This is a special dinner centrepiece, the kind you might find in a swanky restaurant and that little bit of extra effort required to make these different layers will, we promise, be well worth it. You reap what you sow. The base of this dish is a crunch of fried polenta, then comes a creamy layer of sweet potato mash, a vibrant green layer of freshly-wilted spinach and on top, la piéce de la resistance, is basil and tomato infused tofu baked in panko breadcrumbs.
It is a great meal to treat yourself and/or the one you love on Valentine’s Day. Light candles, pour yourselves a glass of something nice and indulge yourself because they, and you, are worth it.
400g block of tofu, well-pressed
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
50g panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp salt
Generous grind of pepper
200g baby spinach
4 sweet potatoes
This recipe is very adaptable, the combination of layers worked well for flavour and texture but you could substitute with layer of spinach with garlic fried mushrooms and the sweet potato mash with butternut squash.
First of all, make the marinade. If you can do this at least a few hours before you start preparing the meal, the flavours will have a chance to fully absorb into the tofu. Blend the basil, olive oil, tomato puree, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper together into a smooth sauce. You might want to add a few drops of water to thin it.
Slice the pressed tofu into squares, or heart shapes, approximately 1 cm thick and 7 cm wide. We cut ours into heart shapes for Valentine’s day, but do whatever takes your fancy (and you have biscuit cutters for). Put the tofu shapes in a Tupperware or dish and coat with the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for a couple of hours or even overnight.
When you are ready to prepare the meal, preheat the oven to 225 deg C. Put the panko breadcrumbs into a flat bottomed dish, remove the tofu from the marinade and coat both sides in the breadcrumbs. Place on a baking tray and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, turning half-way through.
For the sweet potato layer, boil or steam the sweet potatoes until soft and then mash with a knob of butter and a splash of plant-based milk. Take your biscuit cutter and fill it with the mash so it is the same size and shape as the other layers.
For the polenta layer either make it yourself using corn meal as we did or you can buy it ready made. Cut it into circles – or your chosen shape – the same size as the tofu and shallow fry in sunflower or vegetable oil until light brown and crispy.
Blanch the spinach by placing it in a colander over the sink and pouring freshly boiled water over it. Squeeze out the excess water with your hands or by pressing down with the back of a spoon. Do the same with the spinach as with the sweet potato mash by fashioning it into the circle or biscuit cutter shape.
Now it is time to assemble the dish. Start with the polenta, place the polenta square in the centre of your plate, next carefully place the sweet potato mash square on top, add the spinach layer to the stack finally add the tofu. You don’t want to throw the delicious marinade away, so any you have left, drizzle over and around the stack (we did a big heart-shape) and serve with love.