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Chris Hennes

Cooking with Ottolenghi's "Plenty"

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While not a new cookbook by any means, I haven't really had time to dig into this one until now. We've previously discussed the recipes in Jerusalem: A Cookbook, but not much has been said about Plenty. So, here goes...

 

Chickpea saute with Greek yogurt (p. 211)

 

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This was a great way to kick off my time with this book. The flavors were outstanding, particularly the use of the caraway seeds and lemon juice. I used freshly-cooked Rancho Gordo chickpeas, which of course helps! The recipe was not totally trivial, but considering the flavors developed, if you don't count the time to cook the chickpeas it came together very quickly. I highly recommend this dish.

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I'm a huge fan of Ottolenghi , I really like who takes dishes and flavor combinations that I know and grow up on, but elevates them to a new level using new methods and clever additions that keep the dish essence while making it greater than the original. 

I also never followed a recipe of his to less than stellar results. 

 

Chris, your dish looks lovely. I guess those are mint leaves? What is the source of the pinkish color? 

 

Please do keep posting your way through this book. 

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The main green there is red chard, but there is also a relatively large quantity of chopped mint and cilantro in there. It's the chard that is contributing the color.

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Well, if that doesn't inspire me to dig that book out from under the pile.  Mmm.  

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Lemon and goat cheese ravioli (p. 250)

Watercress, pistachio and orange blossom salad (p. 154)

 

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The ravioli were very simple -- really, the recipe is more of a flavor guideline than a recipe in any meaningful sense. He gives a few quantity suggestions, but mostly it's "black pepper to taste" and "sprinkle with crushed pink peppercorns" etc. The pasta dough is very lemony itself, which is great with the goat cheese. You then top it with grapeseed oil, lemon zest, tarragon, and red peppercorns. It's a delicious combination. Don't be fooled into thinking the recipe is quick, though: making ravioli is always a bit of an undertaking, in my experience. I don't do it often enough to really be very good at it, so it took me a long time to get dinner on the table tonight.

 

I served the ravioli with a fascinating salad of watercress, basil, cilantro, tarragon, and dill, all used in large quantities as greens, not as seasoning accents. Topped with pistachios and a lemon and orange blossom water vinaigrette. I really enjoyed the flavors, but be aware that it's not a mild-mannered salad, those herbs are pretty aggressive as salad greens. 

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Chris, I have to thank you for doing this documentation.  I have ALL the books but some how I shy away from making much.  They see to be labour intensive recipes and the ingredients usually need to be acquired with making a recipe in mind.  I too will get out Plenty and cook more from it.

cheers to your diligence and your descriptions are very informative.

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Multi-vegetable paella (p. 80)

 

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After the questionable decision to make the ravioli last night, this was a welcome respite, taking about 45 minutes total to make, in one pan (not counting making the vegetable stock). I cannot often get fava beans, but I wanted to keep the green color pops and texture, so I substituted soy beans. I also looked at his image and decided that the plum tomatoes he uses are about a quarter the size of the hothouse giants in American supermarkets, so I both reduced the quantity (which he unfortunately specified in number of tomatoes) and I cut them into eighths rather than halves.The recipe called for 1 tsp of saffron threads, which I found difficult to deal with because the threads didn't fit into my teaspoon. Also, that struck me as a lot of saffron. So I sort of punted on that and simply added "a lot". Finally, the recipe called for the peculiarly precise 6 1/2 tablespoons of sherry, which I interpreted as 100mL.

 

In the final reckoning, of course, the exact quantities don't matter much, the combination of ingredients is probably delicious in basically any ratio that's close to his suggestions. It was indeed very saffron-y, but I love saffron so that was OK by me. I'd be inclined to skip the tomatoes entirely if you have to use the supermarket variety: unless you've got a very flavorful tomato they just dilute the otherwise intense flavors of the dish. 

 

As a final note, the notion that this recipe "serves 2 generously" is ludicrous. It serves three generously, and with a salad could easily feed four.

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@Chris Hennes

 

It is interesting that the recipe printed in the Guardian clearly states mini plum tomatoes. 

I think many discrepancies creep in when the book is re-printed  for use across the pond.  Of course I do not know for certain that the book intended for the British audience also specified mini tomatoes. 

Click.

 

 I still find a teaspoon of saffron seems outside my usual understanding of how much is required without being overwhelming. 

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Yes, now that you suggest it, I think "plum" tomatoes is probably itself a misunderstanding of what's really needed here. In the US I think probably "grape" tomatoes are more in line with the correct size. I also have a hard time believing that Ottolenghi measures saffron by volume, which seems fraught with even larger errors than volume measures usually are due to the shape of saffron and the way it gets tangled up. I wonder how much saffron he really intended.

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Green pancakes with lime butter (p. 150)

 

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Everything about these was great (aesthetics of my rectangular compound butter hunk aside). They are quite spicy, with two green chiles in them. The ratio of the greens to batter is very high, so they are really spinach and green onion pancakes held together with a bit of cumin. As I sit here reading the recipe I just noticed that I skipped an entire step and ingredient: I did not add an extra egg white beaten to soft peaks. I didn't have any problems with the texture of the pancakes, so I don't know what that would have brought to the party besides another bowl to clean, but I suppose I'll just have to make these again this weekend and see what difference it make. Shucks.

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Smoky frittata (p. 96)

Burnt eggplant with tahini (p. 122)

 

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Both of these were successful, but probably not something I'll add to my regular rotation. The frittata is cauliflower and scamorza (smoked mozzarella), and the recipe called for the cauliflower to be cut into "medium florets." Now that I know what the desired effect is I have a better understanding of what constitutes "medium" and the answer is "smaller than I made them"! I left several of the florets too large, I think they all really need to be a bit smaller than bite size so you can eat a whole floret, plus some of the cheese and egg. I don't think there was anything wrong with the recipe, it's just one of those things you'll only really learn from experience making the dish. The flavors were good, anyway.

 

The dish I served as a salad is predominantly eggplant and tahini, but to turn what starts out as a dip into a salad you can add an option handful of grape tomatoes and cucumbers. I think the ratios would have been better skewed much more toward the tomatoes and cucumbers if you are going to serve it like that, otherwise the "dressing" seems much too heavy. Honestly, it's probably best to skip the optional additions and just serve it as a dip, which seems to be the primary intent of the recipe.

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Saffron tagliatelle with spiced butter (p. 260)

 

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Another successful dish, though next time I'll make a few tweaks. The pasta itself has a ton of saffron in it, plus turmeric, so it comes out intensely yellow, but not as flavorful as if the saffron had been in the sauce. The recipe has you roll the pasta out to the thinnest setting on your machine, which is a setting I never use because I tend to find the pasta it produces too thin both for eating and for easy handling. I'd prefer a bit more tooth to the pasta, in terms of its thickness, so next time I'll only go to the 6th stop (of 8 on my rollers). The photo also seems to show pasta cut to considerably less than the 3/4" width the recipe calls for, and which stuck me as too wide.

 

The sauce is butter and olive oil with shallots and a bunch of spices, the most dominant of which was the cinnamon. I assumed that the recipe meant standard, run-of-the-mill US grocery store "cinnamon," cassia. I found it to be too heavy-handed though, so I wonder if the recipe didn't actually intend true cinnamon, which is milder. If so, for a cookbook sold in the US market, I think it needs to explicitly say so. Does anyone have the UK edition?

 

As a side note, I wonder how long the book's food stylist labored over those artfully fluffed-up tagliatelle! Actually, I wonder if they cooked them before plating.

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I've cooked quite a lot from Plenty. I do find his recipes to be a bit hit and miss - sometimes the quantities of individual ingredients seem quite insane - but I've never met a recipe I didn't fiddle with in some way, so it might just be me. Here are a few things:

 

Bittersweet salad:

ottolenghi.jpg.bfc3223e4dcf070c46a657b8e

 

Ultimate winter couscous:

ottolenghi2.jpg.b84e72e080db990c471f01ae

 

Caramelised fennel with goat's cheese (before I added the cheese):

ottolenghi3.jpg.023e240bc17b3acbc98808d7

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I was thinking of doing that caramelized fennel this week -- any other favorites?

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Actually, maybe I can enlist you guys to help with this week's meal planning. I've got a couple of nights where I could potentially have 90 minutes or so to cook, plus tonight when I can take as long as I want, and then a couple nights where speed is important. Here are my potential menu items:

  • Saffron cauliflower (p. 106)
  • Eggplant croquettes (p. 120)
  • Caramelized fennel with goat cheese (p. 172)
  • Spiced red lentils with cucumber yogurt (p. 221)
  • Itamar's bulgur pilaf (p. 242)
  • Pasta and fried zucchini salad (p. 254)
  • Green couscous (p. 255)
  • The ultimate winter couscous (p. 262)

I think some of these are probably meals to themselves, like that winter couscous that @rarerollingobject posted about, while others clearly need accompaniment, like the saffron cauliflower. The short-time nights probably need the bulgur pilaf and the green couscous. Has anyone made any of these? Any comments on them? Also, anything that strikes you as a good pairing?

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Just want to say thanks for this topic. It's nice to know there are some people taking the time to make Ottolenghi's recipes. The ones from Plenty seem like the most complex, so my admiration to you all; last year I took it out of the library and got exhausted by it. And that was just reading it. The Green Pancake recipe is all over the internet, and it looks delicious, so I'm going to try that soon. A favorite of mine from Jerusalem is his swiss chard fritters. But then I'm on a vegetable pancake and fritter kick these days.

 

 

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image.thumb.jpeg.886a84ac2959c5d42ab7791

 

 Just had to have a go at the green pancakes!   I am forced to do everything in short spurts these days interspersed with periods of rest so I wilted spinach one day, made the lime butter another day and the pancakes for lunch today.  

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Eggplant croquettes (p. 120)

Caramelized fennel with goat cheese (p. 172)

 

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Another pair of successful dishes. The croquettes didn't come out quite the way the recipe called for, though, because the filling was wetter than expected so I couldn't roll them into the 1" tubes that Ottolenghi called for. I also deep-fried them instead of shallow, because I find the results to be better: more consistent (no turning needed). The actual croquette was quite mild-tasting, so you did have to be careful with the aioli when dipping, it was easy to get so much that you couldn't taste the croquette. Then again, the aioli was itself delicious, so that wasn't such a terrible thing.

 

I cannot get small fennel bulbs, which the recipe called for, so I just made this with the monsters they sell at the stores here, but that meant that the base of each slice was too woody to eat. Can't fault the recipe for that, and it was fine for a meal with just my wife and me, but if I were serving guests I'd have to find smaller bulbs. I also found that high heat was too hot and scorched the sugar, so I needed to use a lower temperature after the fennel was cooked on the first side, I think. 

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9 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

I was thinking of doing that caramelized fennel this week -- any other favorites?

 

Other favourites:

 

  • The roasted butternut pumpkin with lime and green chilli (though I sprinkled the lime in some sugar first, as the first time I made it, I thought the raw lime slices were a little too much)
  • The soba noodles with mango and eggplant – though I seem to recall the sauce proportions made it far too wet and dressing-y for my liking
  • Okra with tomato and lemon
  • Black pepper tofu

 

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Pasta and fried zucchini salad (p. 254)

 

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This was the best thing I've made from the book so far (and I've really enjoyed several things). I know from the title of the recipe it doesn't sound that exciting, but it's the little details that took this dish to the next level. Three critical things made this dish the success it was: tossing the fried zucchini in red wine vinegar, the addition of capers, and the huge range of textures it includes. Not only is the recipe as written fantastic, but you can easily imagine a huge set of modifications on the basic theme that would work, from changing up the cheese to omitting the pasta altogether. The flavor combinations are truly superb here.

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@Chris Hennes, the photos you post of the dishes you prepare are always beautiful but some in this thread are really stunning.  In particular, the photos of the Chickpea saute with Greek yogurt and the Pasta and fried zucchini salad are ever so much more appealing to me than the photos of those same dishes in the book!  

 

Beautiful job, you've really inspired me to cook from this book - it's now made the journey from the bookshelf to sit next to me so I can look up the recipes as soon as you post them.  Thank you for the inspiration!

 

 

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Today our main meal was the pancakes, with a side of leftover red beans and rice. The pancakes are great. I made two changes. One was to use regular KA All purpose flour, since I didn't have any self-rising flour. I'm not sure why the recipe calls for self rising flour AND a substantial 3 T of baking powder. I cut back and used only 2 T of baking powder without the self-rising flour. Is the recipe in the book like that? I got mine on line, so it is possible it was tweaked by someone. They were certainly puffy enough.

 

My recipe calls for 4 T of melted butter. That seemed like a lot to me, since I don't generally cook with butter. I subbed out 1 T butter and cut back to 2 T safflower oil, so really I used 3 T fat/oil. I did make the compound butter and  it was sinfully good. The pancakes were tender and rich. I have a rotation of three or four other vegetable pancakes I make and this one will join them. Thanks Chris, I'm not sure I would have made these if you hadn't raved about them. 

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33 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

Today our main meal was the pancakes, with a side of leftover red beans and rice. The pancakes are great. I made two changes. One was to use regular KA All purpose flour, since I didn't have any self-rising flour. I'm not sure why the recipe calls for self rising flour AND a substantial 3 T of baking powder. I cut back and used only 2 T of baking powder without the self-rising flour. Is the recipe in the book like that? I got mine on line, so it is possible it was tweaked by someone. They were certainly puffy enough.

 

My recipe calls for 4 T of melted butter. That seemed like a lot to me, since I don't generally cook with butter. I subbed out 1 T butter and cut back to 2 T safflower oil, so really I used 3 T fat/oil. I did make the compound butter and  it was sinfully good. The pancakes were tender and rich. I have a rotation of three or four other vegetable pancakes I make and this one will join them. Thanks Chris, I'm not sure I would have made these if you hadn't raved about them. 

I have the book and it calls for 1 tablespoon of baking powder to 3/4 cup  self raising flour. 

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Green couscous (p. 255)

 

DSC_2097-Edit.jpg.119626b38492017869c3ad

 

This was a very good salad that was prevented from being great by a single missing ingredient. I don't know what it is, but it's missing! :) The flavors worked well together, and it was an interesting combination of tastes and textures, but it needed one more. Something to pop -- probably an acid, but maybe a dried fruit. Maybe adding more feta would have done the trick, or something like pomegranate seeds or tiny tomatoes. I'm not sure, to be honest. It was certainly easy to make, so I'll probably play around with it a bit and post again.

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2 minutes ago, Chris Hennes said:

Green couscous (p. 255)

 

DSC_2097-Edit.jpg.119626b38492017869c3ad

 

This was a very good salad that was prevented from being great by a single missing ingredient. I don't know what it is, but it's missing! :) The flavors worked well together, and it was an interesting combination of tastes and textures, but it needed one more. Something to pop -- probably an acid, but maybe a dried fruit. Maybe adding more feta would have done the trick, or something like pomegranate seeds or tiny tomatoes. I'm not sure, to be honest. It was certainly easy to make, so I'll probably play around with it a bit and post again.

 

Finely diced preserved lemon would probably go down a treat.

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