Creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu

Creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu in a red Le Creuset braiser.Teaching cooking classes online for the past year or so has taught me SO much. It’s taught me

  1. To be (even more) organised (EVERYTHING needs to be at hand, noone on the other end of your screen wants to wait while you scramble to find the right equipment/ ingredients)
  2. To think a lot more about timing (everyone works at different paces)
  3. To think on my toes about substitutions if students couldn’t find something (quite common at the start of Covid, less so now although sometimes what you can/ can’t find is still unpredictable). Sometimes students will contact me in advance to ask about substitutions but often I am just finding out about it at the start of class (and sometimes at the end of the class when something might not quite work out as intended due to a change of ingredients!)

Close up of Creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu in a Le Creuset braiser.On the issue of substitutions, something I’ve noticed over the course of the year is that quite often my school cooking club students might like (or need) to leave something out (mushrooms is a common ingredient here LOL!) but don’t think they need to replace a left-out ingredient with anything. Sometimes this doesn’t matter but often, this will mean that a recipe really won’t work out. Think about a stew – imagine leaving out 1/4 of the “bulk” of the ingredients – it will mean that there will be way too much sauce and your stew might be more like soup.So, simply leaving out an ingredients isn’t always a good idea.

Slowly over the course of the year, I’ve seen students become more savvy, asking better questions and making substitution suggestions of their own. Part of cooking is learning to read a recipe but also how to interpret that recipe based on what you have in YOUR pantry/ fridge/ freezer (especially this past year). It’s knowing what you can/ can’t substitute, what will/ won’t work.

Case in point, a member of my cooking club contacted me a couple of weeks ago about a creamy French chicken stew we were making. They are vegetarian and wondered whether tofu might work instead of chicken. I figured it would, although the flavours were most definitely French (the chicken was in a creamy thyme and mushroom sauce).

It turns out that it was an absolutely delicious substitute and I started thinking about ways I could change this up with more Asian-influenced flavours and ingredients. The result was this easy vegetarian curry made with mostly fridge and pantry staples (the exception being tofu). This comes together pretty quickly – the thing that takes the longest is probably crisping the tofu but if you have two skillets, you can definitely do the tofu at the same time as you’re prepping the main part of the recipe.

Bonus? It’s excellent as leftovers!

Yield: 4-6

Creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu

Creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu in a red Le Creuset braiser.

Easy creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

for the tofu:

  • 350g firm tofu, drained and patted dry with paper towels, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pinch salt

for the curry:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large carrot (approx 200g), small dice
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper (approx. 200g), small dice
  • 227g (1/2 lb) white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 bok choy (approx 200g), cleaned and finely sliced (dark and light parts)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I used medium strength)
  • 1 x 400mL can coconut milk
  • approx. 120ml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock

to garnish

  • 45g (1/3 cup) raw cashews, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, finely sliced
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

to serve

  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt

Instructions

Cook the tofu

  1. In a large skillet (large enough to hold all the tofu cubes), heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the tofu cubes and a pinch of salt to the skillet and cook until lightly golden on all sides. This will take longer than you think so be patient and turn the cubes with a spatula from time to time to ensure they are golden on all sides.
  3. Once they are golden and crispy, remove them from the pan and set them on a plate until you are ready to add them to the curry.

Make the curry (you can do this at the same time as you are cooking the tofu)

  1. In a large (+/- 30cm) shallow braising pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and cook until the garlic is just starting to get soft, approx. 2 minutes.
  3. Add the red pepper flakes, carrot and pepper and cook until the carrot is just starting to soften (you might need a glug more oil if your pan is starting to look dry), stirring frequently.
  4. Add the mushrooms and bok choy and cook until the mushrooms are just starting to release their juices (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently.
  5. Add the cornstarch and curry powder and cook, stirring constantly until the dry ingredients are absorbed (this will not take long at all and the pan might look a bit lumpy, don't worry!)
  6. Add the coconut milk (make sure to shake the can really well in case the cream has separated) and stir to combine.
  7. Add the tofu back into the pan and stir well. You might need up to 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock to get the amount of sauce you prefer.
  8. Serve with steamed rice, topped with the chopped cashews, green onions and cilantro.
  9. Season to taste with freshly-ground black pepper and salt.

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Toasted raw cashews and thinly-sliced green onions add a little crunch and colour to the final dish.

Creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu in a Le Creuset braiser.What about you – have you ever made an ingredient substitution that has led to a completely new dish?

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4 thoughts on “Creamy coconut curry with vegetables and tofu”

  1. The more adept and brilliant you become = MasterChef = the more I realise why cuisine/cooking was beyond me. Fantastic effort.

    Reply
  2. Made this tonight…just a couple of mods, like shrimp instead of tofu and kale instead of Bok Choy.
    Delicious!!! (and enough leftover for another meal!)
    Highly recommended:)

    Reply

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