I put these fritters on the first Café Paradiso dinner menu in an attempt to do something with tofu other than chopping and frying it. There were a few other tofu experiments before we opened, the worst of which was optimistically marinating it in something other than soya sauce to change the context to something European. We tried a red wine-based marinade, then threw the lot away. Anyway the fritters became a favourite with the staff and the customers, and I came to see it as the foundation rock of the menu. The dish has survived umpteen seasonal menu changes and I don’t think it will ever go away now. When coating the fritters, you might find the classic egg-milk combination more efficient than the water in these instructions. We only do it this way to leave the dish fully vegan. For the vegetable stew, you can use any vegetables you’ve got to hand. I tend to stick to a simple combination of roots and greens; say turnips, carrots, cabbage and green beans - four is enough, any more can become too confusing. Avoid sweet vegetables like peppers, they’re not good with the already sweet coconut sauce.
SLICE THE TOFU into twenty-four equal pieces about
Lightly toast the cashews, then grind them with the spices in a food processor. With the motor still running, gradually pour in the water to get a thick puree. Be careful, you may not need all the water.
Take the tofu from the marinade. Don’t throw away the marinade - either slip another block of tofu into it or use it as a seasoning like soya sauce in stir fries, rice dishes and the like. Spread a layer of cashew puree between two slices of tofu and repeat with the rest of the tofu to get twelve small sandwiches. Put the flour in a shallow tray or dish and toss the sandwiches in it, making sure they are well coated. Put the coarse maize in another tray and half fill a small bowl with water. Taking one or two of the sandwiches at a time, quickly dunk them in the water and then toss them in the maize to completely coat them.
When you are ready to serve, heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the sandwiches over a fairly high heat for a few minutes on each side. You’ll need to do them in two batches, but they will keep well in a warm oven.
SLICE THE ONION INTO THIN QUARTER rounds and cook in a little oil in a large pan for five minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander and cook until the onion has softened. Now add the tomatoes and stew them until they begin to break down. Coarsely chop the coconut block and add it in with the lime, salt and water. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring to help melt in the coconut, then turn down the heat and simmer the sauce for ten minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the carrots and turnips into large-bite chunks and boil or steam them together until they are just tender. Chop the cabbage leaves into similar-sized pieces and cook them with the green beans until just done also, then mix all the vegetables together.
Add the vegetables to the coconut sauce and continue to simmer for a further ten minutes. I like the stew to be quite dry and rich, so after ten minutes simmering I increase the temperature to boil off most, but not all, of the water. Stir in lots of chopped fresh coriander at the end.
© 1999 All rights reserved. Published by Cork University Press.