Young Leeks, Watercress & Asparagus with Tofu Gribiche
Some of my most magical memories are of camping in the Côte d’Or in France during le vendange (the grape-picking season). We were tipsy by 9 a.m. (purely medicinal for the back pain!) and by 10 a.m. had already munched our first whole baguette, the grape-pickers’ version of an express lunch, containing lashings of butter, marinated artichokes, local cheese and slabs of chocolate (this was in pre-vegan times of rampant indigestion). I returned to Britain like an overweight lump of salted beurre, with Beaujolais-tinted cheeks and a smile painted on my face. Many things have changed since then, but my love of old-fashioned romance, good French wine and gribiche are undiminished. I have tampered in a vegan fashion with the traditional recipe, but have always loved the tangy herbiness of this little condiment.
- 500g young leeks, trimmed and cleaned
- 400g young asparagus, trimmed
- 300g watercress, well washed and dried
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- For the tofu gribiche:
- 240g firm tofu, well drained
- 3 tsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh chervil or parsley
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp unrefined light brown sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
1. Make the gribiche, preferably beforehand. Put the tofu into a bowl and break it down, using a fork – it should resemble hard-boiled eggs. Now mix in the capers and herbs and season well. Mix together the oil, sugar, lemon juice and mustard in a small bowl and stir it into the tofu. Cover and pop into the fridge for at least 30 minutes (2 hours is ideal).
2. Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds full with water, add a little salt, and bring to a rolling boil. Dunk in your leeks and cook for a couple of minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Allow the water to come back to the boil, plunge in your asparagus and cook for a couple of minutes, then remove and set aside. Bring the water back to the boil again, blanch the watercress for 30 seconds and set aside also. (Keep this water: it is awesome stock.)
3. When cooled, dry the asparagus and leeks on kitchen paper (the leeks may need a gentle squeeze). Put a griddle pan on a high heat and brush with a little olive oil. When very hot, chargrill the leeks and asparagus for 1 minute each side. This will bring out even more of their flavours and also looks very cool indeed.
4. Once the vegetables are cool, place them on a shallow serving plate with the watercress. Spoon over the gribiche and top with a scattering of pine nuts. It’s a green feast!