One of the things I look forward to most on a Saturday morning is sitting at the kitchen table with Peter, reading the Sydney Morning Herald as we eat breakfast together. I go straight for the Weekender pages in the GoodWeekend magazine, looking for chef Neil Perry's latest recipes.
Perry is one of Australia's leading chefs and restaurateurs, perhaps best known for the multi-award winning Rockpool Bar & Grill, as well as being the author of several cookbooks, a presenter on the Lifestyle Channel, and the lead for a catering team that works with Qantas Airways. Fresh produce has always played a starring role on Perry's agenda, which probably explains why I have been such a fan of his recipes over the years.
The recipe I am sharing here appeared in GoodWeekend in November 2013 and since that day it has featured regularly on the menu at our place. It is simple, fresh and full of flavour. My adaptation includes the addition of (home-grown) baby spinach, and I use sweet eschalots instead of the suggested spring onions (as Peter tends to pick them out!). I don't always use Sichuan pepper (sometimes I simply forget). The original recipe called for 'hot bean paste', which I've been advised is what the the Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Sauce (Toban Djan) is. And, while this dish is best prepared with silken tofu, you can also use firm tofu, as I discovered quite by accident on one occasion.
SPICY BEEF WITH TOFU AND SPINACH
2 tablespoons peanut oil
500g grass-fed beef, minced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small French eschalot, sliced
2 tablespoons Chili Bean Sauce Toban Djan or hot bean paste
125ml chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1 teaspoon cooking rice wine
1 teaspoon light soy or Tamari sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy or Kecap manis sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional, if you like it HOT)
2 teaspoons caster sugar
300g silken tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
1/4 teaspoon Sichuan pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cups baby spinach, sliced (include stalks)
coriander leaves, to garnish
steamed rice, to serve
As this is a wok-cooked dish, I suggest that you have all your ingredients measured out, chopped, diced and at hand, as the cooking time is relatively short. Heat your wok until you see 'the breath of the wok' rise. Add the peanut oil and as soon as the oil is hot, add the minced beef (a little at a time), tossing the beef with a charn over a high heat until it begins to brown slightly. Now add the garlic, sliced eschalot and the chili bean sauce (or hot bean paste). Stir fry until well combined and fragrant.
Next you add the stock (or the water, which also works well), the cooking rice wine, the soy sauces, chilli flakes if using, and the caster sugar to the wok. Bring back to the boil, then add the cubed tofu and the chopped spinach. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the liquid cooks down a little. Try not to toss the mixture around too much at this stage, as you don't want the tofu cubes to break. Add the Sichuan pepper, if using, and the sesame oil, and combine. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with coriander leaves. Serves 2-4.
[This adaptation © Liz Posmyk 2014 Good Things].
Simple, fresh and full of flavour...
Tell me dear readers, do you look for inspiring new recipes in the weekend papers too? And do you enjoy tofu? What's your favourite way of cooking it?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.