We’ve been trying to eat less meat lately. It’s not that we don’t love a good steak or a chicken schnitzel, or that my all time weakness isn’t Korean Fried Chicken, it’s just that we’ve come to the realisation that we don’t need to eat quite as much meat as we were buying.
Weeknight meals become a force of habit over time, and ours had become standard meat and two veg – except the meat portions had gotten bigger, the vegetables smaller. We’d have chicken schnitzel with sweet potato and coleslaw, which really was a chicken breast each with one sweet potato and some coleslaw. Bolognese was a weekly staple – and you know you can never just make one serve of bolognese…
Maybe Forks over Knives and Netflix’s Game Changers wiggled their way into our consciousness. Whatever it was, we realised that we should probably cut down on our meat intake, and we certainly didn’t need to eat meat every single day.
After some thought, we decided to try and eat vegetarian at home during the week. Eating meat at restaurants was fair game (we had never intended to turn full-time vegetarian).
So far it’s been great. Ok, well – not really. The first week I felt more tired than usual. Exercise seemed more difficult. I couldn’t rule out some sort if it was just in my head, so I forged on.
The upside of eating vegetarian is that it’s generally cheaper, vegetables are quicker to cook and stuff doesn’t go off in the fridge as often. An unexpected side effect is that we’ve both (unintentionally) lost a few kilos without really trying.
Finding and trialling new recipes take time, and a bit of trial and error. Dahl became a lunchbox favourite, along with these cauliflower tacos and this simple dish of sugar snaps and tofu. And, this Neil Perry dish below that is spicy, saucy and enough to convince most tofu haters. Trust me, I live with one.
Black Pepper Tofu with Eggplant
- 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
- 50 g plain flour
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- vegetable oil for deep frying
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 small Asian eggplants sliced thick
- 250 g firm tofu diced into 2cm x 2cm squares, 0.5cm thick
- 1 small red onion diced
- 1 small red capsicum diced
- 1 long red chilli finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves finely diced
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cooking caramel or dark soy
- 1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp cornflour, mixed into a slurry with 2 tbsp water (optional, to thicken)
- 2 long green shallots finely sliced
- 1 small handful coriander leaves
- Dry roast the Sichuan peppercorns in a hot wok for 20 seconds, then lower heat and stir for about a minute until aromatic. Crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Mix with the flour and season with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Crush the black peppercorns and reserve separately.
- Heat vegetable oil in the wok on high. When just beginning to smoke, add the eggplant and shallow-fry until golden brown, then drain on paper towel.
- Toss the tofu in the flour mixture and fry until golden all over, with a thin crust. Reserve and clean out the wok.
- Add 1 tbsp oil to the wok. When just smoking, add onion, capsicum, chilli, garlic and crushed black pepper and stir-fry until fragrant.
- Add stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce and caster sugar and reduce slightly. Check seasoning, then add the tofu and eggplant to the sauce.
- Add cornflour and water mixture to thicken if desired.
- Garnish with shallots and coriander and serve with rice.