If you visit a place called The Tofu Shop you kind of know what you are going to eat.
I used to eat there when I worked near Bridge Road, in that old red brick building that used to be a shirt factory and became an office block in the late eighties, when Australia was busy exporting manufacturing. The old red brick building had a neon sign on its roof that read 'PELACO' and I worked directly beneath the 'E'.
I used to go to The Tofu Shop ('The' was part of its name, hence the capital T, although it looks wrong) because I liked the way they layered their dishes. You didn't just get a slab of soy curd, slippery and shaking like a jellyfish, on a plate. Instead, they used to layer textures and tastes in a way that kept you interested, like reading a thriller. Frameworks of steamed vegetables, grains of various kinds and legumes were built over with salads, the starring home-made tofu, or a combination of ingredients; and then topped with yogurt, or garlic or chilli sauces. Or both. Or neither. Or all three. Higher and higher. Then a vortex of pickled ginger, or maybe some tabbouleh. As a garnish? Why not? Or a wafer of crisped pita. You had to eat for about ten minutes before you got to see the view if you sat in a window seat overlooking Bridge Road.
And I wasn't even vegetarian.
Since then, I have tried to do the same kind of layering at home. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The highs are high and the lows go in the bin, but only because we don't have dogs any more. This one was a high:
Warm salad of rice, pesto and chick peas.
I picked a heap of rocket and parsley and processed it with walnuts, olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese. (The combination of ingredients is forgiving; it just needs to be silky smooth and very slightly 'wet' when done.)
Then I cooked some brown rice, enough to make up two cupfuls; folded two tablespoons of the pesto through the rice, and added a can of chick peas, heated and drained, and half a cup of fresh cooked green peas. (You can use frozen.) The brown rice adds a robustness to the taste and texture of the whole dish. It's not just a health thing. Or try barley.
The warm salad was served on a bed of fluffy couscous, and topped with sour cream and a dash of chilli sauce.
With food like that, I could turn vegetarian. For a while, anyway. A week?