Posts Tagged ‘ottolenghi’

I love spicy food with a dollop of something cooling on it, like chilli with guacamole or curry with raita, almost to the point where the cooling element takes precedence. It’s the kind of food I want when I’m on my own of an evening and am going to sit down in front of the TV for dinner.

This curry, not as hot as the name vindaloo suggests, is made so much more delicious with thick, cold yoghurt and mint and coriander leaves. The recipe is for 4 but it’s even better eaten the next day or reheated from frozen so do make more than you need. I found myself searching my freezer hoping for one last bag of this the other day which seemed the sign of a good recipe.

Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredients list, it’s a cinch to make and most of this lot are just spices you quickly tip into the pot. Another from the wonderful Mr Ottolenghi, this time from his new cook book ‘Plenty’, which will be the first of many recipes I’ll try. Not sure the husband was convinced with the lack of meat in this recipe but even he had to admit it was pretty good – once he was pursuaded to try it.

Two-potato vindaloo

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 Cooking time: 2 hours

8 cardamom pods

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp vegetable oil

12 shallots (300g in total), chopped [I didn’t bother with shallots, just used the onions I already had in the fridge]

1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

25 curry leaves

2 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger

1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped [I used tinned]

50ml cider vinegar

400ml water

1 tbsp caster sugar

400g peeled waxy potatoes, cut into 2.5 cm dice

2 small red peppers, cut into 2cm dice

400g peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 2.5 cm dice


mint or coriander leaves to serve

Start by making a spice mix. Dry-roast the cardamom pods and cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan until they begin to pop. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and add the cloves. Work to a fine powder [i found this quite hard work, not sure how ‘fine’ you’d call what I ended up with], removing and discarding the cardamom pods once the seeds are released. Add the turmeric, paprika and cinnamon and set aside.

Heat up the oil in a large heavy-based pot. Add the shallots with the mustard and fenugreek seeds, and saute on a medium-low heat for 8 minutes, or until the shallots brown. Stir in the spice mix, curry leaves, ginger and chilli and cook for a further 3 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes, vinegar, water, sugar and some salt. Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes and red peppers and simmer for another 20 minutes. For the last stage, add the sweet potatoes. Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if needed) and continue cooking, covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and leave to bubble away for about 10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce. Serve hot, with plain rice and garnished with the herbs and yoghurt.




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I served this with the beef fillet with three sauces but it is delicious with chicken, pork, on it’s own… Another Ottolenghi recipe, it can be prepared a day in advance and left in the fridge until you want to put it in the oven. You can also replace the sage with thyme – or use a mix of both. For me the best thing about it is that you don’t have to peel the potatoes and, unlike other dauphinoise-type dishes where you use ‘normal’ potatoes, these never seem to be under cooked.

My top tip is don’t use those really massive sweet potatoes you often find in the supermarket, you want them to be small enough so that when you pour the cream over them they are nicely covered, not just toes dipping. You’ll see what I mean. 

Sweet potato gratin

Serves 4-6

Prep: 15 mins Cooking: 1 hour 10 mins

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 1.5kg in total)

5 tbsp roughly chopped sage, plus extra to garnish

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

250ml whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6. Wash the sweet potatoes (do not peel them) and cut them into discs 5mm thick. 

In a bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of sweet potato in a deep, medium sized oven-proof dish by taking tight packs of them and standing them upright, next to each other. They should fit together quite tightly so you get parallel lines of sweet potato slices (skins showing) along the length or width of the dish. Throw any remaining bits of garlic or sage from the bowl over the potatoes.

Cover the dish with foil, place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Roast, uncovered, for a further 25 minutes. The cream should have thickened by now. Stick a sharp knife in different places in the dish to make sure the potatoes are cooked. They should be totally soft. 

Serve immediately, garnished with sage, or leave to cool down. In any case, bringing the potatoes to the table in the baking dish, after scraping the outside clean, will make a strong impact.


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We had friends for dinner on Friday night and since I’d already done pork and chicken recently (see earlier posts), and I’m randomly ‘off’ lamb at the moment due to some short circuit in my pregnancy brain (normal service to resume in January hopefully), that left beef. I wanted to keep it fairly simple and fancied doing this delicious sweet potato gratin I’ve done before from the Ottolenghi cookbook (see subsequent post!) and this roasted beef fillet recipe was there in the book. It was not cheap to buy beef fillet for six people but I thought it was delicious and we had enough for left over cold beef sandwiches, with watercress, mayonnaise, dijon mustard… Yum. I served the whole lot with some rocket and watercress salad. 

With the sauces, I’ve included all three mentioned in the Ottolenghi book but in actual fact I only made the rocket and horseradish one due to a small misunderstanding with my husband who thought it was ‘over-doing it’ and that it would detract from the flavour of the beef. The rocket and horseradish sauce was so delicious that I seriously regret that now and have made a note to take even less notice of his opinions in future. It was a brief moment of weakness and won’t happen again. He did ‘do’ the beef though and that was, credit where credit is due, just perfect. Also, its worth noting that the sauces can be made in advance, so you’re not madly making them at the last minute. 

In case you’re interested, I did a starter of tapas – some olives, some chorizo, some manchego and some padron peppers, followed obviously by the above, and then made some chocolate brownies which we had with ice cream for pud. To be honest the brownies were a little dry as I think I overcooked them but I’ll include the recipe soon as they have worked brilliantly in the past and are seriously decadent.

Roast beef fillet with three sauces

Serves 6 -8

Prep: 5 mins for the beef, 15 – 20 mins for the sauces with a bit of washing up in between 

Cooking: For the beef, depends how you like it and how big the fillet is, but about 15 mins; for the sauces, only the choka one needs any cooking – about 20 mins

1 beef fillet, trimmed, (about 1.5kg)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas mark 7. To get the strong, meaty flavours from the fillet, start by chargrilling it. Place the fillet in a bowl with the oil, salt and pepper and massage in to the meat. Place a heavy ridged griddle pan over the highest possible heat and leave for a few minutes, until very hot. Now sear the fillet, turning it around to get nice dark char marks on all sides; it should take 2-3 minutes in total. [If you don’t have a griddle pan you can just brown the meat in a frying pan, but keep the high heat to sear the meat well]

Transfer the fillet to a roasting tray and put in the oven to roast. This should take about 10 – 14 mins for medium rare, 15 – 18 mins for medium or longer for well done. These are just guidelines, not all ovens are the same, or fillets so do check the meat at different stages. You can press the meat with your finger and if the meat bounces back, its probably cooked through, if not its still rare. Another option is to stick a sharp knife into the fillet and try to look inside – safer but not as elegant. If the knife comes out cold, the meat is definitely not cooked. Keep in mind that the meat will carry on cooking in its own heat after it comes out of the oven.

When ready, remove from the oven and leave the fillet in the tray to rest for 10 mins, then cut it into slices 1-2cm thick. You can also leave it longer and serve at room temperature. Serve with the sauces on the side.

Choka (smoky tomato sauce)

450g plum tomatoes

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 mild red chilli, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp chopped coriander

1 tbsp paprika

a pinch of dried chilli flakes

salt and black pepper

Place a large, heavy based frying pan over a high heat and allow it to heat up well. Put the whole tomatoes in it and cook for about 15 minutes, turning them occasionally. The burnt skin will give the sauce its smoky flavour (beware, though; it will take a bit of scrubbing to clean the pan once you’re done). Place the hot tomatoes in a bowl and crush them roughly with a wooden spoon. Pick out most of the skin.

In a saucepan, heat up the oil well. Remove the pan from the heat while you add the onion so it doesn’t spit all over. Return to the heat and cook for 3 minutes on a medium heat just to soften slightly. Add the onion and oil to the crushed tomatoes, together with the chilli, garlic, coriander, paprika and chilli flakes. Taste and season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rocket and horseradish sauce

50g rocket

2 tbsp freshly grated horseradish root [i used 2 tbsp from a jar of horseradish from the supermarket which worked just fine]

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

125g Greek yoghurt

Put all the ingredients except the yoghurt in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, add the yoghurt and mix well. This sauce will keep for a few days in the fridge in a sealed container.

Watercress and mustard sauce

40g watercress

20g wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

110ml soured cream

Put all the ingredients except the soured cream in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, add the soured cream and mix well. This sauce will keep for a few days in the fridge in a sealed container.


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Another Ottolenghi salad. I asked the husband what he wanted for dinner yesterday and instead of suggesting curry he said he’d like ‘one of those salady things you’ve been doing’ so I did. I should know better. It’s what he thinks he wants after lunch when he’s full and feeling all righteous and healthy but by the time he gets home he’s ravenously hungry and would rather devour a whole fatted calf. So the inevitable question ‘Is there meat in this one?’ came and there wasn’t. But you could try some grilled chicken with this as I think it would work well. Having said all that, the conclusion was that in fact this salad was a meal in itself and the griddling of the veg had the effect of making it taste a bit like meat… Bless him. The griddling of the veg also filled my kitchen with clouds of smoke so perhaps not one to do minutes before people arrive for dinner.

Manouri is a sort of haloumi or goats cheese, which they don’t have in my supermarket so I got some hard looking goats cheese which promptly evaporated in a hissing, steamy sizzle on the griddle pan (adding to the fumes). Instead I just broke it up like bits of feta and mixed them into the salad. The Ottolenghi guys suggest a light goat’s cheese ‘like Rosary’ or haloumi. I’m not quite convinced about haloumi, whether I really like it or not, so didn’t try that but at least it might keep it’s shape better. I also lazily used sunblush tomatoes from a jar instead of slow roasting them in the oven and this worked really well – as well as saving 50 mins of cooking time, though I’ve included the proper method here in case. I had some basil oil left over from a lentil salad I made the other day – must write that up too – but I also added some toasted pinenuts (after the ‘wot no meat?’ comment) and beefed the whole thing up with quinoa. A meal in itself, like I said. 

Chargrilled asparagus, courgettes and manouri

Serves 4-6

Prep: 30mins Cooking: 1 hour 10 mins

350g cherry tomatoes, halved [or a jar of sunblush tomatoes in oil]

140ml olive oil

24 asparagus spears [I know these aren’t in season here, but they do seem to be in Peru….]

2 courgettes

200g manouri cheese, sliced 2 cm thick

25g rocket

coarse sea salt and black pepper

For the basil oil [easier to make in a mixer if you double the quantity]:

75ml olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

25g basil leaves

a pinch of salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Start with the tomatoes [if you’re bothering]. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Mix the tomatoes with 3 tbsps of the olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, skin side down. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes or until semi-dried. You can leave them there a bit more or a bit less, depending on how dry you like them. They will be delicious anyway. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. 

Trim the woody bases of the asparagus and blanch for 4 minutes in plenty of boiling water. Drain and refresh under cold water, making sure the spears are completely cold. Drain well again, then transfer to a mixing bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper. 

Slice the courgettes very thinly lengthwise, using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler. Mix with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and some salt and pepper.

Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave there for a few minutes. It should be very hot. Grill the courgettes and asparagus, turning them over after about a minute. You want to get nice char marks on all sides. Remove and leave to cool.

Heat the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Fry the manouri cheese for 3 minutes on each side or until it is golden. Place on kitchen paper to soak up excess oil. Alternatively, chargrill the cheese on the hot griddle pan for about 2 minutes on each side.

To make the basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. You might need to double the quantity for some blender blades to be effective. Keep any extra oil for future salads. 

To assemble, arrange the rocket, vegetables and cheese in layers on a flat serving plate. Try to build the salad up whilst showing all the individual components. Drizzle with as much basil oil as you like and serve.


Ottolenghi The Cookbook, £25, Ebury Press

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Ottolenghi-inspired rice salad

A school friend came over today with her lovely 9 month old daughter for some lunch and a natter. I’m not really au fait (yet) with what ladies who lunch eat (or do they just go out? They probably don’t cook anyway…) so since it was such a gorgeous, sunny day I decided to have what I felt like eating, which was an interesting but substantial enough salad. I don’t have any specific recipe for this but its one that I’ve made again and again with many variations and always enjoy. You can vary the ingredients as much as you like and add and subtract what you fancy or happens to be in your cupboard. I make my own muesli and my own bread so always have loads of seeds, nuts and dried apricots to hand. The rest are easily picked up at the supermarket and, once you’ve cooked the rice, can easily be assembled last minute. For dinner you can add some chicken, or roast a few chicken pieces, to make it more of a main course. 

I’ve called it ‘Ottolenghi-inspired’ after the London deli/cafe’s (ottolenghi.co.uk) and like so much of what they make, it’s got lots of creative ingredients, and looks beautifully colourful and like you’ve made a real effort. They’ve published a great recipe book (Ottolenghi The Cookbook, £25, Ebury Press) and everything in it is inspirational and delicious. There are some recipes which take too long or are rather complicated for us average cooks, but there is always something in the book I want to make. I’m sure I’ll be featuring some of the recipes I’ve made that have already worked, so will keep you posted. 

Ottolenghi-inspired rice salad

Serves 2

Prep: 15 mins Cooking: 15 mins

100g mixed wild and long grain rice

handful pine nuts (or you could use shelled pistachio nuts)

handful dried apricots, chopped

bunch coriander (you could also use parsley, mint…), chopped

half an avocado, peeled and sliced

feta cheese, about a third of a packet, diced

half a cucumber, chopped fairly small

large handful rocket

2 spring onions, finely chopped

as many pomegranate seeds as you can be bothered to unpick from the fruit 

olive oil

sherry vinegar

salt and pepper

Place the rice in a large saucepan of cold water. Simmer for 15 – 18 mins (or according to pack instructions) until done. Rinse well in plenty of cold water to stop it cooking and leave to totally cool. Meanwhile, put the pine nuts in a small frying pan and heat until golden – make sure you shuffle them around a bit (technical term) and watch them or they’ll burn. When they’re done take the out of the pan and put in your salad bowl, if you leave them in the pan they’ll go on cooking as I’ve learnt from bitter personal experience… Chop up the rest of the salad ingredients, or add them to the salad and mix well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and some olive oil and sherry vinegar and serve.

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