Winter vegetables with silken tofu aioli

A feast of seasonal vegetables, served with a huge bowl of aioli, is a traditional meal for friends and family in Provence, southern France. This version uses soft silken tofu to create a nutritious, vegan alternative, with two kinds of garlic – roasted and lemon-steeped – to add layers of deep, tangy, savoury flavour

First published in 2016

An aioli feast has long been a part of the joyful, Mediterranean food culture of Provence in southern France. An array of seasonal vegetables, plainly prepared, are served to friends and family with a huge bowl of aioli – a pungent garlic mayonnaise – to dip everything in. Often served on Friday, historically a meatless day in Provence, this meal is known as aioli monstre, or ‘huge aioli’. It is also traditional on Christmas Eve, another meat-free day.

Instead of the usual egg-based mayonnaise, this version gets its creamy consistency from the naturally silken tofu. This type of tofu blends to a beautifully shiny, smooth purée – great for adding texture and nutrition to smoothies, healthy desserts and dips like this vegan aioli.

Garlic flavour is infused into the tofu cream in two ways. A whole head of roasted garlic adds a rich, caramel sweetness with none of the strength and bite of raw garlic, while a much smaller amount of uncooked garlic lends a further layer of fresh flavour. To tame the harshness of this raw garlic, it is first steeped in lemon juice – the acidity of the citrus gently ‘cooks’ the garlic. If your garlic has a green shoot in the centre, be sure to remove this before crushing the cloves – just slice the cloves along their length and poke it out with the tip of a knife. The shoot is very bitter and when used in raw applications such as this can affect the flavour of the food.

The lemon juice also adds wonderfully tart balance to the creamy tofu and a swirl or two of extra virgin olive oil brings that characteristic flavour of regular aioli.

Provence is the world leader in the production of rosé wine, accounting for the vast majority of its wine production. This is what will typically be served with an aioli monstre, and who am I to meddle any further with this fresh, healthy, seasonal celebration of vegetables and garlic?




Silken tofu aioli

To serve


Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
Slice the top 1cm off the head of garlic and lay the rest of the bulb on a small piece of tin foil. Drizzle with about half a tablespoon of olive oil and seal the foil package. Note: You may want to use the time the garlic is roasting to prepare some of the vegetables to serve with the aioli
Roast for 45–60 minutes, until the cloves are well softened and lightly browned. When the garlic is ready and is cool enough to handle, pop the cloves out of their papery skin and add to a food processor
While the garlic is roasting, prepare the second batch of garlic. Juice the lemon and add to a small bowl. Crush the remaining garlic cloves and add to the lemon juice – this softens the harsh bite of the raw garlic. Set aside to steep
Add the soft silken tofu to the food processor (with the roasted garlic) and blend to break down the garlic and purée the tofu. Add the flaky sea salt, about half of the garlic in lemon juice and the remaining 2.5 tablespoons of olive oil, blending to combine
Leave the mixture to rest for 5–10 minutes to allow the garlic and salt time to infuse the tofu. Taste the mixture and add more salt and garlic in lemon juice to taste – remember aioli is supposed to taste pretty garlicky
Prepare the vegetables as described in the ingredients list and arrange in individual bowls or on a large platter. You can serve the vegetables hot from the oven or cooled to room temperature, depending on preference and timing on the day
Pour the silken tofu aioli into a large bowl and serve alongside the vegetables. Dip away, with traditional Provençal rosé wine to wash it all down!
First published in 2016

Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

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