Black Pepper Tofu

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One of the reasons I read the Guardian is its food section, and Yotam Ottolenghi is my favourite chef.

This is one of his marvelous recipes. You will definitely surprise yourself with this. It’s quick and straightforward to make, though it looks as if it’s been prepared at a top Chinese restaurant. It is fiery, both from the chillies and the black pepper; you can moderate this by reducing their quantity a little. However, the whole point is spiciness, so don’t temper things too far. Serves four.

800g firm tofu
Vegetable oil, for frying
Cornflour, for dusting the tofu
150g butter
12 shallots (350g), thinly sliced
8 mild red chillies, thinly sliced
12 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
3 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
5 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely crushed (use a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder)
16 small, thin spring onions, cut into 3cm segments

Start with the tofu. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 5mm up the sides; heat up. Meanwhile, cut the tofu into large cubes, about 3cm x 2cm, toss them in cornflour and shake off any excess. Add the tofu to the hot oil in batches (so it doesn’t stew) and fry, turning it around as you go, until golden all over and with a thin crust. As each batch is cooked, transfer the tofu pieces to kitchen paper.

Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, then add the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté on a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Next, add the soy sauces and sugar, stir, then add the crushed black pepper.

Add the tofu to warm it up in the sauce for about a minute, stir in the spring onions and serve hot, with steamed rice.

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