Ottolenghi (and friends!)

Now the excitement of the Leeds Indie Food 2017 ticket release has passed (thanks to all those who’ve booked on!) Here are a few details of the inspired by Ottolenghi event at the Manor the other weekend. I say ‘inspired’ because we messed around with the recipes that much that they probably weren’t that Ottolenghi in the end! The aforementioned chef has re-released his very first cookbook, complete with sexy new front cover. We’ve cooked many an Ottolenghi recipe over the years and whilst we’ve never hosted a supperclub from the his first book, we knew it would be a reliable and rewarding muse. What we’ve come to love Ottolenghi for is his simple approach to cooking – flavour comes first, then colour and then use of the most basic, straightforward cooking techniques so as not to compromise on either.

We started proceedings with canapés of cauliflower fritters and beef tacos. The fritter was soft and comforting, packed full of spice from chilli, cinnamon and cumin. Ottolenghi spikes his with a tart limey yoghurt and I couldn’t resist also dabbing on a mango chutney/ lime pickle combo to create a very flavourful mouthful. The taco was an adaptation of Ottolenghi’s beef fillet with watercress and mustard sauce stuffed in a soft taco!

The starters included a seafood and fennel salad and roasted aubergine with saffron yoghurt. The salad was a bit like a seafood slaw, which makes it sound horrible when it absolutely isn’t! Shaved fennel was marinated in sumac, coriander, chilli, dill and lots of lime juice. Fresh baby squid and king prawns were fried in salt and pepper and added to the mix. This was sweet, soft and crunchy – an unexpected taste sensation! The aubergine salad is what many regard as an Ottolenghi classic – his griddled aubergine with saffron yoghurt. Soft smoky aubergine, smothered in floral saffron yoghurt, spiked with basil and pomegranate.

The mains added yet more flavours into the mix and came in the form of a mushroom ragout and harissa spiced chicken. The ragout was not technically an Ottolenghi recipe but was inspired by a cheesy polenta porridge recipe I had spied of his in the Guardian. I wanted something hearty and seasonal to pair with it and stumbled across this top mushroom ragout recipe. A ton of mushrooms were cooked up in tasty sauce of marsala wine and porcini mushrooms and served atop a cornmeal porridge crammed full of parmesan cheese goodness. This was layer after layer of umami tastes and was a big hit in the dining room, perfect for a cold winter’s day. The chicken dish was a wild rice and quinoa salad, topped with harrissa chicken. Chicken thighs were marinated in homemade harissa paste and then roasted and served with the salad. A spicy, fresh affair with the chilli heat of the chicken tempered by the sharp, citrus and sweet elements of the salad.

We turned from winter to summer for our dessert which was a bright little clementine polenta cake. Again, not an Ottolenghi recipe as I wanted a cake that was entirely gluten free. These little polenta cakes were topped with a slice of caramelised clementine and even had the whole fruit inside the cake mix. They were doused in a sweet clementine syrup and came with a smear of clementine curd – a celebration of the little citrus fruit! I paired it with an orange blossom, pistachio and honey ice cream – again not an Ottolenghi recipe but actually a Sabrina Ghayour one, so not far off!

Our final offering with coffees were little almond florentines. Unlike traditional florentines, these were simple, orange zest spiked biscuits that whilst simple in appearance packed a punch.

So, whilst we may have strayed a little from our original intention of hosting an Ottolenghi supperclub, I think what it demonstrates is that these days a lot of people are doing Ottolenghi style food and when he first released his original book that was far from the case, which must be a good thing surely?!

Anyway, we’ll be back next in March with another beer and food supperclub which we’re very excited about!

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