Feeling grumpy, I marched myself off to the shops on Saturday, a bottle of pure maple syrup and a box of silken tofu on my mind. In the quiet back streets, sun on my back, mood gradually improving, I scattered a group - not quite a murder- of crows feasting on something foul in a cool, dark garden hedge. Moments when wildness meets urbanity are visual feasts in and of themselves, always cheering, and my love of shiny blue-black birds knows no bounds.
Took it as a good sign.
Two weeks of not-quite-right in our camp saw some subtle dietary shifts, the sameold sameold solutions I draw upon to cure whatever ails. There are times when chicken soup fixes all (hot ginger tea, too) but increasingly, it's the elimination of dairy that feels best. Dessert, though, that I find hard. Especially when I want things kept ultra simple.
The above photo - by UK photographer Sara Taylor, a woman I cannot find on the web - comes from Simon Hope's long out of print New Food for a Vegetarian Family. Taylor's photographs have a quiet beauty about them, calm compositions with a seductive use of soft focus and bright colour. I took a photo myself but it did not do Hope's clever dessert any justice (not at all), so instead, you get the photo that made me bookmark this recipe long, long ago. These are good. Wish I'd made them sooner.
Simon Hope's tofu and blueberry brûlée
Hope calls it a brûlée, and it is, I think, pretty close to the mark. Remarkably easy to pull together. He suggests you can try other soft/poached fruit and I'm thinking that rhubarb would be grand. Basically, play around. Make it your own. Adapted, but only slightly, for 2.
125g (4oz) frozen blueberries
125-150g (4- 5 oz) silken tofu (half a block)
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g (1 oz) pine nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
60g (2 oz) demerara sugar
Thaw the blueberries on a piece of kitchen paper.
Using a fork whisk tofu, maple syrup and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth. Add the thawed blueberries and whisk - lazily - for 1 minute. Divide mixture between 2 small dishes, sprinkle with the nuts and chill for 1 hour.
Remove dishes from fridge and place them right near your stove top. You're making caramel - the brûléed bit - so pay it the attention hot burning sugar requires. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the sugar with just the tiniest splash of water until it is dissolved and turns a caramel colour. Don't stir, but swirl the pan around and be very careful, please. When ready, pour a thin layer on top of each and return to the fridge for another hour or so of chilling.