Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

puylentilstahini

I celebrated the end of a vegetarian Lent with scampi and chicken bites at Scarborough’s wonderful Clock Café. This is my favourite cafe in the world, it’s fabulously old school with a menu that probably hasn’t changed in 40 years.

The next day I ate battered fish with chips at Whitby’s Quayside restaurant and was very happy.

The week before all that, when I was still being a vegetarian, I finally managed to make an Ottolenghi recipe work. I’m a big fan of red lentil dhal, which is a staple of mine, but this was the first time I’d attempted to cook with puy lentils which I’ve been told are tricky.

It was very tasty (even though I forgot the tiny sliced onion which I’d painstakingly prepared) but this is not surprising considering the amount of butter and oil involved. The cold hardboiled egg garnish really worked well with the hot lentils.

I have one more vegetarian recipe to tell you about next week. Bet you can’t wait.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

Serves 2

  • 200g of puy lentils
  • 30g of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 3 medium tomatoes, skinned and cut into 1cm squares (I used a third of a tin of tinned tomatoes, chopped)
  • 25g of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini paste
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ a small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Bring a pan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook according to the pack instructions until completely cooked, drain and set aside. Yotam suggested that this would take 15-20 minutes. My packet suggested cooking for 60 minutes but I found they were done after half an hour. If you can squash a lentil easily between your fingers then they are done.

Put the butter and oil in a frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, 20g of coriander and the cooked lentils and cook for a couple of minutes stirring all the time.

Then add the tahini, lemon juice, 70ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes more, stirring all the time until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up.

If at any time it looks too thick then you can add a little more water.

Serve on a platter with the sliced onion, the rest of the coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and the hard boiled eggs on the side.

Serve with homemade flat bread (or bought naan or pitta if you can’t be bothered).

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Beef tagine

beeftagine2

I’m a bit late to the game on the ras el hanout front. This ingredient has always seemed a bit too ‘Yotam Ottolenghi’ for me (meaning that it can’t be found easily in suburban Nottingham). But Tesco now stock it in their own brand spice range – a sure sign that it has entered the realms of commonplace.

Anyway, my sister gave me a little bag of it to try recently and so I set about finding a recipe.

Ras el hanout is a North African spice mix which translates as ‘head of the shop’ – as in the best spices the shop keeper has to offer. I have no idea exactly what was in my little unmarked bag, but according to Wikipedia, cardamom, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dried ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn and paprika are all commonly used.

I’m not sure why this recipe (a bastardised version of one of Jamie Oliver’s*) uses additional cinnamon, cumin, paprika and ginger if the ras el hanout is likely to include these already. Purists would probably insist of making up their own spice mix from scratch in any case, as with garam masala, curry powder, jerk seasoning, five spice and the like.

All I can say is that the final dish was delicious and very easy (if time consuming) to make.

When I was frying off the beef my son asked me if I was making mince pies. I can see why he said this because the cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in the spice mix does make it smell very Christmassy. I’m being a complete Grinch about Christmas at the moment so this is probably about as festive as my recipes on this blog will get this year.

*the original recipe can’t be trusted in any case. The comments section on Jamie’s website bought my attention to the fact that he uses teaspoons of spices in the TV series but tablespoons on the web.

Beef tangine

Serves 4-6

  • 1kg lean stewing steak cut into large (approx. 2.5 cm sq) chunks

For the marinade

  • 1 tablespoon of ras el hanout
  • 2 teaspoons of ground or whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

To cook

  • A little oil
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • A knorr vegetable stock pot (or equivalent vegetable stock cube)
  • 1 ½ cans of water
  • 100g of dried apricots cut into quarters

To serve

  • Toasted flaked almonds
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Couscous (recipe here)

Place the beef in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients and mix them in with a wooden spoon or massage them in with your hands. Cover and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

When you are ready to cook, heat a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat and brown the meat all over. It is worth taking the time to make sure you get a really good dark brown colour on both sides as this helps with the final flavour. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches depending on the size of your frying pan.

Fry off the onion in the same pan until brown.

Place the beef and onion in a lidded casserole dish along with the can of tomatoes, apricots, chickpeas and stock pot/cube. Cover with 1 and a half tins of water (using the tin from either the tomatoes or chickpeas to measure). Bring the mixture to the boil on the hob and then cover.

Place in an oven preheated to 180oC for 1 hour.

Then reduce the temperature to 150oc and cook for a further 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Make sure to check the pot at regular intervals (about every 30 mins) to give it a little stir and add a little extra water if the sauce is becoming too dry.

Just before serving mix in a good handful of chopped, fresh coriander.

Serve over a steaming bowl of cous cous or rice and garnish with more coriander and lightly toasted flaked almonds.


PS. If, unlike me, you are feeling the yuletide spirit then you may like to try one of my Christmas recipes from previous years.

Bread sauce
Easy chocolate biscuits (decorated for Christmas)
Homemade mincemeat
Christmas fudge
Mincemeat filo cigars and no nonsense mincemeat tart
Christmas pudding
Prawn cocktail

A setback and a recipe for Harissa

Harissa paste

In my last post I vowed to be more adventurous in the kitchen and to try a brand new recipe every week. But in doing this I forgot what a frustrating process it can be when recipes just don’t work. As an example, this week I earmarked Yotam Ottolenghi’s braised cabbage with miso where you cook a small white cabbage for four hours and apparently create some kind of heaven. I set to it, very smug because I was destined to fulfil two of my New Year’s resolutions in one fell swoop (new, interesting recipe, eat more greens).

But the result was disastrous, just a shrivelled, brown, acrid mess that could barely be identified as cabbage. I was gutted, I followed the recipe precisely but my greens were inedible and I had to have a beer to sooth the disappointment (thus breaking my ‘cut down on alcohol’ resolution).

I’m not going to give up just yet though because you do have to try new things. If you don’t life becomes turgid and boring and you turn into one of those households who eat the same meals on the same day every week (baked potatoes on a Monday, sausages on a Tuesday, fish on a Friday etc etc) which is akin to counting down the hours until death in my opinion.

To make up for it I did have some success with a lamb and apricot tagine from Lindsay Bareham’s ‘Just One Pot’ but I need to tinker with the recipe before I can confidently post it on this blog. I’m also going to try a Nigel Slater version in the next couple of weeks.

I did however make my own harissa paste for the tagine and it was delicious. I was unable to find any in Tesco so I trawled through my recipe books and found this recipe in Rick Stein’s ‘Seafood lovers’ guide’.

PS. The red blobs in the photo above are the harissa paste.

Harissa paste (from Rick Stein’s ‘Seafood lovers’ guide)

Makes enough to fill a small 150g jar

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 2 red chillies, roughly chopped, seeds removed
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of salt

Cut the red pepper in half, remove the stalk and seeds, and place under a hot grill until the skin turns black (this should take somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes). Once the pepper is cool enough to handle peel off the skin and roughly chop.

Put the pepper into a food processor with all the other ingredients and blitz until you have a smooth paste.

You can keep the paste in a sterilised jar in the fridge covered with a thin layer of olive oil for several weeks.

Use to finish off your tagine – recipe coming soon.