Tofu Tempura, Sour Cucumber Purée, Seaweed Ash

Eddie Shepherd

Eddie Shepherd

5th November 2013

Tofu Tempura, Sour Cucumber Purée, Seaweed Ash

This dish introduces flavours of the sea often absent in vegetarian cooking via a mixture of traditional and modern techniques. It’s based around tofu marinated in a simple dashi (umami rich Japanese stock), which is then cooked as tempura. The tempura batter contains methylcellulose and vodka to give a super crispy finish, and the whole batter is also carbonated in a cream whipper to make it incredibly light.The cucumber purée is soured with ascorbic and citric acid, giving it a really clean sharpness. This purée works really well to bring the whole dish together and is inspired by the way cucumber and citrus are often used in fish dishes, so here I'm pairing it with flavours of the sea in a similar way. The purée is actually a fluid gel, made by setting cucumber juice into a gel then blending it to give an almost impossibly smooth purée texture.The dish is finished with seaweed ash which I make by burning dried dulse seaweed, then powdering the resulting ash. This ash keeps a light saltiness and flavour of the sea but surprisingly doesn't have any burnt notes or bitterness. It works amazingly as a seasoning and final flavour layer of flavour to finish this dish with.

Ingredients

  • Sour Cucumber Fluid Gel
  • 600g Cucumber juice (from cucumbers freshly juiced)
  • 120g Caster sugar
  • 8g Citric acid
  • 8g Ascorbic acid
  • 7g Agar agar
  • Marinated Tofu
  • 240g Plain firm tofu
  • 1 Stick / 12g Kombu
  • 50g Dried shiitake
  • 500ml Boiling water
  • 1 Teaspoon dried thyme
  • 80g Tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • Tempura Batter
  • 100ml Methylcellulose slurry (1.5g Methylcellulose F50 Hydrated in 100ml Water)
  • 210ml Water
  • 85ml Vodka
  • 125g Plain flour
  • 2 Teaspoons chinese 5 spice
  • Pinch dried chili
  • A good pinch of salt

Method

Sour Cucumber Fluid Gel
Firstly set 300g of the fresh cucumber juice to one side.
Now in a pan mix together the other 300ml of cucumber juice with the caster sugar, citric and ascorbic acid, and the agar.
Bring this mixture to a simmer whilst whisking then hold at a simmer for a couple of minutes before removing the pan from the heat.
Off the heat slowly pour the cold 300g of cucumber juice into the hot mixture.
Then pour all the liquid into a container to set. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours until set into a gel.
Blend the set gel to a puree consistency using a stick blender.
Then place in a squeeze bottle and reserve in the fridge.
Marinated Tofu
First prepare the marinade by placing the kombu, dried shiitake and dried thyme in a bowl.
Then pour over 500ml of boiling water.
Now add the tamari and rice wine vinegar and leave the mixture to soak for one hour.
Next strain the marinade liquid and set to one side.
Cut the plain tofu into 2.5cm cubes and then soak the tofu in the marinade in the fridge over night.
Tempura Batter
Mix all the liquids together and stir well.
Combine the flour with the spice and salt in a bowl.
Now whisk the liquid into the flour. Whisk until smooth.
Strain the batter to remove any lumps.
Pour into a cream whipper and charge with two CO2 chargers.
Chill in the fridge, ideally for around two hours.
Now to cook the tofu, heat deep frying oil to 190°C.
Place pieces of the marinated tofu first into flour to coat. Then shake off excess flour.
Spray some batter out of the whipper into a bowl.
Dip the tofu into the batter then drop in the fryer, cook 2-3 mins until crispy.
Drain off excess oil on paper towel.
Seaweed Ash
To prepare the seaweed ash first place dried dulse seaweed into a metal bowl.
Then with a blow-torch burn the dulse until it no longer flames but just glows red.
Allow the burnt dulse to cool, then carefully place the ash in a spice grinder and blend it to a powder.
Store in an airtight container.
To Serve
To serve dot cucumber purée around the plate. Then place a few of the tofu tempura pieces centered on the plate.
Finally sprinkle the seaweed ash over dish. This is the finishing flavour, seasoning and garnish for the dish.

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