

1/2 cup red lentils

400g can chopped tomatoes

1-2 tbsps tomato puree

2 /14 cups or 500ml vegetable stock

Lemon wedges and fresh, chopped coriander to serve

Method

Press the tofu and chop into smallish cubes, about 1cm square. Set aside in a shallow dish and cover with your preferred plant-based milk.

Grate the onion into a bowl and put to one side. Next, mince or finely chop the garlic and grate the ginger, mix together and put in a second bowl.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and add the cumin and mustard seeds, when they start to smoke, add the cinnamon stick and chilli flakes. Swirl them around in the pan until they start to release a fragrant aroma. When the spices are really hot and sizzling, add the grated onion and fry for 5-7 minutes, stirring all the while you might want to add a tbsp of water if it’s sticking. When the paste is golden brown add the garlic and ginger, continuing to stir, and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the spices, ground coriander, garam masala and sugar, add to the pan and continue to cook for a further minute to ensure the spices are thoroughly mixed into the sauce.

Now remove the cubes of tofu from the milk and add to the pan. Turn them gently in the sauce so they are well coated. Turn the heat down and leave it to simmer for 10 mins, returning to the pan from time to time to check they are not sticking, being careful not to break up the cubes of tofu. When everything is bubbling away and the tofu has started to absorb the fragrant masala sauce, add the lentils. Next, pour in the tomatoes and vegetable stock. Simmer for a further 15-20 mins without a lid to cook the lentils and thicken the sauce. If you’ve got time to do this in advance, the tofu will take on more and more flavours as it bubbles away on the stove.

Serve with chapatis, basmati rice and wedges of lemon – we normally squeeze the juice of ½ lemon in at the end for the tang – and add chopped, fresh coriander. Leftovers of this curry –  if there are any – are delicious reheated the following day as the sauce thickens and the flavours of the dish continue to infuse into the tofu.

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