Plenty of joy

Pasta with aubergines, tofu, and mango
I love Yotam Ottolenghi. I absolutely love everything about his philosophy on food – from his regular column with The Guardian (The New Vegetarian), his deliciously inspiring restaurants, to his breathtakingly beautiful cookbooks. I was fortunate enough to work round the corner from the flagship restaurant in Notting Hill. Although the occasional treats at inflated Notting Hill prices would leave numerous dents in my wallet, this did not stop me from my daily food-window-shopping-mouth-drooling ritual. Every morning while on my way to the office, I would peek into the store to salivate over the gorgeous display of cakes and pastries, while trying to constantly remind myself that it would be absolutely sinful to start the morning with brownies, even if they were London’s very finest. Stepping into any of Ottolenghi’s restaurants, whether it is to enjoy a meal or ogle, transports you into a world of food where where fusions of flavours know no boundaries.

The thing I love most about his style of cooking is that it is so very distinctive. There are certain unique flavour combinations that automatically scream Ottolenghi. Some of my favourite Ottolenghi signature combinations are featured in his book Plenty. This is without a doubt one of my all time classic books – flipping through the pages of recipes and mesmerising photography, you completely forget that Plenty only features vegetarian dishes. The book is pure storytelling at its best as readers are taken on a journey chapter by chapter celebrating the different varieties within the vegetable kingdom. One of the most enjoyable sections is where the humble aubergine is transformed into the king of all vegetables, with creations such as Lentils with Grilled Aubergine, Aubergine Tricolore, and Aubergine Croquettes. The best part about the recipes in Plenty is that they are not designed to be vegetarian alternatives to popular meat based dishes. Here, vegetarian dishes are heroed and revered in their own right, without any lengthy discussions on the absence of meat. 

The dish below is one of the star standouts from Plenty. Originally the recipe calls for soba, but I figured it was a safe swap using wholewheat spaghetti since I am deathly allergic to buckwheat. The substitution still works to allow the meaty aubergines to infuse the sweetness of the mangoes and tart dressing. This vibrant dish helped brighten up a long and dreary Thursday after a very long, tiring week. I am looking forward to more joyful discoveries as I make my way through the palate changing journey that is Plenty

Pasta with aubergines, tofu, and mangoes

Basic Ingredients
Wholewheat pasta (or soba noodles), ripe yellow mango, aubergine, basil leaves, coriander, red onion. For the dressing: 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 3 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 garlic cloves, red chill finely chopped, 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil, grated zest and nice of 1 lime, 1 cup sunflower oil. 

The Preparation
1. In a saucepan, warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt for up to 1 minute until the sugar dissolves. 
2. Remove from heat and add garlic, lime zest and its juice.
3. Heat up sunflower oil and shallow fry aubergines. Once golden brown, remove to a colander and sprinkle with salt and leave to drain.
4.  Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.
5. Cut tofu into small rectangles and pan fry (I did not use oil).
6. In a mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing, diced mangoes, aubergine, basil leaves, coriander, and thinly sliced red onions.
7.  Set aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well. 

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