Israeli Couscous, Hijiki, Red Onion, Tomato and Parsley Salad

with Spicy Fried Tofu and Minted Aubergine Salad

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Israeli couscous is actually a type of ‘pasta’ made from wheat. The key to making it delicious is toasting it before cooking in the same way that you cook risotto, by the absorption method. If you’re making this for a large number of people, you may prefer to toast the couscous in the oven.

Hijiki is just one of the fabulous family of edible seaweed – it is jet-black and comes in dried form from Japanese and health food shops. If you can’t locate any, try arame – another more readily available seaweed.

Tofu – the ingredient that most chefs (macrobiotics aside) despise – is a really delicious ingredient. It lends itself to other flavours and provides an interesting texture to many dishes. Fresh tofu is called silken tofu, but you can also find firm and soft tofu vacuum-packed at most health food stores – and the difference is that one is firmer than the other. For frying purposes, use the firm type. Here the tofu is flavoured with a Japanese spice mixture that you’ll also be able to source from Japanese food stores.

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (250 ml) cup of Israeli couscous (see above)
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons dried hijiki (see above)
  • 500 ml hot water
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 best-quality ripe tomatoes
  • large handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 250 g firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 large aubergine, stem removed and cut into 2cm dice
  • 4 limes
  • 12 large mint leaves
  • 200 g fine green beans, blanched and refreshed in iced water
  • handful of sprouts for garnish

Method

Heat a saucepan and add 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the couscous and fry over a moderate heat for 4–5 minutes to colour to a dark golden, stirring frequently to prevent the grains from burning. Once they’ve coloured, tip them into a bowl.

Place the remaining olive oil in the pan and, when it’s hot, add the onion. Cook over a moderate heat to caramelize, stirring frequently. Then add the garlic and hijiki, and cook for a further minute, stirring.

Return the couscous to the pan, pour in the hot water and ½ teaspoon of salt, and bring to the boil. Boil for exactly 6 minutes, cover, take off the heat and leave to cool.

Cut the tomatoes into wedges and mix into the couscous with the parsley and spring onions, then taste and season.

Slice the tofu into cubes 1.5 cm thick and lay them on a double thickness of kitchen paper to absorb excess water (and there will be a fair bit). Lay more paper on top and gently press down with your hands. Leave for 10 minutes, replacing the paper if you need to. Mix the flour with the paprika and ground fennel and gently toss the drained tofu in it, then shake between your fingers to remove excess flour. Fill a deep-fryer or pan with at least 5 cm of oil and heat to 180°C. Fry the tofu in small batches until it turns golden, then drain on kitchen paper.

Cook the aubergine in several batches in the same oil and, when it’s golden, remove and drain.

Grate 1 teaspoon of zest from one of the limes, then juice it and 1 other lime, and cut the other 2 in half to give you 4 wedges.

Once the tofu and aubergine have cooled to body temperature, toss with the mint leaves and lime zest and juice, and season lightly with salt.

To Serve

Divide the couscous salad between 4 plates or bowls and scatter the beans on top, then divide the tofu salad on top and finish with the sprouts and a lime wedge on the side.