Rikki Li is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English Writing and Psychology major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
This week, at a point in the semester where budgeting is on everyone's minds, Rikki show us how to make a delicious dinner for less than £5: Vegetarian Tiki Masala all around.
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While it’s true that the official first day of spring is always sometime during the last few weeks of March, it usually takes me until April to fully acknowledge winter’s departure. In London, it’s no different. Especially following the re-instigation of daylight savings, the shift in apportioned sunlight alone has done wonders on the city’s atmosphere.
Of course, for every day that there is more blue sky, spring has also brought more rain, and I suspect that this day-to-day weather fluctuation has lent a hand to the rise of sore throats and congested noses. Coupled with spring allergies, I find myself regularly craving more flavorful, colorful, and nutritious food in order to offset my body’s otherwise petulant complaints.
I will admit: I’m a bit of a food snob. I like complicated recipes and organic ingredients. I prefer to make things from scratch, and I spend way too much of my time thinking about meals and preparing those meals when I really should be using that time more wisely. Living in London this semester has certainly challenged my cooking habits in that I’ve been prompted to find faster food options that are still appetizing, exciting, and most of all, inexpensive.
Fortunately, my efforts have at least amounted to something. Today, I’d like to share with you my recipe for a colorful and filling vegetarian tikka masala. After all, what better food to eat in London than a spin off of Britain’s official national dish?
The main reason why this dish is vegetarian is because, as much as I like meat, (fresh) chicken is both fairly expensive and has a short shelf life. A package of two chicken breasts at Sainsbury’s is usually at least £2.50 and can only stay in the fridge for up to three days. Frozen chicken may be a smarter option in this case, but I’m also pretty forgetful and have had many a sorrowful moment where I thought I left meat out to defrost but actually didn’t. So, in lieu of chicken, this tikki masala instead has crisped tofu and potatoes, which make for an incredible dual texture when smothered in the tikki masala sauce. Both of these ingredients are also pretty cheap: you can get a package of tofu at Waitrose for £1.50, and a bag of potatoes from Sainsbury’s for £1.00.
The other ingredients in this recipe include, as pictured above: one garlic clove, frozen peas, half a red onion, one tomato, tikki masala sauce, and the optional naan bread and/or rice to go with your curry. The best part about these ingredients as well is that they can all be bought for under £1.00 (and will last you multiple meals!).
Now the tikki masala sauce, of course, is the determining factor for this recipe. As I said before, I typically like to make things from scratch, so I have a love-hate relationship with pre-made sauces. However, homemade tikki masala sauce requires a multitude of spices, cream/yogurt, tomato puree, and a handful of other ingredients that really rack up the cost. Thus, pre-made sauce is the way to go. The one that I used in this recipe was Waitrose’s generic brand, which only cost me 95 pence. In addition, the sauce is made with all natural ingredients and no artificial flavors or colors, which I count as a success.
The actual recipe itself is quite simple and takes about an hour. Here are the steps:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Drain your tofu and wrap it in paper towels. Place it on a plate and top it off with a heavy pan or skillet (if you have textbooks, you can put them to use here!) The goal is to dry out the tofu in order to give it a firmer, meatier texture. Let the tofu sit for 15 minutes, changing the paper towels once.
3. After the tofu is done drying, chop it up into cubes and toss with salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 25 to 35 minutes. As you can probably guess, the longer you roast your tofu, the crispier it will be.
4. Chop up your onion, garlic, and tomato, and cube your potato. Even though the tikki masala sauce already includes tomato puree, I like to add an extra tomato for both texture and the added vitamin C.
5. When the tofu has about only 15 minutes left to roast, boil some water and let your potatoes boil for about 3 to 4 minutes. This will soften the potato slightly, allowing it to absorb more of the sauce later on.
6. As your potatoes are boiling, heat a skillet with a bit of oil. Sauté the onion until translucent, then add the tomato and garlic. I personally like to add some sugar to the onion and tomato in order to cut the acidity.
7. Once the potatoes are done, drain and add them to your sautéed vegetables. At this point, your tofu should be done too. Add your crispy tofu cubes to the mixture as well and toss to combine.
8. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the tikki masala sauce until it coats your tofu and vegetables. Stir to coat, and let simmer for about 5 minutes, constantly stirring. Add frozen peas for both a pop of color and extra sweetness.
9. Serve immediately with naan or rice. This recipe should also leave leftovers!
If you end up trying this recipe, I hope you enjoy it! This tikki masala is both filling and flavorful, and I find there’s always a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with preparing a hot meal. An hour of cooking may seem like a lot, but you’re spending that time on yourself to both treat and take care of your body. Show yourself some love! You deserve it.
Rikki's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.