The first time I tasted Yotam Ottolenghi’s food was strangely enough during a fashion shoot in 2014. We rented a beautiful bohemian house in Holland near Amsterdam and we were told that ‘the lady of da house’ was going to serve lunch during our work.
It was in her kitchen, attracted by the fresh ingredients she was using, where I saw this rather unusual cookbook Jerusalem by chef & entrepreneur Yotam Ottolenghi. I could not help it,
but I needed to take some instant images, just to try out at home someday and to write an article about it.
That time I didn’t, and today, I feel I own him a kind of tribute on The Squid Stores pages.
Who is this guy, who could do magic with vegetables and make them look so appetizing the word food porn was invented only for his recipes?
Well, Yotam Ottolenghi was born in Jerusalem (Jerusalem is by the way also the name of his third cook book about the food of his home town and the rich symbiosis of Arab and Jewish culinary traditions) and was at first not trained as a chef. Rather an academic and a journalist,
so he followed a short course at the London based French cookery school Le Cordon Blue.
He became passionate and inspired about marrying bold food of his native Israel with a wide range of textures and flavors from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia.
Together with Noam Bar and Sami Tamimi Ottolenghi set up the first Ottolenghi deli in Nothing Hill in 2002. The concept was a gourmet deli, very new at that time, where you could buy and eat the best takes away food in London, sweet and savory. The success was enormous.
Today, Ottolenghi and his team run 5 restaurants & deli’s, and have published a range of inspirational cook books like Plenty and Plenty More, (vegetable only) Ottolenghi and Jerusalem (include meat and fish dishes)
Must try signature dishes (take away in the deli or taste in one of the restaurants) are the butternut squash salad with red onion, roasted aubergine with turmeric yogurt, tahini and za’atar, and the irresistible pomegranate seeds, chargrilled broccoli with chili and fried garlic.
Last year I finally got the opportunity to dine at Nopi, Ottolenghi’s famous Soho-based restaurant, week’s ahead reservations, or what do you think? The interior is not what I expected. Not the typical hipster spot but a white meets natural wood meets gold feel that breaths delicate, not in the face luxury. Oriental golden lamps, white brick walls and a must visit toilet space!
The restaurant is very light during the day but cozy and dark at night. Not ideal for food pictures though but hey, who cares when the food (& company) are that good?
NOPI’s chef Ramael Scully brings delicious, vegetable-forward food like courgette and manouri fritters, coriander seed-crusted burrata with slices of blood orange and twice-cooked baby chicken with lemon myrtle salt and chili jam. I know, loved every bite.
On the specific Nopi kitchen Ottolenghi published his most recent book.
Very different to previous ones, the head chef Scully’s Asian-inspired pantry meets the more traditional Ottolenghi staples and allows home cooks to experiment with the restaurants often-complex dishes at home.
A great bonus? Lots of gorgeous food-porn photography!
On my last food safari in London for one of my clients, we popped in at one of Ottolenghi’s deli’s in Nothing Hill. I brought this fantastic yar of Dukkah home. This fabulous North African mélange of seeds, herbs and full of flavor to use with bread, over salads, let’s ay on almost anything.
May your next buy when in London, or why not make it yourself.
Here’s the recipe:
70g hazelnuts, with their skins
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp dry green peppercorns (or white, as an alternative)
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1½ tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
½ tsp Maldon sea salt
1 tsp paprika
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Add the sunflower seeds to the tray halfway through, keeping them separate from the nuts. Remove from the oven and leave to cool while you toast the seeds.
Put a cast-iron pan on medium heat and leave for five minutes to heat up well. Spread the fennel seeds inside and dry-roast them for 30 seconds. Add the cumin seeds and cook for another 30 seconds, or until they start to pop, then tip both into a little bowl. With the pan back on the heat, roast the peppercorns until they start to pop, about 30 seconds, then transfer to a separate bowl. Cook the coriander seeds for up to a minute, until they start to pop, and tip into a third bowl. Reduce the heat to low and cook the sesame and nigella seeds together, stirring occasionally, until the sesame turns light brown, and then remove from the pan.
Rub the hazelnuts between the palms of your hands to discard some of the skin.
Use a pestle and mortar to chop them coarsely, then transfer to a medium bowl. Lightly crush the cumin and fennel seeds, and add to the hazelnuts. Repeat with the coriander seeds,
followed by the peppercorns and then the sunflower seeds. Add these to the nut bowl,
along with the sesame and nigella seeds, add salt and paprika, and mix well.
Store the dukkah in an airtight container.
21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE
Tel: 020 7494 9584
OTTOLENGHI Spitalfields (deli, resto, catering)
50 Artillery Lane
London E1 7LJ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7247 1999
OTTOLENGHI Islington (deli & resto)
287 Upper Street
London N1 2TZ
Tel: 020 7288 1454
OTTOLENGHI Notting Hill (Deli & few tables)
63 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AD
Tel: 020 7727 1121
OTTOLENGHI Belgravia (Deli and few tables)
13 Motcomb Street
London SW1X 8LB
Tel: 020 7823 2707
Images courtesy of Kate Stockman for The Squid Stories and Ottolenghi.