|Sweet potato galette|
|N.B. This is a photo we took of the book cover itself|
Before I even got stuck into cooking the recipes, I knew it was my type of book. Firstly, they use the soaked-bread-in-water trick that I love for meatballs; they acknowledge that their macarons are imperfect-looking-yet-tasty, and even recommend Ladurée for perfect ones; and finally, their cupcakes are the serious kind - lusciously thick ganaches and mascarpone based icings, none of that nasty crusty hard pink buttercream stuff! Love!
Clarice described the book as having a similar style to Bill Granger, in that there's a balance between fresh, vibrant healthy savouries, and very decadent desserts. Of course, they're also both based on well-renowned cafes! However, I would say Ottolenghi definitely has the edge on Bill. Even though I'm a fan of Bill, with Ottolenghi there is a level of technical skill and knowledge on the page that just doesn't come through with Bill's books. Not to imply that Bill himself lacks technical skill, far from it, but just that his recipes seem too simplified to sustain my prolonged interest.
A clear theme I've noticed through the book is unexpected but well thought out flavour combinations and techniques - a sweet potato galette is perked up with raw garlic and chilli; blanched brocolli is given extra smoky depth by being cooked on a char grill, and so on.
I've been cooking heaps from the book, and I haven't come across a single dud recipe yet. If I were ever to do another Sarah Discovers How to Eat-type project, it would be with this book. In fact, I'm putting off buying the Yotam's next book (Plenty), because I'm afraid I won't ever leave the kitchen! Let's have a look at what I've been cooking so far...
Sweet Potato Galettes
I'll start with the sweet potato galettes, as this is my absolute favourite recipe in the book! Since we've come home from Europe, I've made it at least four times - perfect for relaxed dinners with friends, or an easy yet treaty meal at home. These days I don't need the recipe anymore, but can simply wing it - yay! It's just puff pastry, layered up with sour cream, roast slices of sweet potato, goat's cheese, pepitas and chillies. I always use Carême puff pastry, for super flaky-buttery goodness!
After baking, you brush the tart with a punchy mixture of olive oil, raw garlic and parsley, really lifting what would otherwise be a uniformly sweet-ish tart into something memorable and delicious.
Turkey and Sweetcorn Meatballs with Roasted Pepper Sauce
I must admit I wasn't convinced by the name "turkey meatballs", turkey mince always reminding me of dry, uninspiring diet-foods. But these were really good! See the squished bread roll in the mixture? That's what makes the finished meatballs balls (heh) soft and bouncy! As you can see, there are heaps of herbs and other ingredients to add interest. The corn kernels are also roasted in a pan before being added to the mixture, giving a nice smoky flavour and tortilla-like aroma.
It's a bit of a pain to fry the meatballs and then bake them, but the results are worth it! The accompanying red pepper sauce (not pictured) is pretty intensely sour, so I like to tone down the vinegar and add a pinch of sugar. I like these served as a starter, or as a full meal with some rice.
Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon
The cinnamon and lemon in this dish differentiates it from your standard garlic-butter mushrooms, and I served these as an accompaniment to barbecued chicken and polenta. You'll see I just used plain old button mushrooms - if I were to use the suggested mix of button, chestnut, shiitake, oyster and enoki mushrooms, it would have cost me about $25 for the mushies alone! It still tasted good though.
Brown Rice and Quinoa with Orange and Pistachios
with spicy tomato sauce (from the Kosheri recipe)
This healthy and substantial recipe contains rice and quinoa (obviously), brightened up with a sparkly mixture of dried apricot, spring onions, rocket, pistachios, lemon juice and orange juice. I think it's meant to be served as a room-temperature salad, but I served it hot for dinner. The fried egg was my addition - very Asian of me, I know.
The original recipe specifies camargue red rice and quinoa, but I couldn't find red rice, so I substituted brown basmati. I also made the spicy tomato sauce to go with it as I was worried it might be a little dry - it certainly wasn't dry, but I did love the warming, spicy tomato sauce with the rice and egg.
Marinated Rack of Lamb with Coriander and Honey
This was a very simple recipe for lamb (I clearly used chops instead of a rack), and I thought the pungent herby marinade took the lamb above a standard grilled lamb. Very nice!
Butternut, Carrot and Goat's Cheese Tartlet
This tart recipe is a bit more involved than the galette above - you start by making a poppyseed shortcrust pastry, and fit it into individual little tins.
There is also a jammy-type relish from grated carrots...
... as well as goat's cheese, a creamy-eggy filling and roasted cubes of butternut pumpkin. Phew! Interestingly, the recipe says it will fill six 2x10cm tartlets, which I used, but I had enough mixture to fill those, plus an extra 20cm tart!
I brought these sturdy little babies to a picnic, along with the cucumber and poppyseed salad (another recipe from the book!) I've made the cucumber salad almost as often as the sweet potato galette - it's definitely a staple in my house now.
They were very tasty, but quite a bit of work - I'd definitely like to make them again, but probably not as frequently as the sweet potato galette. Perhaps for a future dinner party!
Blueberry Crumble Muffins
These are a simple muffin recipe, topped with a generous spoonful of crumble and studded with fresh blueberries. I added walnuts for extra crunch. The muffins were great - very tender crumbed and moist. However, being based purely on white flour and with the crumble topping, they were a little sweet and soft; I think of them as more of an afternoon tea treat than a breakfast item.
Chocolate Fudge Cake
And finally I present the chocolate fudge cake! It's one of those sunken flourless chocolate cakes: rich with melted chocolate and lightened with whipped egg whites. It's slightly different though, in that you bake two thirds of the mixture first, let it cool, add the remaining mixture and bake it again. This is to give different textures in the cake (although you can bake it all at once if you want!)
When I made it, I was too impatiently greedy to let it cool in between baking and after it was completely cooked, so it was very, very dense and fudgy, almost falling apart when we ate it. Oops! It still tasted amaaazing though. Next time I'll be more patient and let it firm up completely before digging in. Maybe.
Check out the following for more Ottolenghi goodness: both Laura from Hungry and Frozen and Cindy & Michael from Where's the Beef have been cooking heaps from Plenty; Keiko from Nordljus has visited Ottolenghi twice to talk to Yotam in '08 and '10; and Yotam himself has a column in The Guardian. Enjoy!