“Cauliflower Cake” from “Plenty More”

IMG_6420Maureen: I’ve been intrigued by this recipe for as long as I’ve had the book. It’s cauliflower cake for Meat Free Monday today.

Nicholas (11): What? Cake made of cauliflower? That sounds strange.

Maureen: It’s not actually cake like we think of cake. It’s more of a frittata, with lots of eggs, cheese and some cauliflower thrown in for good measure. What do you think?

Andrew (15): The flavour combination is interesting.

Maureen: Is that good interesting? Or bad interesting?

Andrew (considering): It’s good interesting, actually. I like it.

Tim: I’m not so sure about the texture.

Maureen: What do you mean?

Tim: It seems a bit strange.

Maureen: Does that mean you don’t like it?

Tim: If you made it, I would eat it, but I wouldn’t ask for you to make it, if you see what I mean.

Maureen: Hardly a ringing endorsement. What do you think Nicholas?

Nicholas: I’m with Dad. I’m not so sure about it.

Maureen: I like it. I’m with Andrew. I think it’s interesting. But then again, I am a big cauliflower fan, so maybe that’s part of it. So it’s a mixed result tonight.

If you would like to make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe in the Guardian. I’m with Ottolenghi when he says it’s even better the next day. I just had some for lunch and it was delicious. 

 

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“Cauliflower Cake” from “Plenty More”

“Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf” from “Plenty More”

IMG_6303(Apologies for the light in this picture. It is winter, after all, and we’ve had grey skies here in London for a record 3,178 days* )

((*This may be a guess.))

I decided to make this dish for the sole reason that I wanted to cook with giant couscous. I know the recipe calls for fregola, but Ottolenghi says you can use giant couscous instead, so when I saw it on the supermarket shelf, I grabbed it knowing it was destined for this dish.

The other major difference between what Ottolenghi wanted me to do, and what I actually did, is I did not prepare the artichokes myself. Even though he included very helpful directions as to how I could go about doing that, in the end I decided that life was too short and I used the pre-made ones instead. To his credit, he does say that you can do that. (Otherwise, this dish might have wandered into Faff-Olenghi territory.)

It was typical Ottolenghi: delicious and an interesting blend of flavours I wouldn’t have thought of myself. I easily could see this being sold at his deli and taking it away for a pretty yummy lunch.

As it was, we had it on Fish Friday to go along Gwenyth Paltrow’s roasted fish, baked clam style, which is in the regular rotation of our Fish Friday favourites, although this time I used trout rather than sea bass. Everyone at the table gave the entire dinner at thumbs up.

Would I make this again? Most definitely. I don’t know if the giant couscous trend is here to stay, but it certainly is delicious.

If you would like to make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe in The Guardian.

 

“Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf” from “Plenty More”

“Spicy Chickpea and Bulgar Soup” from “Plenty More”

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It was a (very) cold, wet, winter Monday, the latest in a string of cold, wet, miserable days here in the Big Smoke. This soup seemed just the thing for Meat Free Monday.

Ottolenghi says in the introduction that this is the sort of recipe you can make at any time, because all of the ingredients will probably be found in your refrigerator or cupboard already, and that was true for me too. I love any recipe where I can use found ingredients and skip a trip to the store.

While making it, I worried that the boys (age 15 and 11) wouldn’t like this and find it too spicy. But in fact, they loved it. I did cut back on the amount of harissa paste I used, because I knew that might put them off, but the spice didn’t bother them and they emptied their bowls pretty quickly.

Ottolenghi seems to be a big fan of caraway in this book, so it’s a good thing I stocked up the last time I was out shopping, because he used it in this recipe too. But it really adds something to the soup and it’s not something I would have thought to add myself.

Not pictured: The feta paste on the top. It was lovely– I never pass up an opportunity to have feta– but if you’re vegan, you could skip adding that and the soup is still good. Ottolenghi says the paste, “elevates a midweek supper into something special,” and while that may be true, it’s not essential.

Highly recommended for Meat Free Monday on a cold winter night.

If you would like to make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe on 101 Cookbooks (you have to scroll past several unrelated photos, but it’s there, down at the bottom).

“Spicy Chickpea and Bulgar Soup” from “Plenty More”

“Grilled Ziti with Feta” from “Plenty More”

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This is our first dish from this month’s cookbook, which we have (lovingly) nicknamed “Otto-Impossible: The Sequel.”

Perhaps that’s a misnomer, because the recipes I’ve done so far– including this one– aren’t impossible, just time consuming. So maybe it’s not a fair name, but it is catchy.

This ziti dish is just a variation on baked ziti, the Italian-American classic that we’ve enjoyed many times. In that dish, you boil up some ziti (which we know as penne pasta), toss it in a dish with tomato sauce, then add as much mozzarella as you like. It’s pretty easy to make and I always loved it. Baked ziti was a staple of my American childhood, as no buffet would be complete without it.

This recipe takes baked ziti to a new level. While it does have the basic components of the baked ziti we know and love, the new additions, like caraway, cumin and celery, elevate it to a new level. Having three different kinds of cheese (though no mozzarella) make it that much better. Finishing it off under the grill was unexpected, but it worked.

Would I make it again? You bet. For someone who grew up on traditional baked ziti, the addition of caraway and cumin was a surprise, but it was all the better for it.

Highly recommended.

If you would like to make some Grilled Ziti with Feta, click through this link to find the recipe on the Guardian website.

“Grilled Ziti with Feta” from “Plenty More”

“Fattoush” and “Open Kibbeh” from “Jerusalem”

CBAMFattoush

This night featured two more winners from “Jerusalem.”

The first, on the top, is fattoush. It’s like a Middle Eastern version of panzanella, just with radishes and sumac, and pita bread rather than Italian bread. It’s a great salad to eat on a warm summer day, but given the liveliness of the sumac and the other vegetables, it also would be good in the dead of winter. A note of caution, though: this delicious salad takes A LOT of chopping to achieve. So before embarking on this, I’d recommend that you set aside some time to get all the vegetable prep finished.

You might think that sumac is hard to find, but in fact, they had it at my local Waitrose. Again, thank you Ottolenghi! However, I assumed that I needed some and so bought another jar of it, only to discover when I got home that I already had some. But after a month of cooking from this book, we’re almost finished with the first jar, so I’m guessing we’ll use the next one within the next couple of months.

The second, on the bottom, is open kibbeh. It’s a warming combination of minced lamb, bulger wheat and a wide variety of spices, with a tahini sauce on the top. It’s not really a combination I would think would work, but work it does. I think it’s the variety of flavours, brought to the party by the spices, that really make this something special. As a bonus, it’s not too much trouble to make. There are multiple steps, but it’s all very manageable.

All in all, another good night of eating from “Jerusalem.”

To make the fattoush, click through on this sentence to go to the recipe on the Telegraph website.

To make the Open Kibbeh, click through on this sentence to go to the recipe on the Guardian website.

“Fattoush” and “Open Kibbeh” from “Jerusalem”

“Mejadra” from “Jerusalem”

 

Disaster! I forgot to take a picture of this! Sorry, loyal readers. Suffice it to say, it’s not that photogenic a dish anyway, but it is very tasty.

Maureen: Ottolenghi calls this the ultimate comfort food. Do you agree?

Andrew (14): What’s it called?

Maureen: To be honest, I have no earthly idea how to pronounce it. But it’s spelled m-e-j-a-d-r-a. We could just call it the lentil-rice-fried onion dish.

NIcholas (11): Hmm. Interesting.

Maureen: Good interesting or bad interesting?

Nicholas: I think it’s good interesting, but I’m not 100 percent sure.

Maureen: I think it’s delicious, and given this is the third or fourth time we’ve had it, I think we can call it a success.

Tim: Was it difficult to make?

Maureen: To be honest, Kirstin and Anna don’t call him “Faff-Olonghi” for nothing. This was definitely a bit of a faff, which you don’t really figure out until you’re halfway through making it. I had to fry the onions in batches, which took way longer than I thought it would, in addition to making the lentils and the rice.

Tim: Yes. I remember that was the case the last time I made it.

Maureen: Despite that, though, this is delicious and a good thing for Meat Free Monday. I also know from experience that it’s excellent leftover, too. Another win from Jerusalem.

To make this yourself, find the recipe on the Guardian website by clicking through this sentence.

“Mejadra” from “Jerusalem”

“Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas and Chilli” from “Jerusalem”

CBAMPasta

Stop the presses. In the 12+ months I’ve had “Jerusalem,” this is the first recipe that elicited the response, “Meh.”

I know! A Meh! From this book, which has been hit-after-hit-after-hit. But not today. Up until now, the dishes I’ve made had evoked universal approval (for the most part). This was not one of those days.

What was the problem? I’m not quite sure. In theory, with feta, peas and yogurt over pasta, it should have been delicious. In practice, it was just a bit bland. Other reviewers of this recipe said they thought it was great, so maybe there was some operator error involved. However, given that it was just a simple pasta dish, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case.

It was all just a bit Meh. The leftovers sat in the refrigerator for days and didn’t tempt anyone.

Will I make it again? Obviously not. Life is too short for “Meh.”

If you want to try this (though reading the above, why would you want to?), the Guardian had the recipe. Click through this paragraph to find it– it’s the second recipe featured in the Ottolenghi column that weekend.

“Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas and Chilli” from “Jerusalem”