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Cook from the book: Celebrating 20 years of Ottolenghi

by Rachel Deeley

published on 29 August 2023

Twenty years ago, chef Yotam Ottolenghi opened the doors to his first namesake deli in London’s Notting Hill neighbourhood, with the help of co-founders Noam Bar and Sami Tamimi. Since then, Ottolenghi has become a household name synonymous with bold Middle Eastern-inspired flavours, inventive vegetable-forward dishes, and a unique approach to food and dining that has influenced modern restaurants and home cooks alike.

To celebrate two decades of Ottolenghi’s impressive roster of delis, restaurants, and bestselling cookbooks, team members from The Happy Foodie and Ebury, Ottolenghi’s publisher, came together for the ultimate potluck picnic, featuring an array of summer-ready salads, vegan and vegetarian dishes, and desserts from his cookbooks SIMPLE, Jerusalem, FLAVOUR, Extra Good Things, Plenty, Sweet, and more.

Photo: Desiree Adams

Who: Mia Oakley – Campaigns Officer, Ebury

What I made: Beef Sirloin and Basil Salad

What I thought: This year I have been obsessed with and constantly craving salads, so I knew I had to make this dish – and it didn’t disappoint! The Beef Sirloin and Basil Salad was everything I needed from a recipe: it was quick to cook, the ingredients were easy to source, and the whole dish was a wonderful combination of fresh flavours and textures, as well as being a colourful plate of food. It was also super simple to put together, making it a perfect (and rather impressive) addition to any picnic.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi

Photo: Stuart Simpson

Who: Alice King, Senior Campaigns Manager

What I made: Beetroot and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey

What I thought: This recipe is a firm favourite of mine. Despite the different components, it’s much simpler than you initially think. The galette pastry is really easy to make and incredibly delicious, and the toppings take no time at all to whip together, making it the perfect summer dinner party showstopper.

From the book

Sami Tamimi, Tara Wigley

Photo: Desiree Adams

Who: Ellie Auton, Campaigns Assistant

What I cooked: Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad

What I thought: I was so excited for the Ottolenghi picnic – what an amazing occasion for us all to share some delicious food and celebrate 20 years of Ottolenghi! I went for the Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad, because what’s a picnic without a salad? It really blew me away, it was so delicious! The dressing was made by stewing oranges and then blitzing them in a blender which, paired with herbs including basil, coriander, and mint, meant every mouthful was layered and yummy. This dish worked really well for a picnic setting – I just brought the dressing separately and quickly mixed it together when it was time to eat. Would definitely make again! 

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi

Who: Steph Reynolds, Head of Campaigns Food & Brand

What I made: Sweet and Sour Onion Petals

What I thought: These Sweet and Sour Onion Petals from Ottolenghi FLAVOUR are one of the things I get the most compliments about whenever I host. The best thing is that they are SO easy, and can be almost entirely prepped ahead of time and assembled in the moment with minimal fuss. They also look pretty! I didn’t know how well they would travel for a picnic, but I just packed my picnic basket with all the elements in separate reusable containers, and they survived my commute well. On this occasion, we didn’t include the optional goat’s cheese, but I highly recommend adding it if you eat dairy – it makes them even better. This is one of my favourite summer go-tos for a barbecue, and now I want to take them to every picnic too!

From the book

Ixta Belfrage, Yotam Ottolenghi

Photo: Stuart Simpson

Who: Morgana Chess, Campaigns Officer

What I made: Hummus with Aubergine Topping

What I thought: To me, it’s not a picnic without hummus – and this Falastin recipe definitely delivered. It was really creamy and paired so well with the herby lemony topping of aubergine and walnuts. The walnuts gave it a nice crunch and combination of textures. This was a really simple, fresh dish, perfect for picnics or al fresco dining as part of a mezze. With a few pitas to mop it up, it’s a trusted crowd-pleaser.

From the book

Sami Tamimi, Tara Wigley

Photo: Desiree Adams

Who: Francesca Thomson, Campaigns Officer

What I made: Sunshine Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

What I thought: “If you were under the weather, this salad would cure you completely”, someone said as we all tucked into our feast. The sunshine-yellow miso, ginger, and carrot dressing feels like it’s just filled with goodness and bursting with bright, fresh flavour. This was so easy to prepare in advance and makes a perfect, fresh veggie side as part of a huge feast. I loved the way the Test Kitchen team suggest serving it – so vibrant and colourful on a big platter as part of a spread.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi, Noor Murad, The Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Team

Photo: Stuart Simpson

Who: Lara McLeod, Brand Executive

What I made: Watermelon and Feta

What I thought: I love any al fresco eating situation, but an Ottolenghi picnic has really raised the bar on what I will be hoping for with future outdoor meals! I decided to keep my dish very simple, choosing the Watermelon and Feta from Plenty. The sweetness and freshness of the watermelon alongside the saltiness of the feta was delicious, and the colours of the dish made it beautiful. I would really recommend sourcing good quality ingredients for this recipe – it’s so easy and simple, but good ingredients really sing on the plate. This will definitely be a staple on any summer feast I host in the future!

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi

Who: Abby Watson, Head of Campaigns, Lifestyle

What I made: Peach and Raspberry and Lemon and Blueberry Teacakes

What I thought: I’ve always wanted the opportunity to buy mini Bundt tins, and this picnic seemed like a pretty good excuse! Both cake mixes were really easy to bring together. I was nervous that the cakes might not slip straight out of their moulds, but I needn’t have worried; all were released with no damage to the shape, and I was surprised by how effortlessly they dropped from their tins (in Yotam we trust)! The peach and raspberry were my favourite – they were so incredibly light and moist. I also had leftover glaze, which was delicious on top of yoghurt the next day. The lemon and blueberry were a little heavier in texture, as you’d expect from a loaf, but the cakes were incredibly lemony, the blueberries were well distributed (I always worry about fruit sinking to the bottom), and, again, the glaze was delicious.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi

Who: Demeter Scanlon, Head of Campaigns, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Cinnamon Pavlova, Praline Cream and Fresh Figs

What I thought: As with many Ottolenghi recipes, this one is a labour of love. Though it’s not particularly difficult to create, there are a few steps involved – but it’s truly worth it in my opinion! Incorporating the cinnamon and the dark muscovado sugar elevates the meringue and gives it a more caramelised and complex flavour. The showstopper for me, however, was the praline cream, which I could have eaten on its own. A combination of Italian mascarpone and double cream, whipped with almond praline powder, made it moreish and delicious. It’s a shame I couldn’t find the bright-pink figs you would pick off a tree in Southern Europe to make this dish truly pop, but the Waitrose variety did the job and added a welcome freshness to this very decadent dessert.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi, Helen Goh

Photo: Stuart Simpson

Who: Jessica Lockyer-Palmer, Channel Lead, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Persian Love Cakes

What I thought: I have had my eye on this pretty recipe from Ottolenghi SWEET for years but hadn’t gotten around to giving it a go. Since the cakes are cooked in financier moulds, they’re the perfect individual portions to take to a picnic, so this occasion seemed like the ideal opportunity to bake them. If, like me, you love any almond-based bake, I can’t recommend these enough. The cake batter uses a mix of almond and buckwheat flours, which lend the cake a moist, dense crumb with a nutty flavour, which pairs really well with the subtle hint of nutmeg in the mix. There’s also an unexpected layer of texture in this clever bake – before adding your wet ingredients to the batter, you portion off some of the flour and sugar mix and press it into the base of your moulds to create a crisp biscuit base. My favourite part of the process had to be the decorating, which involves dusting icing sugar at one end of each cake to get those lovely diagonal lines and finishing up with a dollop of mascarpone, a scattering of pistachio, and a single pomegranate seed. I will definitely be making these again for the next picnic I head to.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi, Helen Goh

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