Cooking From: A Review of Ottolenghi’s Simple

This is taking a slightly different format to my usual Cooking From posts. Whilst I usually include one of my favourite recipes from each book, with a review of how the recipe works and what changes I did/would make, I just can’t do that with Simple. There are too many excellent recipes to choose from, most of which I wouldn’t change at all.

 photo Ottolenghi Simple 2_zpshad0xv3c.jpgSince getting this for Christmas it’s become our most used cookbook of 2019, and it’s pretty much knocked my beloved Save with Jamie off top-spot for all-time favourite too (sorry Jamie!). Whenever we are stuck for inspiration for our weekly meal plan we’ll flick through this. If we want an interesting side, we’ll look in here. If we want to use up random freezer veg (looking at you edamame beans!) then this is the book we’ll grab first. Dinner parties, date nights, after-work meals, cosy weekend brunches. This book has done it all for us. I now need more of Ottolenghi’s books in my life.

Ottolenghi Simple is a collection of recipes that are ‘simple’ in one of five ways – Short on time”, “10 Ingredients or less”, “Make ahead”, “Pantry”, “Lazy” and “Easier than you think”- or a combination thereof. Colour coded, and sectioned roughly into chapters such as Cooked/Raw Veg, Meat & Fish etc. And there’s hardly any recipes I don’t want to cook as-is, or adapt to be tomato-free.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Happy Foodie (@thehappyfoodie) on

Of the recipes we have so far cooked, there’s been not one dud. Nothing which has been ‘meh.’ Everything has been devoured in silence. Many have been declared ‘that was really, really tasty.’ If we want a delicious meal, we know we’ll find it in this book.

The Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemon is the epitome of simple. And it’s also amazing. Yes it is covered in butter and so is a thousand more calories that your usual roast chicken – but I’d prefer to die happy and fat than thin and miserable. We don’t make it every time we have a roast chicken, but when we’re entertaining or just fancy something different from the norm then it’s delicious.

Two Bean Two Lime Salad introduced us to Kaffir Lime Leaves for the first time. So zingy and fresh, this was the recipe we picked for emptying our life of the half bag of lingering edaname beans – and I’ll now go out and buy more of the bleeding things just to make this again. It also makes eating green beans actually enjoyable, and is definitely one I’ll be keeping up my sleeve for summer BBQs.

New Potatoes with Peas and Coriander is bright green and glorious. A real celebration of peas. And good cold/reheated too.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Happy Foodie (@thehappyfoodie) on

The Mackerel with Pistachio and Cardamon Salsa and Ginger Cream. Now this was a real celebration of mackerel (which is THE oily fish for those on a budget), and whilst sounding like an odd combination everything really worked well together. We served it with a little brown rice and it was a lovely light meal.

And then there was the Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Mint and Cumin. Perhaps not the best recipe to make during the 24C heat of the Easter weekend (8 hours of the oven on made our flat pretty much unbearable) but it was well worth it. Incredibly tasty, so tender it fell apart when poked with a spoon. The best lamb I’ve ever made, and quite possibly the best lamb I’ve ever eaten.

We also used the leftovers in a Spiced Shepherd’s Pie with Butterbean Mash. There’s two ‘shepherd’s pie’ recipes in the book, both incorporating tahini into the topping. This was the simpler version, though we adapted it to use the leftovers rather than standard mince. The butterbean tahini topping was particularly good – and served with a salad made for something really rather tasty.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Happy Foodie (@thehappyfoodie) on

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Braised Eggs with Leeks and Za’atar was our brunch dish of choice for the Easter weekend, and what a choice it was too. Soft and sweet leeks, punchy za’atar, runny egg yolks and plenty of feta. Another variation on a ‘green’ shakshuka type dish which I’m totally here for. So much more exciting than the tomato-ey versions anyway.

We’ve also cooked a variety of other sides from the book – all good, all delicious. Next on my list are the Herb Fritters, Bridget Jones Salmon and pretty much the whole book…

To conclude. If you only ever want one recipe book in your life, it’s quite possible this one will do the job.

Are you an Ottolenghi fan?

Cooking From: Bolognese Baked Eggs (Toast Hash Roast Mash by Dan Doherty)

The subtitle of this book is “Real Food for Every Time of Day” – it’s the type of food Dan (executive chef of Duck & Waffle) likes to eat at home and, quite frankly, if he eats like this I’d be happy to move in with him tomorrow. This book is basically a book of comfort food under many guises – there’s pancakes, there’s things to top toast with, there’s sweet things, there’s savoury things. Most dishes are designed for breakfast or brunch, but can really be eaten any time of day.

Whilst we haven’t cooked that many dishes out of this book, it’s one we turn to again and again for inspiration. It’s a joy to read, one of those cookbooks that makes you feel cozy and comforted. In fact reading it again for this review made me realise just how many recipes I want to make!

Chapters are On Toast, Eggs, Hash, Eggs Over Easy, Pancakes, Hangover, Savoury, Sides & Salas, Sweets and Drinks. Basically there’s something for anyone, something for every occasion. There’s jams, homemade nutella, cocktails, instructions to make the best pancakes. And recipes I want to try? Around 99% of them! I won’t list every single one, but top of my list? Dan’s take on Egg’s Benedict featuring a saltbeef bagel and mustard hollandaise. It sounds amazing! The recipe for a Black Pudding Hash made with leftover roast potatoes sounds like the stuff of dreams. But it’s the Hangover chapter which really gets me excited. Scotch Bhaji (basically a scotch egg, with runny yolk, encased in an onion bhaji). The Patty Melt, merging a grilled cheese sandwich with a burger. I’m slobbering at the thought.

However it’s an altogether more simpler recipe I’m featuring here today, and one I’ve simplified even more from the book. Taken from the Eggs chapter, this recipe takes bolognese (see my tomato-free bolognese recipe here, but use your favourite), adds heat in the form of harissa, then nestles in lightly poached eggs, covers in cheese and then bakes. The result is a hug in a dish. It’s warming, spicy, gooey from the eggs, and perfect served with a mound of toast or some freshly baked pitta bread.

Recipe (Serves 2)

  • 2 generous portions of bolognese (I’d veer on the side of too much here!)
  • 1 tsp harissa, or more to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g gruyere cheese

Simply heat the bolognese with the harissa until hot. Lightly poach the eggs until they are just firm enough to remove from the water. Spoon the bolognese mixture into a baking dish, nestle in the eggs and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake at 180C for around 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve with plenty of bread for dipping.

It may not be in the hangover section, but I’d certainly be prepared to bet that this would  cure any hangover!

Are you a brunch fan? What’s your go-to at home weekend brunch?

Cooking From: Homemade Pita Bread (James Morton’s Brilliant Bread)

Without a doubt, Brilliant Bread is my most recommended cookbook. It’s the one on my shelves that is well-thumbed, pages stiff with flour, faded with watermarks. If anyone, absolutely anyone, mentions baking their own bread to me I insist they purchase this book. It is quite simply the best book for bread making, both for beginners and beyond.

I could stop with the review and this post there, really, because I quite simply cannot sing James’ praises highly enough.

The writing style is a pleasure to read, it’s a book I can quite happily sit and cosy up with as much as bake from. He has such an excellent way of describing the bread-making process, in a way that’s both easy to understand but also extremely detailed. And the best bit? The majority of the recipes don’t require much, if any, kneading. Bread without having to get my hands dirty is a revelation, and this book alone is the reason I make my own bread so often.

Recipe (I get 10 pittas out of this, as I prefer mine slightly smaller, I quite often quarter or halve too for a small batch)

  • 200g strong white flour
  • 200g plain white flour
  • 8g salt
  • 8g yeast
  • 275g tepid water
  • flavourless oil for greasing

In a large bowl, weigh out the flour. With your fingers, rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl, and the sachet of dried yeast on the opposite side. Add the  water to the dry ingredients, and mix together until it forms a  dough (use your
dough to mop up any flour sticking to the side of the bowl). Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel
and rest in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Oil the fingertips of one hand, and forcefully fold the dough in half inside the bowl. Turn the bowl a
quarter turn, and repeat until you have removed most of the air. Cover your bowl again rest the dough for another 45 minutes, whilst your oven preheats to it’s hottest temperature (around 250C).

Tip your dough out on to a lightly oiled surface and roll into a long sausage. Chop the dough into equal pieces (Jame’s suggests 8, I go for 10). Take each piece and, using a rolling pin, roll them out until they are about half a centimetre thick. Pop straight onto a baking tray and slide into the oven, turning down the temperature to 220C as soon as they are in. Bake for 8-12 minutes depending depending on how soft or crisp you like them. They should puff up into balls and are blush with a golden colour. But even if they don’t puff up, they’ll be delicious…

Other recipes inspired by Brilliant Bread are my Bagels (which I’m now desperately craving – there’s nothing better than a homemade bagel filled with pastrami and mustard!) and Focaccia.  And in short – I highly recommend that if you want to bake bread, you buy this book. You won’t regret it!

Are you a fan of baking your own bread?

Cooking From: Roasted Cauliflower & Caramelised Red Onion Salad (Fress)

“To eat copiously” is what the Yiddish word “Fress” means. And what a wonderfully appealing title for a cookery book that is. Masterchef finalist Emma Spitzer’s  book mergers the food of the Middle-East with that of Eastern Europe, incorporating her Polish and Russian heritage in a combination that is both homely and exciting. Spiced up comfort food, if you will. The recipes are appealing too, with Emma’s aim to get as much flavour as possible from a simple recipe without spending hours in the kitchen.

The book includes recipes for sharing, soups, big plates with meat and fish dishes (the Sticky Pomegranate Salmon looks especially good),  salads, and some sweet treats. There’s classics like Chicken Soup, which looks wonderfully comforting, something I’ll be sure to get W to make me the next time I’m under the weather. Of course, it helps that this book, this cover is the prettiest one to grace my bookshelves.

The recipe I’m reviewing today is aesthetically pleasing too. The cover recipe for the book, upon tasting it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as not only does it look good, it also tastes amazing. I’ve made the recipe as per the book several times, but the version I’m giving you today is my regular recipe – I generally cook it for lunchboxes, so I’ve made it even less complicated, using less pans, using less ingredients to make it a bit cost effective. I highly recommend you try the original version as the flavours are a lot more complex, but this basic salad is just as delicious.

Recipe – makes 3-4 lunch servings

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced relatively finely
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into small-ish florets with the smaller leaves kept
  • 120g giant couscous, cooked as per pack instructions
  • 3 tsp za’atar spice
  • 100g blanched almonds
  • 3-4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the onions with a little salt over a low heat until soft – around 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile toss the cauliflower florets in the remaining oil, spread out onto a baking tray and roast at 180C for 15 minutes – then add the za’tar and the cauliflower leaves, toss together (with some additional oil if it’s looking dry) and roast for another 10 minutes. Tip into a large bowl along with the cooked giant couscous.

When the onions are soft, turn up the heat to medium and turn in the sugar and balsamic vinegar, before cooking for around 5 minutes until sticky and caramelised. Add to the bowl along with a good grind of black pepper and toss everything together.

When ready to serve (at room temperature, not fridge cold), add 25g of almonds per serving, plus a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds. This is excellent on it’s own, alongside homemade pitta breads, or part of a Middle Eastern style spread (think hummus, falafel, spiced chicken, fesenjan…).

Have you tried any Middle Eastern recipes? What would you recommend?

Cooking From: Asian Salmon & Broccoli (The Roasting Tin)

Welcome to a new little series over at Life & Loves. With a ridiculously-sized collection of cookbooks that just keeps on getting bigger, we’ve set ourselves the challenge to use them more. To not cook from the same ones each time. To try out new recipes. And to make myself more accountable for this, I’m going to blog about it.

The first cookbook under scrutiny is The Roasting Tin. One of the most anticipated cookbook releases of 2017, even the cover with its bright yellow sunniness makes me want to pull it off the shelf. Added to the fact that it’s full of simple one-dish recipes that require little preparation and are generally ready fast but deliver flavourful, healthy results means it’s become regularly reached for.

It’s pretty much the perfect midweek cookery book for foodies. Good, fresh ingredients combined with just a few minutes work and very little washing up means a happy Chloe!

We’ve cooked a few things from this book, with the favourites being the recipe below, but also a veggie dish involving Broccoli, Orzo Pasta, Lemon and Chilli – it makes damn good leftovers! There’s so many other dishes we have on our list too! We’ve found the cooking times can be a bit off, so I’ve adjusted for it slightly in the recipe below – as well as playing around with the dressing to suit our tastes – mainly making more of it!

Now onto this recipe. It’s delicious! One of my favourite ways to eat salmon, it’s so simple and easy yet full of flavour. The dressing is punchy, the peanuts add crunch and the broccoli is yum. I rarely eat broc boiled or steamed now, I want it roasted all the time…

Recipe – for 2, easily scaled up or down

  • 300g broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil (use vegetable oil if you don’t have any)
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2½ cm ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 limes, zest and juice
  • Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 55g peanuts, left whole

Pop the broccoli in a roasting tin, add the garlic and sesame oil, and use your hands to coat. Place the salmon fillets on top, cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 180C. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the dressing. Mix together the spring onions, ginger, chilli, fish sauce, vegetable oil, lime zest and juice, most of the coriander and the peanuts. Once the salmon is cooked, pour the dressing over the roasting tin. Serve garnished with the rest of the coriander.

We would usually just eat this with no other carby side, but I can confirm it is delicious with brown rice if you feel like you need it! I’ve also taken to cooking broccoli this way, with the same dressing – it’s great served with noodles as a quick study day lunch.

What’s your current favourite cookbook?