Ask any of my Certificate Course students where they would like to work when they finish their stint at the Ballymaloe Cookery School — at least a quarter will sigh wistfully and mention Ottolenghi and indeed many of my past students have worked there and loved their experience.
Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-British chef, restaurateur, deli owner and bestselling food writer has won all our hearts with his chic and delicious food.
Sumac, zatar, pomegranate molasses are stocked in virtually every supermarket. Frekkah, mahleb, dried limes, rose petals and pistachios are also familiar ingredients to virtually all keen cooks — it’s the ‘Ottolenghi effect’.
But for many it’s the irresistible huge billowy meringues, luscious cakes, fancy friands, dainty financiers and pastries that they lust after.
Recipes for some of these specialities are sprinkled through Yotam’s earlier books, Ottolenghi The Cookbook, Jerusalem, Plenty, Plenty. He and his business partner Sami Tamimi also have an uncanny knack for displaying the food, so it is beyond irresistible.
They use beautiful ingredients, no grey or fawn food, it’s all super colourful and most importantly it is super delicious.
In his latest book SWEET, Yotam has teamed up with Malaysian born, Helen Goh, a doctor of psychology, who was head pastry chef at Donovan’s, a landmark restaurant in a suburb of Melbourne and well known for its delicious cakes. A friend tipped off Yotam that Helen was coming to London and the rest is history.
Yotam and Helen have collaborated and meticulously tested recipes for over two years and the end result is SWEET, the book that his legions of fans have been waiting for.
This is one of those rare books that you’ll want to cook your way from cover to cover.
It’s difficult to choose what to include in this column but here are a few temptations to make you want to rush to your local book shop to secure your very own copy. It’s also a perfect present for a sweet toothed friend.
You’ll have to buy the book to get the recipes for Love cakes, frozen espresso parfait for a crowd and chocolate tart with hazelnuts, rosemary and orange.
These could well become favourite dinner party desserts.
Ottolenghi’s Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs
This is a stunning dessert for a special occasion. Pavlova is the dessert to make when you have a bit of time and are feeding people you adore. The recipe calls for flaked almonds but you can easily substitute those with chopped pistachios.
Makes 10-12 (it’s quite rich, so the slices are not too big)
Preheat the oven to 170C/150F/gas mark 3.
Spread out all the almonds (for both the pavlova and the praline, 70g) on a baking tray and toast for 7-8 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, divide into two piles (20 g for the pavlova, 50 g for the praline) and set aside to cool.
Reduce the oven temperature to 120°C/100°F/gas mark ½. Cover a baking tray with baking parchment and trace a circle, about 23cm in diameter, onto the paper. Turn the paper over so the drawn–on circle is facing down but still visible.
First make the meringue. Pour enough water into a medium saucepan so that it rises a quarter of the way up the sides: you want the bowl from your electric mixer to be able to sit over the saucepan without touching the water. Bring the water to a boil.
Place the egg whites and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk by hand to combine. Reduce the heat under the saucepan so that the water is just simmering, then set the mixer bowl over the pan, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bow. Whisk the egg whites continuously by hand until they are warm, frothy and the sugar is melted, about 4 minutes, then transfer back to the electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place and whisk on a high speed for about 5 minutes until the meringue is cool, stiff and glossy. Add the cinnamon and whisk to combine.
Spread the meringue inside the drawn circle, creating a nest by making the sides a little higher than the centre. Place in the oven and bake for 3 hours, then switch off the oven but leave the meringues inside until they are completely cool: this will take about 2 hours. Once cool, remove from the oven and set aside.
Place the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl and set it over a small saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted. Cool slightly, and then brush the chocolate inside the meringue nest, leaving the top and sides bare. Do this gently, as the meringue is fairly delicate. Leave to set for about 2 hours.
Next make the praline. Place the 50 g toasted almonds on a parchment lined baking tray (with a lipped edge) and set aside. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and place over a medium low heat, stirring until the sugar has melted. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until it turns a dark golden brown. Pour the cream over the nuts (don’t worry if they’re not all covered) and leave until completely cool and set. Once cool, transfer the praline to the small bowl of a food processor and blitz until fine.
Place the cream, mascarpone and blitzed praline in a large bowl and whisk for about 1 minute, until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over whisk here – it doesn’t take much to thicken up or it will split. If this begins to happen, use a spatula to fold a little more cream into the mix to bring it back together. Refrigerate until needed.
To assemble: Spoon the cream into the centre of the meringue and top with the figs. Warm the honey in a small saucepan and stir through the 20 g almonds (or pistachios). Drizzle these over the figs and serve.
Taken from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh published by Ebury Press
School Lunch Box Suggestion: Pumpkin Soup
Fill a flask with pumpkin soup as part of a warm and comforting school lunch. Why not add a couple of brown scones?
Serves 6 approximately
Melt the butter and when it foams add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx.
Remove the lid, add the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour the soup into the liquidiser. Add the freshly chopped thyme, purée until smooth. Add a little creamy milk if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning
Garnish with a speckle of the whipped cream.
Ottolenghi’s Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines
Traditionally, madeleines are best eaten as close to coming out of the oven as possible. The beating together of the eggs and sugar makes them super light and fluffy, but it’s all the air incorporated into them that also makes them dry out so quickly, if left to sit around for too long.
Here, untraditionally we forgo all the beating and just place the ingredients in a food processor. Mixing them this way means that the resulting madeleines won’t be quite as light as those made by hand whisking, but they’re every bit as delicate and buttery as you’d hope. We love the saffron here, but the spice is not to everyone’s liking so you can leave it out, if you prefer and focus on the orange and honey instead.
Makes about 22
Place the butter, honey and saffron threads (if using) in a small saucepan over low heat until butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla seeds and orange zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter, honey and saffron mixture. Process once more to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°F/gas mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour.
Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould; it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.
Bake for 9–10 minutes until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once the tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray (s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this, with a metal tray is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
Pile the blitzed pistachios on to a plate in a straight line and set aside. Melt the 3 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan until very runny, then brush lightly over the shell patterned side of one madeleine. With the shell side facing down towards the nuts, roll the narrower end of the madeleine along the pile of pistachios so that you have a straight 1 cm strip of pistachios at the base of the madeleine. Repeat with the remaining madeleines and place on a serving platter, nut side up.
Taken from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh published by Ebury Press
‘Saturday Pizza’ Masterclass at the Ballymaloe Cookery School with Bed and Breakfast at Ballymaloe House: Join Philip Dennhardt at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Friday, November 10, and enjoy a three-hour Pizza Masterclass. Philip will take you through all the basic ingredients from making dough, getting the best results from your oven and delicious ways to use classic and contemporary toppings. Following Philip’s Pizza class, check in to Ballymaloe House on the same evening and enjoy a five-course meal. Dinner, bed & breakfast with Philip’s Pizza Masterclass from €270 per person sharing.
Check out Listowel Food Fair from November 9-12.
Find of the Week:- . I’ve just discovered the delicious smoked black and white pudding from The Smokin’ Butcher, Hugh Maguire based in Ashbourne, Co Meath. 086 893 9964; hughmaguirebutchers.com
Wild Food of the Week:- Burdock can be found in woodland and on waste ground. The leaves and stalks can be boiled and eaten with melted butter in spring time but right now burdock root can be peeled and boiled in salted water, sautéed in butter, much like Jerusalem artichokes.
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