When Josh first started getting into cooking, his speciality became known in our house as ‘friendly stir fry’: stir-fried tofu, veg and noodles, tossed with a simple sauce made up of whatever he fancied on the day – usually some kind of soy sauce/sweet chilli mix. At some point, I started playing with a peanut Szechuan sauce, and the two fell in together. We dubbed this ‘fiendish stir fry’, and it’s one of my favourite things we cook together. It just so happens to be one of my favourite things to eat, too: crispy tofu, silky peanut butter, fragrant Szechuan – it’s an explosion of flavours, and quick enough for a midweek meal, too.
Just a note that the tofu does ideally need to be pressed for at least 30 minutes before using, to squeeze out the water and help it crisp up and absorb the other flavours. We usually set it up in the morning so it’s ready when we come home from work – I asked for (and received) a tofu press for Christmas, which has made everything much easier – if you cook with tofu a lot I highly recommend getting one!
Ingredients (serves 4):
– 396g pack firm tofu
– 100g cashew nuts
– 2 mixed-colour peppers, sliced
– 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into batons
– 200g (4 nests) dried wholewheat noodles
– 100g mangetout, trimmed
– 20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
– 1 lime, cut into wedges to serve
– sriracha, to serve
For the peanut Szechuan sauce:
– 3 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
– 5cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
– 2 spring onions, trimmed
– 3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
– 4 tbsp soy sauce
– 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
– 2 tbsp agave syrup (or honey if non-vegan)
– 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
– 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
1. Begin by draining the tofu and gently squeezing to remove excess water. Wrap in kitchen paper, transfer to a plate and press by placing a heavy pan on top, or set up in a tofu press. Leave for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours (keep in the fridge if you’re leaving it for more than 30 minutes).
2. Put all the ingredients for the peanut Szechuan sauce into a food processor with 4 tbsp water. Blitz well, scraping down the sides occasionally, to make a smooth sauce. Set aside.
3. Put the cashew nuts in a drying frying pan over a medium-high heat and toast for 4-5 minutes, tossing regularly, until golden. Tip into a bowl and set aside.
4. Heat 2 tbsp rapeseed oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Cut the tofu into cubes, add to the pan and fry for 6-8 minutes, turning regularly, until golden. Add the peppers and carrot and cook for another 5 mins, until softened and beginning to char slightly.
5. Meanwhile, cook the noodles to pack instructions, then transfer to a colander and toss with a drizzle of rapeseed oil to stop them sticking. Add the noodles to the wok along with the mangetout and peanut sauce; reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry for 2 minutes until the mangetout is a bright green and everything is coated in the sauce.