Like many people who do a hefty amount of cooking, I don’t often follow recipes in books (which is not to say I don’t have a massive collection!). Instead, I prefer to use them for inspiration, to check techniques or sometimes just to look at the pretty pictures, quite frankly. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule and Ottolenghi is most definitely one of them. I adored the ‘New Vegetarian‘ series, I now adore the book and I hope that soon I shall adore the restaurant/deli too.
There is a bold simplicity to these recipes, which are based around a set of ‘star ingredients’, (listed in the front of the book) – essential flavours in the Ottolenghi repertoire, for example, yoghurt, tahini, sumac and pomegranate molasses. These ingredients I am already in love with, particularly since the release of books such as Moro East and Persia in Peckham.
This roast pumpkin with burnt aubergine and pomegranate molasses is a current favourite. Soft, sweet squash scattered with crunchy toasted seeds and nuts, accompanied by an aubergine sauce which is pure genius. I know I will continue making this sauce for many years to come. The aubergine is charred until wrinkly and often bursting – the smoky flesh then scraped and combined with natural yoghurt, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and that sticky, fragrant molasses. Great sweet and sour flavours and contrasting textures.
The squash didn’t make it onto a plate, I just plonked the sauce in the middle and we ate the whole lot, from the oven dish, on the sofa. The original sauce recipe calls for olive oil but I left it out (Christmas calorie guilt) and it still tastes amazing. In fact, I may even prefer it.
I picked up two more aubergines on the way home yesterday, to make a double batch this afternoon. I will be munching through it while thumbing through the book, trying to decide which of the ten or so earmarked recipes will be next on my hitlist. This is a true pleasure in itself, for the book is a beautiful thing. Glorious pictures of the Ottolenghi establishment/s, platters towered high with lush, vibrant salads, perfectly cooked meats and decadent cakes and pastries.
Glossy pages, beautiful photography and chef magic aside however, I reckon Ottolenghi is the perfect book for the home cook. The recipes are easy to make yet impressive and (at the risk of sounding a bit Jamie O), sexy. There is a sense of generosity, a celebration of ingredients, the flavour of each being clearly discernable – no fussing. The Ottolenghi passion has jumped right from the chefs to the book to the plate to my belly and – I think I may be in love.
Roasted Butternut Squash with Burnt Aubergine and Pomegranate Molasses (from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi Tamimi).
(I bought a big bottle of pomegranate molasses in my local Sainsbury’s for £2.50 ish. It is also available in delis and middle Eastern food shops).
1 large butternut squash (I used a small pumpkin)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds (I didn’t have any)
1 tablespoon black (or white) sesame seeds
1 teaspoon nigella (black onion) seeds
10g sliced almonds
10g basil leaves (I didn’t have any)
Sea salt and black pepper
For the sauce
1 medium aubergine
150g Greek yoghurt, room temp
2 tablespoons olive oil (I left this out)
1.5 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon roughly choppped flatleaf parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed
– Preheat oven to 220C/Gas 7/425F. Cut the squash into wedges, 2-3cm thick. Remove the seeds and arrange in a roasting tray, skin side down. Brush with half the oil and season well. Cook for 25-30 minutes until soft and slightly brown.
– Reduce the oven to 180C/Gas4/350F. Spread the almonds and seeds on a roasting tray and toast for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool.
– For the sauce, either put the aubergine directly onto a gas hob flame, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until the skin is dried and cracked and the aubergine smells smoky. You can also do this by putting the aubergine under a hot grill. The aubergine often bursts I find, but this is fine. Just be careful not to lose that flesh! It needs to be very soft inside.
– Scoop the flesh from the aubergine and discard the skin. Drain the flesh in a colander for ten minutes, then chop roughly and combine with the yoghurt, oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and season.
– Arrange the squash on a plate, scatter over the seeds and nuts and serve the dressing alongside. Scatter over the basil and serve.