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Pretty pumpkins all in a row

by | Oct 12, 2015

The other weekend I went to Glastonbury with some friends, to catch the very tail-end of the sun. Call me old but I think I prefer it out of festival time. We stayed at Paddington Farm Trust, a homestead set on a 43-acre organic farm at the bottom of Glastonbury tor. This is a wind-swept snapshot of our view of the path as we walked up the tor…
We held a massive lunch (36 of us) on the Sunday and I was charged with cooking two of the dishes. I thought the start of autumn was a good time for something lightly pickled, to kick out the cobwebs. I was lucky enough to have the boyfriend offer up some of his hand-raised vegetables from his allotment, so I ad-libbed this dish, which brings out their best. It got cleaned up within minutes. It’s got a tangy, lightly-pickled cabbage base with juicy salty sautéed tofu and crunchy runner beans, and a hint of ginger. You can substitute the beans with any greens you have handy – broccoli also works very well. You have to experiment with the amount of salt you use in your pickling, but the finished product should be refreshing and evenly combine four flavours – salty, sour, sweet, pungent (ginger) – with none of them smashing you around the face.


White cabbage, chopped fairly narrowly
A shallot, very finely sliced
White vinegar
Fresh ginger
Tofu, any type you fancy (I used plain)
Runner beans
Toasted sunflower seeds to garnish

The cabbage

Place cabbage and shallots in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt, tossing as you go so the salt reaches all the way through. Sprinkle with a very small amount of white vinegar, also all the way through. You have to experiment with how strong you like the flavours, but you do need enough salt to “cook” the cabbage.

Grab handfuls of the cabbage and give it a good squeeze, mix through, and grab another handful. Keep going until the cabbage goes slightly translucent, and starts to release a bit of juice. Set aside for about an hour.

The tofu

Cut your tofu into large bite-size squares and sautee in a little oil. Once it’s golden on both sides, sprinkle it with tamari, frying this quickly in at both sides to form a salty crust. Remove from the oil and leave to cool on a plate.

The greens

Slice your runner beans and steam them until super bright green and only just cooked. Remember any greens will continue to cook while cooling down and these will also “cook” a little once they’re mixed in with the salt from the cabbage too, so stay on the underdone side of done. Set aside to cool.

The combining

By the time you return to it, the cabbage will have released some brine. You don’t want a watery salad, so pour this away. Add your tofu and your greens. Grate some ginger on a wide grater and squeeze the juice out over everything. Now fold the lot together, mixing it up super gently so that you don’t break your tofu pieces. Polish it with a final squeeze of lemon and some toasted seeds.