Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu

London restaurateur and general veggie behemoth Yotam Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu recipe rapidly seems to have become a modern classic. It's appeared in the Guardian, on Masterchef, and has also been widely blogged (which is where I came across it some time ago). It's taken me the best part of a year to get round to making it, but the discovery of bags of ready-fried tofu in a local Chinese supermarket prompted me to finally give it a go.

The original Guardian recipe serves four and has a huge amount of chilli and black pepper in it. I have to admit that while I halved the amount of tofu, I more than halved the seasoning as I am a wuss. I also omitted the sugar in the Ottolenghi recipe and only used the one type of soy sauce, so in case you want my amended version here it is.

Recipe (easily enough for two):

350-400g ready-fried tofu
75g butter
6 shallots (finely sliced)
2 hot red chillies (seeds left in, and finely chopped)
Around 1.5tblsp ginger (crushed to a paste)
6 cloves of garlic (crushed)
Around 2 tblsp black peppercorns (crushed)
Around 5 tblsp good quality soy sauce (such as Kikkoman)
8 spring onions (each chopped into about 3 or 4 pieces)

Melt the butter in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium heat, and then add in the shallots, garlic, ginger and chilli. Once these are soft and a bit golden (around 10 to 15 minutes) add in the fried tofu, black pepper and soy sauce and stir everything around to heat up the tofu. Finally put in the bits of spring onion, stir and cook until these are just soft, and you're done.
I served this with some steamed green vegetables, dressed with a little sesame oil, but plain boiled rice would also be fab.

Do note that even with my slightly reduced amounts of pepper and chilli, this is still a bloody fiery recipe. It's incredibly tasty but my lips were tingling a good thirty minutes after we'd finished eating. But I think most of the heat is from the pepper rather than the chilli, so you do get a lot of flavour too, rather than just chilli burn. And that's what makes this such a top dish.
So a great quick dinner recipe (especially if using ready-fried tofu) and one that definitely combats the tofu is dull and boring brigade.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Intense chocolate and cardamom pots

I do like a nice bit of cake, chocolate, biscuit or indeed a combo of all three. But having embarked down the path towards acquiring the dimensions of a Christmas pudding on legs, I thought I should probably reign in my sugar consumption.
However I wasn't keen on completely abandoning all puddings, and thought a good quality, high-cocoa content chocolate might well lend itself to a dessert which didn't need any sugar adding to it. These chocolate pots are adapted from a Nigella Express recipe for an instant chocolate mousse that doesn't use any raw eggs either. This is my version, which makes enough for four decent sized servings.

100g good quality dark chocolate with 85% cocoa solids (I used Green & Blacks), broken into chunks
2 tsp soft butter
2 tblsp hot water
130 ml double cream
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
8 green cardamom pods

Split the cardamom pods and take out the black seeds. Grind these as finely as possible, and add to around 30 ml of the double cream. Put the cream in a small pan over a very low heat and let the cardamom infuse into it for about 15 minutes. The cream will reduce, but make sure it doesn't catch on the pan or burn. In the meantime melt the chocolate and butter together by placing them in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Once melted add in the hot water and the cardamom cream (this will have reduced to around two or three tablespoons). I should probably have strained my cream to get rid of the bits of seed, but if your grinding skills are better than mine you should be fine leaving them in. Leave the chocolate mix to cool down, and while you're waiting whip up the rest of the double cream with the vanilla extract. You want the cream to form light peaks and not be too thick. Once the chocolate has cooled to room temperature, mix in the whipped cream, put the mousse into individual pots and chill in the fridge for around 30 minutes.

The main difference between my mousse and Nigella's is that she uses marshmallows which provide a source of sugar, whereas I don't (actually I wouldn't use them anyway as they usually have gelatine in them). Instead the high-cocoa content chocolate provides a really intense pure chocolate flavour and the cardamom somehow softens the bitterness. This is still very much an adult dessert though, which is best in small-ish quantities. I liked it served on its own, or with a few strawberries or raspberries. As a side note- I left some of the mixture overnight in the fridge and it firmed up a lot, to the point where it could be cut with a knife. It softened up again after about 30 minutes at room temperature but was still quite dense. So I think these chocolate pots are best served after a brief bit of chilling rather than being prepared way in advance. Also, if you don't have concerns about being rotund, do feel free to chuck a bit of icing sugar into this dessert to sweeten it up.