Let’s Talk Ottolenghi

If you haven’t yet come across Yotam Ottolenghi‘s recipes, you’re in for a little treat. They’re complex, exotic, and often filled with hard-to-come-by ingredients. But, most importantly, they’re delicious. This is no exaggeration. I haven’t had an Ottolenghi dish yet that I haven’t enjoyed. The most pleasant thing about his recipes is that they often introduce completely different flavours and usual flavour combinations. A little hurdle with Ottolenghi’s recipes is, unfortunately, the long list of diverse and interesting ingredients each recipe’s calls for – quite often the very reason why they’re so good.

For example, take his Fried Rice Cakes with Creamed Leeks and EggThe required ingredients include saffron, gruyère, leeks, cream, eggs. Now we may have one, even two, of these items in our fridge or cupboard. But more often or not, we will need to buy everything on the list. This can definitely push our shopping bill over top, especially for ingredients we don’t use all too often. Yet, I can assure you, when it comes to this recipe, and many others by Ottolenghi, it’s definitely worth going the extra mile to get the various ingredients. Once cooked, they are the bees-knees.

J—– loves these recipe’s and it’s hard to resist when he gets excited over one Ottolenghi’s just published in his Guardian column. Yet, there are ways to approach his more complex recipes like cutting back or alternating ingredients and create an equally enjoyable dish – for perhaps, a cheaper price. And occasionally there are some that you come across that are cost-effective and not too difficult to create by just tweaking them here or there.

One such recipe is Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin. The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

“200g puy lentils
30g unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil , plus extra to finish
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
3 medium tomatoes, skinned and cut into 1cm dice
25g coriander leaves, chopped
4 tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
½ small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered”

Method

“Bring a medium pan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook for 15-20 minutes, until completely cooked, drain and set aside.

Put the butter and oil in a large sauté pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, 20g of coriander and the cooked lentils. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then add the tahini, lemon juice, 70ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook gently, stirring, for a few minutes more, until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up and you get a thick, porridge consistency.

Spread out the lentils on a flat platter, run a fork through to make a wavy pattern on top, and scatter on the sliced onion, the remaining coriander and a final drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm with the hard-boiled eggs alongside.”

We often use red lentils up to four times a week, sometimes even five times a week. We aren’t eating the same dish over and over. We use them in a variety of easy-to-prepare meals, each with their own individual taste. As such, red lentils are always in our cupboard so when we cook Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin we just use them instead. Now, the two lentils are a little different. Red lentils are red (duh) and puy lentils (named after Le Puy, a French region) are green. Moreover, puy lentils retain more of their shape once cooked and are thought to have a better texture (as well as taste), but along with these positives comes a heftier price. As this recipe requires you to mash the lentils once cooked anyway, we figure we probably fine just using red lentils. We save ourselves a little effort (there’s no need to mash them) as well as a few pennies.

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The only real expense in this recipe is the tahini paste (a sesame seed paste). It’s an odd ingredient we quite often have in our cupboard for such things as hummus or noodles. I reckon, though, it’s definitely needed to make this meal what it is. When it comes to the eggs we don’t always use them. Without them, the recipe is still bloody good. BUT. I love the eggs and they do really add something special to the recipe. Same goes for the red onion. Finally, it is recommended that the lentils are served with a flatbread. We are lazy most nights and often prefer just to cook some rice to go with it. But it is super easy to make a quick flatbread with just flour and bread. So we deviate a little from Ottolenghi’s recipe, but the meal is still something different to your bog standard dish.

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References

Ottolenghi [Online]. Available at http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/ [Accessed 6/11/2016]

Lentils [Online]. Available at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/lentils [Accessed 6/11/2016]

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