Recipe Book Review: Ottolenghi Simple

Every New Year I make a similar resolution. I will not buy any more recipe books.
I suspect like many fellow foodies it won’t come as a surprise that 
I’m a sucker for a beautiful recipe book!

When we moved 4 years ago, I gave away over 50 recipe books because I did not have space for them all. I kept a few favourites and classics, and  I now need to carefully consider my space limitations before buying.

For the most part I haven’t done too badly, although  my bookshelf is full again and I’m now starting to stack on top of the shelf,  I’m comforted that although the clutter is annoying, the books are all ones I really love and use often.

My latest addition I know will definitely become a well thumbed, oil splattered, spine cracked, frequently pulled out favourite!

Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, boldly called SIMPLE is my newest addition. ( I mean, who could resist that striking cover ?)

I thought it a really brave decision to call the book SIMPLE, as if ever there was possibility for misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and general missing the point, it’s when the word simple is used, especially in regard to food.
I was intrigued to see exactly what  Yotams take on “simple” would be, and I must say I was amazed at his clever definitions, not one, but six, which are the central themes of the book. An acronym from the title, Ottolenghi’s 6 definitions are: “Short on time”, “10 Ingredients or less”, “Make ahead”, “Pantry”, “Lazy” and “Easier than you think”.

So clever ! Each recipe lists which of the definitions apply.

Some might not think the list of pantry ingredients could be defined as staples, but for me they are ingredients I love, and use often, sumac, anchovies, za’tar, harissa, and tahini.

Ever since I bought one of my very first recipe books, Alistair Little’s Food Of The Sun ( which has a horrible red & blue cover!) I feel in love with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ingredients. I made my first ever preserved lemons from that book, and having been making them ever since – yikes! 20 plus years, and definitely a pantry staple for me.

Ottolenghi is probably considered the king of veggies, he really moved veg from the side to the centre of the plate ( move over meat, cauliflower, aubergine and beetroot are now the star attractions) and so in true Ottolenghi style the book has a lot of vegetable dishes, salads under the raw veg section, cooked veg, which could be sides or main meals. It does also include meat, fish, and poultry. And desserts! The recipes are straight forward and don’t require any cheffy techniques, in fact I don’t think there is much technical skill required at all, and this for me is the real win. Recipes, and food prep that is easy to understand, straight forward, quick, and yes, simple.

The book  also has menu suggestions at the back, which I didn’t see until after I chose the recipes I would make for a family lunch over the weekend. I based my menu on what I had in my veggie garden, and what is seasonal at the moment, which is much how Yotam himself describes his approach to meals. It was in true Ottolenghi style, abundant, fresh, bountiful and delicious!

Menu

Avocado and Broad Bean Mash ( page 106 )
I used the last of the broad beans from my garden, and they were absolutely delicious. I’m not a fan of frozen broad beans, although he recommends them in the book. If broad beans are not in season I would probably rather make something else than use frozen. I added a few dollops of pesto which is not in the recipe and it worked really well. I found the dish very rich, and used more than a good squeeze of lemon.

Butterbean Mash with Muhammara ( page 107) 
This recipe is such a winner, I’ve made it here with tinned artichokes instead of the butter beans ( because I had in my cupboard and I was loath to drive to the shops just for beans) What an inspired substitution! it is so good, and the muhammara ( a spicy red pepper and walnut paste) which I had not heard of before is worth keeping in a jar in the fridge, it can be spread on toast for a quick and tasty snack , or dolloped on store bought hummus for an easy starter with some pita breads.

Two Bean & Two Lime Salad ( page 111)
Again, this recipe was chosen based on my veggie garden haul. The recipe also using Edamane beans which I left out because I don’t like them. A simple enough reason don’t you think? The dressing is delicious, I halved the chilli, and substituted lemon grass for the fresh kaffir lime leaves. 

Lamb and Pistachio Patties with Sumac Yoghurt Sauce  ( page 217)
These were so delicious, and my favourite dish of the meal!
Unfortunately I did not make extra so thee were none to photograph.I served the sumac yoghurt sauce with pomegranate rubies and a swirl of olive oil, just for garnish.

Ricotta and Oregano Meatballs ( recipe below)
I have made a variation of these before, meatballs with ricotta, but I can’t remember from where. I have given Ottolenghis recipe below. I added the zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1 lemon, because I just can’t cook without lemon. I also added a tablespoon of brown sugar to the tomato sauce because I think the tinned tomatoes I used were very sour.  As the recipe indicates, they can be made a day in advance, refrigerated  and reheated before serving. I doubled the recipe, and have frozen half. 

Taryne’s Mixed Grain Salad ( last pic after recipe)
There is a section in the book for Rice, Grains and Pulses. I simply ( ha! that word again) tossed together what I had,  1/2 a cup each of cooked spelt, barley, quinoa and cracked wheat. Miss S loves to help me in the kitchen so she cut up a few mini cucumbers, a few sticks of celery, including the leaves, some fennel, and spring onions. I tossed in some seed mix for crunch, and some pickled red onion for bite, and some feta, because feta.  Served with big wedges of lime to squeeze over, it was very good.

Recipe: Ottolenghi’s Meatballs with Ricotta & Oregano

AuthorTaryne JakobiCategoryLight Meals, Meat & Poultry

Yields1 Serving
 60 ml olive oil
 2 large onions, chopped
 4 cloves garlic, crushed
 30 g oregano, chopped - receive some for garnishing
 400 g chopped, tinned tomatoes
 500 ml chicken stock
 500 g beef mince
 100 g freshly made white breadcrumbs, I used sourdough
 250 g ricotta
 60 g Parmesan, grated
 1 egg, beaten
 20 g parsley, chopped
 seasoning - salt & pepper
 2 lemons, juice and zest
For the tomato sauce
1

Put 2 tablespoons oil into a sauce pan and place on a medium heat
Add half the onions, half the garlic and half the oregano, and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring until the onions have softened without colour.
Add the tomatoes, half the stock, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and a grinding of black pepper
Reduce the temperature and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.

I added a couple of teaspoons of light brown sugar, I found the tomato sauce a bit sour.

For the meatballs
2

Place the remaining onion, garlic, oregano in a large mixing bowl with the mince, breadcrumbs ( I used sour dough because that was the only bread I had in the house, and it was perfect) ricotta, Parmesan, egg, parsley, salt & pepper. I add the juice of 1 lemon, and the zest of 2 lemons.
Using your hands mix everything together, and shape into 12- 14 balls.

The lemon is not in the recipe in the book, I added it and I think it works so well!

To cook the meatballs
3

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan, and when hot add the meatballs . Do this in 2 batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Sear for 8 minutes, turning throughout, then transfer to a separate plate.

To serve
4

Gently lower the meatballs into the sauce and pour over enough of the remaining stock so that the meatballs are almost covered. Add a little water, if you need, to make up the liquid ( I did not need too ) Place on a medium low heat and simmer gently for 20 - 30 minutes.
To thicken the sauce, remove the lid towards the end of the cooking time, and increase the heat slightly. The sauce should have the consistency of a thick pasta sauce. Serve garnished with oregano.

Ingredients

 60 ml olive oil
 2 large onions, chopped
 4 cloves garlic, crushed
 30 g oregano, chopped - receive some for garnishing
 400 g chopped, tinned tomatoes
 500 ml chicken stock
 500 g beef mince
 100 g freshly made white breadcrumbs, I used sourdough
 250 g ricotta
 60 g Parmesan, grated
 1 egg, beaten
 20 g parsley, chopped
 seasoning - salt & pepper
 2 lemons, juice and zest

Directions

For the tomato sauce
1

Put 2 tablespoons oil into a sauce pan and place on a medium heat
Add half the onions, half the garlic and half the oregano, and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring until the onions have softened without colour.
Add the tomatoes, half the stock, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and a grinding of black pepper
Reduce the temperature and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.

I added a couple of teaspoons of light brown sugar, I found the tomato sauce a bit sour.

For the meatballs
2

Place the remaining onion, garlic, oregano in a large mixing bowl with the mince, breadcrumbs ( I used sour dough because that was the only bread I had in the house, and it was perfect) ricotta, Parmesan, egg, parsley, salt & pepper. I add the juice of 1 lemon, and the zest of 2 lemons.
Using your hands mix everything together, and shape into 12- 14 balls.

The lemon is not in the recipe in the book, I added it and I think it works so well!

To cook the meatballs
3

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan, and when hot add the meatballs . Do this in 2 batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Sear for 8 minutes, turning throughout, then transfer to a separate plate.

To serve
4

Gently lower the meatballs into the sauce and pour over enough of the remaining stock so that the meatballs are almost covered. Add a little water, if you need, to make up the liquid ( I did not need too ) Place on a medium low heat and simmer gently for 20 - 30 minutes.
To thicken the sauce, remove the lid towards the end of the cooking time, and increase the heat slightly. The sauce should have the consistency of a thick pasta sauce. Serve garnished with oregano.

Ottolenghi’s Ricotta & Oregano Meatballs

 

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