ottolenghi: the cookbook

ottolenghi: the cookbook is probably my favorite cookbook of the year. a combination of an israeli and palestinian chefs, yotam ottolenghi and sami tamimi, a famous london deli and great reviews is a combination i had to get my hands on.
the two chefs are all about fusing their heritage and style with a twist of modernism which is similar to what i practice in the kitchen, i made a few of the recipes in the book and they were wonderful. there are many more to mention, which i marked for future adventures. the two dishes below were made for a party, and just like the book, the reviews of the dishes were over the top.

fennel, cherry tomatoes and crumble gratin
1-3 fennel bulbs
3 tbls Olive oil
1 tbls thyme leaves and a few whole sprigs
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbls coarse sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
6oz (200ml) whipping cream
3.5 ounces (100g) parmesan cheese grated
10.5 ounces (300g) cherry tomatoes on the vine
1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
3.5 ounces (100g) plain flour
1 ounce (30g) caster sugar
2.5 ounces (70g) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

preheat the oven to 400F.
trim off the fennel stalks and cut each bulb lengthways in half. cut each half into slices 0.5 inch thick.
place the fennel in a large bowl with the olive oil, thyme leaves, garlic, salt and pepper toss together.
transfer to an oven proof dish and pour the cream over the fennel.
mix the crumble with the grated parmesan and scatter evenly on top.
cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. remove the foil and arrange the tomatoes on top along with a few thyme sprigs. return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until the fennel is soft and the gratin is a golden brown.
remove from the oven and allow to rest for few minutes.
sprinkle chopped parsley over and serve.

put the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and mix with your hands or an electric mixer fitted with the beater attachment to work it to a uniform breadcrumb consistency. make sure there are no lumps of butter left. if using a mixer, watch it carefully. within few seconds, a crumble can turn into a cookie dough.

french beans and mangetout with hazelnuts and orange
14 ounces (400g) french beans
14 ounces (400g) mangetout (snow pea)
2.5 ounces (70g) unskinned hazelnuts
1 orange
0.5 ounces (20g) chives, roughly chopped
3 tbls olive oil
2 tbls hazelnut oil
coarse sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

pre-heat oven to 355°C
trim the stalk ends of the french beans and the mangetouts, but keep the two vegetables separate.
bring a large pot of unsalted water to boil. when boiling, blanch the french beans in the water for 4 minutes, then drain into a colander and run them under plenty of tap water until cold. leave to drain and dry.
repeat with the mangetouts, but only blanch them for 1 minute.
while the beans are cooking, scatter the hazelnuts over a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. leave until cool enough to handle, then place them in a clean tea-towel and gently rub them to get rid of most of the skin. chop the nuts with a sharp knife. they should be quite rough, some can even stay whole.
using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in strips, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. slice each piece of zest into very thin strips (if you have a citrus zester you could do the whole job with that).
to assemble the dish, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, toss gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
serve at room temperature.

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