Iranian herb fritters by Yotam Ottolenghi

Iranian herb fritters.png

These can be snacked on as they are, at room temperature, or else served with a green tahini sauce and some extra herbs. If you want to make the tahini sauce then just blitz together 50g tahini, 30g parsley,½ crushed garlic clove, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1∕8 tsp salt. Once this is all in the blender, blitz for 30 seconds and pour in 125ml water. Holding back on the water allows the parsley to get really broken up and turns the sauce as green as can be. This sauce is lovely spooned over all sorts of things – grilled meat and fish and roasted vegetables, for example – so double or triple the batch and keep it in the fridge. It keeps well for about 5 days. You might want to thin it with a little water or lemon juice to get it back to the right consistency.

These fritters are a bit of a fridge raid, using up whatever herbs you have around. As long as you keep the total net weight the same and use a mixture of herbs, this will still work wonderfully. The batter will keep, uncooked, for 1 day in the fridge.

Alternatively, pile the fritters into pitta bread with condiments: a combination of yoghurt, chilli sauce, pickled vegetables and tahini works well. You’d just need one fritter per person, rather than two.

Makes 8 fritters to serve 4–8 (depending on whether everyone is having one, in a pitta, or two as they are)

40g dill, finely chopped
40g basil leaves, finely chopped
40g coriander leaves, finely chopped
1½ tsp ground cumin 50g fresh breadcrumbs (about 2 slices, crusts left on if soft)
3 tbsp barberries (or currants)
25g walnut halves, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
8 large eggs, beaten
60ml sunflower oil, for frying
salt

Place all the ingredients, apart from the oil, in a large bowl with ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well to combine and set aside.

Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large non-stick pan and place on a medium high heat. Once hot, add ladles of batter to the pan.

Do 4 fritters at a time, if you can – you want each of them to be about 12cm wide – otherwise just do 2 or 3 at a time. Fry for 1–2 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden-brown. Transfer to a kitchen paper-lined plate and set aside while you continue with the remaining batter and oil.

Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Cook more from this book
Braised eggs
Slow cooked chicken

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Braised eggs with leek and za’atar by Yotam Ottolenghi

Braised eggs.pngServes six

This is a quick way to get a very comforting meal on the table in a wonderfully short amount of time. It’s a dish as happily eaten for brunch, with coffee, as it is for a light supper with some crusty white bread and a glass of wine. The leeks and spinach can be made up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge, ready for the eggs to be cracked in and braised.

30g unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil 2 large leeks (or 4 smaller), trimmed and cut into ½cm slices (530g)
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
2 small preserved lemons, pips discarded, skin and flesh finely chopped (30g)
300ml vegetable stock
200g baby spinach leaves
6 large eggs
90g feta broken into 2cm pieces
1 tbsp za’atar salt and black pepper

  1. Put the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, and place on a medium high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the leeks, ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft. Add the cumin, lemon and vegetable stock and boil rapidly for 4–5 minutes, until most of the stock has evaporated. Fold in the spinach and cook for a minute, until wilted, then reduce the heat to medium.
  2. Use a large spoon to make 6 indentations in the mixture and break one egg into each space. Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of salt, dot the feta around the eggs, then cover the pan. Simmer for 4–5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.
  3. Mix the za’atar with the remaining tablespoon of oil and brush over the eggs. Serve at once, straight from the pan.

Cook more from this book
Iranian herb fritters
Slow cooked chicken

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Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi

Simple Ottolenghi

What’s the USP? The publishing phenomenon that is Yotam Ottolenghi returns with a seventh volume of his signature Middle Eastern-inflected food but this time, with colour-coded, simplified recipes for cooks who are short on time or just plain lazy.

Who’s the author? Ottolenghi is a world-famous cookery writer and restaurateur who has almost single-handedly brought Middle Eastern cuisine into the mainstream (although he would no doubt acknowledge the importance of ground-breaking writers such as Claudia Roden who wrote the definitive Book of Middle Eastern Food back in 1972). He runs NOPI and ROVI restaurants in London, alongside a group of four Ottolenghi deli’s dotted around the capital. He has filmed two series of Mediterranean Feasts for Channel 4 and Jerusalem on a Plate for the BBC.

What does it look like? Colourful. From the big lemon on the cover to the bright chapter headers (aubergine purple for Cooked Veg, marine blue for Fish, each accompanied by a charming graphic) and of course the always vibrant, multi-hued food, the book will bring a little ray of sunshine into your kitchen whatever the weather outside. And then there’s the six-step ‘traffic light’ recipe colour-coding using the acronym SIMPLE – an orange ‘S’ for ‘short on time’, a yellow ‘I’ for ‘ingredients: 10 or less’, a green M for ‘make ahead’, a blue P for ‘pantry’, a light green L for ‘lazy’ and a red ‘E’ for ‘easier than you think’.

Is it good bedtime reading? This is a straight up recipe book with an introduction that explains how the colour coding works and short recipe introductions that are often breezy, chatty and mostly about serving suggestions or alternative ingredients. A book for when you are looking for inspiration to cook rather than recreational reading.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Ottolenghi has been good enough to credit his two co-authors, food writer Tara Wigley and chef and recipe tester Esme Howarth and, between the three of them, they have produced a book of carefully written recipes that even give weights for herbs instead of ‘bunches’ or ‘handfuls’ and unusually, specify many ingredients by both number and weight, so you know for example that 2 small onions should equal about 250g. It’s a very useful and practical feature and one that should make the book particularly appealing to less confident cooks.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You shouldn’t have any problems tracking down everything you need, but if you do get stuck, good old Ottolenghi has his own web store, stocked with everything from black glutinous rice to dried sour cherries that will get you out of any purchasing hole. Handy eh?

What’s the faff factor? For a book titled Simple, there are a fair-few long ingredient lists and complicated methods.

How often will I cook from the book? Simple is one of those rare cookbooks where you’ll want to try every recipe so there’s no danger that it will sit sad and unused on your shelf.

Killer recipes? Standouts include gem lettuce with herby avocado and tahini ‘fridge-raid’ dressing that is bound to become part of your standard repertoire, and a wicked hazelnut, peach and raspberry cake that’s a cinch to make but tastes like your pastry chef sweated hours over it.

What will I love? The useful directory of  ‘Ottolenghi’ ingredients like sumac, za’atar and urfa chilli flakes that help define his cooking; the meal and feast suggestions that will help you plan your cooking, and the book’s upbeat, approachable style. A unique code is printed at the back of the book which gives access to a fully searchable online version of Simple which means you can cook from the book via your phone or tablet (or laptop) when you are away from home (or even if you are at home but don’t want to get pomegranate molasses stains on the pages of your beautiful new cookbook).

What won’t I like? Although the SIMPLE colour coding is a nice conceit, I’m not convinced of its practical use. A more straightforward indication of time to prepare and cook the dishes would be more useful in deciding which recipe to cook on any given day. And not all the recipes are even that simple; slow cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust for example has 16 ingredients and requires you to separate eggs, whisk up the whites and fold back into a corn batter to make the crust, in addition to a two-stage cooking process that will take well over an hour and half to complete (that said, the dish does look well worth the effort).

Should I buy it? If you are new to Ottolenghi, this is an excellent place to start and if you are a converted fan then you will want to add this to your collection.

Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 Stars

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Ottolenghi SIMPLE

Cook from this book
Braised eggs
Iranian herb fritters
Slow cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust

Quince tart with gingerbread ice cream by Simon Rogan

Quince Tart

MAKES 8

Gingerbread
80g unsalted butter
50g molasses
400g plain flour
250g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
50ml whole milk
80g preserved stem ginger (from a jar)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
50g fresh ginger
2 eggs

Gingerbread ice cream
500ml whole milk
2 egg yolks
25g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
125g gingerbread, from recipe above, roughly broken into chunks
Pastry
270g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
150g unsalted butter, softened
75g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg

Poached quince
1 quince
350ml red wine
250g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 195°C/175°C Fan/Gas Mark 5, grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin and line it with baking parchment.

To make the gingerbread, melt the butter and the molasses in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Once melted, remove from the heat and leave to one side. Mix the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest together in a large bowl. Blitz the milk, stem ginger, cinnamon, ground ginger and fresh ginger in a small food processor until smooth, then pass through a fine sieve. Beat the eggs in a bowl and mix with the ginger milk, then add the molasses mix. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients little by little, until fully incorporated.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes. Once cooked (a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean), remove from the oven and leave to cool. Remove from the tin and cut into suitable size 125g pieces, wrap each piece in cling film and freeze.

To make the ice cream, bring the milk to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl. Gradually pour the hot milk into the yolk and sugar mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat until the temperature of the mixture reaches 80°C (check with a thermometer), stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the fresh or defrosted from frozen gingerbread, then allow to cool. Blitz in a blender until smooth then churn in an ice-cream maker until frozen. Transfer the ice cream to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and keep in the freezer.

While the ice cream is churning, make the tart bases. Mix the flour and the butter together by hand in a bowl until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the sugar, salt and egg and keep mixing until you have a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for 1 hour. Once rested, dust a work surface with flour, unwrap the dough and roll it out to a thickness of 3mm.

Cut to size with a cutter or upside-down small bowl to fit eight 4cm small tart tins. Line the tins with the pastry, pushing the pastry all the way down the sides, lightly prick the base of the tartlets and line them with greaseproof paper and a few baking beans. Bake blind for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Peel and cut the core away from the quince. In a small, heavy-based saucepan bring the wine and 200g of the sugar to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the quince and simmer for 18–20 minutes, or until the quince are just tender but still have a little bite. Remove from the heat and leave the quince to cool in the wine.

Cut the cooled quince into 5mm dice. Make a caramel with the remaining sugar: heat the sugar in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat, without stirring, until it begins to melt, then start to stir and keep stirring until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Cook for about 10 minutes until the sugar is a dark honey colour.

Remove from the heat and add the butter, whisking constantly. Add the diced quince to the pan and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove the caramelised quince from the pan and allow to cool.

Place a small amount of the quince in each tart case then pipe a rosette of ice cream on top to cover and serve immediately.

Cook more from this book
Radish stew
Smoked lamb shoulder

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Rogan

Smoked lamb shoulder by Simon Rogan

Smoked Lamb Shoulder

SERVES 6–8

Lamb shoulder
400g coarse sea salt
1 lamb shoulder (about 2.8–3kg)
100g soft light brown sugar
200g granulated sugar
20g garlic powder
50g smoked paprika
50g sweet paprika
6 star anise
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp coriander seeds

Runner beans
500g young, tender runner beans, such as Tenderstar
40g unsalted butter
salt, for seasoning

enough wood smoking chips to create an even layer in the baking tray
Lamb Jus (SEE RECIPE AT END OF MAIN RECIPE), to serve

Dissolve 300g of the salt in 1.5 litres of water in a large bowl. Submerge the lamb shoulder in the brine and put it in the fridge for 24 hours. The next day, rinse the shoulder under cold running water and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a bowl, including the 100g salt, and rub into the shoulder.

Put the smoking chips in a nice even layer in a large roasting tin lined with foil. Sit a wire rack on top, one that is a similar size to the roasting tin, making sure the wire isn’t touching the chips. Put the shoulder on the rack and cover the entire rack and tin with a tent of foil, so no smoke escapes. Sit the tin on the hob over a low–medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove the covered tin from the heat and allow the shoulder to smoke in the foil tent for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C Fan/Gas Mark 2. Transfer the smoked lamb shoulder to a clean baking tray, place in the oven and cook for 4 hours until tender.

Top and tail the runner beans and remove the stringy sides. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the butter and cook the beans for 3 minutes. Drain.

Serve the lamb in the middle of the table with a jug of sauce for guests to help themselves and with the runner beans and confit potatoes in a large bowl alongside.

LAMB JUS

2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1kg lamb bones
3 litres White Chicken Stock (RECIPE BELOW)

WHITE CHICKEN STOCK
3kg chicken wings

Roughly chop the chicken wings and put them in a large,heavy-based saucepan with 5 litres of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2–3 hours, skimming occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, the strain through a muslin-lined sieve. Keep the stock covered in the fridge and use within 3–4 days, or freeze and use within 3 months.

To make the lamb jus, warm the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, add the vegetables and cook for 2–3 hours, stirring regularly, until completely soft and no moisture is left in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Put the lamb bones in a roasting tin and roast for 40 minutes, or until deeply golden. Add the bones to the pan with the vegetables, reserving the fat for the potatoes. Deglaze the roasting tin with 200ml water and add it to the pan. Cover with the chicken stock and bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours over a low heat, skimming it regularly. Strain through a fine sieve into another heavy-based saucepan then reduce the stock over a medium heat to a sauce consistency.

Cook more from this book
Radish stew
Quince tart

Read the review

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Rogan

Radish stew by Simon Rogan

Radish Stew

SERVES 4, AS A STARTER

Aubergine purée
1 large aubergine (about 450g)
½ tbsp tahini paste
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
½ tsp roasted chopped garlic

Radish sauce
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 shallot, sliced
40g button mushrooms, sliced
1½ tsp tomato purée
250g red radishes, thinly sliced
500ml Vegetable Stock (see recipe at end of main recipe)
sherry vinegar, for seasoning
5g unsalted butter

Truffle granola
135g honey
35g black truffle oil
35g chilli oil
150g porridge oats

Radishes
12 mixed radishes, such as Cherry Belle,
Albena and Viola
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
8 stalks of rhubarb chard (or Swiss chard),
stalks removed and cut in half

salt, for seasoning
rapeseed oil, for drizzling
assorted radish flowers and sea purslane, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6.

First, make the aubergine purée. Wrap the aubergine in foil and bake it in the oven for 35–40 minutes until completely soft, then halve it lengthways and scoop out the flesh. Put the flesh in a blender with the tahini, yoghurt and garlic and blitz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and season with a pinch of salt.

While the aubergine is cooking, make the radish sauce. Warm the oil in a medium, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat, add the shallot and sweat for 5–6 minutes, or until translucent, stirring regularly. Add the mushrooms and sweat for a further 3 minutes, or until soft and tender. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for 3–4 minutes. Add the radishes and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and blitz with a hand-held blender until smooth, then strain through a fine sieve. Finish the sauce by seasoning with sherry vinegar and salt and whisking in the butter.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/140°C Fan/Gas Mark 2.

To make the granola, warm the honey, oils and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small saucepan over a low heat until the honey has melted and the salt dissolved. Mix in the oats.  Transfer to a baking tray, spread it out in an even layer and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then break into small pieces. Leave the oven at the same temperature.

Put the radishes on a baking tray, chopping any larger ones in half, season with a pinch of salt, drizzle over half the oil and roast for 10–12 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in a medium, non-stick saucepan and add the rhubarb chard leaves along with a splash of water. Cook gently until the leaves have wilted and season with a little salt.

Warm the radish sauce. Put a spoon of the purée in the centre of four plates and place the roasted radishes on top. Add the chard, purslane leaves and flowers. Spoon the sauce around the outside and sprinkle with truffle granola. Drizzle with rapeseed oil.

VEGETABLE STOCK

3 onions, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, halved
15g chervil
15g tarragon
15g flat-leaf parsley

Put all the vegetables and the garlic halves in a large, heavy-based saucepan with 4 litres of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Take off the heat, add the herbs and leave to cool, then chill and infuse in the fridge overnight. The following day, strain it through a muslin-lined sieve. Keep the stock covered in the fridge and use within 3–4 days, or freeze and use within 3 months.

Cook more from this book
Smoked lamb shoulder
Quince tart

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Rogan

Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver

Jamie Cooks Italy jacket (1)

What’s the USP? According to the author’s introduction, it’s ‘your go-to Italian book, a manual of deliciousness’. According to recent reports in the press, it’s part of a carefully planned strategy to help shore up the ailing Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain. Jon Knight, chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group was quoted as saying that, “We lost touch with Jamie, there was a growing disconnect between what Jamie was doing on TV and in his books – people weren’t experiencing that in the restaurants”. So, what better way to realign Jamie’s Italian the restaurant with Jamie the chef than a TV series and cookbook tie-in all about Italy?

Who’s the author? You might have heard of Jamie Oliver. He’s the chef that was recently accused of cultural appropriation for selling ‘Punchy Jerk Rice’ in supermarkets (even though there’s no such thing as jerk rice) and caused outrage with his attempts to curb junk food advertising and extend the sugar tax with accusations of taking food out of poor people’s mouths and hypocrisy, given that his Jamie’s Diner restaurant in Gatwick Airport serves burgers and shakes. He’s also one of the most famous chefs in the world who helped revolutionise food on TV with his debut series The Naked Chef in the 90’s and has a long track record of philanthropy. So, take your pick.

What does it look like? Bold, bright and colourful, there’s nothing subtle about this book. Long-time collaborator David Loftus’s photos seem supersaturated with Sicilian (and many other Italian regions) sun and even the recipe titles are printed in a vibrant sunshine yellow.

Is it great bedtime reading? Not really. A brief introduction and the pen pictures of the various Nonna’s that Oliver has tapped up for recipes on his travels around Italy are brief, superficial and not particularly well written.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?
As ever, a Jamie Oliver recipe is all about accessibility so you’ll have no problem finding pretty much everything you need, bar the odd grouper or rabbit with its offal intact, at the supermarket

What’s the faff factor?
The preparation times given for the wide range of recipes in the book start at 15 minutes to knock up golden breaded tuna with Aeolian spaghetti with lemon, capers, pecorino, chilli and herbs to five hours plus marinating overnight for ‘wildest boar ragu’ so the ‘faff factor’ really depends on whether you feel life’s too short to stuff your own agnolotti.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes?
If you’re expecting Jamie to be all gor-blimey-guv’ner-bish-bosh-bash-glug-of-oil-matey you’ll be disappointed; even half a bunch of flat leaf parsley is given an indicative weight (15g if you’re interested).

How often will I cook from the book?
This is a something-for-every-occasion sort of book which you may easily find yourself reaching for mid-week for a simple supper or for a weekend of pasta making and baking.

Killer recipes? Semolina teardrop dumplings from the Aosta Valley in Northwest Italy (a sort of spätzle, traditional to the Walsers community in Italy that has Swiss and German roots); baked risotto pie with sweet spicy squash and oozy cheeses; panissa rice with smoked pancetta, cured meats, borlotti beans, tomatoes and red wine, and many others

What will I love? There is no question that Italy is Oliver’s greatest inspiration (watch the Jamie’s Italy or Jamie Cooks Italy TV series and you can see pure joy in his face) and thanks to that TV budget, he and his team have been able to research the recipes first hand, so this is no hastily thrown-together cash in.

What won’t I like? Oliver has a very distinctive food writing voice, one that bursts with enthusiasm and which never leaves a hyperbolic statement unturned; you’ll either love it or it will grate. If you don’t appreciate the flavour of rosemary being described as ‘genius deep savouriness’ then you might want to turn to more level-headed writers like Anna Del Conte or Elizabeth David for your Italian fix.

Should I buy it? Does the world need another Jamie Oliver cookbook, especially another Jamie Oliver cookbook on Italian food, especially given that he published the excellent Jamie’s Italy back in 2005? In fact, there is very little, if any crossover between the two books, quite a feat given that together they run to more than 700 pages. Oliver divides opinion, but if you are a fan, and I am, then this is a welcome 21st addition to the chef’s ever-growing canon.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 Stars

Buy this book
Jamie Cooks Italy
£26, Michael Joseph