“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”

“Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Mint and Cumin” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

The important thing to bear in mind if you want to make this recipe is the word SLOW in the title. The lamb shoulder needs to sit in the marinade overnight and then roast in the oven for 6 1/2 hours before it’s ready to eat. So you need to be very much on top of things to make this, and plan ahead. For that reason, it’s perfect for a Sunday lunch.

I know the picture above doesn’t look that appetizing. I suspect that Ottolenghi had the same problem since there’s no picture of this dish in the cookbook either. But what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste. It also made the whole house smell amazing, which made us all hungry.

If you do decide to make this, though, my top tip is to fill the roasting tin with carrots and other vegetables. I filled mine up with the required amount– though I didn’t add celeriac because I forgot to get it– and they ended up completely “carmelised” (Read: Burned) and inedible. So the next time I make it, I’ll add more vegetables and also be more assiduous in basting both the veg and the lamb while it roasts.

Was it easy? It was, actually. The only slight problem I came across is that I didn’t have fenugreek seeds in my spice cabinet, and when I went to source them in the usual spots the only fenugreek I could find was ground. So I subbed that in, but I don’t know if that made a difference. It still was quite delicious.

The cookbook includes a shorthand guide for all the recipes: S for “Short on Time”, I for “10 Ingredients or Less”, M for “Make Ahead”, P for “Pantry” and L for “Lazy” and E for “Easier than you Think.” This one was labelled I-M-L-E, and I would definitely agree with all of those, especially, “Easier than you Think.”

If you’d like to make this yourself, Ottolenghi included the recipe in his 2018 Easter recipe roundup for the Guardian. Click through here to see it.

“Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Mint and Cumin” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

“Bridget Jones’s pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa” from “Simple”

Kirstin: YES, YES, YES! This was simple, yummy and all the Middle Eastern vibes. The salsa included celery, capers, olives, lemon zest, saffron and pine nuts. A truly wonderful combination of yum with the perfect amount of crunchiness. I did NOT include the currants, because they are just evil.

Bring it on, Ottolenghi. I knew you could do Simple food. I KNEW it.

“Bridget Jones’s pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa” from “Simple”

“Mustardy Cauliflower Cheese” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

It’s autumn: the days are shorter, the nights are closing in more rapidly, the trees are turning, all of which means it’s time to return to our most favourite food group: CHEESY COMFORT FOOD.

Of course, comfort food comes in all types of guises, and frankly, cheesy comfort food is good all year round. But there’s something about digging into a bowlful of cheese and other delights when the air is chilly that soothes the soul.

Cauliflower cheese, a British delicacy if there ever was one, is definitely one of my comfort foods because it involves two of my favourite ingredients: cauliflower and cheese– just like it says on the tin. I would rename this version Coronation Cauliflower Cheese, because that’s exactly what it tasted like– a coronation chicken sandwich but in cauliflower cheese form. The use of black mustard seeds, green chillies, mustard powder, curry powder and cumin seeds gave it an Indian vibe, and very much in a good way.

My only regret was not doubling the sauce because I used it to swirl my plain-tasting roast chicken into it. Yum. I could have done that all day.

This was a very clever take on cauliflower cheese. Highly recommended.


“Mustardy Cauliflower Cheese” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

Cookbook of the month, October 2018: Ottolenghi Simple

Maureen: Ottolenghi Simple? HA. We don’t call him Faff-Olenghi for nothing.

Kirstin: Let’s give it a go. will he actually do simple food?

Maureen: He said in the intro that he LIMITED himself to 10 ingredients. It’s going to be simple. He says so himself!

Kirstin: [SIGH.]

Kirstin: But you really have to read through his recipes because he has an odd way of doing things sometimes.

Maureen: Maybe it really will be simple! Only 10 ingredients!

Kirstin: There’s only one way to find out, Maureen.  Have you accepted my challenge?

Maureen: Yes. We’ll see how simple “Simple” is.

Cookbook of the month, October 2018: Ottolenghi Simple

Our Verdict: Jamie Cooks Italy

Maureen: I’m just going to say this: I think this is a return to form for Jamie. We had a lot of good dinners this month.

Kirstin: Controversial!

Maureen: I know. Though saying that, I don’t know if the dinners were good because the cookbook was good, or if it’s because we love Italian food, which is always a winner. What did you think?

Kirstin: I thought the recipes were good, but I’m not sure they were that good. But they were good. I just didn’t understand all of the old women scattered throughout the book. What was that about?

Maureen: I think he was trying to show that the old ways are the best way. Or something.

Kirstin: This cookbook was definitely better than the last couple of books.

Maureen: I read in the introduction that it took him 18 months to write. I think it shows. It certainly doesn’t seem as slapdash as some of his more recent efforts.

Kirstin: I’d say it’s mid-period Jamie– not as good as he was at the start, but not as bad as recent years, either.

Maureen: He’s never going to be as good as his first four books.

Kirstin: Oh, never. But that’s not have much to do with him, but things have changed. Personalities have changed. Food has changed. Food is everywhere. There’s a lot more recipes available in newspapers, magazines and online.

Maureen: I think it also has to do with the fact that we have very much moved on. We’re much better cooks than when Jamie released his first book, but maybe some of our skills are Jamie’s doing? There were some good recipes in this cookbook and I would recommend it to people. It’s been a very, very long time since I last recommended a Jamie book.

Kirstin: I would give it to people, and that’s always a good sign.

Maureen: So a decent month from Jamie then.

Kirstin: For Sure.

“Jamie Cooks Italy”
Overall Grade (A- F):  B+ (Maureen) B (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Maureen: Pasta dishes– they were really good. Kirstin: Bastardo Chicken
Grade for Photography (A-F): B
Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: No!
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf! This is the first time in a long while we haven’t sent a Jamie book to the charity shop.                                                                        Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Yes.

Our Verdict: Jamie Cooks Italy