Tag Archives: Yotam Ottolenghi

One for midweek..Moroccan lamb and spinach balls with harissa tomato sauce (couscous and minty yogurt)

Sometimes my decision-making skills seem distinctly lacking. There are times when I endlessly dither over the tiniest details, instead of going with my instincts, until I drive myself (and others mad) with my inability to make up my mind. I know it’s an infuriating trait and its so stupid when I can make monumental life changing decisions, big business choices,  but can’t decide if I want meatballs for dinner or something with some Moroccan spice.

I hope for divine inspiration, umm and ah for a while, running ideas by the boy who seems impressed and so we eventually come up with Moroccan spiced meatballs. Throw in some fresh spinach (which I have in good supply now my local veg box is running again) and there. How easy was that?

A family feast ...Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, couscous and minty yogurt

A family feast …Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, couscous and minty yogurt

Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, harissa tomato sauce (couscous and yogurt with mint): recipe for up to four (although Aidan and I were very hungry after our Sunday run so ate three-quarters of them!)

For the meatballs:

500g lamb mince

100g finely chopped spinach

clove garlic finely minced

2 teaspoons ras al hanout

1 teaspoon cumin

1 egg beaten

zest of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon oil to fry

For the sauce:

small red onion finely chopped

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon harissa

150ml chicken stock

one dessertspoonful sun-dried tomato paste

salt/ pepper and a pinch of sugar if the sauce seems a bit tart (tinned tomatoes are often quite acidic)

**

Mix the lamb, spinach, spices, garlic, seasonings, lemon zest and egg in a large bowl. Use your hands to knead it all together so the spices are completely distributed. Form into bite size balls.

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Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the lamb balls and fry over a medium heat until nicely brown all over. Remove and keep to one side. Add a little more olive oil if necessary (you will probably find that enough oil remains) and turn the heat down a bit. Add the onion and garlic and sweat gently for about five to ten minutes. Add the tomatoes, harissa, tomato paste and stock and turn the heat up again. Bring to a gentle simmer and return the balls to the pan cooking gently for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce has cooked down and thickened. Check the seasoning adding salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are a bit acidic.

Serve with couscous (try Yotam Ottolenghi’s Green Couscous from his book Plenty it’s an absolute favourite…or make a variation as I did below..

Serves 4

150g couscous
160ml vegetable stock
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
sml tsp ground cumin
3 spring onions, finely sliced
30g rocket, chopped

juice of half a lemon
handful of coriander finely chopped

Place the couscous in a large shallow dish and cover with the stock. Cover the dish with cling film and leave for 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in olive oil on a medium heat until golden and completely soft. Add the salt and cumin, and mix well leaving to fry for a minute. Stir onion mixture into the couscous, fluffing up the grains with a fork as you go. Add the remaining ingredients mixing together well.

To finish mix a handful of finely chopped mint into a small bowl of Rachel’s low-fat natural yogurt with a pinch of sea salt.

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Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, middle eastern food, Recipes, salads, seasonal food

A late middle eastern summer lunch….and a dessert of spiced poached pears & blackcurrant friande.

When supper club fans Antonia and Gail asked me to run a middle eastern/Ottolenghi inspired cookery session for their friend Liz’s birthday, the one thing they couldn’t predict was the weather. As we approached the end of September in Wales it appeared winter was well on its way, it was becoming rather damp and grim, but just when I’d pulled out those chunky jumpers from the back of my wardrobe, it all changed.

We couldn’t have asked for a more glorious day to cook and what better way to celebrate the beautiful middle eastern/mediterranean theme than lunch served on the sun-baked patio.

I rolled up and took over Antonia’s kitchen at about 9.30 unpacking two crates of equipment, fresh local veg and a plethora of exotic spices commonly used by Ottolenghi in his book Plenty. Z’atar, sumac, nigella seeds, cumin, black sesame, white sesame, smoked paprika, star anise, in their packages lay scattered across the table for my four ‘pupils’ to sniff as we discussed their common uses.

As part of the package I provided printed notes/recipes and working around Antonia’s island we shared the making and preparing of four different salads; a butterbean and rosemary hummus (which has now become my hummus of choice) and carrot and beetroot slaw with nigella and sesame seeds, courtesy of Ellie and Rosie at salad club and a Farro and roasted pepper salad and a green couscous from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, plus his savoury tart tatin. We then made some simple flat bread and a spiced poached pear, blackcurrant friande with amaretto cream all of my own for pudding.

assembling the tatin watched by my 'pupils'!

hands on....removing the charred skin of grilled peppers for the farro salad

Gail enjoying the smell of rosemary, garlic and lemon emanating from the food processor as we made the hummus

Each lady took responsibility for preparing a salad while I tried not to take over, did a lot of washing up and tried to impart some tricks of the trade. I encouraged everyone to taste as we went along commenting on seasoning and flavourings (does it need anything else? Was my frequent question) something that we often forget to do but is very important. The only demo’s I really did were making a caramel for the top of the tatin and its construction and the sponge for the friande.

friandes coming out of the oven

It was a really communal day with a great sense of achievement at the end. Everything worked beautifully; the salads looked fantastic served Ottolenghi style on a big platter, the colours stunning in the lunchtime sun. The breads were beautifully speckled and the tatin sweet and rich. Pudding was sublime!

the table set for lunch in Antonia's garden

The lunch guests arrived to whom the ladies showed off their fantastic creations and Antonia laid the table in the garden. They wanted me to stay for lunch and of course I wasn’t about to refuse…if only could have drunk more wine, but just as we finished it was time for me to nip round the corner to pick Aidan up from school and head off home in the car.

dinner guests arriving

I’m hoping the ladies will have learned a few tips for making quick, easy and striking middle eastern feasts. First; be brave about experimenting with strange ingredients or combinations of spices and then don’t hold back with those spices and seasonings and second, most dishes (even if they seem off-putting because they have lots of ingredients) are actually quite straight forward and totally worth the effort. Personally I am taking notes for the future on how to lead a decadent retirement!!


For the poached pears I used:

800g sugar

400ml water

400ml red wine

Cinnamon stick, star anise, vanilla pod and a couple of sprigs of thyme

8 pears

Place the sugar, water, wine and spices in a pan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Peel the pears leaving the stalks on and place in the prepared syrup. Cover and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes until translucent (or pierced easily by a sharp knife or skewer).

Remove from the syrup and place in a serving dish. Boil the syrup hard until reduced by half and syrupy. Spoon over the pears which can be served hot or cold with cream.

The Friande is a light almondy sponge. For mine I used:

200g icing sugar

50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

130g ground almonds

6 x egg whites

Zest of 2 lemons

2 tsp vanilla essence

170g salted butter, plus extra for greasing

3 tbsp black currants or other berries.

For the Amaretto cream: 250ml double cream, 20g icing sugar, 20ml Amaretto

Preheat the oven to 200C / gas mark 6.

Grease eight moulds and dust with flour. Melt the butter.

Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl and stir in the almonds.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks then gently fold them into the dry ingredients with a metal spoon and a really light hand. Be careful not to over mix as the air will be lost and the sponges will flop!

Add the lemon zest and fold in the melted butter and vanilla essence, still stirring as lightly as possible. Finally, fold in the fruit.

Fill the prepared moulds and place the friandes in the oven for around 20 minutes until light, well risen and firm when pressed on top with a finger.

To make the Amaretto cream:

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until quite firm then fold in the amaretto. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve so it’s almost like serving ice cream.

Pudding!!

Totally sinful, but undeniably blissful!

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Filed under baking, cookery courses, home cooking, local produce, middle eastern food, Uncategorized

Alex James’s Harvest: the full foodie round-up

The Salad Club stall....it looked so pretty at night with all the fairy lights lit up....so much more alluring than many of the big food stalls

Another weekend another festival…well that’s kind of how it feels at the moment!  This time though I was working with award-winning food bloggers Ellie and Rosie of Salad club on their street food stall. There were four of us, helping the two of them, making a jolly band of six. The team members included Kirstin whose day job is at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, Izzi, who writes Shepherd Market Sweet Tart food blog, Clare, a friend of mine who stepped in at the last-minute after a helper dropped out and myself. It was a lovely gang and we all got on immediately, sharing our passion for good food and promptly adopting the role of protective foster parents over Ellie and Rosie’s ‘baby’. I don’t think I have ever been surrounded by so many avid foodies (with the exception perhaps of my appearance on Britain’s Best Dish) and it was a great feeling just being on the same food loving wavelength.

The festival itself was a strange one. Not at all typical or what I expected. It was predictably all about the food, while music from the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop, the Kooks, KT Tunstall, Benjamin Francis Leftwich (the ones I got the opportunity to see) provided an added bonus. It was clean, polite and considerably posher than the usual festival I tend to frequent. Wellies were more a fashion accessory than necessity. I guess all this was understandable since the Cotswolds is a pretty affluent area and food festivals tend to attract visitors with a higher than average disposable income. It was clear that many of the visitors lived in the Oxfordshire and Cotswolds area as indeed did most of the traders. It’s not a festival than I would have chosen to go to had a not been working there, but we had fun all the same.

It was on the Friday evening as we got ready to open for business, that it all became a bit weird. Rebekah Brooks (of News International phone hacking scandal) wandered past the stall and Alex James, once cool bass player with Blur stood at an inflatable tent flogging cheese on toast, the cheese being from his less than convincing Asda range.  Jeremy Clarkson rolled up in his Range Rover and on Saturday David Cameron wandered past baby strapped to his chest. So having got myself all excited over hugging and being photographed with Alex I promptly went off him, after seeing his choice of friends and tasting his curry flavoured cheese (heavy on the cumin and not much else). You can call me fickle if you like, but I like a man with taste and a high moral code.

Alex chatting to Rebekah Brook.....unfortunately didn't manage to snap her and the PM cosying up in the same field..he appeared on Saturday

As a few of us stood around his stall tasting samples from his range, while being given the hard sell by his publicist. I felt quite depressed about the fact that people actually want to buy bread shaped cheese slices flavoured like tomato ketchup. I wondered what was the matter with ‘normal’ cheese, good old-fashioned mature cheddar and when did we lose the ability to cut our own cheese or add tomato ketchup when it’s cooked? As for curry flavoured cheese….less said the better I think.

The chefs table...which sadly I didn't get to sit at

I guess Alex’s cheese, and not getting the chance to eat at the chef’s table (a rather lovely festival ‘restaurant’ featuring dishes created by Stevie Parle and Yotam Ottolenghi to name two), were the two culinary low points of the weekend but the rest of the foodie stuff was just fantastic.

So good in fact that I don’t know where to begin: Brewed Boy selling the smoothest, creamiest Square Mile coffee…..

Real proper burgers from Meat Wagon…thank you Yani for keeping us fed….

Meat Wagon

Real proper burgers

Brownies and ice cream from Choc Star gave us just the sweet kick we needed as we grew tired on the Sunday afternoon…perfect with yet more coffee, this time from the Little Green Coffee Machine, our lovely adrenalin and caffeine fuelled, pirate themed, hoolahooping next door neighbours….

choc star menu

fudge brownies yummy

brownies and ice cream...even more yum!

The Little Green Coffee Machine

I came home with a whole smoked Brie offered at traders price by Hall’s Dorset Smokery. It was absolutely delicious, possibly even subtler in flavour than from my usual provider…..the excellent Prosecco from Saltyard….beautiful dried rose petals and buds for the wedding i’m cooking at this weekend from Herbal Pantry and Fair Trade chocolate from Plush.

Whole Smoked Brie from Halls Smokery

beautiful dried flowers and herbs from the Herbal Pantry

I was like an excited schoolgirl meeting Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, which as some readers might have gathered is my strange foodie crush and watching him cook and tasting the food from his demo made my day. Yes I did become a touch giggly, tongue-tied and a hot and bothered imbecile when I actually got to talk to him. I was slightly more composed meeting Stevie Parle from the Dock Kitchen and even managed an intelligent conversation about visiting his restaurant and the lovely Tamarind sorbet he made. Sadly I didn’t get to meet Yotam Ottolenghi, but I did watch his demo and taste one of his dishes, a simple prawn and feta topped stew which was lovely. He really is the master of spices.

Stevie Parle's demo

photo opportunity with Stevie

Yotam Ottolenghi

diving into his dish as it was passed to the audience

 

Hugh with phallic vegetables

me getting all hot and bothered

Jay Rayner Observer food critic and friend of Ellie and Rosie’s paid us a visit at the stall on Sunday. I didn’t tell him I knew his mother (having once worked with her in my earlier career) and I’m ashamed to say I totally abused my position mercilessly bending his ear about Moel Faban Secret Supper Club and thrusting my card into his unsuspecting hand while serving him wraps. I couldn’t resist. It was an opportunity not to be missed. He was very gracious but got his own back when I insisted I HAD to take a picture of him (for the blog of course). When he left the girls laughed at me and told me I was shameless. Oh well, you don’t get anywhere by being coy!!

Jay Rayner at the stall...is that two wraps you wanted? 🙂

It was also great to catch up with Charlie Beldam of Cotswold Gold. He’s come a long way since we first met at Ms Marmitelovers produce market two years ago, now having no less than nine Michelin starred chefs using his Rapeseed oil! It was great to discuss our personal triumphs and long may his continue, he has a great product.

All in all it was a brilliant, if slightly surreal, weekend. We all worked hard and the salad club wraps flew…the Saturday rush left us feeling like we’d been hit by a truck! It must have been one of the most popular foods on sale at the festival (it certainly felt like it) and deservedly so. We ate a few ourselves. The simple combination of flavours worked perfectly; hot smoky chorizo or halloumi, a creamy butterbean and rosemary hummus, fresh beetroot and carrot slaw with sesame and Nigella seeds and sharp salsa verde with a little kick of chilli…all wrapped up in a holy land bakery flatbread.

filling the wrap

finished and wrapped up...ready to eat

Ellie and Rosie had worked hard to perfect the formula and it was spot on. They were also the loveliest people to work with and for and they looked after us well; they fed us, kept us in beer, tried to make sure we had plenty of fun time and bought Prosecco for us all to celebrate. Even the sun shone, a nice little bonus considering the forecast had promised rain, storms and hail….which finally arrived on Sunday night…as we headed home after a  fantastic weekend.

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Filed under British food, festival catering, festival food, local produce, London Restaurants, Organic meat, produce markets, Uncategorized