Archives for posts with tag: Ottolenghi

It’s always interesting in my field of work to see how things cluster together to point you in a certain direction.

Brunch @tahinirest

Brunch @tahinirest

Last week was my birthday and I was lucky enough to be taken to one of the last days of the @tahinirest: a pop up established by an old colleague of ours, Josh. He took a big step last year taking his family on the most incredible journey travelling around Europe and the Middle East and was so inspired by the Israeli food in particular that he created a temporary restaurant offer on his return.

Over a really fabulous brunch, we discussed what it was about the food in Israel that had captured his imagination. He talked about the balance of fresh food, spices, and flavours: a combination of which he hadn’t seen much of back in London. In particular we chatted about to make labneh and how tahini really was most amazing almost undiscovered product over here. Whilst we know it to be a key ingredient in hummus, he told us how versatile it was and how it could be used in so many, both savoury and sweet ways. Apparently Yotam Ottolenghi had only that week declared it one of the best kept secrets that was about to emerge and I went away still relishing the combination that had been served that day.

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Fast forward only 4 days later and I was also being treated for my birthday – well a girl has a right to elongate her celebrations! This time, it was a chance to try The Palomar. This new eaterie has been getting rave reviews and whilst they are new to us, the Jerusalem food scene is only too familiar with this team. The Machneyuda Group now boast five outlets headed by the trendiest of Jerusalem restaurants and inspired by Iron Chef Assaf Granit and his two other Exec chefs: Uri Navon and Yossi Elad who combine Palestinian/Israeli food with European influences to huge success.

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When something is so well reviewed, I can’t help wondering whether it is just hype and in so many cases the actual experience is never quite so good. In the case of the Palomar, it is all true. As Mr Jones said – they had me at the bread. Pastry chef Yael really has brought a great intro to the meal with a must-have soft, buttery Yemeni pot baked bread. Yes, this is all about sharing although you might not want to let anyone else near the bread, but what we loved most was the use of those flavours that Josh had talked about just a few days earlier. The bread came with a grated tomato and silky tahini (what else) and parsnip crisps with labneh and chilli harissa. Early dishes from the raw section of the menu mixed fresh salads with herbs, spices and pulses with yogurt or homemade labneh dressings. The mains showcased the resident Josper grill to add a smokiness to the meat which balanced hot chilli and sweet fruits to create such tasty dishes. The chicken had crispy skin with succulent meat … the pork mixed sweet fruit and sour spice. The overall effect was just truly tasty plates of food and how often can you say that?

The only disappointment was the announcement that the tahini ice cream was off the menu. I had really wanted to see that sweet application to better understand the aforementioned versatility. Shame. I will just have to go back and try out a few more dishes. Next time I will risk a walk in on the bar and partake in some of that chef/customer banter that has been written up.

In light of the ever popular Ottolenghi and the much applauded Honey & Co., The Palomar just goes to prove that food of the Levant is the latest craze to try and I for one embrace it wholeheartedly. It is also well on the way to proving that tahini may well be the latest ingredient to look out for in the future.

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I am trying to run down my store cupboard in anticipation of moving to a new house. I have no doubt that I will find some weird and wonderful things lurking at the back from the 1980’s but the truth is that my store cupboard really is the source of some wonderful meals and I like having a repertoire of things to draw on.

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Pulses seem to be a staple in all sorts of forms. At the moment I am looking at bags of beans, bulgar wheat, pearl barley, lentils, different rices and just this week a new investment in Freekeh. This grain was first brought to my attention by team Ottolenghi. He describes the history of this green wheat here on his website and is of course one of the few people selling it at his online store. It was the smokiness that interested me, so tonight I am cooking with it for the first time.

caffe sant eustachio cup

I actually bought my box at Marks and Spencer. Having worked there for almost 20 years, I still have an affection for the food and always have a nose around their International brands. This is a discreet section towards the back but full of many interesting discoveries. It is under the management of the lovely Mr Seaby who is responsible for cherry picking the best ambient products from around the world to add interest into the grocery range and over recent years he has done a grand job. Food icons in the range include Kewpie mayonnaise, Alan Milliat nectars, Sant’Eustachio wood roasted coffee (arguably the best in the world!), El Navaricco pulses from Spain, pimenton (of course) and fabulous Swedish rye crackers (knackebrod) which remind me of my trip to the beautiful Stockholm.

Moon Valley up close

Recently I spotted this range from Moon Valley who are a social enterprise established in 2009, primarily working with Palestinian farmers in the West Bank and the surrounding countries, doing some great stuff with local people and for the local economy. The company was founded by Toby Coppel (ex Chief Strategy Officer, Yahoo) and a man who used to walk me round the fashion floor of M&S Bromley store when I was a mere Assistant Manager and he was the Director of Womenswear, Andrew Stone, now Lord Stone of Blackheath. This man was most definitely a genius, sharing a million and one ideas with me every week and praying that I had the sense to pick one or two that would really impact on sales. The one that sticks in my memory was an idea to display sale merchandise on roller racks in size order, which is common practice now, but was certainly revolutionary then. These two have on board as their CEO another colleague from M&S, David Job, who was a highly respected Senior Food Buyer when I worked in the food group, and is now managing this fabulous business.

freekeh pilaf

In order to do justice to my first time freekeh I went with Ottolenghi, who has a feast of wonderful recipes online. He is a dab hand at this type of cooking. This pilaf is right up my street, ensuring I have leftovers to feed me during the week and making sure to add flavour not only with plenty of herbs, but also the yogurt dressing, which I later transformed into tzatziki.

So what of the freekeh? Well, it was fab. I have always preferred bulgar wheat to couscous and now I think freekeh tops the bill.

I love it when a meal comes together.

Beautifully caramelised chicory to bring out the sweetness

Beautifully caramelised chicory to bring out the sweetness

I had a Dutch friend over this weekend and she was somewhat bemused to find I had chicory in the fridge. Apparently she has never met a Brit who would ever have purchased such a thing as it is generally perceived as very bitter. I grew up with my Mum liking chicory so I guess I was just more used to the flavour or something. Well happily this unloved plant came into its own at home tonight.

otto endive

I really fancied trying to make something a bit different and tasty for dinner and the focus on the bitter stuff brought to mind a favourite recipe of mine. It is Ottolenghi’s Caramelised Endive with Serrano Ham.

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I kind of adapted it tonight so that I could use up a few bits that were already on hand. But the result was as good as ever. I was particularly pleased to be able to slice up some more of that wonderful Cotswold Curer pancetta which I bought a few weeks ago at Stroud market. It amazes me how inspired I can be by something so simple, but honestly, this stuff is just wonderful and that small piece goes a long long way. Much nicer than the Serrano ham in the recipe. I also managed to use up some panko breadcrumbs which were loitering in the cupboard (I know – it says a lot that my cupboards have that loitering) and grana padano instead of parmesan…but the result ladies and gentlemen…..sitting alongside a nicely dressed green salad …. just yum.

It's possibly a bit well done for some, but I like well toasted!

It’s possibly a bit well done for some, but I like well toasted!

Caramelised endive with Serrano ham

Extract from Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

Published in 2008 by Ebury Press

Serves 6

Nir Feller, who’s got the most infectious zeal for food, helped develop this dish when running our kitchen in Notting Hill. It’s ideal for preparing ahead of time. Have it ready in the baking dish and put it in the oven when you need it. It makes an impressive starter for a cold winter night.

Ingredients

6 endives, cut in half lengthways
40g unsalted butter
4tsp caster sugar
50g sourdough breadcrumbs
70g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2tbsp thyme leaves
120ml whipping cream
12 thin slices of Serrano ham
Olive oil for drizzling
2tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Coarse sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. Begin by caramelising the endive. You will probably have to do it in 2-3 batches, depending on the size of your largest frying pan; the endive halves need to fit lying flat without overlapping. If working in two batches, put half the butter and half the sugar in the pan and place over a high heat.

Stir to mix. As soon as the butter starts to bubble, place six endive halves facing down in the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes, until golden. You might need to press them down slightly. Don’t worry if the butter goes slightly brown. Remove and repeat the process with the remaining butter, sugar and six endive halves.

Line a tray with baking parchment and arrange the endives on it, caramelised side up. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, thyme, cream, a quarter of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spoon this mixture over the endives and top each one with a slice of ham. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the endives feel soft when poked with a knife. Serve hot or warm, drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with the chopped parsley, if using.

Bageriet pic

Pastry perfection from Bageriet

I was pondering the sweet treat this week because a couple of friends had posted things that brought them to my attention.

Firstly was a tweet from the lovely Daniel Karlsson at Bageriet. I met Daniel when I was working with the beautiful boys of Melrose and Morgan and was lucky enough to try a variety of Daniel’s creations as he experimented his way through seasonal delicacies in his role as pastry chef. Daniel came through the ranks of classic pastry training in Sweden and then working at Ottolenghi before his Melrose and Morgan times and has now taken the leap and gone it alone creating Bageriet in Rose Street, Covent Garden. Going back to his traditional Swedish roots, Daniel is creating classics with a twist and was recently featured on Paul Hollywood’s show demonstrating his skills. There is no doubt Daniel has the touch of an angel and I hope people find his shop and share in his talent.

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On the same day I read Daniel’s tweet, I saw another post from a friend talking about the cronut craze that has taken New York by storm. Cronuts are the creation of Dominique Ansel who is also a wonderful pastry chef. He trained at the fabulous Fauchon in Paris and found fame during his 6 year tenure at Restaurant Daniel in New York. Having opened his own place in Spring Street, Ansel was shortlisted as a finalist for the James Beard award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2013. There is no doubt that this chef is a dab hand at pastry and yet despite his long list of credentials, it is through the cronut that he has found a whole new level of fame.

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This half doughnut half croissant delicacy looks like it would induce an instant heart attack on even the most unsuspecting, and yet since its inception in May, the street of New York have seen queues forming from the very early hours simply to secure one of these now famous $5 pastries. The madness has gone beyond rational behaviour. People are sleeping overnight in the shop doorway, and queuing from 6am, there is a 2 week pre-order list which is already full and their next slot for a large order is from 1 August. The world has gone cronut crazy!!

The queue just a couple of weeks ago!

The queue just a couple of weeks ago!

Ansel has had to trademark these treats and yet there are imitators popping up all over the place… the doissant from Washington, the frissant from Vancouver and the Donut Croissant from Dunkin Donuts in the Philippines to name but a few. And then there’s the black market which is said to trade the $5 pastry for up to $40 each!

What fascinates me is how a creation from some French pastry chef in Soho, New York can become a world wide craze, and I guess the answer lies in technology. On the very night that blog Grub Street first wrote about Ansel’s new product, they received 140,000 links and it all went exponential from there. There are something like 10,000 tweets a month about this little ol’ pastry, pictures of the queues go viral and if you search google there are over 3 million hits (compared to just over 1 million if you search the man Dominique himself). What exactly is it that captured the public imagination about this that others need to emulate?

Firstly I guess it is the creativity. It has to be something original. And the marriage of two already scrummy things into something even more delicious really is ingenious. Then there’s tapping into the social network at the right point to get it to go viral. The process of queuing like a mad man is part of it so that you can be one of the few who can claim to be in the cronut club and tell their story of how they finally came to try one of these treats. Finally, you need to be as lovely as Monsieur Ansel who seems genuinely chuffed by all the support and hasn’t changed a thing as a result of the publicity. The price is the same, the process is the same and he continues to develop his shop and his product with the hope that people will keep on coming… and I am sure they will.

Cronut Crazy