Our Verdict: Ottolenghi Simple

Maureen: Remember when we went to an event with Ottolenghi?

Kirstin: I do! He was such a gentleman in all senses. Such a sweetie. But that was one of his faffing books.

Maureen: This one certainly had no faffing. Lovely, straightforward, delicious recipes.

Kirstin: Indeed. It was a complete joy to cook from this book. Precisely because there was no faffing and yet all the Ottolenghi flavours were there. I’ve been trying new food things with our daughter away at uni, and this has been the perfect book to do that with.

Maureen: So do you think he’s been holding out all of these years?

Kirstin: I have my suspicions. But it was worth the wait!

Maureen: I know, right? I wonder if he will do more of this kind of cookbook.

Kirstin: Sign me up if he does!

Maureen: And there are so many more recipes to discover in this book.

“Ottolenghi Simple”
Overall Grade (A- F):  A (Maureen) A (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Maureen: Oven chips with oregano and feta. Kirstin: Chicken with miso.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A
Any disasters? Kirstin: NONE Maureen: No!
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf! Bookshelf! Bookshelf!                                                                        Would You Give This Would you give this Book to a Friend?: Yes. Christmas, for sure. Kirstin: I’ve already gifted two copies.

Our Verdict: Ottolenghi Simple

“Anchovy and samphire spaghetti” from “Simple”

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Kirstin: Samphire and pasta! SIGN ME UP! I am a huge fan of samphire although I usually fry ours in butter and add a little lemon juice to bring out all the flavours. This recipe requires you to add it to the pasta water towards the end of cooking the spaghetti which is very cunning indeed. And while we loved all the ingredients in this recipe, the next time I make it I will use less chilli. Because even though we all love chilli, and especially Aleppo chilli, there is a little too much in the recipe as it is, which overwhelms the whole dish. So I’ll try halving it next time. Simple and delicious!

“Anchovy and samphire spaghetti” from “Simple”

“Chilli fish with Tahini” from “Simple”

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Kirstin: Our daughter left for university at the end of last month. I have yet to figure out quantities for just three of us when we are eating, but I am enjoying the freedom of being able to try new foods. She has such a strong opinion when it comes to the foods she likes and the ones she does not. She would never have entertained a tomato sauce which is good because that’s what this recipe is all about. That and lots of chillies (both fresh and ancho). The fish is poached in the tomato and served with a lovely tahini sauce and coriander. Simple and tasty. Perfect.

“Chilli fish with Tahini” from “Simple”

“Pork with ginger, spring onion and aubergine” from “Simple”

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Kirstin: I make larb a couple of times a month. I use turkey mince and serve it up with lettuce leaves. It’s one of those recipes that I know I can count on and everyone loves. Ottolenghi similarly says in his intro that this is one of his go-to recipes. I think he’s been holding out on us again to be honest. But that’s another story.

Ottolenghi uses pork mince and also steams aubergines to go with. Crucially he uses keçap manis and peanuts which were new additions for us compared to our traditional larb recipe. Both of these were complete winners. The aubergines, not so much. He also fries the spring onions in rather a lot of oil which proved to be so alarming that I chucked most of it away.

So to summarise, the next time I make larb, I am going to use Ottolenghi’s recipe, minus the aubergines, add some lettuce to serve with it and stick with the rest of the recipe using a bonus second chilli (I normally use a red birds eye chilli, he uses a green chilli). We all had thirds. Which says it ALL.

“Pork with ginger, spring onion and aubergine” from “Simple”

“Oven Chips with Oregano and Feta” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

This is absolute genius. As a lover and aficionado of cheese fries in any form, I’m flummoxed as to why it never occurred to me to have feta cheese fries. I’m here to tell you they are delicious, incredible, and yes, simple.

But “simple” is a relative term. Would you define simple as cutting potatoes to form your own chips? If you answered no, then this wouldn’t be simple for you. But given that I’d done exactly this task once before and had a good handle on how to do it efficiently, it was not hard at all for me, but I could see how others would think it wasn’t worth the hassle.

However, the payoff for going to the trouble of cutting your own chips was huge. They were fresh and, in a weird way, light. I say weird because you toss them twice in different oil, first sunflower and then olive oil with garlic, but because they were fresh potatoes they weren’t as claggy as frozen chips usually are.

Undoubtedly the  pièce de résistance was the addition of the feta cheese. Yum. Will we be having this again? What do you think?

Kudos, Ottolenghi, kudos.

“Oven Chips with Oregano and Feta” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

“Harissa beef sirloin with pepper and lemon sauce” from “Simple”

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Kirstin: Many of you will know of my love affair with harissa. So this recipe was always going to be a sure winner. The plan for this birthday weekend was to make an early dinner so we could all watch Solo together. So fairly on in the evening, I took the beef out of the fridge to marinate. I had just finished the first episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat which had been recommended to me by Maureen. You may remember we reviewed her book earlier this year. Anyway, I digress. But it made me think differently about the way I cooked this recipe. Just cutting the beef felt much interesting as I looked at the way the meat was marbled with fat.

I haven’t roasted peppers like this since the 80s or maybe 90s. My top tip is to halve the peppers and deseed them BEFORE you grill them. I seriously don’t know why people don’t suggest this in recipes, but there you go. And I served mashed potato to go with, to soak up all the juices.

I rarely cook beef. Maybe just a couple of times a year. But I would definitely make this recipe again. Ridiculously simple and beautifully tasty.
And Solo was also fantastic. A perfect weekend.

“Harissa beef sirloin with pepper and lemon sauce” from “Simple”

“Chicken with miso, ginger and lime” from “Simple”

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Kirstin: As Tom said, this is like miso soup but on chicken. It has the spring onions, it has the miso paste, it has a lovely gravy made from mirin and soya sauce. First you fry the chicken and then cook in the oven for longer, turning the legs over a few times, basting and then returning them to the oven. This makes the legs beautifully succulent and yet crisp on the top. And I haven’t even mentioned how everyone who came to the house while I was making this recipe, commented on the fragrance this recipe made. Heavenly.

But, I continue to feel cheated. Has Ottolenghi been holding out on us for all of these years? This recipe is so ridiculously lovely and simple. I mean seriously, not at all faffy. Where have all these recipes been for all of these years???

And would I make this again. Too right, I would.

“Chicken with miso, ginger and lime” from “Simple”