Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ottolenghi - The cookbook 2008

Ottolenghi - The cookbook 2008 - an education in cooking from East and West Jerusalem
Ottolenghi began life as a cafe, deli cum bakery in London's Notting hill neighbourhood. It soon became an iconic destination,the cakes and breads were to die for and you could mix and match all kinds of wondeful salads with meat and fish dishes that broadly speaking had a Mediterranean feel but with lots of flavours and textures that were new to most people - spices like sumac, za'atar, pomogranate seeds, lots and lots of coriander, tahini, maple syrup. It was comfort food but with a twist. Dishes like marinated aubergine with tahini and oregano, figs with young pecorino and honey, roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey and pistachio shortbread proved a big hit and other locations soon opened.Nobody had heard of sumac and pomogrante seeds pre-Ottolenghi and now a lot of supermarkets stock them and they've become part of of the lexicon of what we consider modern cooking.They only opened in 2002 so it's quite an achievement.
There are two chefs involved, Yotam Ottolenghi brought up in a Jewish part of Jerusalem with Italian and German grandmothers and Palestinian Sam Tamimi from the old city of Jerusalem. These different backgrounds and approaches plus influences from further afield  have made for a fabulous partnership and it was only a matter of time before they published a cookbook. Ottolenghi The cookbook Random House was published in 2008 and Plenty followed in 2010. Both are wonderfully inspiring.
Ottolenghi The cookbook is divided into 4 sections - Vegetables, pulses and grains (there is eating and drinking as my mother would say  for the creative vegetarian cook here), Meat and Fish, Baking and patisserie which covers everything from bread to meringues then finally Larder where recipes for basic sauces and preserves are given. There's also a great introduction which outlines their approach (serious enjoyment of food!) and describes key ingredients.
The food is generally quite simple and not at all fussy. They say that they are inspired by the street vendors in Jerusalem. Natural food at its best is the starting point and after that they let the flavours, and there are often many, speak for themselves. At times dishes will have up to 10+ ingredients and as a novice you don't quite know how it's all going to pan out but it does, beautifully.
My recipe is a simple one that uses very familiar ingredients (leeks and pepper) in a way that was very new and inspiring to me. You start by poaching strips of red Ramiro pepper  in cider vinegar, sugar, pink peppercorns, coriander seeds  and cardamom pods. I wondered if the flavours would stick to the pepper but wow they really did. There's a crème fraiche dip bit that is a cinch to put together – chopped scallions, capers, lemon juice and a dash of olive oil. The leeks were trimmed, chopped, boiled in salty water then dipped in egg and Panko bread crumbs. Panko breadcrumbs if you’re not familiar with them are from Japan where they know how to fry without letting things get greasy. The result like a lot of Ottolenghi's food is a great combination of familiar but new. I hope you like it.
Ottolenghi’s fried leeks with sweet and sour peppers with a crème fraiche dip

You’ll need:

1 Ramiro or regular red pepper cut into strips about 1cm thick

80gr caster sugar

100ml cider vinegar

200ml water

10 pink peppercorns

½ tsp coriander seeds

3 cardamom pods

5 or 6 leeks

150gr crème fraiche

2 scallions

1 ½ tbsp chopped capers

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 ½ tbsp olive oil

Sunflower oil for frying

50 gr (a large handful) Panko breadcrumbs mixed with a pinch of salt

1 egg

Begin by putting the pepper, vinegar, sugar, water, pepppercorns, coriander seeds,  cardamom and a generous pinch of salt in a pot. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the leeks getting rid of the tough green leaves. Cut into 6cm long segments then wash well. Drop into boiling salted water and cook for about 15 minutes until semi-soft. Drain then lay out on kitchen paper and allow to dry off and cool.

Mix the crème fraiche with the capers, scallions, lemon juice and olive oil then set aside.

Heat about 2cm sunflower oil in a pan. Beat the egg then dip the leeks into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs. When the oil  is ready fry the leeks  until golden.

To serve, drain the peppers and lay on top of or alongside the leeks and top with a dollop of crème fraiche or serve this in a ramekin beside the leeks. Fantastic!!


Unknown said...

a book with wholesome ingredients,
well done..

smooth sailings, Sarah...

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