Dirt Candy

Last week when we went to the library, my wife picked up Dirt Candy, a cookbook from a fashionable New York vegetable restaurant. (Note that it’s a vegetable restaurant and not a vegetarian restaurant, as the author and chef takes pains to point out. The former celebrates the wonders and tastes of things you dig out of the ground, the latter are a bunch of crummy joints run by bearded nutjobs with terrible body odour. And that’s just the women. Amusingly enough, the publisher didn’t pay attention to this and the strapline on the front cover calls it an upstart New York City vegetarian restaurant. Details, details…)

It’s a nice book, heavily opinionated (although perhaps not as ridiculously committed to that as Baking Bad) and leavened with lots of black and white comic strip sections explaining the outlook and approach of the chef. Leafing through it, I happened upon a recipe for coconut poached tofu, which sounded fun, and prevailed upon my wife to make it. And there our troubles began.

It’s not just tofu and coconut. You need potato starch, and tofu skin, which isn’t just something you get by peeling off the top of your block of tofu, and neither of those sound insurmountable challenges, but what probably is difficult is that the preparation of tofu for poaching takes about three hours, while you’re at work and your wife is besieged on all sides (or at least fighting a war on both fronts) by her two daughters. I came home, merrily swinging a bag of cupcakes from one hand, to find her frazzled, holding a plate of what looked like six slices of semi-melted brie.

That was the poached tofu. But that wasn’t the end. She had to then put it into a frying pan on a high heat to crisp the skins, with a spray of droplets of oil this way and that away, and although the average cook is a toughskinned desperado who thinks nothing of oil burns, sliced fingers or bones crushed beneath cast iron saucepans, we were trying to orchestrate this meal at the same time as keeping our two little children from being injured. And given that Destroyer is crawling towards every danger she can find, and La Serpiente is desperate to run into the kitchen and get up in all the business, this was not a small challenge.

Finally, though, the tofu was crisped and plated, and I chowed down on the fruit of three-and-a-half hours labour. (Which, come to think of it, is longer than the labour that delivered Destroyer, but didn’t hospitalise my wife. Put that in perspective, if you will.)

Now unfortunately, I didn’t have the flash on my phone’s camera activated, so the only picture I have of the meal is this terribly blurry image, although that is quite amusing in and of itself. The rice wasn’t as yellow as this looks, and the tofu didn’t really look like a piece of chicken breast with a pat of butter melting into it. But if my wife looks at this picture, she’ll probably be provoked to beat me with a cooking implement. And she’d be justified in doing so.

The coconut poached tofu has a delicate coconutty taste to it, and the same texture as tofu always has – slightly rubbery, and easily swallowed. My wife was unimpressed and preferred it with mango chutney, which I found overpowered the coconut taste, and suggested that instead of spending three hours cooking, you just have some tofu with mango chutney and you wouldn’t notice the difference. Ah well.

Tonight, we didn’t have more coconut poached tofu. Cooking it filled the entire kitchen with dirty pans and exhausted my wife, so I don’t think the reward was worth the effort. Or perhaps we were trying too hard this time round. I suppose it’s also fortunate that she didn’t cook it tonight, as I was an hour and a half late home, and if you’d combined that with three hours of cookery, there would have been some words.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.