Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beyond The Sea

On a constant quest for high levels of nutritiousness in my food (if only so I can justify stuffing my face with treats), I'll try anything once. I notice that lately I have been sharing my more unhealthy exploits, like choccie ice-cream pie (you may as well just tape it to your ass and be done with it), maple syrup-laced banana mush for porridge (a sort of fake tan for teeth, in that if you eat enough of it they'll turn a highly unnatural shade of brown), a greens-free zone of refined carbohydrates and animal protein (no, the two sticks of celery do not count, particularly since they turn orange on contact with the chorizo), and additive-laden mince-based comfort food (mama nature does not create foodstuffs in that shade of red). I feel as though I'm leading you all down a path of blocked arteries and bloated body parts, so I reckon an act of responsible blogging is in order - and who better to make virtue taste attractive and enticing than the veggie bods at Cornucopia. Flicking through the salads section of the Cornucopia cookbook, I was looking for something I hadn't tried before, and when I saw the word seaweed I pounced. Well, it was 'sea vegetable', but I was translating the words into buzzy super-healthy lingo in my head - so, 'Japanese-style rice' turned into 'tasty without fattyness', and 'marinated tofu' jumped out at me as 'lean yet substantial'. So, basically a flavoursome, filling and highly nutritious work of wonder, then. 

It's a wonder that we don't eat more seaweed in this country - we are literally surrounded by the stuff. Personally I would say that its greatest downfall is that Gillian McKeith is something of an ambassador for the substance, and, I don't know about you, but I form an automatic dislike towards anything that she advocates. It's not just the obnoxious bullying that she goes on with, but she also manages to make healthy eating seem quite off-puttingly torturous, which it really doesn't need to be. Anyhow - according to the Cornucopia cookbook, sea vegetables are rich in vitamins A, B, C and E as well as calcium, potassium, chloride and sodium, protein and fibre. PHEW. Now - it does have to be said - it neither sounds nor looks massively attractive. But it can be quite, quite delicious, and since it is so very wholesome, it would be wonderful if we could make an effort to eat more of it. Honestly - can we please turn around the unhealthy perceptions, stereotypes and habits in this country? We live on an island, with fish and seaweed all around us - and our exported offering to China is TAYTO?! I despair.

Here it is in all its dried crunchy green glory.

Now, I must be honest here - in spite of all my self-righteous huffing and puffing about how we should all be chowing down on sea greens, when you boil it up it really does make your kitchen smell like a dirty old dock. And chopping it up is a major workout for your upper arms. This is 50g worth, and I cooked it for 12 minutes in boiling water. 

But lets rewind a little: before the stinking-out-of-the-kitchen begins, my controversial-but-cleansing old pal tofu has a lil bathe for itself in a marinade of 2 cloves of garlic, some grated ginger and 100ml soy sauce for about an hour. A big saucepan full of about 400g brown rice also needs to get itself on to the hob to cook.

You also need to get two finely sliced carrots on the pan for a couple of minutes, just to soften them a little, and, when they're done, pop three tablespoons of sesame seeds on there to toast em up. 

Start pulling together all of your ingredients, giving the cooked bits a chance to cool down a little. Pop a handful of beansprouts in there, along with a bunch of chopped spring onions. You'll have your carrots and sesame seeds in there at this point too, along with the chopped (or should I say hacked-through) seaweed. 

When you set out to make this salad, you may, as I often do, factor in a bit of housework or some sort of task to do during that hour that the tofu takes to marinate. Hah, well - don't go thinking that'll you have the bathroom scrubbed and the whole house hoovered, cause this is one high-maintenance salad. Just when you have all the other bits taken care of, it's time to pop the tofu on the pan - give it about ten minutes. While that's on the go, there's just enough time to make the dressing - 50ml soy sauce, 30ml sunflower oil, 30ml mirin, 1 clove garlic and 1 piece of ginger. As with the marinade for the tofu, it says to get the blender out to whizz this all together. I was too much of a lazy lump (a recurring theme) to go doing that, and I found that grating the ginger and garlic and giving it all a good wallop with a fork did the trick. Your rice will need to be nicely cooled, so give it a decent dousing of cold water to chill it right down. And then just fold it all in together, trying not to batter it too much - gently scooping it side to side with two forks will combine it adequately. 

I will reiterate my point that this is bit of a princessy, labour-intensive salad - but you'll forget all of that as soon as the first forkful passes your lips. It exudes an Asian-style serenity that will satisfy the heartiest of appetites, and even potentially convert the most fervent tofu-hater. But if you are perturbed at the thoughts of heading in the direction of McKeith-esque food fascism, you would DEFINITELY be justified in achieved zen-like yin-yang balance-style action by having a creme egg afterwards. 

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