If you’re one of the few people who is yet to discover Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, you probably think vegetarian food is bland or boring. This book was a revelation for us when we bought a copy many years ago, and we’ve been fans of Ottolenghi ever since. These recipes are deceptive in their simplicity, in that Ottolenghi allows each featured ingredient to shine, but with a subtle complexity of flavor that enlivens the senses and encourages you to reach for a second helping. Try any of these recipes and you won’t be missing the meat.
Ian’s favourite vegetable is eggplant (aubergine), so the eggplant section in our copy of Plenty is well-thumbed and a little sticky, as all good cookbooks should be. Of all the eggplant recipes we know, this is the prettiest! Served with some chunky sourdough or pita bread, this makes a great entrée, or you could serve it as a side dish.
A note about Za’atar: This Middle Eastern term can refer to the herb thyme, or a blend of thyme, sesame, sumac and salt. We enjoy making our own blend and have listed the ingredients below, or you could simply substitute thyme leaves or buy a pre-made za’atar spice mix. If you make the spice mix, you will have much more than you need for this recipe, but it can be used to season anything from bread or potatoes to roasted or grilled chicken.
- 2 large eggplants
- 80ml olive oil
- 1 ½ tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs
- 1 pomegranate
- 1 tss za’atar spice mix
- sea salt and black pepper
- 140ml buttermilk
- 100g Greek yoghurt
- 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil, plus a little drizzle to finish
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Pinch of sea salt
Za’atar Spice Mix:
- 1 Tbsp dried thyme leaves, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
- 2 tsp sumac
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- ½ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting through the green stalk. Using a sharp knife, make a few incisions in the cut side of each eggplant without cutting through the skin on the other side. Repeat the incisions at a 45-degree angle to create a diamond shaped pattern.
- Place the prepared eggplant halves cut-side up on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush them with the olive, continuing to brush until all of the oil has been absorbed. Sprinkle over the lemon thyme leaves and some salt and pepper, and garnish with a few of the lemon thyme sprigs.
- Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft and brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pomegranate and sauce. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl with the cut side against your palm, and bash the skin of the pomegranate with a rolling pin or wooden spoon. The seeds should start falling out through your fingers, continue bashing more forcefully until all the seeds are in the bowl. Sift through the seeds to remove any pieces of white skin or membrane.
- For the sauce, whisk together all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- To serve, spoon a generous amount of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks (the stalks look pretty, but do not eat them!) Sprinkle za’atar and pomegranate seeds across the top and drizzle with some olive oil.
Spiced Popcorn Gin Sour
One thing you may not know about Patrick is that in a previous life he was a bartender at one of Manila’s coolest cocktail bars, The Blind Pig. We had some leftover Spiced Popcorn from our Popcorn Tacos a few weeks ago (if you haven’t made them yet, do yourself a favour and get some in your belly tonight!), so we were wondering what to do with the leftovers. Patrick thought he could do something pretty amazing with the popcorn if he soaked it in sugar syrup and created a cocktail with it. And so, the Spiced Popcorn Gin Sour was born. It’s a little bit spicy, a little bit sour, a little bit sweet and has a delicious popcorn aroma that makes you want to reach for another glass as soon as you finish the first. Make a batch for your friends and start your next dinner party with a spicy popcorn kick!
For the Spiced Popcorn Sugar Syrup:
- 300ml water
- 300g sugar
- 25g Spiced Popcorn (see recipe here)
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the Spiced Popcorn. Allow to steep for 30 minutes, then blend with a stick blender until the popcorn is coarsely chopped. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. Set the sugar syrup aside.
For the cocktail:
- 30ml Spiced Popcorn Sugar Syrup
- 20ml lemon juice
- 45ml gin (we used Tanqueray)
- 1 egg white
- Cayenne pepper powder
- Spiced Popcorn, to garnish
Place all ingredients in a Boston shaker (cocktail shaker) and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds, until the mixture begins to foam. Add a handful of ice cubes and continue to shake until the ice shatters and you feel the shaker has become cold. Strain the mixture through a Hawthorn strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Dust the surface of the cocktail with a pinch of cayenne pepper and garnish with 3 small pieces of Spiced Popcorn. Serve immediately.
Once again we’re adapting a recipe from Ottolenghi and Goh’s Sweet. They in turn have been inspired by the traditional Louise cake from New Zealand, which is a slice with a cake layer topped with raspberry jam and a coconut meringue. Ottolenghi and Goh’s version uses fresh fruit; you could use any stone fruit which is in season, just be sure it’s ripe but not too soft. We love the addition of flaked almonds to the meringue, as it adds a delicious crunch to the fluffy meringue and syrupy fruit. The cake is fairly rich so you could bake it in a square tin and cut into small squares to serve, or bake in a round tin as we did for a more decadent serving.
- 125g unslated butter, at room temperature, cut into 2cm cubes
- 100g caster sugar
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 large egg yolks
- 125g plain flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 20g desiccated coconut
- 80ml whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 medium plums (450g), ripe but firm (or any stonefruit in season)
For the meringue:
- 60g flaked almonds
- 140g egg whites
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 185g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp cornflour
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3.
- Spread the flaked almonds on a baking tray and toast for 10 minutes, or until they are a light brown colour. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Increase the oven temperature to 185°C/Gas mark 5. Using a 20cm square or 23cm round tin with removable base, line the base and sides with baking paper.
- Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and beat together until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a separate bowl. Add the coconut and stir to combine. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on a low speed, and alternating with the milk and vanilla. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Place in the oven and cook for around 25 minutes. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Slice each plum vertically in half and discard the stones. Slice each half into four segments so you have 8 segments per plum.
- Once the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 200°C/Gas mark 6. Place the plum segments on top of the cake, forming a layer of fruit across the surface. Be sure not to overlap the plums though, or the fruit layer will become too watery.
- To make the meringue, whisk together the egg whites and salt on a medium-high speed, until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a little at a time, and continue to whisk until the egg whites are stiff and shiny. Add the vanilla, vinegar and cornflour and whisk again until combined. Fold in the toasted almond flakes.
- Spoon the meringue into the cake tin, on top of the fruit layer and spread out evenly. Create waves and peaks in the meringue by dabbing a spatula into and out of the mixture. Place in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Bake for 35 minutes or until the meringue has formed a hard crust and is just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the tin for at least 30 minutes before removing the base of the tin and removing the baking paper to serve.
One of our favourite cookbook authors is Anna Jones, whose vegetarian recipes are imaginative, tasty and versatile. We have cooked this recipe a few times, and it’s perfect for an easy weeknight dinner, or a relaxed dinner with friends. We love the way corn is used three ways in this recipe; the spiced popcorn, caramelised corn salsa and corn tortillas. The cayenne pepper adds a nice warm glow to the dish without overpowering the flavours, and the crunch factor of the popcorn makes these tacos extra special. It’s also a fun novelty to serve and always impresses our friends, eve though it’s so easy to make.
We have adapted this recipe from Anna Jones’ “A Modern Way To Eat”. It serves 2 hungry people as a main, or 4 people if you’re serving some appetisers as well.
- olive oil
- 3 Tbsp popcorn kernels
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp honey
Caramelised Corn Salsa:
- 4 corn on the cob
- olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- grated zest and juice of 1 lime
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 red or green chilli, finely chopped
- 100ml natural yoghurt
- 2 avocados
- juice of ½ a lime
- 8 small corn or wheat tortillas, or 4 large tortillas
- 100g feta cheese, drained and crumbled
- a bunch of coriander, chopped
- For the popcorn, place a pan on low heat and add a little oil and the popcorn kernels. Put the lid on and shake the pan every now and then to stop the kernels from burning. After a few minutes, the corn will start to pop. Continue shaking the pan every minute or so until the popping stops. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool while you mix together the popcorn spices and honey in a small pan. Warm and mix over a low heat. Toss the honey mixture with the popcorn until it is well coated. Set aside.
- Cut the kernels from the corn cobs. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, and fry the kernels over a high heat until they become charred and caramelised. Add the salt and pepper, lime zest and juice, and the cayenne and chilli. Remove from the heat and stir in a tablespoon of the yoghurt. Set aside, covering with aluminium foil to keep the corn warm.
- Remove the flesh from the avocados and place in a small bowl. Squeeze over the lime juice and mash together.
- Warm your tortillas in a dry frying pan.
- To serve, fill each tortilla with some avocado, corn kernels and a dollop of yoghurt. Top with some crumbled feta, a pinch of coriander and a scattering of popcorn. Fold up in your hand and enjoy!