The classic Japanese dish called ‘shira ae’ or ‘mashed tofu salad’ is a fantastic starter or light supper. It takes a little preparation as the vegetables are cooked and need to cool before serving, however it’s definitely worth the effort.

The extraordinary creaminess comes only from sesame seeds and tofu – to make it lower calorie you can leave out the sesame paste, and reduce the amount of sesame seeds. It also uses ‘konnyaku’ – often referred to as a ‘miracle’ food. Made from pounded konjac or yam root, konnyaku has close to zero calories, and an intriguing chewy texture.

If you find the dressing looks too grainy for your taste, blend it in a food processor for a few seconds. Make sure the salad is left to chill before serving.

Recipe: Shira ae – Japanese salad with tofu and sesame dressing

Serves 4 with 180kcal per serving

Dressing
4 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp sesame paste (optional)
340g firm tofu, drained
1 tbsp white miso
4 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt

Cooking stock
1l water
10g dashi powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar

Vegetables
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into fine batons
1 pack white konnyaku, drained, rinsed and cut into fine batons

Shichimi togarishi to serve

First prepare the dressing. Simmer the tofu in boiling water for 5 minutes. Set in a sieve and leave to cool, as any extra water drains away. Toast the sesame seeds in a pan, and grind in a pestle & mortar until fine. Prepare the vegetables.

Bring 1l water to boil. Add dashi powder, soy sauce and sugar. Add the broccoli florets to the water, and cook for two minutes. Then add the carrots and simmer for two more minutes. Remove with a strainer, and leave to cool in sieve or on paper towels, to dry off. Add the konnyaku to the simmering water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, and dry on paper towel.

To finish the dressing, press the tofu through a sieve into a dry bowl. Add the ground sesame seeds, white miso, sugar, and salt. Mix well and taste. Spoon in a little sesame paste if you prefer a deeper sesame flavour – leave out if you’re controlling calories.

When all the ingredients are cold, add the broccoli, carrots, and konnyaku to the dressing. Stir well. Serve, garnished with a little shichimi togarishi seasoning.