Persian saffron & lemon tofu

My Father is from Iran and growing up we would have regular family gatherings. Walking into my Grandmothers home you would be greeted with the exotic smell of saffron and turmeric with a hint of caramelized onions. The focus was always meat and rice. Vegetables were an after thought. I really miss eating many of those dishes and their fragrant marinades and spices. This is my version of the famous “JUJE” kebab which is usually made with chicken breast cubes instead of tofu. It can be made with vegetables too; aubergine, courgette and sweet potatoes work very well with these spices.

tofu:

  • 2 block of firm organic tofu

  • 1 ts Persian saffron, soaked in 2 ts boiling water

  • Juice of 2 lemons

  • 1 tbs rapeseed or olive oil

  • 1 ts turmeric powder

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

  • 2 white onions, sliced

  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk

  • 1 tbs sumac (optional)

  • 1/2 ts himalayan pink salt

  • Pinch of pepper

  • 1 pack of wooden bamboo bbq skewers (you will only need 4 for this recipe)

veg skewers:

  • 2 yellow peppers, deseeded and diced

  • 2 red onions, diced

  • 2 courgettes, cut in half and sliced

  • Olive oil for drizzling

  • Salt and pepper

tomatoes:

  • 4 medium vine tomatoes

  • olive oil for drizzling

  • 1 tbs of dried mint

  • 1/2 ts salt

  • pepper

rice:

  • 500g brown basmati rice

  • 1 handful coriander leaves

  • 1 handful parsley leaves

  • 1 handful chives

  • 1 handful dill fronds

  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced

  • 3 tbs rapeseeds or sunflower oil

  • 1 tbs vegan butter

  • sumac for garnishing

  • 1/2 ts salt

Ingredients (serves 4/6 as a side dish/starter)

Method

First, prep the tofu. To remove as much water as possible place each tofu block on a plate. Place another plate on top and cover with a heavy book. This will squeeze the water out so it has a more meaty texture. Leave for 10 minutes.

While waiting, make the marinade. Place all the other ingredients, except the sumac, in a blender and blend till smooth. If you don’t have a blender, you can simply mix the ingredients and finely chop the onions. Set aside till the tofu is ready.

Drain the tofu and pat dry with kitchen roll. Cut into chunky cubes. Transfer the tofu bones into a bowl or tupperware dish. Pour over the marinade and gently toss the tofu to coat well. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. For a stronger flavour you can marinate for 4 hours or even overnight.

Rinse the rice well and soak in filtered water for 30 minutes. Rinse all the herbs and spring onions and finely chop. When the rice has been soaked, rinse well and place in a pan with double the volume of water. Add a good pinch of salt and mix well. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and cover with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes. Then stir in the herbs and the vegan butter. Replace lid and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to stand, with the lid on for 5 minutes. The water should’ve absorbed, but if there is any residue, drain the rice well. Transfer to a serving dish. Check the seasoning. Add a bit more salt if needed. Sprinkle with sumac. Serve immediately. Any leftover rice can be kept for a day or 2 in a tupperware container in the fridge, or can be frozen once cooled for up to a month.
 

When you’re ready to cook the tofu skewers, preheat the grill to a medium heat. Evenly thread the tofu cubes onto the skewers. Reserve the excess marinade for later. Place the skewers on a baking tray. Sprinkle generously on all sides with sumac. Grill for 30 minutes, turning regularly so they brown evenly and turn a golden colour.

When you’re ready to cook the veg skewers, first thread pepper onto the skewers, then onion, then courgette and repeat till you have evenly threaded onto 4 skewers. Drizzle with olive oil. season well. Place in the grill for 15-20 minutes.

While the skewers are cooking, place the excess marinade in a saucepan and simmer, gently, stirring frequently till it’s thickened slightly. When the tofu is cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the stove. Serve with rice and grilled tomatoes with the marinade spooned over.

For the tomatoes, just cut a cross on the top of the tomatoes where the core is. Place in a heatproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the mint and season well. Using your hands, turn the tomatoes to coat evenly. Place under the grill, at the bottom of the over for 30 minutes, turning several times to cook evenly.