Dried limes are intensely sour and effective at giving dishes a uniquely earthy acidity. They are especially popular in Iran, Iraq, Oman and the Persian Gulf, and they come whole or ground, black or white (they also go by different names such as Omani limes, Iranian limes or noomi basra). Use the black variety here, if you can. I like to serve this dish with steamed white rice or warm flatbreads to scoop everything up.
Prep 10 min
Cook 20 min
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into thin rounds (use a mandoline, if you have one)
Salt and black pepper
600ml sunflower oil, for frying
2 blocks extra-firm tofu (560g), patted dry and cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp cornflour
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
60ml olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
10g dried black limes (about 2-3), blitzed in a spice grinder to get 2 tbsp
2 tbsp tomato paste
20g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
250g baby spinach
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, the red onion and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, then leave to pickle while you get on with making the rest of the dish.
Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saute pan on a medium-high flame. In a bowl, toss the tofu in the cornflour until well coated. Fry the tofu in two batches, until crisp and lightly browned – about six minutes a batch – then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper, to drain.
While the tofu is frying, make the sauce. Pulse the onion and garlic in a food processor until very finely minced (but not pureed). Put the olive oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat, then fry the onion mixture, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned – about seven minutes. Add the cumin, lime powder and tomato paste, cook for a minute, then add 400ml water, the last teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a good grind of pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cook, stirring occasionally, for six minutes, until thick and rich. Add the tofu, parsley and another grind of pepper, stir to coat, then add the spinach in increments, stirring, until it has just wilted – about three minutes.
Transfer to a shallow platter, top with the pickled onion and serve.