Simple, by Ottolenghi

Unknown.jpegIt seems like half the people in my extended family got this book for Christmas. Certainly I did, because when I saw it at a friend’s house I sent a link to the Fishpond listing to my mum, with the subject heading OH MY AN OTTOLENGHI BOOK I DON’T OWN and because she’s a smart lady she knew what to do.

Jerusalem will always be my best and favourite and the book by which I judge all other Ottolenghi books, which is probably unfair to him but that’s my brain. So Simple is different from that; it doesn’t feel quite as Middle Eastern-y to me. Having said that, that may be because a) I cook a fair bit in that style (caveats for being Anglo-Australian etc), and b) I live in an area where getting sumac and the like are straightforward. This is not a criticism, it’s just a Thing.

Simple reflects one of the tendencies I’ve noticed in cookbooks over the last several years: reassuring people that cooking isn’t hard, and giving a convenient shorthand for picking recipes. Since I have friends who were new to cooking, started a recipe at 7pm without reading to the “… now cook for two hours” bit, I think this is very useful.

S – short on time

I – ingredients: 10 or fewer

M – make ahead

P – pantry (what you have in it)

L – lazy

E – easier than you think

Me, I think that last one is a bit of a cheat, but I do also approve of encouraging people to do things that might seem difficult.

I adore it. Chapters include Brunch, Raw Veg, Cooked Veg, Rice Grains and Pulses, Pudding… and one of my very favourite things that is cropping up more recently, the Meal Suggestions and Feasts ideas. Thank you for helping me think about what pairs well!

So far the thing I have made most frequently is cauliflower ‘tabbouleh’. Grate cauliflower, add a lot of herbs, serve. It’s delicious and works exceptionally well with roast chicken. Soba noodles with lime, cardamom and avocado is brilliant on a summer’s evening, with some added lamb – the lime and avocado and lots of herbs are a delight. The blueberry, almond and lemon cake is easy and delicious; I also made an alternate version with hazelnut meal and cherries.

There are so many recipes in this book that I want to make that it will definitely be on high rotation this year. This is a very good place to start if you’ve never cooked anything from Yotam Ottolenghi before.

Acts of Kitchen: Richard loves cooking


I interview Richard Condie, who has a great passion for cooking and also an incredible vegetable garden (and fruit trees).

As I mentioned: Vege Bouquets


Medlars:                                                                 Yottam Ottolenghi’s Sweet:

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It’s not easy being green

I have a  confession to make.

I’m not so good with the green leafies.

Rocket? Oh yes, my favourite salad leaf of all time.

Baby spinach? Sure, great in a salad. Baby spinach and strawberries and feta and balsamic!

Mature spinach? Um, sure. You can wilt it, right? Use it with lentils? … add it to breakfast if you have to?

But then there’s silverbeet. And kale. oh gahd, kale. These are not things I would buy for myself. But my Ceres box has contained them rather frequently.

What to DO??

Unknown-1.jpegSo, kale. Turns out kale is ok if you mix it with garlic and crispy potato. Thank you, Stephanie Alexander, for Elizabeth Schneider’s Baked Curly Kale with Potato, Olive and Garlic (this recipe is very similar), you have saved my kale from just being automatically given to the worms. Who would have loved it but I would have felt bad. Not exactly my choice of dish but perfectly fine when it just… turns up…

Unknown.jpegAnd silverbeet? Well, once you discover that it’s also called Swiss chard, it gets easier to find recipes. (Do not get me started on foods with more than one name. EGGPLANT AND ZUCCHINI I AM LOOKING AT YOU. AND YOU CORIANDER.) So my current Swiss chard has mostly become Ottolenghi’s Plenty: Swiss chard, chickpea and tamarind stew. And it was really quite good. I liked the tamarind; also I added some cured lemon paste mixed with some Greek yoghurt, which of course makes everything delicious.

I still don’t love these greens but at least I have things I can do with them now when they inevitably turn up in my Be Healthy box.

Sfiha, or Lahm Bi’ajeen

There are heaps of different spellings for lahm bi’ajeen, it seems, and also lots of different names depending on the ethnicity of the version you’re referencing. I know it better as lahmacun, for which there is also many spellings, or just Lebanese pizza. Lahm bi’ajeen is the spelling in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, which we used the other night.

The ingredients are as follows (from the Ottolenghi site):
230g strong white flour
1½ tbsp milk powder
½ tbsp salt
1½ tsp fast-action dried yeast
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
125ml sunflower oil
1 medium free-range egg
110ml lukewarm water
olive oil, for brushing

… and I ended up spending a fair bit of time being embarrassed that I’d made a mistake, and searching the internet for other versions of the dough recipe, because look at that amount of oil. When it had sat for the requisite hour, there was very little rising in evidence… but there was a little puddle of oil that had seeped out. It had felt incredibly oily to make. And when I made it into the little rounds, it still felt incredibly oily. I certainly hadn’t bothered to brush it with more oil. And even after the next two sets of quarter-hour resting: basically no rising. I know it’s meant to be a flat bread, but the instructions do say to expect some rising. It’s fair to say I was pretty unhappy with the situation.

My darling made the topping:

250g minced lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped (180g in total)
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (250g in total)
3 tbsp light tahini paste
1¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
tsp cayenne pepper
25g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp sumac
25g pine nuts

I was surprised by the tahini but wow was it fantastic. He double-minced the lamb, which made it incredibly fine – the place we go to for Leb pizza makes their meat pizza with basically a paste, and that’s what he managed too. While I was all ready to throw it all away and go to bed hungry (because I’m dramatic when I’m starving), he put them onto the pizza stones (on baking paper because of all that oil), and kept an eye on them. And… all the oil meant an incredibly crispy base, and of course the topping was brilliant. So they were indeed delicious and made me feel a bit silly.

Not silly enough, though, to think that I’ll be making this again with the exact same recipe. I think next time I’ll halve the oil and see how that goes.