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
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.