On my most recent trip to London last December – I made it a personal mission to frequent as many vegan restaurants as possible, given that vegan and vegetarian eateries are hardly the norm here in Bahrain. A type of “when in Rome” methodology if you will.
That said, when a good friend of mine suggested Nopi for breakfast one morning – I didn’t object. I figured I was a fan of Ottolenghi after all, and that someone with not one but two vegetarian cookbooks would have at least one vegan option on his menu.
As it turns out I was right – there was a singular vegan option of Black Rice Pudding with coconut milk, mangoes and bananas. Delighted, I ordered it whilst everyone else went for the famed Shakshouka – a pan-Middle Eastern dish of broken eggs cooked atop a bed of spicy tomatoes and red peppers.
When the food arrived, my meal was…chewy. Needless to say it wasn’t much to write home about, although I must commend the restaurant for having an option that I didn’t need to say “without the [insert dairy,meat,egg] here”. I’m also cognizant of the fact that not every meal has to be a gourmet dining experience, and that sometimes a mealtimes are hardly about the food at all, but more about the joy and fulfillment of meeting with old friends in a beloved city.
Anyways, I digress. Back to the Shakshouka. Shakshouka is one of those dishes that I actually have no recollection of trying in my younger years – my mother never made it at home and I was never a fan of ordering eggs at restaurants. But yesterday, I remembered Nopi and a stroke of inspiration struck as I sought to make something savoury and flavourful for breakfast.
This may be my most triumphant breakfast recipe yet.
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp siracha or hot sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 package of firm Silken Tofu
- 1 tbsp of corn starch
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup organic unsweetened soy or almond milk (you could also use water)
- 1 tbsp of tahini
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley or spring onions to garnish
- Pre-heat your oven/broiler to 180 C/ 350 F.
- Start by sauteeing the onions and garlic together for a few minutes in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika, cumin powder and a pinch of salt and black pepper and stir before adding in the tomatoes and bell peppers. Cook for a few more minutes until the tomatoes start to soften, then add the tomato paste, siracha (if using) and a little bit of water if things start to dry up. Turn the heat to low and allow the tomato mixture to simmer.
- Next comes the “egg” mixture. In a blender or food processor, combine the tofu, corn starch, turmeric, nutritional yeast, soy milk, tahini, and salt to taste. The resulting mixture will be thick and creamy. Set aside.
- Grease two small oven-proof baking dishes and divide the tomato mixture between them. Pour over about a heaping 1/4 cup of the tofu mixture on top, and bake or broil for around 10 minutes until the tomatoes are bubbling and the tofu starts to brown slightly. (NOTE: You will have extra tofu mixture left over, if you like you can increase the amount of tomato mixture and double the recipe)
- Garnish with herbs, and serve – preferably straight from the oven dish!
The great thing about the tofu mixture is that once it’s baked, it forms a thicker outer layer, but is still soft and creamy on the inside.
The contrast of flavours, textures and even colours is delightful. It’s perfectly spiced, with just the right amount of kick that is deemed appropriate for breakfast dishes, according to my gracious taste tester.
I should note also that it took two tries to get this recipe right – but it was definitely well worth the effort. My stomach is rumbling just thinking about it!
Until next time, dear readers!