Black Pepper Tofu

For those of you who are unaccustomed to eating tofu, I really urge you to give it try. Some people simply right it off as being rather bland tasting, but the fact is tofu has a fabulous melt in the mouth texture and absorbs some of the other flavours that you cook it with. Its a great vegetarian option to meat and is hugely versatile. This is my third recipe using tofu on my blog – the other two, Ma Po Tofu and Soba Noodles with Tofu I incorporate fairly regularly in our diet. This recipe is also heavenly and reminds me in fact of one of my favourite dishes of all time – black peppercorn crab – that I ate in Singapore last year at Red House  on Robertson Quay. This recipe is sourced from the Yotam Ottolenghi’s  book ‘Plenty,’ which focuses exclusively on vegetarian recipes.

The recipe itself is fairly straight forward, however, as there is a fair amount of chopping, slicing, crushing it does take a little bit of time on the preparation part. The finished dish though is totally worth the effort you put in to the preparation. I have made a number of alterations to the original as I found that when I followed his quantities exactly the pepper was too overpowering and I did not need quite as many chillies or spring onions. So it is a little toned down but see how you get on and if you prefer it with more pepper just add an extra 2 tablespoons to the 3 that I suggest below and throw in a few extra chillies.

Black Pepper Tofu

A Yotam Ottolenghi recipe adapted from his book Plenty (p44-45)

Serves 4

700g firm tofu

vegetable oil

cornflour to dust the tofu

100g butter

10 small shallots, thinly sliced

4 fresh red chillies (fairly mild ones), thinly sliced (seeds removed)

10 garlic cloves, finely grated/chopped

3 tbsp fresh root ginger, finely grated

3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)

3 tbsp light soy sauce

4 tsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns

5 small and thin spring onions, cut into 3cm segments

1. Carefully remove the tofu from its pack and cut it into large cubes, around 3 x 2cm, being careful not to break it.

2. Sieve a little cornflower over the tofu so that it delicately coats the cubes.

3. Heat  a little oil in a deep frying pan and add the tofu in small batches so that the tofu is evenly golden. Place on kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next batch.

4. Clean the pan thoroughly before adding the butter. Once it is melted add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger and saute on a low heat for 15 minutes so that the ingredients have softened and darkened slightly. Stir occasionally.

5. Add the soy sauces, sugar and crushed peppercorns and mix into the other ingredients.

6. Place the tofu in the pan and coat in the sauce, being careful not to break up the tofu cubes. After a minute or so add the spring onions and stir into the ingredients.

7. Serve immediately with steamed or boiled rice.

Do you have any wonderful tofu recipes that you would like to share with me? Leave a message below and let me know.


Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango – it’s totally addictive BEWARE!

It’s always a joy cooking for a foodie friend who eats everything and shares a similar enthusiasm for exciting flavours, textures and foods. Said friend is off to pastures new in California so I wanted to prepare a simple and yet interesting lunch that he may not have tried before, but that he was hopefully going to remember fondly.

In the last couple of years my love for tofu has grown exponentially, on average I would say I eat it once a week as a main meal. One of my all time favourite recipes – Ma Po Tofu – I  sometimes cook without the pork mince and add loads of spinach to compliment the tofu instead. I would really recommend you give this dish a go if you haven’t already, it’s absolutely superb.

Another dish using tofu, which I discovered more recently, is the one that I want to share with you today. It’s a perfect spring/summer dish bursting with colour and if the truth be told, totally addictive. Between the two of us we almost saw off a portion which Yotam Ottolenghi says ‘serves 6’. I know, I know, it  makes us sound rather piggy. Look we were hungry and it is so delicious I bet you too would have seconds or maybe thirds ;o). I think that as a main dish it’s serving is better suited to 4 than 6, unless your guests have sparrow appetites that is!

 Don’t be shy, once you’ve cooked it do write a comment below to let me know how you got on and  that you too had seconds/thirds.

Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango

Adapted  from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4-6

120 ml rice vinegar

40g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 lime, zest and juice

300ml sunflower oil

2 aubergines, cut into 1cm dice

396g firm tofu, cut into small cubes (a little more or less is fine so don’t worry about getting exact amount)

250g soba noodles

2 ripe mangoes, cut into strips or dice

small handful of Thai sweet basil, chopped

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 small red onion, finely sliced

1. To prepare the dressing warm the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan for a minute so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the chilli, garlic and sesame oil and leave to cool. Once it is cool add the lime juice and zest.

2. In a frying pan heat up  half the sunflower oil and gently fry the aubergine in batches. To save time I cooked the aubergine in two frying pans cooking simultaneously. When they have bronzed place on kitchen paper to cool.

3. Using the remaining sunflower oil (if necessary – you may have enough left from cooking the aubergine!) gently heat up the tofu and cook until it has a crispy light brown appearance. This should take 6-8 minutes. Similar to the aubergine place on some kitchen paper to soak up some of the oil.

4. Heat a pan of boiling salted water and cook the soba noodles for around 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water, shaking off as much excess water as possible. Place on a tea towel to dry.

5. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, herbs (save a few to scatter on top when serving),  red onion and tofu. Transfer to another serving plate/dish. You can eat immediately or set aside for a couple of hours.

The dressing resting whilst I prepare the rest of the ingredients (above)

The final result (below)

SaveSave


Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

Foodies in London will be very familiar with the names Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who first set up the successful deli/bakery/patisserie cum restaurant  called ‘Ottolenghi’ back in 2002 in Notting Hill.  Their passion and flair for cooking was evident from the start and their venture soon became a food lovers magnet, in particular I remember the mounds of mouth watering salads piled high on large dishes for you to help yourself to. We are not talking about a few lettuce leaves with tomatoes and cucumbers thrown in. Oooooooooh no, their salads were, and in fact still are, on a whole different playing field. They are the most imaginative and more-ish that you will come across, to the extent that it is actually hard to decide which to tuck into. Decisions, decisions!

In 2010 Yotam published a book dedicated to vegetarian food called ‘Plenty’ and a number of his salads were put into the book. It’s beautifully put together and I am convinced it would persuade even the most carnivorous amongst you to try some of the recipes. He has in many respects made vegetarian food, and indeed salads, look sexy.

Today they now have four delis as well as launching a very successful restaurant called, Nopi.  Basically they are on a roll and London cannot get enough of their talents. That is not to say that Yotam and Sami only cook vegetarian food, far from it. Their cooking is heavily influenced from their childhoods in Israel and their style of cooking definitely has a Mediterranean edge to it, with wonderful meat and fish dishes to whet the appetite.  They cook all the kind of dishes that I am attracted to – basically ones that are full of bold flavours, which they describe rather endearingly as the ‘noisy’ flavours: ‘lemon, pomegranate, garlic and chilli’. The other cookbook, which is a definite must for those who like their style of honest cooking, is ‘Ottolenghi, The Cookbook‘. They also have a new book,  ‘Jerusalem’, in the wings, launching later this year, which I am looking forward to buying.

It was from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook that I discovered ‘Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey’. I was immediately attracted to the recipe as it had a wonderful range of interesting ingredients – in particular I like the fact that it had ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon, hazelnuts, honey and rosewater. I had never cooked with rosewater until I started cooking this recipe; I love the fragrance  and subtleness that it brings to the dish.  The  exotic smells coming from the oven takes me back to happy times exploring Morocco and the Atlas mountains.

 Roast Chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey

Sourced from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Serves 4

10 chicken thighs (or a combination of wing, leg and thighs)

2 onions, roughly chopped,

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g unskinned hazelnuts

75g honey

2 tbsp rosewater

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

1. Trim the fat of the chicken thighs and then mix in a bowl with the chopped onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, pepper and salt. Leave to marinate in the fridge for over an hour –  or overnight if you are really well organised. I wasn’t so left it in the fridge for a couple of hours!

2. In a preheated over – 180 degrees if using a fan oven (10 degree hotter if not), place the hazelnuts on a tray to roast for 10 minutes.

3. Roughly chop the roasted hazelnuts – I give them a quick wizz with my hand blender and set aside.

4. Place the chicken, skin side up, in an ovenproof dish/roasting tray in the oven with the onions and juice surrounding it and leave to cook for 35 minutes.

5. In a new bowl mix the honey, rosewater and nuts to create a rough paste. When the 35 minutes cooking time for the chicken is up, spread the paste over the chicken and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown.

6. Whilst the chicken is cooking for the final 10 minutes, put on the rice/or prepare the cous cous.

7. Serve the chicken with either rice or cous cous and garnish with spring onions – I preferred to do this over the cous cous. There will be plenty of sauce full of deliciousness to serve over the chicken.