Error saving – please try again later!

Noor’s black lime tofu

Easy Vegetarian Veganisable
Serves 4
Featured in

Dried limes have been a constant in the Ottolenghi pantry for years. Recently, though, we have been using them with extra vigour thanks to Noor Murad, our test kitchen colleague who grew up in Bahrain, where they consume dried limes intravenously (well, not literally). There the limes go by different names and come in different colours. Go for the black variety, if you can, though paler limes are also fine.

We like to serve this dish with steamed rice or warm flatbreads.


1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds on a mandolin, if you have one, or by hand (60g)
600ml sunflower oil, for deep-frying
2 blocks of extra-firm tofu (560g), patted dry and cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp cornflour
2 onions (300g), roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
60ml olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar
2–3 dried black limes, blitzed in a spice grinder to get 2 tbsp (10g – use a food processor if you don’t have a grinder, and pass through a sieve) (if you can’t get any black limes, substitute with 1 tbsp lime juice and 1 tbsp lime zest)
2 tbsp tomato paste
20g parsley, roughly chopped
250g baby spinach
salt and black pepper


  1. Put the vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar, the red onion and ⅛ teaspoon of salt into a small bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside to pickle while you continue with the rest.
  2. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium high-sided sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Toss the tofu in a bowl with the cornflour until well coated. Once hot, fry the tofu (in two batches) until crispy and lightly browned, about 6 minutes per batch, then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and set aside.
  3. While the tofu is frying, prepare the sauce. Put the onions and garlic into a food processor and pulse a few times until very finely minced but not puréed. Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, black limes (or regular lime zest and juice) and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more. Add 400ml of water, the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1¼ teaspoons of salt and a generous grind of pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich. Add the crispy tofu, parsley and another grind of pepper and stir to coat. Add the spinach in increments, stirring until just wilted, about 3 minutes.
  4. To serve, transfer the mixture to a shallow serving platter and top with the pickled red onion (or serve straight from the pan).