Ottolenghi's Black Pepper Tofu (Simplified Version)

Ingredients you will need:

  • 1 brick of firm tofu — The firmness is key, especially if you don’t cook with tofu often. This is the only type of tofu I tolerate as the texture is pretty palatable and it fries or grills really well.

  • Corn flour/corn starch

  • 1 bunch of spring onions

  • A few large cloves of garlic (or a jar of pre-minced garlic)

  • A large chunk of ginger (or a jar of pre minced ginger)

  • Soya sauce

  • Brown sugar — you can also use honey, or caster sugar but I find brown sugar is the best for creating a nice sticky sauce!

  • Black Peppercorns (At least 2 tbsp — Ottolenghi’s recipe calls for 5tbsp but I think that’s mental. If you want more then go for it!)

  • Vegetable oil

  • Sesame oil (optional)

  • Spicy chilis (optional)

  • Lime or orange wedges to serve

Begin by preparing all your ingredients:

Squeeze as much moisture out of the tofu as possible by wrapping it in some kitchen towel and pressing firmly on all sides (without crushing the brick). You can wrap the tofu up and put a heavy plate or pot lid on top of it to release more moisture while you chop the other ingredients.

Finely chop your ginger and garlic (this won’t be necessary if you’ve bought jars of the pre-minced stuff, they’re great kitchen ingredients to have on hand, especially for preparing quick meals!) Chop up your chilli(s) if you’re using some.

Using a mortar and pestle, a spice grinder or a really good knife, coarsely grind or chop the black pepper until you’ve smashed up most of the peppercorns.

Finely chop the green parts of the spring onions, and use a knife to slice lengthwise long julienne strips out of the white and light green stems of the onions.

TIP: I like using chopsticks instead of a spoon, tongs or spatula for pushing things around in the frying pan!

Pour oil into a shallow frying pan until you have about an inch or more of oil and heat the oil up at medium-high temp.

Chop your (relative drier) tofu up into cute bite sized cubes and toss in a large bowl or zip-lock bag with a couple tablespoons of cornflour until all of the cubes are nicely coated .

Test the oil by placing a cube of tofu in the pan and if it begins to sizzle right away, you’re good to go. Prepare a plate with some paper towel on it and place some more cubes of tofu in the oil. Get as many in as possible without crowding the pan. Fry gently, turning the cubes over a few times until they’re golden on all sides and nice and crispy. Remove on to the paper towel to drain off any excess oil. You might have to fry the cubes in a couple batches.

When your tofu is fried, you can drain the oil out of the pan (or just use a new pan!).

Heat up a much smaller amount of oil now and add about a teaspoon of sesame oil if you’re using. When the oil is hot, add the minced ginger, garlic, chilis and green parts of the scallion.

Cook on medium heat until the ingredients are cooked down, fragrant and glossy.

Add the black pepper, about half a cup of soya sauce, and half a cup of brown sugar, stir well and simmer until it reduces and becomes nice and sticky. You’ll want to stir regularly so to prevent too much sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the crispy tofu chunks and toss in the pan until fully coated. Add the julienned spring onions and gently toss a bit more.

Serve with jasmine rice, and loads of fresh raw veggies. I like this dish with cucumber, radish, sprouts & micro-greens. I like a good squeeze of lime or orange juice on this with plenty of crispy shallots!