When it comes to costing out a meal, it's usually the protein that's the most expensive component on my plate. To reduce the cost, a more economical protein alternate or a less expensive cut of meat/fish can be used, or a more expensive cut stretched further.
Nigel Slater's recipe for Noodles with Salty-Sweet Grilled Chicken from his book Appetite does the latter, calling for a skinless, boneless chicken breast to serve 2 people. For this week's theme of budget-friendly meals at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I took a different route and substituted tofu, an even more economical choice.
Now I'm not a huge fan of tofu but I've discovered that it's quite good when it's first marinated, then fried, but that's a cooking method I really don't like to use. So I was thrilled to discover this David Lebovitz post for baked tofu that promised the same crispy exterior and soft interior of fried, without the oil and mess.
I've used the technique several times now with different marinades and it's worked each time. This time, I used Nigel's salty-sweet marinade made of soy sauce, rice vinegar and a little sugar (& Sriracha) that was intended for the chicken.
While the tofu baked, the rest of this dish consisting of broth, noodles and greens came together quickly. Nigel has you set up different pots in which to cook the noodles and greens but I like economy to extend to other areas in the kitchen ie reducing the number of dirty pots that need washing ;), so the same pot of boiling water was used first to blanch the yu choy and then to cook the soba noodles. These were then distributed amongst the bowls.
I added the hot stock made with a good vegetable
broth flavoured with soy sauce, fresh Thai chillies, spring onions and a squeeze of lemon.
The crisp tofu nuggets were the final touch. Most of these were served on the side and added to the bowl of noodles as we ate (slurped) our way to the bottom.
Visit IHCC to see the other budget-friendly meals from featured chef Nigel Slater.