September is late summer in England. Daylight begins to silently seeps away sooner than the day before. Each golden evening, and alfresco dining is now accompanied by jumpers and blankets to ward off the autumn chill. But, just before summer ends, it gifts us with an abundance of sun kissed fruit and vegetables. In particular, tomatoes and peppers which come into their own during September. Having been ripened to their purest, relishing red by rays of sunshine all summer they are ready to enjoy.
Nothing beats perfectly matured cherry tomatoes. Popping the juicy orb into your mouth and breaking through the tender outer skin you are hit with a burst of super sweet, fresh juice. Similarly, a perfectly seasoned red pepper should have hints of sweetness with each bite. The more suns’ rays which puncture these plants the more the sugars in these fruits can develop.
To thank the sunshine and put its harvest to good use I created this summery stew. With milder days stews are fitting for this time of year. Although a stew, this is light and infused with Mediterranean flavours from the addition of chilli, oregano, fennel, caraway & cinnamon. You might think its an odd assortment of herbs and spices but together they create a really unique, summery dish.
Topping off this stew and really making it extra special is the addition of extra firm, SMOKED tofu. I’d really recommend getting your hands on smoked tofu as it adds depth and a beautiful woody, muskiness which contrasts perfectly with the fresh herb, sweet sauce.
Most supermarkets now stock a range of tofu so it should be easy to find. I always use ‘Tofoo Co.‘ smoked tofu. Their tofu’s flavour is perfectly balanced and being extra firm actually has bite. It doesn’t need draining and pressing, you simply chop up and chuck the tofu straight into your dish. What’s more its organic and free of non GM ingredients which is often common when purchasing tofu. If you don’t like the idea of smoked, plain tofu will work just as well as it will marinade in the stew’s flavour. Or, get creative and try other flavoured tofu like, basil or pepper varieties. The key is to buy extra firm tofu, not silken which will break down to a mush in the stew. We want the tofu to provide bite against the silky, saucy stew and creamy beans.
(This recipe serves 3-4 depending on age and appetite)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- hp. tsp oregano (fresh or dried)
- 1/2 tsp each of caraway seeds, fennel seeds & cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
- tin cherry tomatoes (or 200g tinned tomatoes and 200g fresh cherry/ baby plum tomatoes)
- 150-200ml water
- 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained
- 250g frozen spinach (500g if using fresh)
- 225g block Tofoo smoked tofu
to serve cook 40-55g (per person) cous cous in vegetable stock according to packet instructions.
1. On a low heat, sweat the onion and pepper in the olive oil for 10 minutes. Keep a lid on the pan and shake occasionally to stop the veg catching. Next add the garlic and spices and leave to fry for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally to stop the spices sticking and burning.
2. Tip in the tomatoes and 150ml of water, stir briefly. Leave the sauce to simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the sauce should no longer be watery but thick instead. It shouldn’t be sticking however, if this is the case add a splash of water. Now, stir through the beans, frozen spinach, tofu, a generous pinch of salt and remaining 50ml of water if the sauce is too pulpy. Bear in mind the spinach will leach a little water as it cooks. Put the lid back on the pan and leave to cook for another 5 minutes until the spinach has defrosted/ wilted.
3. Check the seasoning, when happy pile this luscious medley on top of a bed of fluffy couscous. I like to serve this with greens or mixed leaves. If you’re lucky to have leftovers, it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days the flavours intensifying and becoming even more divine as it waits for you. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
*If you liked ‘Tofoo Co.’ smoked tofu check out more recipes using the product here.