“Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi – our verdict

Anna: Well, we really, really wanted to love this book.

Kirstin: Because it had a padded cover…

Anna: …and the photography was so beautiful. I remember when you got the book — you were so ecstatic, you couldn’t wait to cook things from it… and then we started cooking.

Kirstin: And cooking…

Anna: And we came down to earth with a huge bump. Ottloenghi? Faff-alenghi, more like. I’m hoping the next book won’t require me to use the word “faff” 15 times in each post. I’m getting bored of using that word. If you Google the word faff, I bet we’re number one!

Tom: I’ll try it! Hang on… Yes! If you Google “faff cookbook” you guys are the top hit!

Anna: No! You’re serious? Wow! That’s made my week! We have had some successes, though.

Kirstin: The mozzarella is actually astounding.

Anna: I loved the gorgonzola lentil thing.

Kirstin: I had nightmares after that!

Anna: That’s just you. I’d make that as a starter.

Kirstin: I liked the multi-vegetable paella.

Anna: Did it taste nice? Was it worth the effort? Be honest.

Kirstin (after long pause): Yeah. And we liked the watermelon salad.

Tom: That was fantastic.

Kirstin: So we liked a lot of things. What will be make again?

Anna: The marinated mozzarella — I’ve made that again already. And if I was having a lardy day I’d make the smoky fritatta again. I’d make the Vampire Pie if I had someone to peel the garlic for me.

Kirstin: I’ll do that for you!

Anna: But you have things to do, like work, and be a mother and a wife.

Kirstin: And take photos! I’d cook the mozzarella again. And the watermelon and feta.

Oscar the cat: Mwaooaoooh! Waooh!

Tom: Overall verdict for the book, then?

Kirstin: I give the photos in the book 12/10. Sadly, the recipes get 6/10.

Anna: I give it 4/10. I didn’t buy the book for the photos. I’m so glad this month is over! But Peter is more glad.

Kirstin: Did you not like the padded cover? It’s like being in a asylum!

Anna: There’s a reason why it’s padded. After a month of vegetarian food I was expecting to feel much better. Instead I can’t believe how much time I’ve spent just peeling stuff.

“Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi – our verdict

“Quesadillas” from “Plenty”

Anna: We decided to try this as both of us do Bill’s quesadillas as a weeknight staple. Don’t we Kirstin?

Kirstin: Yes, we do.

Anna: So, it’s a Thursday night Quesadilla-off!  Though technically we’re only making the Ottolenghi recipe.  It’s been a bit of a faff to make, it’s fair to say.

Kirstin: Yep, Bill wins for simplicity.  Easily.  But his salsa is crap. We sound like we compare everything to Bill.

Anna: That’s because we always cook from Bill’s books, so we inevitably compare.  It’s just the way it is.  I love the black bean paste, that’s an improvement on my usual quesadilla formula, though again it involves faff like having to wash up a blender.  Not something I’d do if I was cooking on my own on a weeknight.

Kirstin: We shouldn’t judge everything like that.

Anna: But we have to, because you’re not going to cook a quesadilla on Saturday are you?

Kirstin: You were very worried about the sour cream and avocado being warm.  It was really good.  But, I resent having to use a knife and fork to eat it.  A quesadilla quite frankly should be eaten with fingers, and there was all this drippy slop going all over the place.

Anna: I agree.  The sour cream and avocado should go on the side, not be cooked with the dish.  I say, let’s try the black bean paste and cheese, and then put the sour cream and salsa on the side for the next round.

Kirstin: Ooh, CONTROVERSIAL.  That would mean going off piste.  Shall we?  Yeah, lets. Continue reading ““Quesadillas” from “Plenty””

“Quesadillas” from “Plenty”

“Marinated buffalo mozzarella and tomato” from “Plenty”

Kirstin: Well, here’s the thing. I was desperate to do this recipe because it looked so fabulous in the book. Ever since I bought this book, I have been eyeing up this recipe. However, I could find no buffalo mozzarella today. Maybe being in South East London on the wrong day because I almost bought one at Carluccio’s earlier on but thought better of it. Anyways! The marinade itself was easy to prepare, smelled delicious….

Anna: Technically, I don’t think you can call this a marinade. It’s more a rub. Or maybe a sauce even. Whatever it is, it’s gorgeous.

Kirstin: And just think how amazing it would have been on buffalo mozzarella. Hmmm.

Anna: It reminds me of the picnic we had in Preston in 2003 and we bought the mozzarella from the Ferry Building in San Francisco and ate it with a lovely viognier.

Tom: God, that’s good. It’s amazing!

Anna: Tom likes it then.

Tom: Yum. Can we have this again?

Anna: It’s definitely a starter…

Tom: But it’s a good starter.

“Marinated buffalo mozzarella and tomato” from “Plenty”

Plenty of Ottolenghi food: a Friday Feast

Anna: We decided that we wanted to do a proper blow-out feast, after the many abortive midweek Ottolenghi meals that we’ve cooked.

Kirstin: We wanted to give it a full crack of the whip!

Anna: Luckily neither of us was working this afternoon, because it was potentially going to be a massive faff.

Tom: But was it?

Anna: If either of us had been doing it on our own, yes. With the two of us it was still a faff.

Zoe: But was it an enjoyable faff?

Kirstin: Yes, we watched wartime documentaries in between, while things were in the oven.

Anna: And we sang along to the Brandenberg double-violin concerto as we peeled five heads of garlic, clove by clove. Between the two of us it took 40 minutes. The two most annoying things were the cloves of garlic and the bloody cardamom pods.

Kirstin: But you have such good wrist action, Anna! (Zoe guffaws)

Anna: How do you know about my wrist action? It’s all those years of violin playing! With the cardamom pods I had to get Kirstin to open the window. Two tablespoons of cardamom pods, and you had to bash them all up, and take all the seeds out of all the pods! It was about 40 pods! It was like, Christ, take me now. I bashed my head with the pestle. Or was it the mortar? Anyway, we cooked the “Watermelon and feta” to start. I’m going to compare it against the Nigella recipe. Her recipe is watermelon, feta and black olive. She has olives, lime juice, mint and flat-leaf parsley, rather than basil. But everything else is the same. So we cooked that, and then “Caramelized Garlic Tart”.

Kirstin: We called it Vampire Pie.

Anna: And then “Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime and Green Chilli”. Continue reading “Plenty of Ottolenghi food: a Friday Feast”

Plenty of Ottolenghi food: a Friday Feast

‘Purple sprouting broccoli with rice noodles’ from ‘Plenty’

Anna: Here’s an easy recipe for a Wednesday night…..

Kirstin: Ho ho ho.  Though, to be fair we could have used bought green curry paste, it did say that we were allowed to.

Anna: But we didn’t think it would take that long.  And I guess that it didn’t, but when you add all the other steps it did take longer than I expected.  Of course we had to use three pans too, when probably two would have done.  Grrr.

Kirstin: Luckily you had palm sugar in your cupboard, not sure how easy that would have been to find.

Anna: And I forgot the shallot I said that I’d bring, so I had to cheat and use a couple of spring onions.  Sorry.  It was after we’d made the paste that I began to worry.

Kirstin: About what?

Anna: That there wasn’t enough of a salty element to the dish.  All very Thai with the paste and coconut milk and lime, but where’s the fish sauce?  Every self-respecting Thai-inspired recipe needs fish sauce!

Kirstin: Yeah, it tasted very sweet.  And good, but as you rightly pointed out it could have done with some chicken quite frankly.  Broccoli is nice, but it’s no substitute for a nice piece of meat.

Anna: This is what frustrated me about this recipe – I love broccoli, I love noodles, I love Thai food and yet I’m sitting here feeling slightly underwhelmed, and a little bit sick.

Kirstin: Yes!  I felt sick.  I will not be making this one again.

Peter: I’m looking forward to this meal…..

Anna: This is the second Ottolenghi recipe that’s left me feeling a little sick.  Is it the end of the month yet?

Kirstin: One week to go!!

‘Purple sprouting broccoli with rice noodles’ from ‘Plenty’

“Smoky Frittata” from “Plenty”

Anna: I’d had quite enough of Ottolenghi, after Friday’s cook-a-thon. So I wasn’t looking forward to choosing something for this week. But this looked quite easy. But then they all look quite easy!

Kirstin: And it needed scamorza affumicato, which is smoked mozzarella, and we weren’t sure where we would get it. But I went to Carluccio’s on Monday and phoned Anna and said “They have scamorza! How much do I need?”

Anna: So I ran home, checked the recipe and let her know.

Kirstin: I put it in a plastic bag while I took it around the V&A, because I didn’t want it to smell.

Anna: There are worse things you could smell of! There was paprika in it too, for added smokiness. Anyway, my theory was that this would be a bit like an eggy cauliflower cheese. I think Cristiana would like this.

Kirstin: She would, actually. I love cauliflower.

Anna: I thought you were being sarcastic when you said you liked it!

Kirstin: Nobody else in my family likes it. And we had some merguez sausages in the freezer.

Anna: Shhh! We’re supposed to be being vegetarian! Anyway, it smelled very smoky, and I like anything smoky. Well, I wouldn’t eat smoked tripe. But I’d be tempted, because it would be smoked.

Kirstin: Would you eat smoked brains?

Anna: I’ve had brains.

Kirstin: Were they smoked?

Anna: It was at El Bulli, and I had no choice. They were rabbit brains. I had only one hemisphere.

Kirstin: Rabbit! That’s like Percy! How could you do that?

Tom: We’ve eaten rabbit before.

Kirstin: But that was before we had Percy the rabbit!

Anna: Well, eggy cauliflower cheese. It was a heart attack in a pan.

Tom: It tasted like an omelette with cauliflower to me.

Anna: It was a smoky cauliflowery frittata. We should be drinking red wine to clear our arteries! We must not tell Peter how much fat there is in this!

Kirstin: We have some red wine, as it happens. (Opens bottle.)

Anna: Peter actually came second last week.

Kirstin: Well done Peter! (raises eyebrows) We had to serve it with a “peppery” salad. What does that mean?

Anna: Kirstin thought it meant a salad with green peppers; I thought it meant peppery leaves. We interpreted it as we wished. The recipe calls for you to cook the cauliflower in the frying pan until brown on one side. Do you then turn it over, so the brown side is exposed? It didn’t say. We had a debate about that. How would you know that it was brown on the other side if you didn’t turn it over?

Kirstin (drinking red wine): I’m going to get a hangover now. And I have to deal with small children tomorrow, and rabbits.

Miles: Mummy, if I throw my balloon, will it pop? What happens if I kick it with my shoe?

Kirstin: Try it!

Miles: It doesn’t pop! (Stomps out of room)

Anna: So what was our verdict? It was pretty easy to cook, but it’s quite hard to get hold of scamorza. We had it with sausages (shhh), so it was very much like breakfast for dinner. But it was good.

Tom: It was quite substantial. You could have that for lunch on its own. The smoky cheese was great.

Anna: And if you’re on Atkins, it’s great; there’s no carbs in it. But I liked having the salad to cut through the cholesterol.

Kirstin: Practically diet food! With a heart attack thrown in!

Anna: What do you think about aubergine croquettes for next week? I feel like a bit of a challenge. Now I’ve had my rest.

“Smoky Frittata” from “Plenty”

A vegetarian feast of four mushes from “Plenty”

Anna: Tonight I was having my Ogilvy ladees round for dinner, and what a happy coincidence that we’re doing the Ottolenghi book this month as Tiff and Kate D are veggie!

Kate W: I’m not.

Anna: No, but you’ll have to pretend you are for tonight.  There are only enough sausages for Peter.  Anyway, choosing a menu was actually quite hard once I got down to it, but I settled on “Hummus with ful” (or ‘you crazy fool’ as it became known over the evening) and “Sweetcorn polenta”.  I chose the hummus for two reasons: because it would be nice to eat slowly while drinking and chatting, and because I’d been introduced to ful in the last year by a work colleague and I loved it.  Plus, Tiff has lived in the Middle East so I figured she could give an honest opinion.

Tiff: I will.

Anna: The polenta was a bit of a random choice.  Not something I would ever go for in a million years, but in for a penny as they say.  It wasn’t until I started cooking that I realised that this was going to be a meal of four mushes.  Four slightly different coloured mushes.

Kate D: We’re in the mood for mush! Continue reading “A vegetarian feast of four mushes from “Plenty””

A vegetarian feast of four mushes from “Plenty”

“Castelluccio lentils with tomatoes and Gorgonzola” from “Plenty”

Anna: This started well… I thought I’d turned on the oven, but I hadn’t.  So those oven-dried tomatoes took a bit longer than 1 1/4 hours.  More like 2 1/2!  But that wasn’t Mr Ottolenghi’s fault.

Kirstin: No, that wasn’t Mr Ottolenghi’s fault, but they look really good.

Anna: Miles thought they looked like bugs.  We used Puy lentils rather than Castelluccio. But he said that we could substitute.

Kirstin: And we didn’t have the right herbs.  You forgot chives, and we didn’t have flat leaf parsley either.  But we had dill.  And with all that red onion you don’t need chives.  It still smells and looks good!

Anna: Peter’s here, so let’s eat.

Peter: Is that a starter?  Do you know what this could do with?  Bacon.  It would taste really nice with bacon.  The saltiness would complement the lentils.

Anna: I got distracted and put 3 times the amount of gorgonzola in it than there should be.  It is a bit cheesy.

Kirstin: I would never have thought to put blue cheese with lentils. But it’s really yummy.  And the tomatoes are great.  Once the oven was on they were very easy.  This is really yummy.  Would you make it again?

Anna: I would make it, with the right amount of cheese,

Peter: some bacon…..

Kirstin: and does anyone know where lego Harry Potter is? (we have spent a large quantity of time this evening looking for said Lego HP who has gone AWOL).

Anna:…. as a starter.  I’m so happy we have finally found a recipe from this book that isn’t a enormous faff!

“Castelluccio lentils with tomatoes and Gorgonzola” from “Plenty”

“Black pepper tofu” from “Plenty”

Anna: I’d noticed this recipe straight away because it had lots of pepper and chillies in it, and the photo in the book looked very yummy.  And because he describes it as ‘quick and easy’ I thought it would be good to do on a weeknight.  I was wrong.  It took me over an hour to make, most of this time used in preparation.  Halving the recipe I still had to peel and slice 6 shallots, 6 garlic cloves, 4 chillies….. then fry up a huge quantity of tofu so it took 3 batches.  And sadly the tofu pieces perhaps predictably turned into sponges of oil.  I used up about half a roll of kitchen towel trying to drain them.  I took the liberty of halving the amount of butter stated to fry up the shallots after seeing all that oil, but it was still 35g.  Ugh.

Peter: I didn’t realise it was 35g of butter! That’s 17.5g each…..

Anna: It should have been 75g!!

Peter: I was looking forward to a Szechuan-like taste, which was present, but it probably didn’t require so much pepper.  With the rice it was quite filling.  Just as well it arrived when it did, I was beginning to black out.

Anna: I stir-fried some spinach too, to give us some veg.  The first few mouthfuls were nice but to be honest, I feel a bit sick now.  Would you like me to make it again?

Peter: I don’t think you’re going to are you?  Maybe something like it.

Anna: No.  I’m not going to make it again.

“Black pepper tofu” from “Plenty”

“Multi-vegetable paella” from “Plenty”

Kirstin: This looked so fantastic in the book, I had to try it. As expected, it was a real faff to make. There were lots of stages and lots of ingredients, including shelling broad beans. It said it served two, but it could have served four.

Tom: Would it have served two as a main course?

Kirstin: No, even then it would have been three. We had it with barbecued meats.

Mark: It was a riot of summer colour, with all the taste of the southern Mediterranean. What was really nice was that it was lighter because it didn’t have seafood. So it was the perfect complement to the meat we were having. Seafood would have made it too rich.

Tom: I’m not sure what the definition of a paella is, but this had that creamy richness that I associate with paella, even though it didn’t have seafood in it. It was a lovely accompaniment to all that meat.

Continue reading ““Multi-vegetable paella” from “Plenty””

“Multi-vegetable paella” from “Plenty”