Many decades ago I spent an entire summer in Ibiza, long before it became popular with the crazy party people. A charming and historic fishing port, it was sleepy and quaint back then and the island had some fabulous under-populated beaches. There were huge fig trees, their branches draped over sun-warmed stone walls, drooping under the weight of dusty purple fruit. So easy to pluck as you dawdled by.
The food was excellent and I’ve never forgotten a sort of stew/casserole that was so deeply smoky and bursting with robust Mediterranean flavors that the minute I returned to the UK, I had to make it. I recreated it from memory so this is my interpretation and its been a favorite ‘go-to’ recipe for years.
Long ago I substituted the chunks of wonderful smoked Spanish bacon with cubes of smoked tofu and the result was so good that I haven’t made it any other way since.
Note – smoked tofu is widely available in the UK but not over here. You can easily recreate the wonderful smoke flavor by marinating firm tofu in all-natural hickory liquid smoke for about an hour or so.
CHICKPEAS and SMOKED TOFU with SWEET PEPPERS, TOMATOES and ROSEMARY
1lb (450g) of extra firm tofu, cut into 1 inch /2.5cm chunks
1.5 tablespoons of all natural hickory liquid smoke
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red (yellow or orange) and 1 large green pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch /2.5cm chunks
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary plus extra to serve
one bay leaf
2 x 14.5oz (411g) cans of chopped Italian tomatoes and their juice
2 x 15oz (425g) cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons of tomato paste/puree, dissolved in 1 pint (450ml) of hot water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Start by marinating the tofu in liquid smoke for 1 – 8 hrs. A ziplok plastic bag will do and if you’re marinating for more than an hour, put it in the fridge.
In a heavy wide saute pan with a lid, gently heat the oil and sweat the onion, garlic and celery over a low heat until softened then add the peppers and rosemary. Continue to stir for a few minutes then add the tomatoes, chickpeas, bay leaf and tofu. Stir gently to mix then pour in the hot tomato stock.
Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 to one and a half hours, until the vegetables are soft.
Serve in warmed bowls, perhaps with some hot crusty bread on the side.
This tastes even better the next day and keeps in the fridge covered for several days. It also freezes brilliantly.