Sunday, 9 October 2016

Black Pepper Tofu

Very many years ago I acquired a tiny little recipe book (I think it may have been a Guardian or Observer giveaway) that had Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu recipe in it (it can also be found in his book Plenty). It was granted a turned corner - the only time I ever turn corners in books is cookey books, though I am more likely to use those little strip post-its, elsewhere it is a crime against books and should be punished - but relegated to fairly near the bottom of a long list of ‘one day I will cook this’ recipes. Even when my friend Phil cooked and raved about it I didn’t get around to it.

So I don’t know what prompted me to cook it on this occasion. I wish I could remember.

I cut the chilli and black pepper quantities back from 4 & 2½ tbsp to 2 and 1½ respectively - we normally have no problem with spicy heat but everywhere I had seen people write this up on blogs etc they talked of how super fiery it was and as it wouldn’t be just me eating it thought I’d err on side of caution in the first instance. I also cut down the garlic & ginger slightly as well as the spring onions (all the ingredients are in large quantities!) and added some Sichuan peppercorns. Oh and of course I cut back on the the butter because 75g? That’s a hell of a lot of butter.

To be honest and in retrospect, I’m not sure that cutting ingredients and adapting is such a great idea with Ottolenghi recipes as generally speaking his ingredient quantities often seem excessive (and far out according to a lot of people for many of them but I quite like that) but by and large the recipes work despite any misgivings at the beginning.

But anyway this was still good. Very good. As it turned out I soon realised that I had been unusually & excessively timid with the spicing and we could have easily handled the original quantities of chilli and black pepper.

Black Pepper Tofu
serves 2

400g firm, fresh tofu, cut into 3cm x 2cm blocks
vegetable oil
50g butter
150g shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1½ tbsp crushed black peppercorns
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted & crushed
1½ tbsp sweet soy sauce
1½ tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp dark soy sauce
½ tbsp sugar
6 small, thin spring onions, cut into segments 3cm long, plus some green parts shredded to serve

Toss the pieces of tofu in the cornflour, shaking off the excess. Pour in enough oil into a large frying pan so that it is at a depth of 0.5cm and heat. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, turning as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to some kitchen towel on a plate.

Clean out the pan and add the butter. Once it has melted over a low-medium heat, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until totally softened.

Add the soy sauces and the sugar.

When the soy is thoroughly stirred in add the crushed peppercorns.

Warm the tofu in the sauce for a few minutes, then add the spring onion, stir through and let simmer for a few minutes to wilt the onions a little.

Serve hot with steamed rice and some of the shredded spring onion greens sprinkled over.

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