Yotam Ottolenghi, never one to stint on ingredients, decided to pare down and loved it. Cue the new Yotam…
Ottolenghi and simple?
For anyone wondering, that is not a contradiction in terms! I know: I’ve seen the raised eyebrows, I’ve heard the jokes. Like the one about the reader who thought there was part of a recipe missing as they already had all the ingredients needed in their cupboard. The reason I’m so excited about my new book Ottolenghi Simple is that it’s full of recipes that are still distinctly Ottolenghi but are simple in at least one (but very often in more than one) way.
The big idea?
Well, the point is that there are many ways to get a meal on the table and everyone has their own idea of what ‘simple’ means.
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For me, it’s about being able to stop at my greengrocer on the way home, pick up something that looks good and have a meal ready within 20 or 30 minutes. My husband Karl, on the other hand, has a completely different approach. If we’re having friends over, he’ll want to prep and get ahead so that very little needs to be done when our guests are around.
So, building on this idea, my team devised a simple colour-coded system (see below) to help you choose recipes, plan meals and make them with maximum joy. Once you’ve figured out what kind of cook you are – a ‘make ahead’ cook or a ‘short on time’ cook or a ‘whatever I have in my cupboard’ cook, for example – then the whole process of getting food on the table is transformed. You simply select dishes that fit your style and the occasion. I like to say it’s a kitchen liberation!
The Ottolenghi Simple code
S SHORT ON TIME These are recipes that I might eat for supper during the week or when feeding friends on the weekend. They’re the dishes that can be made really quickly and easily: noodles and pasta come into their own.
I 10 INGREDIENTS I thought that imposing a ‘10 ingredients or less’ limit to most of the recipes in the book (excluding basic seasonings) was going to be a big challenge but it was actually the biggest thrill.
M MAKE AHEAD Dishes that you can get ahead with, without compromising on freshness or flavour.
P PANTRY Recipes that make the most of what you have in your cupboard. Obviously my own shelves are always home to a few personal pantry favourites – za’atar seasoning, for example, pomegranate or date molasses and Urfa chilli flakes. I do suggest substitutions where possible but do check out ottolenghi.co.uk for any that are less familiar to you and get to know them.
L LAZY Dishes where the preparation has been done beforehand, but then it’s up to the combined forces of heat and time to do all the work.
E EASIER THAN YOU THINK These show how recipes that sound tricky can be simpler than you might imagine. They also include some that look or sound a bit ‘restauranty’ but are actually super easy.
This works as both a side and a main, with some wilted greens alongside. Get as large a mix of mushrooms as you can and like.
I M P L
When they are ripe and sweet, buy a big batch of cherry tomatoes, to make double or triple the quantity of sauce. It takes a while to cook – just over an hour – but it keeps in the fridge for 5 days and freezes for up to a month. The ancho chilli adds a lovely smoky richness, but can be replaced by ¼ tsp sweet smoked paprika if you have this to hand rather than ancho. Alternatively, if you don’t want the kick, leave the chilli out altogether.
S I L E
Cooking rice perfectly is one of those things that shouldn’t be complicated but can be surprisingly difficult, for some, to get right. Baking it in the oven, on the other hand, as I do here, is a completely foolproof method (and one that worked, incidentally, when feeding 700 people over two sittings at the Wilderness festival in 2017!). This is such a great side to all sorts of dishes: roasted root vegetables, slow-cooked lamb or pork. To get ahead, the salsa can be made a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge.
This courgette and ciabatta frittata is a regular feature at home on the weekend, when my husband Karl and I are feeding friends. We tend to serve it with a mixed herb and leaf salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and a few chunks of feta crumbled over.
The frittata manages to be light, fluffy and comforting in a way that you can only get when you soak bread with milk and cream. Don’t waste the ciabatta crusts: they can be blitzed into fresh breadcrumbs and freeze well. This can be baked about 4 hours in advance and then warmed through for 5 minutes before serving. Ideally it should be eaten on the day it is baked, but it will keep in the fridge for 1 day; just warm through for 10 minutes.
I M L
This chicken Marbella is a dish I regularly cook for friends. All the work is done in advance – you can marinate it for up to 2 days in the fridge – and then it’s just into the baking tray and into the oven when you’re ready. The chicken loves the long marination but it can also be cooked straight away, if you don’t have the time. If you’re going to do this, just season the chicken with the teaspoon of salt and pepper (which would otherwise go into the marinade), rub it thoroughly into the skin before combining it with the rest of the marinade ingredients (no more salt required) and bake according to the recipe. I like to use chicken legs but others prefer chicken supremes, on the bone, which also work very well.
S P L
Gigli means ‘lilies’ in Italian, and their floral wavy edges are a great vehicle for the chickpeas and anchovies in the sauce. Orecchiette (ears) or conchiglie (shells) are also good for scooping and work really well here, too.
And for something sweet…
Make this throughout the year: fresh raspberries are great when they’re in season and there is a glut, but frozen also work really well. The liquid released by the frozen kind actually gives the purée a lovely smooth consistency. Get ahead with making this: it needs to freeze for at least 12 hours and both the ice cream and purée can be kept for up to a month.
This is called a chocolate fridge cake but it should be seen as a bit of a pantry cake as well, using what you have in the cupboard. All sorts of different-flavoured chocolate (ginger chocolate, chilli chocolate and so forth), biscuits, nuts, dried fruit or alcohol can be used, instead of what’s listed here, depending on what you have and what you like. The cake can be stored in the fridge, in a sealed container, for up to a week.
This can either be eaten as it is, slightly warm or at room temperature, or served as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It should be eaten on the day it is baked, or the day after – stored in an airtight container to keep it at its best.
Friands are the light, moist almond cakes popular in Australia, New Zealand and France. Traditionally they’re small cakes, but here I tip the friand batter into a baking dish and cook it whole. You can make the batter well in advance if you want to get ahead – it keeps well in the fridge up to a day – 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 varied, depending on the season. Raspberries and peaches can be used in the early summer months, for example.
Three components here, I know, but they’re all quick and simple to do, can all be made well in advance, and there’s no work to do on the day apart from some pretty informal assembly. The cheesecake (which keeps for 3 days) and compote (which keeps for 5 days) need to be kept in the fridge, and the crumble (which keeps a good week or so) just needs to be kept in an airtight container at room temperature. The compote and crumble are also lovely for breakfast, if you have any left over or want to make more, served with Greek yoghurt.
For all the tins, trays and moulds that can be used to great effect in baking, there’s nothing quite like a simple loaf cake to reassure one that all is OK with the world. This is timeless, easy and also keeps well, for 3 days, stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
SAVE 20% ON YOTAM’S NEW BOOK
Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth will be published by Ebury on Thursday, price £25. To order a copy for £20 (a 20 per cent discount) until 17 September visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.