100 Vegetables (and Fruits): #65. Lemons

The role of acid in the flavour balance of our foods is not recognised or spoken about enough in our country. A touch of lemon or lime, some bitters, raw tamarind slices, tamarind paste, a splash of exotic vinegar – each one lifts a dish to new heights. Today we look at the most common form here – lemon and preserved lemon.

You can browse all of our Lemon recipes. And check out our 100 Vegetable Series.

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Brussels Sprouts with Caramelised Garlic and Lemon Peel

My theme for Winter last year was Brussels Sprouts – I have written before about how I avoided them for most of the decades of my life, but I have found a new appreciation. This is because – roasted sprouts. And pan fried sprouts.

There is a thing about roasted brussels sprouts. I love how you can get flavours deep into the heart of sprouts that have been halved lengthwise. Lemon juice, orange vinegar, pomegranate molasses or various spices.

This recipe, which is from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, uses pan fried sprouts, but there is nothing to stop you roasting them instead. In fact it saves some work if you decide to roast them (but they won’t be as crunchy). This recipe is classic Ottolenghi – 4 or 5 different processes, depending how you count them, and about an hour to make. But I have learnt to hold back my complaints about that (a little), as the flavours are always banging. It took the release of his book Simple to make me realise how complex and layered the flavours are in his other books, and especially how much that adds to the dish. Simple strips it away – the dishes are still good but somehow now quite like the Ottolenghi I know, love and complain about.

I have been working my way through Plenty More. Never one to keep up with fashion I haven’t joined the people feverishly cooking through Simple. I had intended to finish Plenty More within 12 months but found I had to take a break of some months within sight of the end. Now I have resumed, but taking it at a slower pace.

Caramelised garlic makes a lovely condiment to lentils or roast veg, while candied lemon makes a great garnish for creamy desserts or leafy salads. I always pan-fry sprouts – it retains texture and enhances flavour. — Ottolenghi

The recipe takes the Brussels Sprouts and mixes them with a caramelised garlic syrup, candied lemon peel, chilli and basil. It sounds too amazing to be believed. And indeed it is – the interplay of sweet, spicy and tart flavours is nothing short of spectacular. Imagine this as your stand-out dish on the Xmas table, or, in Australia, make it for Sunday Lunch on the Queen’s Birthday weekend, or for Xmas in July. It will knock the socks off of your guests.

Similar recipes include Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Preserved Lemon, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo and Star Anise, Brussels Sprouts Salad, and Brussels Sprouts Risotto.

Browse all of our Brussels Sprouts recipes and all of our Garlic dishes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.

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My Favourite Grilled Asparagus | Simple Food is BACK!

Simple recipes are now the fashion, thank goodness. I grabbed Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast from the library just after it was released – I never buy a book these days without a good look at it first. I was surprised by the book, perhaps initially a little disappointed.

First of all, its dimensions are small for a cookbook, especially one that is to be used regularly in the kitchen. But it is also quite thick and bound in such a way that the book will not open flat. To cook from it I would need to put my heavy mortar on the edge of one page and the pestle on the edge of the other.

And then to the content – I was surprised at how everyday and simple the recipes are. My initial comment on social media was that it is a book to give Simple, by Ottolenghi, a run for its money. Few exotic ingredients, recipes that suit time-hungry but foodie professionals. Recipes without 6 or 7 or 8 different processes. But, well, also without excitement.

24 hours later I realised that the lack of excitement, the everydayness of the recipes is the genius of this book. It is a cookbook that thumbs its nose at all of the chefy cookbooks we have been drooling over for the past decade. It thumbs its nose at the hours we spent searching down new ingredients that in cities like Adelaide have not and never will make it into the mainstream. It thumbs its nose to those of us who like to think we know 1 or 2 things about food – but have forgotten how to cook simply.

Nigel’s recipes are always unapologetically British, but the first of the Greenfeast 2-Volume set focuses on stunning fresh-from-the-garden ingredients arranged with love on a plate to produce Summery yet nourishing dishes. It is a book that you want to cook through from start to finish for easy, satisfying, home cooked meals. Thanks Nigel.

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Nimbu Sherbet | Indian Lemonade or Limeade

Traditionally India has not had a strong culture of alcoholic drinks, except for a few pockets where naturally fermenting products meant some developed a taste for it (and a reputation, no doubt).

Consequently India has such a rich variety of non-alcoholic drinks, a seemingly infinite variety of all types of drinks – hot, cold, juices, milk based, fruit based, yoghurt based, infusions, coffees, chais, with seeds, without seeds, … It is fascinating to those of us who grew up in countries where choices are limited to water, coffee, tea, wine and beer. Perhaps some soft drink and orange juice. Maybe apple juice. But not much beyond that.

Additionally, the weather is hot in India, rivalling our own temperatures of 40C – 45C in Summer, with the additional humidity in India. Right before the monsoon is when the heat is the most unbearable–daily extreme temperatures and 100% humidity. There is no choice but to adapt, and until more recently, electricity was not available everywhere for aircon. So shady houses and verandahs can be common, people stay out of the heat in the mid day, roof tops are used at night for cooler breezes, and refreshing drinks are made in the afternoons.

Also, many drinks contain salt. It makes the drinks very tasty, but there is also a health reason for this – in heat we lose salt from our bodies through our perspiration. So rehydrating drinks in the afternoon provide water, salt and also sugar for energy in the heat. How sensible!

Already we have posted (and made) a range of Indian drinks, especially Lassi (great for Summer mornings!) and Chai (excellent afternoon and evening cold weather cuppas), and a few cold drinks (Summer sipping). Today is definitely a hot weather drink – Nimbu Sherbet, Indian Lemonade (or Limeade).

Similar recipes include Panakam, Jal Jeera, Watermelon Juice with Ginger and Mint, and Cumin, Coriander and Ginger Iced Tea.

Browse all of our Indian Drinks, and all of our Coolers. All of our Indian recipes are here, and the Indian Essentials Series is here. Or explore our Early Summer dishes.

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Celery and Lemon Salad with Feta

I have a little New Year project going on for a year or so – focusing on recipes from Ottolengi’s Plenty More. I am afraid this book has been neglected before this project, even though it is a favourite in his collection. You will have noticed a few of his recipes appearing on the blog as they are scheduled and posted.

SO, Happy Weekend! And, in case you’ve just opened your eyes, a little weary after last night, not to mention the last few weeks of holidays and non-stop munching and gulping, get yourself into the kitchen and make this salad. It has the amazing quality of tasting equally healthy, tangy and comforting, just at a time when you need a little miracle. Truly this is the case.

I do hope that you enjoy this recipe. Celery Salads are rare, and I am always on the lookout for good ones to complement our collection.

We have compiled 30 Great Mid Summer Salads for you, so it is very easy to vary your salads each day.

Similar recipes include Herby Salad with RadishesCelery Yoghurt Salad, Nashi Pear and Celery Salad, and some Simple Celery Salads.

Browse our Celery Salads and all of our Celery dishes. Our Ottolenghi recipes are here (or just the ones from Plenty More). Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.

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Cucumber and Tomato Raita with Lemon-Chilli Paste

Picture a Tunisian grandmother, a master at cooking kofta, making them with Ottolenghi. This scene from his Mediterranean series is a classic. She gets fully ticked off with his faffing around, the time he takes, the number of ingredients he uses. She sits on a stool in the corner, rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath. Ah, Grandma, we know, we KNOW.

It must have been a trial for Ottolenghi to bring out Simple, his latest book. Recipes pared down to their bare essentials. No more layerings of flavour upon flavour upon flavour. No more dishes that can be a meal in themselves. HE must have been the one rolling his eyes and huffing and puffing as testers and editors stripped yet another ingredient from a dish.

I am in 2 minds about Simple. Yes, there is a level of difficulty in his other books, and not all of those recipes are for typical week night cooking. But there is something in the Simple recipes that I miss. An undefinable something. It is as though every recipe in his other books stretches us in the kitchen somehow. A new ingredient, a new technique, a new way of cooking, a new combination of ingredients. Not so Simple. Some dishes are quite ordinary by comparison, albeit delicious.

Still, they are as visually pleasing as the dishes from his other books, and a delight in their own way (just a different way to the Ottolenghi we have been used to). This raita, a riff on an Indian dish, is quite good. I’ve said before that Ottolenghi does not yet understand Indian food very well – perhaps he doesn’t care about that. He has been known to use Indian ingredients in ways that don’t showcase them to their best. But in this dish, although not typically Indian, it is a pretty jolly good plate of food.  Love the inclusion of preserved lemon in the chilli paste which is layered on top of the raita. Brilliant.

Raita is traditionally served with an Indian meal as a salad and as a cooling agent, contrasting well with the spiciness of the rest of the meal.  Leave off the chilli paste if you want to serve it this way. But raita is very versatile. It is lovely as a dip, gorgeous with some warm pitta, and excellent spooned on top of spiced rice.

You can find the original recipe for this dish here.

Similar dishes include Cucumber Pachadi, Tomato Pachadi with Green Chilli Paste, Pomegranate Raita, Pomelo Raita, and Carrot Raita.

Browse all of our Raita recipes. Our dishes from Simple are here, and all of our Ottolenghi recipes are here. You might like to check out our Indian dishes and our Indian Essentials. Or explore our Late Spring dishes.

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Lemony Poha (Aval)

This delicious poha dish makes a beautifully nurturing breakfast or meal at any time. The poha is quickly cooked with spices and lemon juice – it is quickly made after soaking for 15 mins. It is so easy you could (almost) do it with your eyes closed.

Poha is available at your Indian grocery store – it is rice that has been steamed and pressed or rolled flat. There are at least half a dozen varieties, including thin, very thin, medium and thick.  For this recipe, use thick or medium poha in this recipe so that it holds its shape after soaking. Thick poha is preferable.

Similar recipes include Poha with Coconut and Cashews, Kanda Batata Poha, Poha Chaat, Onion Poha, and Kolachi Poha.

Browse all of our Poha recipes. Browse our Indian recipes here and our Indian Essentials are here. Or take some time to explore our Late Spring dishes.

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Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad

Lemons, the ubiquitous and essential ingredient in kitchens the world over. We squeeze the juice into this and that, preserve them, grate their rind, and candy them. I have dehydrated lemon slices – not pretty but oh goodness, the flavour they added to dishes! Rarely do we think of roasting them.

But that must change. Something magical happens to citrus when it hangs out in a hot oven. It takes on a sweeter, slightly-burnt complexity. They add flavour to any dish, but are also good on their own!

This recipe is from Plenty More from Ottolenghi, and is part of our project to cook through this book. You might like to see our thoughts on the different chapters of this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.

Seek out the sweetest tomatoes you can get for this dish, to balance the tartness of the lemon: baby or cherry yellow and red tomatoes are your best bet.

It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one day per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar recipes include Caprese Salad, Çorban Salatası, Broad Bean and Tomato Salad, Tomato Salad with Green Olives, and Tomato and Pomegranate Salad.

Browse all of our Tomato Salads. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Summer dishes.

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Lemon Dal

Lemons and limes, even oranges, are used in savoury dishes throughout India, for example in South India in Rasam and in Kuzhambu. Wonderful dishes. This recipe takes a simple Mung dal, blends it until it is silky smooth and infuses it with the flavours of lemon or lime peel and flesh. It is a delightful dish, and very refreshing in Summer.

This recipe is similar to Kancha Dal, but adds the lemons. It is a Bengali dish which I came across in the excellent book Bengali Cooking.

Similar dishes include Mung Dal with Ghee and Spices, Kancha Dal, and Mung Dal with Coconut Milk.

Browse all of our Dal recipes, and all of our Mung Dal dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here. Or explore our Mid Summer recipes.

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Grilled Lettuce with Farro and Lemon

There is something about this salad that is reminiscent of Caesar Salad. There are no eggs or anchovies, but the bread, grilled lettuce, lemon and parmesan is enough to have the mind wander back to those Caesar Salad days before we banned non-vegetarian items (including eggs) from our kitchen. It is certainly a lemony salad, but that perfectly suits the grilled lettuce.

The dressing is really interesting, with both maple syrup and Pernod, which nicely balances the fresh lemon and preserved lemon. Neither the syrup or pernod is obvious in the dressing, but the mix is balanced and perfect.

Ottolenghi uses farro in this dish but freekeh can be used equally as well. In fact, any chewy grain could be used.

This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area. In this recipe we suggest some alternatives for farro, and use Italian friselle (twice baked/dried bread) rather than fresh bread toasted in the oven.

It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar dishes include Warm Barley and Cannellini Beans Salad with Charred Broccolini, Freekeh and Burghul Pilaf, Herby Freekeh Salad with Peas, Freekeh Salad with Broad Beans, French Braised Lettuce with Broad Beans and Peas, and Thai Lettuce Wraps.

Browse our Lettuce dishes and our Farro dishes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.

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