This recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and was recommended to me by the lovely Carrie, another food-obsessed cookbook lover who has become an invaluable friend to me in the online world. When she first made this dish sometime ago and raved about how delicious it was, I knew it was something that I had to try. Having grown up on tofu as a child, I love it cooked in whatever shape or form and could happily eat it every night for dinner.
Despite owning over a hundred cookbooks (I’m too afraid to count them now!), I don’t (yet) own any by Ottolenghi, even though quite a few people have emailed me about how wonderful his books and recipes are. The simple truth is, I don’t know much about Ottolenghi so I was very interested in trying out this recipe for dinner tonight.
The recipe for Black Pepper Tofu is best described as a vegetarian version of the popular chicken or beef version found in many Chinese restaurants. Though I’m not sure how authentic Ottolenghi’s version is, not least because the main dish starts with 150g of butter which is a bit unusual for Chinese cuisine!
In fact, the recipe as a whole made my jaw drop at the quantities specified for nearly each ingredient – 12 shallots, 12 garlic cloves, 8 red chillies, 5 tablespoons black pepper … needless to say, hubby almost had a heart attack when he saw how spicy this dish was going to be! Ottolenghi mentions that his recipe already halves the amount of chillies but I scaled it down further to 3 red chillies and 4 tablespoons of black pepper. I think the spiciness of the dish was bearable, but one thing I would do differently next time is to grind the black peppercorns more finely; the recipe specifies a coarse grind but we spent most of our time picking out big chunks of black peppercorn which were not so pleasant to chew on.
Overall, this recipe took longer to make than first anticipated. Frying the tofu pieces took a fair amount of time, though I was able to peel the vast quantities of required shallots and garlic in between turning the tofu pieces and waiting for them to brown. I have tried making easier versions of black pepper sauce, but I suppose it is the caramelised shallots that define Ottolenghi’s recipe.
The sauce was really lovely and sweet from the caramelised shallots and ginger and which went perfectly with steamed jasmine rice.
And as a slight deviation from the recipe but more out of habit, I served the dish sprinkled with lots of freshly chopped coriander.
I think any tofu lover would like this dish and I’m so happy to have finally tried an Ottolenghi recipe! Next time, I would probably reduce the amount of black pepper, and perhaps even halve the amount of butter. But it’s always worth sticking to a recipe the first time and tweaking it to make it your own the next time