Meera Sodha’s celeriac, tofu and kale gado gado
Every home cook can get stuck in a rut, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who occasionally stares vacantly at the vegetable rack, wondering how to transform a few lone rangers into dinner. You have to be on the front foot to keep putting plants at the centre of your plate.
It’s not enough to have just one way with broccoli or the same old roast potatoes. You need a Swiss army knife of tools at your disposal: a bit of knowledge of what goes with what, a variety of cooking techniques and, most importantly, an open mind.
Some vegetables, in particular, can become a vegan’s best friend, in that they’re always guaranteed to help you out. For me, celeriac takes the prize as autumn’s most flexible root. Granted, this bulbous, warty little fellow won’t win awards for looks, and you might need to give its mudfilled crevices a bit of attention, but it’s worth it. The celeriac boasts more flexibility than its other root peers in that it can be mashed, barbecued or grilled, and also eaten raw. It’s also a great vegetable from which to hang a meal around, because it’s bold enough to have a celery-meets-nut flavour and also gentle enough to rub along with other flavours.
In today’s dish, a warm Indonesian salad, I’ve roasted it with potato and kale, and topped it with smoked tofu. By roasting the celeriac in slices, it becomes charred and crispy, as well as sweet and tender, and that balances perfectly the punchy flavours of a classic gado gado dressing dressing, with its peanuts, chillies and tamarind. Incidentally, gado gado means “mix mix”, which are not bad words to live by in the kitchen so as not to get stuck in a rut.
Celeriac, tofu and crispy kale gado gado
The key to a good gado gado is the dressing: it should be hot, creamy, sweet and sour all at once, so adjust it until it tastes just right to you before liberally smothering the vegetables. You’ll need a blender. Serves four. 1 small celeriac (about 600g), peeledpeeled, halved and cut into 0.5cm slices
600g charlotte potatoes, quartered Salt
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
200g kale, ribs discarded, leaves roughly torn into pieces
200g pack smoked tofu (I like the Taifun brand), cut into 0.5cm-thick slices For the dressing 150g chunky peanut butter
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp tamarind paste
2 red bird’s-eye chillies, chopped 1 tbsp soy sauce
½ garlic clove, peeled and crushed Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put the celeriac, potato, a teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray, toss with your hands to coat everything in oil, then spread out into one flat layer. Roast for 25 minutes, until the celeriac and potatoes have burnished edges.
Meanwhile, prepare the kale.
In a large bowl, massage a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of oil into the kale for a few minutes, until the leaves start to soften, then set aside while you make the sauce.
Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender with 150ml water and pulse until smooth. (You may need a little more water, depending on the thickness of your peanut butter.)
Spread the kale in a single layer on top of the celeriac and potatoes, then return the tray to the oven for eight to 10 minutes, turning the leaves halfway through so they cook evenly (and to ensure they don’t burn). The kale is ready when it has started to dry out and is crunchy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to one side.
Finally, in a non-stick frying pan over a medium flame, heat the last tablespoon of oil and, when hot, add the tofu and fry for a minute on each side, until golden brown.
To assemble the salad, layer the roast celeriac and potato with the tofu slices and crunchy kale on a platter, then drizzle over the gado gado dressing and serve.