Cook­book

Ottolenghi Sim­ple: A Cookbook

  • Review
By – June 3, 2019

Sim­ple” is not the usu­al descrip­tion of an Ottolenghi recipe. Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-Eng­lish chef and restau­ra­teur, is known for his rich palette of ingre­di­ents, draw­ing on a wide vari­ety of fla­vor­ings, often with of Mid­dle East­ern ori­gin. But his new col­lec­tion is simple:

Short on time

Ingre­di­ents: 10 or fewer

Make ahead

Pantry-fed

Lazy-day dish­es

Easi­er than you think

In his live­ly and infor­ma­tive intro­duc­tion, Ottolenghi defines these terms in the con­text of the book, acknowl­edg­ing that every­body has a dif­fer­ent idea of what sim­ple cook­ing is. To help cooks make their deci­sion — do you like make-ahead dish­es or short on time dish­es? — each recipe is tagged by one or more of the sim­ple initials.

But this help­ful fea­ture is not the most impor­tant aspect of Sim­ple. The dish­es are planned for busy cooks who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen yet want to sit down to a fla­vor­ful and sat­is­fy­ing meal, and Ottolenghi sure­ly suc­ceeds on this mea­sure. Take his vari­a­tion on shak­shu­ka, Braised Eggs with Leek and Zaatar, fla­vored with cumin seeds, pre­served lemons, and feta. A zesty brunch or light sup­per, it’s quick and easy to pre­pare, but — more impor­tant — deli­cious. Or spice up a sim­ple roast with Haris­sa and Con­fit Gar­lic Roast­ed Pota­toes. Con­fit? Don’t be put off by the lan­guage, Ottolenghi warns; it’s just slow-cooked gar­lic that can be pre­pared two days in advance. And for dessert try Hazel­nut, Peach, and Rasp­ber­ry Cake, a love­ly join­ing of fresh sea­son­al fruits.

Ottolenghi chal­lenges the home cook to exper­i­ment with new ingre­di­ents and fla­vor com­bi­na­tions, with an empha­sis on his stan­dards — abun­dance, fresh­ness, and sur­prise. Sur­prise is per­haps the key ingre­di­ent. Car­rot Sal­ad with Yogurt and Cin­na­mon, Baked Mint Rice with Pome­gran­ate and Olive Sal­sa, Garry’s Stir-fried Cab­bage with Gar­lic and Chile. Ottolenghi encour­ages cooks to stretch their reper­to­ries and their palates. His pas­ta and rice dish­es give those tra­di­tion­al com­fort foods a new twist with some­what unex­pect­ed but easy to find ingredients.

Hand­some­ly illus­trat­ed with tempt­ing full-col­or pho­tographs, Sim­ple cov­ers the entire range of foods. The veg­etable and grain sec­tions are sub­stan­tial, many dish­es have no meat or fish, and a good num­ber of them are veg­an. Kosher cooks will have to be selec­tive but may enjoy the Mid­dle Eastern/​Israeli edge in many dish­es. To help cooks take advan­tage of these fla­vors, there is a list of ten Ottolenghi” ingre­di­ents that he cham­pi­ons; they may take a lit­tle bit of shop­ping, but he prizes them for the bold­ness they bring to the table and urges cooks to give them a try. Sim­ple is the Ottolenghi cook­book that lets the every­day cook into his adven­tur­ous world of fla­vors. Sug­gest­ed meals, index.

Recipe

Hon­ey and yogurt set cheesecake

No oven, no bain-marie, no cracks — this is the sim­plest of cheese­cakes! You can make this up to 2 days ahead, top­ping with the hon­ey and thyme just before serv­ing if you like. It will keep in the fridge but the base will soft­en with time. 

Serves eight

2 cups plus 2 tbsp/​500g Greek-style yogurt 

About 12 (7 oz/​200g) Hob­nobs (or oth­er oat-flour cookie)

¼ cup/​60g unsalt­ed but­ter, melt­ed

1½ tbsp thyme leaves 

14 oz/​400g cream cheese, at room temperature

¼ cup plus 1 tbsp/​40g con­fec­tion­ers’ sug­ar, sift­ed

1 lemon, fine­ly zest­ed to get 1 tsp

5¼ oz/​150g white choco­late, bro­ken into ½ – ¾-inch/ 1 – 2cm pieces

3 tbsp/​60g honey 

1. Line a 9-inch/23cm spring­form cake pan with parch­ment paper and set aside.

2. Line a sieve with a clean kitchen tow­el and set above a bowl. Spoon in the yogurt, then draw up the sides of the kitchen tow­el. Squeeze the yogurt into a ball, press­ing out as much liq­uid as you can. You want to end up with about 123 cups/​340g of thick­ened yogurt. Set aside until required. Dis­card the liquid.

3. Place the Hob­nobs in a clean plas­tic bag and crush them fine­ly with a rolling pin. Mix with the but­ter and 1 tbsp of the thyme and spoon into the cake pan, press­ing it down to form an even lay­er. Set aside in the fridge.

4. Whisk togeth­er the cream cheese, strained yogurt, con­fec­tion­ers’ sug­ar, and lemon zest until smooth and com­bined; this can be done in a stand mix­er or using a hand­held mixer.

5. Next melt the choco­late. This needs to be done in a heat­proof bowl set over a pan of bare­ly sim­mer­ing water (tak­ing care that the base of the bowl is not touch­ing the water). Stir the choco­late fre­quent­ly for 2 – 3 min­utes, tak­ing care not to get any mois­ture into the choco­late as this will cause it to seize. Spoon the melt­ed choco­late into the cream cheese mix­ture and whisk until combined.

6. Spread the cream cheese mix­ture over the cook­ie base even­ly, then refrig­er­ate for at least 2 hours, until set.

7. When ready to serve, warm the hon­ey in a small saucepan with the remain­ing 1½ tsp of thyme leaves until thin and run­ny. Remove from the heat and driz­zle over the cheesecake.

8. Release the cheese­cake from the pan, divide into 8 slices, and serve.

Reprint­ed with per­mis­sion from Ottolenghi Sim­ple: A Cook­book by Yotam Ottolenghi, copy­right © 2018. Pub­lished by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Pen­guin Ran­dom House.”

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions