Saturday, September 12, 2015

In an Ottolenghi State of Mind


A few years ago a friend of mine invited me over for dinner. When I arrived at her house it smelled absolutely wonderful. All those aromas wafting at me and I was sitting comfortably in her kitchen enjoying myself and taking it all in.




She lived in Thailand for about fifteen years and she had brought back all those wonderful recipes. Thai cuisine is her favorite cuisine and when she invited a group of us over for dinner that evening, Thai cuisine it was.




Back then Thai food was uncharted territory for me and I was curious – after the first bites, I fell in love with the way it tasted and when I turned around to tell her how much I enjoyed her food, she smiled at me and answered „you know of course that Thai food is addictive, my dear!“.




Over the years I have often thought about that sentence and while I have quoted it many times on many different occasions, I must say that many years have passed and things have changed a lot since. I have dived with utter gusto into Italian, French, Dutch, Belgian and German cuisine. I have attended more cooking events and classes than I can count, I have collected so many cookbooks and magazines over the years that I have considered renting a place with just shelves.




I have come to grips with the fact that it is not possible to embrace one cuisine and please all those happy taste testers at home all the time – there is a definite need for variety at our place – over the years I have always searched for another cuisine that would stick with me like another addiction, like the Thai food – to this day I leave that cuisine up to the experts like my friend.




I was as pleased as can be to be cooking along with the French Fridays with Dorie group and introduce my family and myself to French cuisine, family-friendly delicious French cuisine and I took pleasure in seeing our kids taste everything from mussels to pâtés. I have also  happily turned my family into part-time vegetarians while cooking my way through Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstalls River Cottage Veg Everyday and watch our kids dive into everything from lentil soups, pearly barley salads and oven-roasted veggies – their lunchboxes are stuffed with left-over ratatouille and not peanut butter sandwiches. The Cottage Cooking Club is a wonderful outlet for all our daily vegetable inspirations.

My kitchen heroes hail from many different countries, I have a definite soft spot for those British cooks, have extensively reviewed traditional and non-traditional German cookbooks, I still enjoy cooking from my North-American cookbooks aand I do feel reasonably comfortable about translating Italian and Dutch recipes and making them my own. It is fun and it is educating to say the least – knowing a few languages does help, even today.




And let´s not forget about that blogging thing and the fact that I constantly ask people about recipes and ways they prepare a certain food – always looking for that extra something special. I cannot say that I have gotten very far though – for some inexplicable reason collecting cookbooks and recipes and magazines and watching endless cooking shows does not mean people are cooking more, let alone decide to experiment in their kitchens more. A collection of recipes does not make you a good homecook I guess.




The other day I talked to my friend again on the phone, she lives a few hundred kilometers from where we live (for Germans that is still a lot) and I asked her about her now famous sentence – it still makes her laugh when I talk about it and I told her „you know, I have found another addictive cuisine“  - „you must have heard about Yottam Ottolenghi, we all have“. She agreed, we have all heard about him or adore his recipes and have collected a few of his books  I know, I know. „But how many of his recipes have you actually gotten around to cooking?“, I asked. There is a new cookbook that was published two days ago, on September 10th, it is called NOPI:The Cookbook and includes over 120 of the most popular dishes from Yotam's innovative Soho-based restaurant Nopi.


It's written with long-time collaborator and Nopi head chef Ramael Scully, who brings his distinctive Asian twist to the Ottolenghi kitchen. Whether you're a regular at the Nopi restaurant and want to know the secret to your favourite dish or are an Ottolenghi fan who wants to try out restaurant-style cooking, this is a collection of recipes which will inspire, challenge and delight“.


During the last two days, I have managed to make four of the recipes from his new book called "NOPI"and one from his book „Plenty“ and one fron his book "Jerusalem" – considering that Ottolenghis recipes can be considered somewhat „involved“, not too bad at all.

The first recipe I tackled while waiting rather impatiently for the delivery of the new book, was the Very full Tart from Plenty – a fantastic Mediterranean feast, full to the brim with roasted vegetables.




Pre-bake your homemade shortcrusty pastry base and then continue with delicious roasted vegetables including fennel, sweet potato, courgette, aubergine, red and yellow plum tomatoes….




… and a filling with goat´s cheese, cream, eggs and fresh thyme. The recipe is easily adaptable to different vegetables according to season (leeks, aubergines, broccoli, mushrooms) and you can keep or omit the cheese if you want – I would not though.




Then finally the wait was over and the long awaited cookbook arrived - onto my first recipe from the NOPI cookbook, the utterly delightful Corn Cakes with Feta - as suggested by Ottolenghi for that "restaurant look" I used the corn husks (rather than baking parchment) to line the muffin tins. They look lovely, like little bamboo baskets and are filled with lots of incredibly wonderful ingredients such as fresh corn, banana shallots, garlic, fennel seeds, ground cumin, celery seeds, tarragon leaves, good unsalted butter, farm fresh eggs, a bit of flour, Greek feta (you could also use a Dolcelatte here instead of the feta) sea salt and a rather good grinding of black pepper.




My second NOPI recipe was the very seasonal and colorful Butternut Squash with Ginger Tomatoes and Lime Yogurt. This is one of the most delicious salads that I have ever eaten. My kind of soul food, my kind of addiction.




With roasted wedges of butternut squash, and plum tomatoes that get roasted for a two hours (!) with fresh ginger, red chilli, garlic cloves, and dark muscovado sugar and a cooling drizzle of Greek yogurt boldly flavored with ground cardamom, lime zest and juice as well as a finish of fried banana shallots, it is impossible to resist!




My third NOPI recipe the Celeriac Puree with spiced Cauliflower and fried Egg was simply amazing. The puree works well on its own as an alternative to hummus, but, combined with the other elements, makes a substantial starter or even a meal in itself if served with warm, crusty bread or white pita.




The Celeriac Puree is made with onion, garlic, bay leaves, a fresh seasonal celeriac, homemade vegetable stock, tahini paste, lemon juice, ground cumin and coriander, sea salt, black pepper and a sprinkling of Spanish sweet smoked paprika.

For the Spiced Cauliflower topping that will forever spoil you taste buds, you will need a good olive oil, a large onion, three garlic cloves, my current spice obsession „ ras el hanout“ which is a spice mix from North Africa (the name is Arabic for "head of the shop"  and implies a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer), a coarsely grated cauliflower (a new technique for me),  finely diced preserved lemon, toasted and chopped almonds, and lots of fresh Italian parsley. This dish is a true revelation!




My fourth recipe from the NOPI book was Pearl barley risotto with watercress, courgettes and pecorino – Ottolenghi comments this lovely green dish with the following remark „Risotto made with pearl barley has a bite and texture that work very well with this smooth, leafy puree“.




First cook the pearl barley, then make the green puree with watercress and fresh spinach. Fry some portobello mushrooms and some leeks and make a side salad of asparagus ribbons (or courgettes as the asparagus is not in season anymore) and shaved Pecorino Romano. Then serve a dollop of the incredibly green pearl barley risotto and top the dish off with the delightfully tangy salad that you should prepare just before serving so it keeps its crunch - which is a nice contrast to the creamy risotto.




And last but not least, Savory Sesame and Fennel Cookies (Ka´ach Bilmach) from "Jerusalem, A Cookbook", by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.




Ottolenghi recipes open up a whole new world of flavors and combinations and textures and spices that you will not encounter anywhere else. Once you have gotten over the "involved part" of his recipes and set aside enough time for the shopping, prep work, and the cooking and when you keep in mind that this is NOT an everyday kind of cuisine, and once you have gotten into the rythm of his recipes, you are very likely to fall head over heels for his cuisine.

Now I have another problem - I need to move to a place with more spice racks AND book shelves...And although I still love my friends cooking, there is another addiction that I indulge in these days – I am definitely in an Ottolenghi state of mind!



36 comments:

  1. You, my dear Andrea, are in a state of mind all of your own. First, a magnificiently written post. So many unique phrases and sentences that struck me - from your state-of-mind title to suggesting that you've considered renting a place with all shelves! Probably that purchase will take place after the coffee shop, huh? I also own my share - meaning all - of Ottolenghi's cookbooks. And, I have made the Very Full Tart from Plenty. As I wrote in this week's post, I miss FFWD but we accomplished our goal and I am enjoying moving on to all the cookbooks and food bloggers' recipes I want to try. Somehow I knew but didn't know that the newest cookbook has been published. On your rec, I will order it after this comment. Each of your recipes and the photographs of them do the Chef ( O) proud, Andrea. Each look delicious and luscious. Those words have two different meanings. This may be your best post ever. Now on to purchasing Chef O's latest. I am forwarding the bill to you and Thomas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, Mary, send the bill over to us - I do not mind the least bit! This is the most amazing "not your everyday kind of cookbook" that I have owned in a long, long time. Love the recipes, the elegant look, everything - a definite new addiction of mine and a whole new world of flavors, textures and tastes to discover out there - I cannot wait to keep on cooking from this book.
      Thank you for your incredibly kind comment and all your wonderful and thoughtful support! I am loving every word of it and enjoying it!
      Andrea

      Delete
  2. I love Plenty and Plenty More - I can find lots of recipes that suit the vegan of the house, as well as myself. I love his other cookbooks, too, but have so far refrained from buying them (I take them out of the library for visits). I have so little room on my shelves!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Teresa, well, maybe you will make room for Yotam Ottolenghi´s latest cookbook "NOPI" then - what a pleasure of a cookbook to own!

      Delete
  3. So very beautiful! Andrea, when are you going to open your very own restaurant? It would be a great success!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liebe Barbara, aber sofort - sobald mir jemand eine schöne kleine Küche zur Verfügung stellt!
      Liebe Grüße in die Provence - was für ein wunderbarer Kommentar!
      Andrea

      Delete
  4. ----Beautiful!!
    Such gorgeous photos of pure deliciousness and colorful vegetables!
    I could and would devour everything! Especially the delectable tart! Oh, My!
    .
    PS. see, I stayed on track today, Andrea!!!! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kim, you are such a doll - veggie and aroma heaven is what I call Ottolenghi´s recipes and even if the kids did not agree with me on all counts - they still loved the smells, the aromas and taste tested everything. This is not an everyday cuisine and that´s just fine by me! Variety is indeed the spice of life!
      Andrea

      Delete
  5. Wow! I've been holding off on buying any of Ottolenghi's books, but you've worn down my resistance. 4 marvelous choices---each so unique and picture perfect. Your family is VERY blessed to have you cooking for them :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liz, that is very kind of you - there are just sooo many new cookbooks out at this time of year and I have a hard time deciding which ones to choose but one thing is for sure, you can never go wrong wit the cookbooks from the incredibly talented, amazing Mr. Ottolenghi!
      Andrea

      Delete
  6. I'm such a fan of Ottolenghi. I have to give his new cookbook a try! Looks like you had wonderful success with the recipes you tried.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beth, wonderful recipes, amazing food and a very pretty and elgant cookbook indeed!
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Andrea

      Delete
  7. I remember one night when I couldn't sleep. I was perusing a web site about new cookbooks and saw the cover to Plenty, which had just been released in the U.S. It was so beautiful that I had to have it immediately. Luckily, it was available as an eBook, I bought the e-version AND the print version right away, and have been in love with his cooking and artistry ever since. I can barely stand the wait till my NOPI arrives!

    For me, there is something unique about Ottolenghi and his collaborators - they are creative, yet traditional-inspired, and they use such unique combinations of flavors - no two dishes seem to taste alike. And his recipes really work beautifully - I have never had a "dud!"

    Thanks fro your beautiful photos, and for getting me really excited to see my copy arrive! Ganz liebe Grüße, David

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad your are all into Mr. Ottolenghi - just like I am and like we all seem to be - I am curious though what, if any, is actually your very favorite recipe from his books so far? I would love to know...
      Liebe Grüße zurück!
      Andrea

      Delete
  8. So pretty.

    I have been on the fence about purchasing Nopi - as I own all his other books, but you are swaying me toward it :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cher, well , I know that Ottolenghi´s involved and very aromatic dishes are not everyone´s cup of tea but I have fallen in love with the textures and the boldness of the aromas that will hit you when you eat his foods - I am hooked and totally addicted to them these days. Cooking the recipes is always a challenge but in a really good way!
      Andrea

      Delete
  9. Hi Andrea, I can't wait for his book either, he is my favorite. Beautiful photos and descriptions.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheri, thank you very much - I know the book gets released in the US on October 20, 2015 - so it won´t be long now...and in the meantime, you can take a long look at my pics...
      Andrea

      Delete
  10. I want to reach into my computer monitor and pick up all those plates of food, Andrea!
    You are a natural, food made lovingly for your family. Beautiful.
    I'm suddenly looking forward to eating my greens!
    Sending love from California to you and your sweet family. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Colette, I might go overboard sometimes but the recipes are just to hard for me to resist - it is a great way to relax and re-treat into the kitchen for a few hours and be all by my little self so I can get on with life after and enjoy that delicious and outstanding Ottolenghi food!
      Sending you much love too - all the way to sunny California, dear friend!
      Andrea

      Delete
  11. Dear Andrea, what a lovely post and such an interesting cookbook. I look forward to seeing your photographs in a cook book someday, as well as other endeavors as well. One catch phrase I couldn't help but to our similarities was the impossibility of capturing one cuisine in your kitchen, that variety is, well, the spice of life in your home, as it is in my own. I've often kidded that my children used to believe that every mother cooks around the globe every night of the week. It certainly provides for a lifetime of learning to be sure, not to mention the diverse delights of the palate. Another beautiful post in every way! See you soon. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Peggy, you are such a thoughtful and kind person and it truly warms my heart to read your comment! Yes, we have a lot in common and I am sure that there is even more and I cannot wait to discover along the blogging road what other interests etc. we share. One thing seems to be a common thought for all of us, we all love Ottolenghi´s recipes and we are all a bit addicticted to the flavors and aromas of his amazing cuisine! Good! We all share a delicious addiction then!
      Thanks for your delightful input!
      Andrea

      Delete
  12. Yes pls I want to be invited.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Andrea, another beautiful written and photographed post. You are indeed a lioness in the kitchen, it is amazing how much effort, work and love you put into your blog. The tart looks scrumptious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Gerlinde, you could not have made a nicer a comment - I love reading that I am "a lioness in the kitchen" - I just love how that sounds!
      Vielen herzlichen Dank meine Liebe und ganz herzliche Grüße nach Santa Cruz!
      Andrea

      Delete
  14. You made such delicious and beautiful dishe. I wished I lived close by so I could be a taste tester. You did a beautiful job as always. Thank you for sharing and bringing some inspiration into my life:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Geraldine, what a fabulous comment - I wish I could invite you over to be one of my taste testers. I am most definitely in need in of "more palates", I just seem to be making sooo much food these days.

      Delete
  15. You have definitely made the most of your new Nopi book Andrea! I'm so excited that it's out. Two years ago we ate at Nopi and they told us it was in the making. Everything looks and sounds wonderful, now I can't wait!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Chris, unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of dining at NOPI yet - but I a quite confident that I will some day - a visit to Ottolenghi´s restaurant is most definitely on my to-do-list!

      Delete
  16. You have made some gorgeous dishes from NOPI - I especially love the vegetable tart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gaye, I shall take that as a compliment, my dear!
      Thank you,
      Andrea
      P.S.: Looking forward to your "cake club adventures"

      Delete
  17. Andrea all look amazing and delicious and always love yours pictures :)

    Im sorry I came late but I was sick first and some days ago we had a earthquake !!7

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Gloria, glad to hear that everything is allright with you and your family and that you are all safe and sound! Goodness, an earthquake - never mind those comments then!

      But thank you for your very kind comment, dear friend!
      Andrea

      Delete
  18. Beautiful post, Andrea! What a seduction to get someone to the stove :-) I do need this book, sounds so different in combinations of food.
    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Danke, meine liebe Wally - NOPI ist einfach ein unglaublich tolles Kochbuch und sollte doch auf dem Wunschzettel dieses Jahr nicht fehlen!
      Liebe Grüße,
      Andrea

      Delete