Tofu can be a divisive ingredient. Personally, I love the stuff: When cooked correctly, tofu is a brilliant carrier of flavours, sucking up marinades, dressings or whatever it's been cooked with in a wonderful way. It can be cubed, coated in sesame seeds and fried until deliciously crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. It can even be blitzed up with melted chocolate to create a chocolate mousse that is super silky smooth and delicious – if you're not convinced, check out my recipe for vegan chocolate pots on jamieoliver.com. They're incredible.
Not only is tofu incredibly versatile, it's also high in protein, low in saturated fat and a great source of calcium and phosphorus, both of which make for strong and healthy bones. All in all, a great ingredient that I want to celebrate in this week's recipe – chicken and tofu noodle soup. This gorgeous, nutritious broth is my take on an old favourite that will perk you up and make you feel great. Poaching the chicken will create an intense broth that you can then flavour and bulk out as you wish – here I've used lovely rice noodles, moreish bites of tofu and lots of fresh herbs, with drops of soy sauce and lime juice for a well-rounded soup. I absolutely love it.
It's also a great one for making in advance, which I recommend doing here if you want a portable lunch for work. Simply pop the broth in a flask and store the noodles, tofu, fresh herbs, veg and chili in a separate container. Wait until serving to combine the two – that way, the noodles won't soak up all the broth and the mint and coriander will keep their nice, fresh taste. You'll be the envy of all your workmates.
4 skinless free-range chicken thighs, bone in
1 3/4-inch (2-centimetre) piece of ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 star anise
½ bunch fresh coriander
½ bunch fresh mint
100 grams (4 ounces) tofu
3/4 cup baby spinach
4 green onions
½ fresh red chili
3/4 cup fine uncooked rice noodles
2 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce
4 sheets nori seaweed
Start preparing your soup the night before. Remove the meat from the chicken thighs, reserving the bones, and slice it into nice thin strips.
Peel and finely slice the shallot, ginger and garlic.
Heat the peanut oil in a large saucepan over a medium–low heat, then add the shallot, ginger and garlic. Fry for 5 minutes, or until softened.
Add the chicken and sesame oil and fry for a few more minutes.
Add the chicken bones and star anise and cover with 3 cups of water. Gently bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.
Allow to cool completely, then leave overnight in the fridge – you should end up with a lovely jellied chicken-thigh broth.
The next morning, reheat broth in a large pan over a high heat until boiling.
Boil a kettle and fill two wide-necked Thermoses so they heat up for a few minutes.
Pick the herb leaves, chop the tofu into ½ inch (1.25-centimetre) cubes, then divide between two containers with lids (one for each portion) along with the spinach.
Trim and finely slice the green onions and chili. Pop these on top of the tofu and spinach, and add the rice noodles.
Season the hot chicken stock with the soy sauce and some black pepper, to taste.
Empty the flasks of boiled water and fill them with the chicken and stock. Screw on the lids tightly and they’re ready to take away.
When it’s time to eat your broth, drop the noodles into the Thermos and leave them in there for 8 minutes.
Pour the noodle broth into two deep bowls and finish by tipping a container of chopped veg and tofu into each. Chop or crumble the nori and add to soup, squeeze half a lime over each one and tuck in!