Buzz food: Yotam Ottolenghi's novel recipes for familiar ingredients | Food (2024)

Yotam Ottolenghi recipes

Burnt courgettes? Cherry and beetroot soup? Slow-cooked beans and quinoa porridge? Trying out new ideas is a thrill

Yotam Ottolenghi

Fri 6 Jun 2014 21.00 BST

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Discovering new ingredients is my idea of fun. Discovering new ways to cook with familiar ingredients is, however, possibly even more fun. In my next cookbook, due out later this year, the chapters have been organised around various ways in which things can be cooked: grilled, roasted, simmered, braised, baked and so forth. The recipes are all vegetarian, and those I am most excited about (not that chefs have favourites, of course) are the ones where an everyday ingredient has managed to surprise me when prepared in an unexpected way.

A single orange or lemon, for example, tends to call to mind freshly squeezed juice or grated zest. What happens, then, when you roast thin slices in the oven or boil down the entire fruit or segments of it with some aromatics before blitzing the whole thing up?

Instead of simply eating watermelon as it comes or cubing and pairing it with some salty cheese, as tradition dictates, what happens if you add it to a tomato gazpacho and blitz it all together?

Ingredients generally relegated to the side of a dish can be brought to the fore: brussels sprout risotto, say, or whole leeks dotted with sweet currants and goat's curd.

Quinoa tends to be cooked quickly in boiling water and refreshed so that each distinct grain reminds you just how virtuous it is. Try, instead, binding a handful into a patty with some grated cheese and a host of spices before pan-frying in oil. Or cook it for so long that it reaches a porridge-like consistency, before stirring through feta cheese and dotting the top with chargrilled baby plum tomatoes.

If tahini transforms so many savoury dishes and dressings, what happens if you drizzle it on top of sweet banana bread or combine it with honey in a broccoli-bound dressing? I've roasted a good many aubergines in my baba ganoush-making days, but how about trying the same thing with courgettes?

Rather than roasting aubergines, what happens if we lose the olive oil entirely and try steaming them whole for a change? Instead of putting beans on toast for an instant supper,see what kind of magic takesplace when you slow-cook them for five hours.

I'll never stop exploring and being thrilled by new ingredients – but the buzz is just as great when old friends are seen in an entirely new light.

Cauliflower 'tabbouleh'

I have seen this in a few restaurants recently: raw cauliflower grated into crumbs. The little white bits are crunchy and fresh and work well in all manner of raw salads or salsas. You can mix them with chopped raw carrots, beets and soft herbs, dress with vinaigrette and dot with goat's cheese – or, as I do here, use them as a substitute for bulgur or couscous for a gluten-free, cooking-free option. Toasted pistachios, roughly chopped, are a lovely garnish as an alternative to the pomegranate seeds below. Serves four.

1 large cauliflower (800g)
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped (50g net)
40g parsley, roughly chopped
20g dill, roughly chopped
15g mint, roughly chopped
¾ tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp olive oil
80g pomegranate seeds (about half a small pomegranate)
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Hold the cauliflower by its base and roughly grate the florets on the largest holes of a cheese grater; you should end up with 550g of cauliflower resembling cooked bulgur wheat. The stalks can be discarded or used in crudités. Place the grated cauliflower in a large bowl, along with the lemon juice and one and three-quarter teaspoons of salt. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes before adding the onion, herbs, allspice, oil and a generous grind of black pepper. Gently mix to combine, transfer to a serving plate or bowl, sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and serve at once.

Pan-fried sea bass with burnt courgette and tahini

Burning courgettes is the newest trick up my sleeve. The smoky pulp has a texture like that of burnt aubergine and is similarly delicious spread on toast, used as a dip or served alongside simply grilled meat and fish.Hold your nerve when burning the courgettes: you can't get their smoky flavour without some serious scorching. Serves four.

6 large courgettes (about 1.5kg)
50g tahini paste
2 tbsp lemon juice
20g parsley, roughly chopped
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
4 sea bass fillets, skin on and bones removed (400g)
2 tbsp olive oil
20g flaked almonds
40g pomegranate seeds (about a quarter of a medium pomegranate)
4 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 lemon, cut into four wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat your oven to its highest grill setting. Spread the courgettes out on a medium baking tray, lined with foil, and place about 10cm below the grill for up to an hour, turning them over halfway through, until the skin is blackened all over. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin and place the flesh in a colander to drain for 20 minutes.

Place the tahini, lemon juice, 15 grams of the parsley, the garlic and a third of a teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl.Add the drained courgette flesh, stir, and set aside.

Pat the fillets dry with kitchen paper before lightly scoring their skin a few times. Sprinkle them with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and agenerous grind of black pepper.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the fillets, skin side down, and cook for three minutes, until the skin is crispy and golden-brown. Turn the fillets over and continue to fry for one minute, until the fish is cooked through. Remove from the pan and keep somewhere warm while you add the almonds to the same pan and cook for one minute, until golden-brown.

Divide the courgette mixture between four plates and top with the fish. Sprinkle over the almonds and pomegranate seeds, followed bya drizzle of molasses. Finish with the remaining parsley and serve at once, with the lemon wedges to squeeze alongside.

Beetroot and cherry soup

It is the marvellous sweetness and dazzling red colour that beets and cherries have in common that made me want to add the latter to my not-so-traditional borscht. The fruity result is a perfect opener for an early-summer meal. Sour cherries, if you can get them, would add a welcome kick. Serves four.

60g unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced (250g net)
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (100g net)
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced (130gnet)
Shaved peel of one lemon
750g raw beetroot, peeled and cut into 1½cm dice (600g net)
120ml cherry brandy, plus extra tofinish
800ml vegetable stock (or chicken stock, if you prefer)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
20g bunch of dill, tied together with string, plus 15g chopped dill to serve
1 tsp juniper or allspice berries, wrapped and tied in a small piece ofmuslin
400g cherries, stoned (360g net)
120g soured cream
Salt and black pepper

Put the butter in a large saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for three minutes. Add the carrot, celery and lemon peel and continue for anotherthree minutes, until everything starts to soften. Add the beetroot and cook for a further three minutes before pouring in the cherry brandy. Let everything bubbleaway for two minutes before adding the stock, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, dill, juniper or allspice berries, a teaspoon ofsalt and a grind of pepper.

Bring to a very gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the cherries and cook for a further five minutes, until everything is tender. Remove from the heat, then use a slotted spoon to pick out the dill, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and berries.

Serve in individual bowls, with a tablespoon and a half of soured cream on top of each portion, followed by a sprinkle ofchoppeddill and a few drops ofcherry brandy.

• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

Follow Yotam on Twitter.


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