Simple cooking Ottolenghi-style

Yotam Ottolenghi with his team of recipe writers, testers and tasters. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin
Yotam Ottolenghi with his team of recipe writers, testers and tasters. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Some people may think mentioning "Yotam Ottolenghi'' and "simple'' in one sentence is impossible - but the chef denies this.

Hence his new cookbook Ottolenghi SIMPLE.

"The reason I'm so excited about Ottolenghi SIMPLE is that it's full of recipes which are still distinctly `Ottolenghi' but simple in at least one [but often in more than one] way.''

Ottolenghi SIMPLE, by Yotam  Ottolenghi, published by Ebury Press, RRP $65.
Ottolenghi SIMPLE, by Yotam Ottolenghi, published by Ebury Press, RRP $65.

He recognises there is more than one way to get a meal on the table and that everyone has a different idea of which way is simple - some like to have it all prepared beforehand, others like to shop and cook on the same day, while others like to slow-cook during the day.

To cater for this approach, his team has come up with a colour-coded system to work out what kind of "simple cook'' you are and what kind of occasion you are cooking for to select recipes which are right for you.

"Simple'' stands for short on time, 10 ingredients or fewer, make ahead, pantry, lazy and easier than you think.

"My hope, though is that for all those who want food to remain abundant and bold but the cooking of it to be simple then the `simple' structure here will be a kitchen liberation.''

The recipes themselves are divided into usual sections - brunch, vegetables, rice and pasta, meat and fish and puddings.

Sections on meal suggestions, feasts and Ottolenghi ingredients have also been included.

Fans will not be disappointed.

Photo: Jonathan Lovekin
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad 

It was a little moment of revelation, I remember, when I first combined roasted cauliflower and raw grated cauliflower in the same dish. So different from one another, but working so well combined.

This is lovely as it is, served as part of a spread, or spooned alongside some roast chicken or lamb. Don't throw away the leaves of the cauliflower here.

They're lovely to eat, roasted and crisp, or grated raw as you would the rest of the cauliflower. If you want to get ahead, roast the cauliflower up to 46 hours in advance. Keep at room temperature and then just combine with the remaining ingredients when ready to serve.

Serves 4

1 large cauliflower (800g)

1 medium onion, roughly sliced (130g)

80ml olive oil

25g parsley, roughly chopped

10g mint, roughly chopped

10g tarragon, roughly chopped

seeds from ½ medium pomegranate (80g)

40g pistachio kernels, lightly toasted

and roughly chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1½ tbsp lemon juice

salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 200degC fan.

Coarsely grate a third of the cauliflower and set aside in a bowl. Break the remaining cauliflower into florets, roughly 3cm wide, and add these to a separate bowl with the cauliflower leaves, if you have any, and onion.

Toss everything together with 2 tablespoons of oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt, then spread out on a large parchment-lined baking tray. Roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Once cool, put the roasted vegetables into a large bowl with the 50ml oil, the grated cauliflower and the remaining ingredients, along with ¾ teaspoon of salt. Toss gently, just to combine, then transfer to a platter and serve.

This is a wonderful meal, served with a crisp green salad. The slow-cooked chicken is packed full of flavour and the crust - gluten-free, rich and corny - makes for a welcome (and lighter) change to a heavier mash.

 

Photo: Jonathan Lovekin
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Slow-cooked chicken 

You can make the chicken well in advance if you want to get ahead: it keeps in the fridge for up to three days or can be frozen for one month. You want it to go into the oven defrosted, though, so it will need thawing out of the freezer.

The batter needs to be made fresh and spooned on top of the chicken just before the dish gets baked, but it then can just go back in the oven.

It can also be baked a few hours in advance - just warm through for 10 minutes, covered in foil, before serving.

I love the combination of the chicken and the corn, but the chicken also works well as it is, served on top of rice, in a wrap or with a buttery jacket potato.

Serves 6

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 red onions (500g),

thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tbsp rose harissa

(or 50% more or less,

depending on variety)

2 tsp sweet smoked

paprika

850g chicken thighs,

skinless and boneless

(about 9-10 thighs)

200ml passata

5 large tomatoes, quartered (400g)

200g jarred roasted red peppers,

drained and cut into 2cm thick rounds

15g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

20g coriander, roughly chopped

salt and black pepper

Sweetcorn batter

70g unsalted butter, melted

500g corn kernels, fresh or frozen

and defrosted (shaved corn kernels

from 4 large corn cobs, if starting from fresh)

3 Tbsp whole milk

3 eggs, yolks and whites separated

Method

Heat the oil in a large saute pan, for which you have a lid, on a medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 8-9 minutes, stirring a few times, until caramelised and soft. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, harissa, paprika, chicken, 1 teaspoon of salt and

a good grind of black pepper. Cook for

5 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the passata and tomatoes. Pour over 350ml of water, bring to the boil, then simmer on

a medium heat, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while.

Add the peppers and chocolate and continue to simmer for another 35-40 minutes, with the pan now uncovered, stirring frequently, until the sauce is getting thick and the chicken is falling apart. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander. If you are serving the chicken as it is (without the batter), it's ready to serve (or freeze, once at room temperature).

At this stage, if you are making the corn topping, spoon the chicken into a ceramic baking dish, one with high sides that measures about 20cm x 30cm, and set aside.

Sweetcorn batter

Heat the oven to 180degC fan.

Pour the butter into a blender with the corn, milk, egg yolks and ¼ teaspoon salt. Blitz for a few seconds, to form a rough paste, then spoon into a large bowl.

Place the egg whites in a separate clean bowl and whisk to form firm peaks. Fold these gently into the runny corn mixture until just combined, then pour the mix evenly over the chicken.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden-brown: keep an eye on it after 25 minutes to make sure the top is not taking on too much colour: you might need to cover it with tin foil for the final 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Photo: Jonathan Lovekin
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Plum, blackberry and bay friand bake

Friands are the light, moist almond cakes popular in Australia, New Zealand and France. Whisked egg whites and very little flour make them wonderfully light, and the ground almonds make them really moist. Traditionally, they're small cakes, but here I tip the batter into a baking dish and cook it whole.

You can make the batter well in advance here, if you want to get ahead - it keeps well in the fridge up to a day ahead but don't macerate the fruit for this amount of time as it will become too juicy.

Serve with custard, vanilla ice cream or cream. The fruit can be played around with, depending on the season. Raspberries and peaches can be used in the early summer months, for example.

Serves 6 generously

200g blackberries

4 ripe plums, stones removed, cut into 1cm wide wedges (360g)

1 tsp vanilla extract

60g caster sugar

3 fresh bay leaves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

60g plain flour

200g icing sugar, sifted

120g ground almonds

8 tsp salt

150g egg whites (from 4-5 large eggs)

180g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Method

Place the blackberries and plums in a bowl with the vanilla extract, sugar, bay leaves and a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon.

Set aside for 30 minutes. Don't be tempted to leave them sitting around for longer than this, as the fruit will become too juicy.

Heat the oven to 190degC fan.

Mix the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds, the remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon and salt in a separate large bowl. Set aside.

Lightly whisk the egg whites by hand for 30 seconds, so they just start to froth. Stir into the flour mixture, along with the melted butter, until combined.

Tip the batter into a 20cm x 30cm parchment-lined baking dish and top evenly with the fruit and juices. Bake for 40 minutes, covering the dish with foil for the final 10 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

 

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