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  • Ottolenghi Christmas 2013

    Thank you, all the fantastic staff at Ottolenghi and NOPI, for the efforts during the Christmas period

    and just for being so great. . . .

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  • Sardinia, Part III

    Following on from my ‘Mediterranean Feasts’, I’m in the midst of exploring, filming, eating and cooking my way around Sardinia, Corsica, Mallorca and Crete. The series will be aired on More4 later this year. It’s hugely inspiring to travel the islands and be reminded of how integral food is to the daily life of the locals. Islands are a great place to examine concentrated food culture: for centuries they have battled outside influences to maintain their sense of identity and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the food. The produce is amazing, the people are wonderful, the place is beautiful, the history is fascinating and I just might have to not come home.  

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    The Sardinian coastline is rightly known for its seafood. The bar was set high by my first meal at Marbrouk restaurant, in Algerho. A plate of delicate and soft skate served cold in a traditional Sardinian tomato sauce made no concessions to the tourist palate and whetted my appetite for all the coastline treats in store.
    Sticking to the seaside theme, I jumped on board with father-and-son-team Angelo and Gino, local lobster fishermen in Bosa, about 40 kilometres south of Alghero on the north western coast. The sun beat down as Angelo told tales of the day he caught so many lobsters he might as well have been harvesting potatoes. The city boy in me rose to the challenge of pulling in the 1 kilometre fishing net and, thankfully, the lobsters had performed for the camera. I watched as Angelo and Gino cooked up our freshly caught lobsters in a fire of dried reeds on a deserted Sardinian cove. It was a timeless scene.

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    Heading inland, the dominant ingredients changed from seafood to cheese, along with roasted and cured meats. Pasta was ubiquitous across the island but, again, the hyper-locality of ingredients and recipes means that one town’s pasta is completely different to the next. The obligation to try every variation needed, clearly, no further justification. In the town of Nouru, I watched the fascinating and talented Signora Paola as she made Filindeus, a pasta resulting from hand-stretching a single piece of pasta dough into over 250 super-fine strands. She is one of just ten people on the island who can do this. Another local pasta – Macarones de busa – is made in the Oliena area by rolling pasta around a knitting needle. The time, care and dedication that goes into producing these local foods is remarkable: the importance of process and identity bound up in food is part of what makes it so intriguing. I was told that certain types of traditional pasta can take up to 12 hours to make a single kilo. There are few shortcuts here and certainly, to date, no sighting of any Imperia electric pasta machines. . .

    Up into the mountains to explore and cook with ricotta, one of my favourite cheeses. Rising at dawn to help milk the goats with shepherd Michele, followed by a breakfast of freshly-made ricotta, was a great life moment.

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    Family ties are strong on the island and Michele took me to meet his mother Signora Assunta, who introduced me to Sardinian sweets and gave me the opportunity to experiment cooking with the incredible ricotta.
    My time in Sardinia was rounded off by Franco Mula, the welcoming farmer who introduced me to the very Sardinian tradition of meat roasted on an open fire. I spent the day with his family, as Mula cooked his milk-fed lamb and suckling pig. It was melt-in-the-mouth incredible. Hopefully the dish I made in return –  Mula's lamb with figs, chicory and radicchio – went some way towards thanking them for their wonderful hospitality.

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  • Mallorca, Part II

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    Week three of my travels and the days are just getting sweeter. With the people that I am meeting, the scenes that I am seeing and, quite literally, with the ingredients I am tasting and cooking with. The oranges, the tomatoes, the ensaïmada pastries: heaven just got sprinkled in sugar!
    First off, the oranges. Forget the man from Del Monte, I’ve met the man from Soller and we all say ‘yes’! Mallorca is famous for its oranges and no more so than Soller. So abundant is the fruit that the surrounding valley is known as the valley of gold; so perfect are the growing conditions for producing the sweetest of oranges that King Louis XIV of France would, it is said, eat no other oranges apart from those of Soller. The trees are laden and ready for harvesting as I visit and I joined brothers Josep and Pere on their orange farm for a traditional breakfast of ham, cheese, sobrassada sausage, tomatoes, olive oil, oranges and, with not an eyebrow raise, a carafe of wine. When in Soller and all that. . . My dish of the day was a fig, orange and feta salad. Sunshine on a plate.

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    Next up on the life-is-sweet front: the tomatoes. Once famous for their vineyards, a late 19th century virus destroyed wine production and the vines were replaced by tomatoes. One surviving Malvasia vine was nursed back to health in the 1980s so now the terraces are doubly sweet with the grapes and tomatoes growing side by side. Ramellet tomatoes are an intriguing and important part of Mallorcan cuisine and unlike any tomato I’ve come across. They store incredibly well and, once strung up in bunches, can be kept from harvest in late July until the following May, providing near year-round fresh tomatoes. The size and consistency of these tomatoes makes them great for rubbing on to bread. Pamboli – with various toppings of cheese, meat and vegetables – is a Mallorcan obsession. Top quality tomatoes, fresh crusty bread, salty white cheese: what more does a meal need? 

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    The sugar-laced trilogy ends with the ubiquitous ensaïmadas: a spiral of pastry with fillings ranging from chocolate to various jams to the savoury option of sobrassada sausage. The secret to their making is a combination of the Mallorcan sea air – connoisseurs say they can taste the difference between a Mallorcan ensaïmadas and those ‘imitators’ from other islands – and the less island-specific (and significantly more artery-clogging) amount of lard used in the cooking. I visited the oldest bakery on the island, Pomar, run today by the fifth generation in the family to do so. The ensaïmadas have, I can confirm after a fair amount of sampling, been perfected! 

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  • Corsica, Part I

    The first thing you notice approaching Corsica by ferry is how green and mountainous it is compared to Sardinia. This difference in landscape influences each island’s produce and the flavour of their food. The most distinct influence on Corsica’s food is from the ‘maquis’: the highly scented wild herb shrubs which grow everywhere. Driving around the island you see beehives dotted amongst trees and pigs, goats and cows all foraging along the hillsides. These all feed on the maquis which, in turn, flavours the honey, cheese and charcuterie the animals produce.

    I spent the day with Patricia and Joelle, two wonderful ladies who let me help them collect honey from their hives. It was, despite my Neil Armstrong-like protective outfit, a fairly intimidating experience. It was fascinating to compare and contrast the taste of honey collected from the same beehive at different stages of the year. Because of the changing flowers from one season to next on the maquis bush, the spring honey was sweet, golden and light and the summer honey was much darker with a consistency like treacle.

    Chestnuts are another ingredient integral to the island’s produce. I spent time with Stephane - a renowned local charcuturie producer – and his uncle Antoine to understand their significance. They treated me to a feast of a traditional chestnut polenta called pulenda – a real revelation – liver sausage, Brocciu cheese and, with no connection to chestnuts at all, the requisite fried egg. It is the chestnuts which Stephane’s pigs eat during the last two months of their life which gives his artisan charcuturie its distinct, nutty and very wonderful flavour.

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    From one idyllic ‘test kitchen’ to another, I found myself the next morning overlooking stunning, lush mountains hand-milking goats with a cheese maker called Lionel. Once they’ve been milked, the goat’s roam free (feeding on the maquis) while Lionel makes cheese. We sampled a range of Lionel’s cheeses – ranging in age from a day old to 6 months – before I cooked my recipe of fried goat’s cheese with a red pepper salsa. 

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  • JERUSALEM wins OFM 'Best cookbook' Award!

    Yotam and Sami were absolutely thrilled to hear that JERUSALEM won ‘Best Cookbook’ at this year’s Observer Food Monthly Awards. Space had to be made in tummies rather than on the award’s shelf as the trophies themselves were edible! Made by Heston and his team at The Fat Duck, the edibility of the prizes was a first for the award. Hosted by Jay Rayner and Sue Perkins, the food for the evening was devised by Angela Hartnett who created a menu which honoured the ten nominees for the Chef of the Decade prize. We were also delighted to see the ‘Best newcomer in food and drink’ going to our great friends at Honey & Co. For more details on the event, including all the  prize winners over the sixteen categories, read more here.Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

     

     

  • Spread a smile!

    Yotam spent a morning at the beginning of October doing a cooking demonstration for Spread a Smile. Dedicated to brightening children’s days during long hospital stays by providing entertainers, magicians and musicians, Spread a smile is a charity Yotam could not say no to. In front of 40 woman, 1 man and accompanied by Esme, Yotam cooked three dishes which all went down very well.

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    Fish cakes with quick pickled lemons and burnt aubergine were snapped up, as were the crispy cous cous saffron cakes dotted with Yotam’s favourite barberries and sour cream. Butterbean puree topped with roasted red pepper strips and sprinkled with dukkah was a simple and delicious side. Smiles all round.

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  • To ottoleng - the verb

    Gobsmacked to get such an incredible compliment from Tim Hayward in his recent FT magazine article. Read his entertaining observations about ‘cook book colossi’ and the ‘dinner party circuit’ here

  • The online store moving next door!

    There have been many happy months of test kitchen-online store symbiosis. All sharing a space under one of the arches in Camden, Yotam, Sarah and Tara – developing and testing recipes – have had the most receptive tasters and discerning critics in Maria, Saga and purchasing manager Myles. A dumb waiter will now need to be installed between the test kitchen and the online store arches as the latter have (due to their growing business rather than their growing tummies) moved to their very own space next door.

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    Saga is on the ground floor fulfilling the increasing number of orders being received as our product list grows and establishes itself. Maria is upstairs, keeping on top of the all-new website and making sure that all brownie batches pass the quality control test.  The test kitchen, meanwhile, is (though missing their happy guineapigs) luxuriating in its newfound space with many plans afoot as to how best to use area which has newly opened up.

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  • A few weeks in Boston, at the beginning of the year.

    There were enough exciting food shops, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, pop-ups, street kitchens, trucks and diners to make us wonder quite why we’d bought return tickets home. Experimental, exciting, foodie heaven! Every day presented us with another marvel-in-the-mouthful: pastries to get up early and queue for, tempura lemon skin with salt cod croquettes to remember forever, scotch eggs to defy all sense of just-how-good-can-a-scotch-really-be (answer: VERY), magical kale salad with poached egg and garlic crumbs. A few highlights, below, from an incredibly happy, snowy, blessed, fun and fruitful American adventure. . .

    Sofra, One Belmont Street, Cambridge MA, 021338 t. 617.661.3161
    Ana Sortun is a gem, her cookery book, SPICE, is a treasure and her bakery, Sofra, is the biggest box of delights of them all. Trusting that flavour can come primarily from the artful use of spices and herbs (rather than the fat others often rely on through cream and butter), Ana’s Middle Eastern-inspired cakes and pastries are delicate, delicious and very special. A breakfast here of olive oil granola with orange labne and local honey, semolina pancakes with seasonal jam and a cheeky tahini donut to round off the belly. An inspiration to all of us who think we know how to shake things up at the breakfast table.

    Flour bakery and cafe, 190 Mass. Avenue, Cambridge MA, 02139 t. 617.225.2525
    ‘Make life sweeter. . . eat dessert first!’ is the bakery’s motto and so said both of us as we walked into what felt like the inner santum of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. Move along Mister Wonka as we crown Joanne Chang, chef and owner of FLOUR, the queen of all sweet treats. Homemade oreos and pop-tarts, donuts sparkling with sugar, cookies the size of your hand, chocolate-stuffed croissants, sticky buns, lemon cake, chocolate chip and coconut macaroons, this place was a seriously dangerous discovery.

    The Butcher Shop, 552 Tremont Street, Boston Mass. 02118 t. 617.423.4800
    A tribute to the old world European boucheries, inspired by chef Barbara Lynch’s travels around France and Italy, far too many hours can be whittled away in this this neighbourhood wine bar and full service butchers shop. With homemade sausages on display, along with slabs of foie gras and exquisite marbled cuts of local beef, this is not one for the strictly vegetarian. I lost a fair few brownie points tweeting out my foie gras-induced delight but, between you, me and the fattened duck, I’d order it all over again and struggle hard not to proclaim. I don’t spread it on my morning toast but, honestly, once in a while?!: divine. . . For a more politically correct menu choice, my beet salad with blue cheese, almonds and citrus vinaigrette was also worth quacking loudly about.

    The Gallows, 1395 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118 t. 617.425.0200
    This is a restaurant which knows how to have fun, be confident, surprise, entertain, delight and wow. Gin cured salmon, Guiness fish and chips, scrambled eggs with fries, gravy, cheese curds and bacon, the menu is as loud and decadent as the restaurant’s atmosphere is vibrant. Karl’s absolute-dish-of-the-trip was his gallows’ scotch egg: soft cooked egg wrapped in crispy pork sausage.

    Belly Bar, One Kendall Square, Cambridge MA 02139 t. 617.494.0968
    Good wine, strong cheese and cured meats: apparently simple ingredients executed to perfection in a very chilled environment. Following the rules of the classic wine bar – small sharing plates of food to accompany your tipple of choice – the comforting formula is shaken up with some real surprises and delights from the homemade charcuterie which arrives on a weathered wooden chopping board. I can’t remember eating better Jamon Iberico and the veal terrine with hints of anise was also very special.

    Toro, 1704 Washington Street Boston MA t. 617.536.4300
    I adore tapas and I’m addicted to croquettes so thought I’d arrived in heaven here with Toro’s tempura meyer lemon skin with salt cod croquettes. We could have sat there all day, ordering plate after plate. . .

    Neptune, 63 Salem Street, Boston MA 02113 t. 617.742.3474
    For the freshest local seafood and an impeccable raw bar, Neptune is where it’s at. It’s a tiny joint so the atmosphere is always lively. First class oysters, lobster sandwiches or our favourite dish – the buttermilk ‘johnny cake’ with honey butter, smoked trout tartare and Californian sturgeon caviar all find their perfect companion in an equally focussed and impeccable wine list. These guys know what they are doing and are doing it very well.

    Mei Mei
    If I could have brought one Boston kitchen back to London it would be this on-the-move food truck. Run by the Li siblings – Andy, Margaret and Irene – they serve up a constantly-changing menu of what they describe as ‘locally sourced Chinese-American food made with love’. With confident riffs on Chinese staples and in-your-face flavour combinations – pork liver paté cone topped with mustard whipped cream, pickle brine sprinkles and a pickled cranberry – this is some of the most creatively delicious food being served in Boston at the moment. My ‘magical kale salad’ with poached egg, feta and garlic did indeed have something magical about it. Street food shouldn’t taste quite this good. . .

     

  • Nopi, Mar 18th, 2013

    On busy evening services, it’s become something of a dedicated habit of mine to stop & observe Donata at work for a few seconds- a kind of express meditation. The muted speed of her knife, her effortless cool, spot-on balance of flavours and textures are inspiring, calming and downright fun to watch. At the risk of gushing, she injects such delicate precision into her work. Be sure to stay hello to her next time you’re in.

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