Sunday, June 26, 2011

Black Pepper Tofu

Sadly, my local Borders is closing, but it does mean I was able to pick up a number of great cookbooks for a steal. One of these was Yotam Ottolenghi's book, Plenty. Yotam is most well known for his columns in the UK newspaper the Guardian, as well as number of restaurants/cafes in London. Plenty is the culmination of these columns into a book, with a few other recipes thrown in for good measure. The recipes in the Guardian are primarily vegetarian, although Yotam is famously not vegetarian himself. Mr Alphie and I aren't vegetarian either, but are always looking for great meat-free options, for ourselves and the vegetarians we often cook for.

This recipe jumped out at me in my first flick through the book, and again last night when I was looking for dinner inspiration. Luckily, Mr Alphie is not one to shy away from tofu, and after my stay with SIL & Mr SIL, I have developed quite a soft spot for it.

Mr Alphie and I both loved this, and Mr Alphie was pushing to have it again soon- like, before he heads back north again (in 2 days time!).

Notes: I made a half recipe, as I don't think it would re-heat well. Also, I only used one chilli, we only had the hot Thai ones (definitely not mild, as suggested), and that combined with the pepper was a fairly hot dish (but not 'blow your head off'), so make your own judgements on the chilli & pepper quantities - keeping in mind that there is supposed to be a lot of pepper, hence 'black pepper tofu'. 

Mr Alphie rates it: 9.5/10 - a true gem!
Black Pepper Tofu
Serves 4
  • 800g firm, fresh tofu
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • cornflour to dust the tofu
  • 150g butter
  • 12 small shallots (350g), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8 red chillies, thinly sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 5 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 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 and heat. Cut the tofu into large cubes, about 3cm x 2cm.

Unless, like me, you are wearing your comfy around-the-house trackies, I suggest you wear an apron while coating the tofu - I managed to get cornflour everywhere...

Toss them in some cornflour and shake off the excess, then add to the hot oil. (You'll need to fry the tofu in batches).

Fry, turning them around as you go, until they are golden and have a thin crust. As they are cooked, transfer to paper towel to drain.

Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, then add in the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the contents of the pan are shiny and totally soft.

Next add the soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed black pepper.

Add the tofu to warm in the sauce for about a minute, then add the spring onion and stir through. Serve hot with steamed rice. (We also had steamed Asian greens.)


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Highland Restaurant, Cradle Mountain Lodge

The first two nights of our honeymoon (once we were off the Spirit of Tasmania) were spent at Cradle Mountain Lodge, on the fringes of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park, in the north-west of Tasmania. We arrived late on the first night, so had a quick dinner in The Tavern, and made a booking for the Highland Restaurant for the following night.

We had planned to start our second day with a walk (after indulging in the hotel breakfast, of course). The weather was cold and drizzly, but we were warned that snow was forecast for the afternoon, so, hesitant to put it off too long, we headed out. For the first half of the 6km Dove Lake loop track we were by ourselves, slogging it out in the wind and freezing cold rain. Then it started to clear, and other walkers seemed to come out of nowhere; school groups, serious trekkers on the start of The Overland Track, and other day walkers like ourselves. Once it cleared, Mr Alphie and I were able to see some of the beautiful scenery we had been walking through. Waterfalls running down the sides of Cradle Mountain, islands in the centre of Dove Lake, and some amazing rock formations.

We made it back to the lodge around lunchtime and relaxed in front of our log fire with the picnic lunch we had collected at breakfast that morning. After lunch, thanks to two very generous (and sneaky) groomsmen we had been booked in for a hot stone massage and milk bath at the Waldheim Spa. Feeling very relaxed, we dashed to the restaurant for a wine and cheese tasting, with a range of Tasmanian wines and cheeses. Then back to the cabin to find our complimentary canapés, and get changed for dinner.

complimentary in-room canapés (and the fire in the background!)

We debated going for the 5 course degustation ($85pp), but after our monster picnic lunch and the cheese tasting, we weren't sure we would be able to enjoy it all. So we opted for 3 courses ($69pp). Mr Alphie started with the twice cooked Tasmanian pork belly with pickled apple and celery and bush pepper paint, while I had a petit oxtail pie with capsicum relish and roasted garlic cream.

Tasmanian pork belly

The pork belly was soft and melt in your mouth, but unfortunately lacking that really crispy skin that you expect from pork belly cubes, Mr Alphie tells me it was delicious anyway! The pie was filled with soft, slow cooked oxtail, and served with two fabulous accompaniments - anything with pastry will always be a winner as far as I am concerned, and this was no exception.

petit oxtail pie

This was followed by Tasmanian venison 'primal' with honey brown mushrooms, squash, white bean puree and quince paste for Mr Alphie, and Tasmanian duck breast with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, buttered barley and roast duck essence for me.

Tasmanian venison primal

I am struggling to remember back this far ( I need to keep a notebook!), but Mr Alphie tells me his venison was superb. Quite rare, but beautifully soft and game-y.

Tasmanian duck breast

After a short break, chatting by the fire, we were ready to tackle dessert. Mr Alphie was having a lot of trouble deciding, but finally settled on the vanilla pavlova with lavender ice cream, red wine jelly, lavender shortbread and vanilla sauce, after seeing it on its way to someone else's table. I opted for a classic - chocolate fondant with raspberry sherbet and  chocolate paint.

chocolate fondant

The fondant was to die for, perfectly cakey outside with a gorgeous gooey inside, pared with tangy raspberry sorbet, just to make sure you don't suffer from a chocolate overload (not that that would be a bad thing!). The pavlova was exactly the way Mr Alphie likes them, lots of meringue and not much topping, or as he would say, 'lots of pav-, hardly any -lova'. The ice cream and shortbread were very fragrant, but didn't have overpowering lavender flavours, which I think is preferable, lavender flavour always runs the risk of being too room deodoriser-like if it's too strong.

vanilla pavlova

The meal was outstanding, and coupled with the beautiful rooms, day spa and gorgeous scenery, Mr Alphie and I were talking about when we could be back, before we'd even left!