Yes, it’s time for another instalment of the Cookbook Book Club that I take part in around once a month with Jan from Family Bites and Jenn (from Chocolate Shavings). After our début with #dinnerwithMarcella we followed up late last year with #dinnerwithNigella. This month we ventured to the Middle East with dishes from Ottolenghi, the cookbook. Originally published May 2008 by Ebury press and released last year for the North American market, it was the first summary of Ottolenghi food for the home cook. The 140 recipes cover everything they do at the Ottolenghi restaurants – salads, roasted vegetable dishes, cold meat, fish, and substantial main courses as well as breads, savoury pastries and sweets.
I’ve cooked a few of Ottolenghi’s dishes before – notably the Sweet Potato Galette (the cover recipe from Ottolenghi) and the Turkey and Zucchini burgers with Green Onion and Cumin served with a Sour Cream and Sumac Sauce (both of these with my boys’ cooking club!) and so have Jan and Jenn so we were excited to come up with an entire menu from one of the books. With the Cookbook Book Club, we don’t share the dishes we have chosen in advance so the complete menu is a surprise but so far, we’re managed to create more or less cohesive menus. Great minds think alike, right?
We started with this Cardamom-sage mango spritzer, made by Jenn (not from Ottolenghi but a lovely light and bright start to the meal).
I was in charge of the entrée (starter) and couldn’t resist this cherry tomato, fennel and crumble gratin. Yes, a savoury gratin (but with a sweet “crumble” topping). We were all huge fans of this – it’s unusual, pretty and pretty darned tasty, though we all agreed that a little bacon might have gone well with it! I enjoyed a sliver re-heated the next day for breakfast but Mr Neil was not a fan. Perhaps a case of “guess you had to be there” for the original? In any case, I think this is a super versatile dish and I’ll be experimenting with different iterations. Personally I think it could use a little more cheese and salt to make it a little more substantial as a main dish (for breakfast or brunch) but we certainly were surprised but how tasty this, the original version, was.
For the main course, Jenn made the roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey (you can find the recipe on Epicurious here)
I’m already a huge fan of that chicken dish (I had it at another friend’s house a couple of weeks ago) and quite frankly any couscous combining sweet fruits and savoury flavours is a winner in my book. Jenn (like my other friend) was expecting the chicken to be a little “saucier” but I like that it’s not. The couscous added a nice textural element and it was so flavourful – I’d actually eat this on its own as a main “salad”.
For dessert, Jan brought “Toffee Brownies” which sounded wonderful.
In fact they are very rich, very sweet, very dense brownies (that needed a little bit more cooking time than it called for in the recipe) to which you add toffee pieces and jam. We all thought they were really tasty but overly sweet (in fact, none of us could finish more than half a brownie and Jan had made them smaller than the recipe suggested!). You can see the recipe here. We weren’t sure this brownie needs toffee and jam with so much sugar and chocolate already included. If you are going to make these and follow the recipe, I’d suggest instead of making 8-10 you could easily make 20. Or even more. A tiny piece of this is definitely enough!
Of course, through the course of the night, there was some photo action.
Win a copy of the Ottolenghi cookbook (Canada)!
That’s right – thanks to the kind folks at Random House Canada, I have a copy of Ottolenghi up for grabs for one lucky reader from Canada.
1. Leave a comment below telling me what cookbooks you’d want to try if you were in a Cookbook Book Club and why.
2. For a bonus entry, tweet the following message:
I entered to win the @ottolenghi Cookbook from @eatlivtravwrite + @RandomHouseCA http://bit.ly/1gsYwFd
Then come back to leave me a comment telling me you did.
Contest closes on Wednesday February 19th 2014 at 6pm EST. Winner will be chosen by random.org and will be notified by email on Thursday February 20th 2014.
Disclosure: Random House Canada provided me with a review copy of the Ottolenghi cookbook. I was not required to post about this, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions are my own.