Chopped Salad With Tahini and Za’atar

Ottolenghi writes about this recipe:

Adding tahini to an otherwise familiar tomato and cucumber salad can be a real revelation.

A tomato and cucumber salad on its own is already rather great: not only does it taste great and goes well with many different other dishes but it also keeps well in the fridge, is quick to make and lets you practice your knife skills.

Chopped salad with tahini and za’atar

I wouldn’t say adding the tahini was necessarily a real revelation but this may just be due to my rather stale and generic tahini β€” perhaps I need to upgrade my tahini game.

That said, adding the za’atar did give this salad a very interesting note. The only complaint I have is that sprinkling it on top did not seem to let everyone have a taste of it. Next time I will try to incorporate it into the entire salad rather than relying on an almost cosmetic finish.

Braised Eggs with Leek and za’atar (well, usually)

I was originally planning for my first recipe to be Pasta alla Norma due to its simplicity and also my familiarity with Italian cooking, especially pasta. But my forgetfulness got in the way of plans (I forgot to buy the key ingredient!) and so I began with a brunch dish: braised eggs with leek and za’atar.

Making this dish was easy: cook the leek in a broth, mix in the spinach and then braise the eggs in the mixture. The most exciting part of this recipe, however, was the preserved lemon! I had never cooked with preserved lemon before and I was curious to taste them and see the effect on the resulting dish.

Long story short: the preserved lemon gives a very interesting citrus-y backdrop to the dish. It lights up the leek without being too aggressive like a regular lemon would. I probably ended up using a little too much which meant the lemon dominated just a little too much. Next time I’ll make this I’ll tone it down a little. I’m looking forward to try out more recipes with this new ingredient in my pantry!

Next time I will also be more prepared: I didn’t realise I had no za’atar spice mixture before I needed to use it. I ended up experimenting with oregano instead which is really not the same. Overall, I definitely plan to make this again: this time for the appropriate brunch time and with all the right ingredients.

Pasta alla Norma

As my first recipe to cook out of Ottolenghi’s SIMPLE book I had originally decided to go for something familiar. I’ve long enjoyed Italian cooking and with my love for it comes a great appreciation of pasta dishes. As it turns out I forgot to buy the key ingredient (aubergine) and ended up beginning this journey with another dish: Braised Eggs with Leek and za’atar. Since then I’ve purchased an aubergine though and we are good to go!

Pasta alla Norma is a simple pasta dish with an aubergine sauce, originally from Sicily. I’ve not been very successful in the past of cooking with aubergine β€” many of my attempts turned out quite bitter β€” so I was excited to try this one.

Cooking this was incredibly easy: roast the aubergine, cook a simple tomato sauce on the side, give everything a little mix and stir in your cooked pasta. The results are amazing!

Note to self: go easy on the chilli 😊 That said, this was amazing and will definitely become a staple!

Every Recipe in the Book

I’ve been interested and dabbling in cooking adventures for a few years now. My parents are both avid cooks and always interested in tasting new recipes and flavours. Likewise, I’ve done my own fair share of reading recipes, cooking them or making it up as I go along (mostly this really).

For a long time I’ve wanted to fully focus on one chef’s cuisine, become better at following the recipes, learning about a particular style of cooking and subsequently learn to imitate it. Being flexible about ingredients in the kitchen is important to me β€” I always want to be able to whip something up quickly β€” but this requires a good foundational knowledge of what works. So what could be better than following the professionals and all of their recipes to learn to be more confident in being independent.

Specialised cookbooks for a particular set of dishes, say pasta, don’t lend themselves to cooking all the way through. I don’t think my housemates would be overly excited to have pasta dish #352 this year.

What I needed was a book of recipes with different key ingredients, simple enough to make throughout the year, even on workdays, and varied enough to keep everyone interested.

My friend Rose got me Ottolenghi’s SIMPLE for Christmas and it seems perfect! Every recipe in the book looks interesting in its own way, there’s a great variety of flavours, yet they all seem absolutely doable.

Ottolenghi’s SIMPLE cookbook

Like Ottolenghi says in the introduction: different people understand different things by the word “simple”. That said, I’m confident that even if some recipes may lend themselves more to bulk cooking and others feel a little too easy at times there will be plenty to learn about the variety of flavours that I can leverage in my cooking at home, even on normal weeknights which, after all, is the goal of the exercise.

I’m excited β€” let’s do this!