we have a somewhat cult-ish following of ottolenghi. i got i a signed version of his cookbook which she then recommended to a friend of hers who is in love with it too. a colleague at work went and bought it and declared it to be food porn. of course i own an ottolenghi cookbook and religiously collect recipes that appear in his observer column every week.
the thing about these recipes is that they can appear quite complex. initially i was both daunted and felt reluctant using them because of the length of the ingredients lists and the steps involved. i’ve overcome that fear now and feel confident enough to offer you this advice. what one has to realize about ottolenghi is that they tend to use an elaborate list of spices and herbs which add considerable length to the ingredients list. insofar as the steps involved, i often find that a little bit of creativity and adventure through adaptation and tweaking can help.
last night my flat mate and i cooked an ottolenghi dinner. we had roasted chicken with sumac, zatar and pine nuts and an apricot cous cous. it actually turned out to be quite simple as the chicken was left to marinate overnight and the cous cous really didn’t take that long. Instead of soaking dried apricots and chopping them i used the shortcut and got pre-chopped soft apricots. although this time j and i followed the spirit of the recipe closely, next time i will do away with frying the pine nuts in butter and blotting them by pan roasting them instead. It saves me extra dishes to wash, less paper towel used and tastes just the same.
so here is the thing, don’t let the cookbook intimidate you. instead read through the ingredients and steps and rationalize and tweak them. cheat where you can (after all delia and nigel do it too). and then sit back and enjoy with a glass of wine.
i must say that our roasted chicken was mild and flavourful. it’s quite remarkable how ottolenghi combines an assortment of flavours and neither one of them overpowers each other. our chicken was roasted with sumac, zatar, thinly sliced rings of lemon and cinnamon. the pine nuts added richness and chopped parsley, freshness. our cous cous was perfectly fluffy and slightly sweet with apricot and caramelised onions with the cool refreshing flavour of a trio of fresh herbs – mint, tarragon and parsley.
if you have an ottolenghi cookbook. try it. you won’t be disappointed.