Recipe: vegan Japanese tofu stew

This is such a great recipe for this time of year: warming, comforting and yet incredibly healthy. It’s basically a vegan Japanese take on a classic English beef stew, with gravy, melting potatoes and flavourful chunks of carrot and onion. Crispy tofu takes the place of beef, which acts like a sponge soaking up all the lovely liquor. I first got the recipe when I did my Japanese cooking course a couple of years ago, but I’ve adapted it a fair bit since then to suit my taste and store cupboard. Do try it, the flavours you get from so few simple ingredients is really surprising.

1 pack deep-fried or regular firm tofu
2 large potatoes
2 carrots
1 white onion
Handful green veg – French beans, sprouting broccoli, spring greens or pak choi would all work
20ml/1tbsp cooking sake
30ml mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
60ml dark soy sauce1 tsp brown sugar
Sprinkle of nanami togarashi / shichimi (Japanese hot spice mix) – optional

Peel the potato, carrot and onion and chop into large chunks. Heat some vegetable oil in a wok or casserole and fry the veg for 5-10 minutes on a med-high heat. You want good colouring all over.

Mix the seasonings (sake, sugar, mirin and soy) in a small bowl and add to the pan, then add water to just cover the veg and bring to a simmer. Cover and leave to bubble gently away.

If you’re using non-deep fried tofu you need to pre-fry it. Slice into 1cm pieces and blot well with kitchen paper. Dust with corn flour and shallow fry in oil on a medium heat until golden and crisp on both sides.

After the veg has been cooking about ten minutes, add the tofu to the top of the pan.After another ten minutes,add the green veg. Give another five minutes to just cook the green veg – the potatoes should be soft and cooked through now and the sauce reduced a little.

Sprinkle in the nanami togarashi if using, or season with black pepper (it shouldn” need salt)

Leave for 5-10 mins off the heat to get all the flavours fully mingled, and serve on its own or with sticky rice.

Serves 2 with leftovers to spare (it tastes great the next day), or 4 with rice.