Thursday May 19, 2011

Ottolenghi The Cookbook

When I found this cookbook reviewed a few years ago on the Internet I knew I had to have it. The only problem was that it had only released in the UK at that time so I was going to have to wait, but then a friend of mine was heading off to London and I asked if he could help find the book. He did and was so kind that he found an autographed copy that he picked up in one of their restaurants. It was his first visit to their restaurant and he was very impressed. I love the idea behind the concept. Large platters of fresh made intriguing salads, simple pastries, hot dishes, different breads all beautifully prepared and laid out on large white counters and a back drop of shiny white walls making the food jump out at you, beckoning you to come and enjoy.

They have a straightforward approach to their food, simply prepared, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves. This enables the consumer to build a closer bond between the food, the chef and its story. They have minimal refrigeration which they say is key to keeping the food at it’s optimal quality, the chill of the refrigerator kills most flavor, so for that they sell out the platters quickly. A salad would tell it’s own story if it were left out without refrigeration for long , and no one can hide that. I have seen this a lot in Europe especially at lunch spots. I do not think it is allowed in America, all cold items must be kept at 40 degrees and all hot items must be kept at 160 degrees. So sad, I don’t understand why we Americans must have too much of everything all wrapped up in plastic, a false security that it is “fresh”. I have never read of wide spread food poisoning in Europe. We have a lot to learn when it comes to our relationship with our food. Sorry for the diversion, this topic makes me crazy. Back to the book, the authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi were born in West and East Jerusalem. Yotam came from a backround of German and Italian blood and Sami a Palestinian Arab. Both are inspired by their childhood food memories. The foods they create have no boarders, the focus ranges from Persia to California as they state in the book cover. I just love all of it and cook from this book often. I am sharing a family favorite that can be used as an appetizer, side dish or used in pita bread for a sandwich like Sami’s mother did in his youth. It is reminiscent of an Indian Pakora but I find that it has silky custard like texture beneath the crispy crust. Yotam Ottolenghi has a new vegetarian cookbook out, “Plenty” and the team behind Ottolenghi, which now has four locations through out London just opened NOPI, a high-end brasserie with a twist. If I ever find myself in London I am making a trip to OTTOLENGHI for sure.

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Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with Lime Yoghurt

Ottolenghi The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

I added a ½ teaspoon of baking powder to the batter, I liked the lightness it added to the crunch. I do not like cinnamon so I changed it out with crushed coriander and added a teaspoon of crushed red chili for some spice. I also substituted lemon for the lime in the sauce and it worked just fine. You could also play around with the vegetable here, any soft cooked veggie could possibly work.

For the Fritters:

1 small cauliflower (about 320g)
120g plain flour or ½ cup
3 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley plus a few extra leaves to garnish
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 free range eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
500ml sunflower oil for frying or about 2 1/4 cups

For the Lime Yogurt:

300g Greek yogurt or 1 1/3 cup
2 tablespoon finely chopped coriander with a couple of leaves reserved to garnish
grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper


1. Put all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Taste-looking for a vibrant, tart, citrusy flavor and adjust the seasoning. Chill or leave out for up to an hour.
2. To prepare the cauliflower, trim off any leaves and use a small knife to divide the cauliflower into little florets. Add them to a large pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain into a colander.
3. While the cauliflower is cooking, put the flour, chopped parsley, garlic, shallots, eggs, spices, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk together well to make a batter. When the mixture is smooth and homogenous, add the warm cauliflower. Mix to break down the cauliflower into the batter.
4. Pour the sunflower oil into a wide pan to the depth of 1.5 cm and heat up. When it is very hot, carefully spoon in generous portions of the cauliflower mixture, 3 tablespoons per fritter. Take care with the hot oil! Space the fritters apart making sure they are not too crowded. Fry in small batches, controlling the oil temperature so the fritters cook but don’t burn. They should take 3-4 minutes on each side.
5. Remove from the pan and drain well on a few layers of kitchen paper. Serve with the sauce on the side.

Serves 4