Since my dizziness started I've found the urge for comfort food has increased. It's probably a sign I'm feeling somewhat sorry for myself, but at the moment I'm drawn to pasta, soups, warm food, sweetness, a glass of wine, a little treat every now and then.
All of which is kind of interesting and not the end of the world, but untrammeled this impulse is a recipe for poorer health and even lower energy.
Part of taking charge of my health, is to find ways round my comfort food impulse. While some self-denial works, even at the best of times willpower is a finite resource. So rather than simply putting all the strain on my willpower, I've been looking for healthier ways to make the comfort foods I seek.
One of my favourite foods is noodle soups. There's something about the combination of full-bore flavour and the textural contrasts you get from crunchy vegetables, soft tofu and silky noodles, which really, really appeals.
Even before my dizziness noodle soups were a regular craving, easily satisfied by the occasional bowl of laksa or pho. However, at the moment, health, difficulties traveling and lower finances mean I've been making my own.
While definitely not a traditional version, my recipe quenches the craving for a noodle soup, while also fulfilling my wish for vegetables and a healthier meal-in-a-bowl.
In my current unmotivated and uninspired cooking mode I've been making this soup a lot. It's a very flexible recipe, suitable for being changed around to use a variety of proteins, other vegetables, different curry pastes and toppings. Plus you only need one saucepan, so there's minimal washing up and the whole meal takes me about 20 minutes of calm and focused cooking, which is exactly what I need.
Coconut & Tofu Noodle Soup with Lime & Coriander
There was a time when I would have made my own curry paste, regarding it as virtually sacrilegious to buy one from the supermarket. However, now my daily energy fund is low, I've overcome that particular conceit and am happy to use a pre-made paste.
The main joy of snowpeas is their sweet crunch, but they're a delicate vegetable and can quickly turn from perfect to limp and insipid, so be careful not to overcook the snowpeas.
As I mentioned, this is a very flexible recipe and I've included some suggested variations below. Serves 2.
90g rice noodles
200ml coconut cream
2 – 3 tablespoons Thai curry paste
1 bunch coriander
375g firm tofu
2 large handfuls (150g-ish) snowpeas
1 tablespoon shoyu
2 large handfuls beansprouts
1 – 2 limes
What to do:
Rehydrate the noodles: Roughly separate out the noodles and distribute them between two soup bowls. Cover the noodles with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes while you make the soup – this will both rehydrate the noodles and heat your serving bowls.
Make the soup base: Place a saucepan over a medium – high heat. Add the coconut cream, curry paste and 500ml of water. Bring to the boil, giving the soup the odd stir and then turn the heat down to low, so the soup gently simmers.
While the soup base is heating up: Wash and roughly chop the coriander and put this to one side. Cut the tofu into 1cm cubes. Trim the stalk end off the snowpeas. Once the tofu and snowpeas are prepped add them to the simmering soup.
Gently simmer the soup for 3 – 4 mins, until the snowpeas have softened but are still a bright green colour.
Test the flavours: Pour in the shoyu and then taste the soup. Add extra curry paste, shoyu, black pepper as needed.
Drain the noodles and then place them back in the serving bowls.
To serve: Pour the soup over the noodles in the two bowls. Serve immediately, topped with the chopped coriander, beansprouts and a good squeeze of lime juice.
Pulling apart noodles: rice noodles are quite brittle, so pulling them apart can be a bit cumbersome and messy – there are always a couple of shards which end up zinging around the kitchen. I tend to do this over the sink, to catch the strays and find it's best to just rip the noodle blocks apart without any hesitation.
Leftover coconut cream can be frozen – empty the tin into a plastic container or ziplock bag and freeze.
More lime? Using a pair of scissors snip up some kaffir lime leaves and add them to the soup base.
Prefer chicken instead of tofu? Replace the tofu with 400g chicken thigh fillets. Cut this into 2cm pieces and simmer in the soup base, for 3 – 4 minutes, before adding the snowpeas.
Fish: Replace the tofu with about 400g of white fish fillets. Cut these into 2cm pieces and simmer in the soup base, with the snowpeas for 3 – 4 minutes, until just cooked through.
Different vegetables: You can make this with many different vegetables, although I tend to stick with quick-cook vegetables like zucchini, bok choy, English spinach, mushrooms, watercress and so on.
Don't like coriander: Use fresh basil or mint instead.
- Suitable for vegetarians and vegans, although check the ingredients list of the curry paste you buy, as many contain shrimp.
- Gluten free as long as you use rice noodles. Check the curry paste you buy, to make sure it doesn't contain any sneaky gluten ingredients.
- Lactose free.