I used to often say that there wasn't room for me and tofu to share the same planet, and I wasn't joking.
Imagine my horror then when a couple of years back my lovely friend, Alli of Pease Pudding, invited me over for dinner and, after I'd already accepted the invitation, told me she was going to try a tofu recipe. Not exactly possible at that stage to suddenly remember a prior engagement, is it?!
So, being the polite person that I am, I was faced with having to suck it up and feign enjoyment of Alli's tofu. I cannot begin to the describe the feeling of dread which engulfed me for the ensuing few hours leading up to that dinner date.
Alli announced that it was an Ottolenghi recipe she was trying, which I must say did go a tiny way towards quelling my fears, but I was still extremely apprehensive as I took my first bite. I'd kind of hoped that the pieces might be small, giving me the option to potentially swallow it straight down, thus avoiding the necessity to bite and chew, in the same way that people who don't like oysters eat them. Unfortunately, this tofu was in big chunks, so that idea wasn't going to fly ... there was no way of getting around the fact that it was going to have to be both bitten and chewed.
It surprises me to this day that, not only did I survive that first bite, but I actually found that it was great. In no time at all I was chowing it down, and actually asking for seconds - yes, I asked for seconds.
Not only did I go back for seconds on that occasion, but I loved it so much that this dish has become one of my most frequently made Ottolenghi recipes. I've had this one in draft for quite a while now, and since our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is "You Made Me Love You", this seems like the perfect time to finally get around to sharing it with you.
I know for a lot of people the thing they don't like about tofu is the texture, but for me it's always been the taste. I have to confess that I still can't eat those little cubes of slippery tofu lurking around in the bottom of a bowl of miso soup, but this dish packs such a powerful flavour punch with its fiery, spicy sauce that it easily hides the flavour of the tofu itself, and also it's fried and it's crispy - what's not to love about golden, crispy, fried cubes of anything?
I've made a few minor changes to the recipe over time. Firstly, since I usually only make this for myself, I've cut the quantities back to make enough for me for two meals. I use rice flour instead of cornflour to coat the cubes of tofu before frying, because I think it makes it a little bit crisper. I use leeks instead of shallots, because who can be bothered peeling and slicing half a dozen shallots, when you can chop up one leek in a fraction of the time. If you feel like putting yourself through all that peeling and slicing though, then go right ahead. I use about half the amount of garlic in the original recipe, as I'm often teaching yoga classes, and having strong enough garlic-breath to keep the vampires away is never a good look in a yoga teacher. I've adjusted the proportions of sweet, light and dark soy sauces to suit my personal taste, and I use honey instead of sugar. Lastly, I like to finish the dish with fresh coriander rather than spring onions.
If you're as skeptical about tofu as I once was, I hope you'll take the leap of faith and give this recipe a try.
Black Pepper Tofu Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Makes 2 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
450g (1lb) firm tofu
rice flour (approx 1/4 cup)
1x leek, halved lengthwise, washed and thinly sliced
3-4x fresh red chillies, fairly mild, thinly sliced
(I used 1x large mild one and 2x small hot ones)
3x cloves garlic, crushed
2.5cm (1 in) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons coarsely crushed black pepper
(mortar & pestle makes a great job of this)
4 tablespoons butter
generous handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Cut tofu into large 2.5cm (1 in) cubes, drop them into a plastic bag, add the rice flour, and shake well until all the tofu is lightly coated in the flour.
Set a large frying pan over medium-high heat, and add enough oil to generously coat the base of the pan. Shake excess flour off the tofu, and add pieces to the hot oil - depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches. Fry the tofu until golden brown and crisp on all sides. Once cooked, remove from pan and drain on a paper towel.
Drain any remaining oil from the pan, and wipe out any sediment with a paper towel. Add butter to the pan, and return pan to a low heat. Add leek, chillies, garlic and ginger to the pan, and saute over low heat, stirring from time to time, until everything has softened completely. Add the honey, soy sauces and black pepper to the pan, and stir to combine will.
Return the tofu to the pan and stir to coat well with the sauce and warm it through. Sprinkle over the chopped coriander, and serve immediately with steamed basmati rice.
If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
... or check out Plenty and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.
I'm also sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, at My Meatless Mondays hosted by Chaya at My Sweet and Savory, and at Cook Your Books, hosted by the lovely Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.
I love tofu - this looks wonderful to me!ReplyDelete
That's so funny Sue, I nearly ruined a new friendship at the time 😀 I've never been a big fan either of tofu and only like the spicy ones. There's a great stall at Avondale market that sells a spicy tofu that I now but weekly.ReplyDelete
Alli, a friendship that can survive tofu, can survive anything :-) I think it's only the spicy ones for me too - lucky you to be able to get it at the market.Delete
I like tofu, although I rarely buy it or cook with it. This version looks so good, I bet it tastes good too.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Beth - it does taste exceptionally good. Admittedly, it is the one and only tofu dish that I make :-)Delete
You have certainly presently tofu in a favorable photo and made it appetizing. I like tofu but it has to be cooked just right. It is sometimes difficult to make it appear appealing though! You made this dihs look as good as it sounds. Count me in!ReplyDelete
Oh, if you are reading Feast for Crows you better skip my review - spoilers at my site. :-0
Thanks so much, Tina. Hope you give it a try.Delete
I've surprised my family by adding a few tofu recipes to my repertoire this year. This looks really good!ReplyDelete
I surprised my daughter with this dish when I was visting her in San Francisco last month. She feels pretty much the same way I do about tofu, but she really enjoyed this dish too.Delete
This looks and sounds so good, and Ottolenghi never disappoints! Love your photos, too!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Sue. You're right about Ottolenghi - I don't think I've had any of his dishes yet that have been a disappointment.Delete
I've recently started eating Tofu and this sounds like a recipe to add to the repetorire. I love your swop of shallots for leeks too since I have plenty of those in the garden!ReplyDelete
I can't imagine ever having a whole repertoire of tofu recipes, but this is definitely one that should be included. I often use leeks instead of shallots or onions - much less pfaffing around, and how lucky that you have them in the garden.Delete
Looks delicious! Cool story about being converted to tofu.ReplyDelete
Joy's Book Blog
Thanks, Joy and thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.Delete
I've always wanted to make this! I am experiencing so many Ottolenghi recipes vicariously through you, I really must make more of them. Have you made the butternut hummus from Jerusalem? It's amazing.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Lucy - hope you make it - I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Yes, I have made the butternut hummus - you're right, it was amazing.Delete
THis looks great! Thanks for sharing :)ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, and thanks for stopping by - I hope you'll visit again.Delete
Sue, your story is so funny. It's everyone's nightmare scenario to be served something totally off their list when invited out to dinner. Luckily, your dinner had a happy ending and this recipe for black pepper tofu actually sounds good!ReplyDelete
Clare, my story would be the equivalent of me inviting you to dinner, and then after you'd said "yes", telling you I was experimenting with a new eggplant dish :-) Actually, you could probably substitute eggplant for the tofu in this dish - it might change your feelings about them xoDelete
The tofu looks really delicious! I'm glad that the tofu dish that your friend made, turned you around!
This recipe really looks and sounds delicious, I'm bookmarking this to try. Thanks for sharing with CYB!
Thanks, Joyce - I hope you try it - with your love of spicy food I'm sure you'd enjoy this dish.Delete
Love this story, Sue. I've had tofu a few times and it was a textural issue for me. Maybe it wasn't prepared well? I don't know. But I do know that this looks pretty darn good!ReplyDelete
Yes, I get the textural thing, Michelle - I promise this isn't slippery or slimy. The firm tofu actually has a quite pleasant texture - maybe more like eating a chunk of foam rubber, but in a kind of good way :-)Delete
Yes, fried, then smothered with spices, aromatics and flavourful condiments is definitely the way to go with tofu, something I learned in trying to get my vegetarian daughter to eat it. The dish really does look delicious. I've had the recipe bookmarked for a while so I really must give it a try now.ReplyDelete
Zosia, I think it's pretty much the only way to get tofu past a tofu-hater :-)Delete
I don't know that I'll ever be a fan of tofu, but you have me curious about this recipe - if it could turn you, maybe it could turn me too? Thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
Cecelia, I would definitely say that if I can like this dish anyone can. I also made it for my daughter who also loathed tofu, and she really enjoyed it - even went back for seconds!Delete
I have never had a great tofu dish - I must try this one out. CheersReplyDelete
Maybe this will be the one, Carole - hope you enjoy it.Delete
I like tofu and have been meaning to try this one and now you make me want it even more. ;-) I love all the changes you have made to the recipe--they make it look and sound better than the original!ReplyDelete
Sue - I loved reading this post and found myself giggling my way through it ;) So glad that you were able to enjoy Ottolenghi's tofu. I've looked at this recipe many times and I really do want to try it soon. I keep putting it off due to the amount of oil and butter in the recipe. Not sure if I can get around reducing it greatly and still get that crispy caramelization that I know makes this entire dish worth eating!ReplyDelete
I am a huge tofu fan, but I do concede that when it's not prepared well, it can be pretty awful. Leave it to Ottolenghi to turn it into something that anyone could love!ReplyDelete
Thank you for linking, Sue. I have to admit that I've been thinking about how good this golden brown exterior looks!ReplyDelete
I'm a fan of both tofu and Ottolenghi. For some strange reasons, I have not try cooking Ottolenghi recipes and I love to try this recipe.
I'm Joyce's friend and hear that I heart cooking club will be cooking Donna Hay's recipes next year! Sounds great! I'm a Donna Hay's fan too :p
Nice to know you via blogging. I'm a Singaporean living in Melbourne and likes cooking and baking for my family and friends. I'm now your latest follower and hope to be friends via blogging :D
I've always hesitated with tofu, but when I eat it, I almost always enjoy it. This recipe sounds really flavourful with the black pepper as well as the wonderful garlic and ginger!ReplyDelete