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Cook from the Book: Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love

by Morgan Hayden-Kent

published on 1 October 2021

You already know the inimitable food sensation, Yotam Ottolenghi. Now, meet the team of talented chefs that comprise The Ottolenghi Test Kitchen team, affectionately known as OTK. Led by Noor Murad, a contributor to many of Ottolenghi’s previous cookbooks, the OTK team spend their days testing, experimenting and tasting an endless number of dishes. Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love, the team’s first joint cookbook, celebrates the joy of cooking at home with ingredients already found nestled in your fridge, and hidden at the back of your pantry cupboard.

While each recipe takes care to focus on familiar ingredients and easy to follow instructions, there is no shortage of classic, punchy, ‘Ottolenghi flavour’. From showstoppers like curried cauliflower cheese pie and sesame-crusted feta with black lime honey syrup, to comfort food dishes like chicken and Parmesan soup, these are approachable, user-friendly recipes that you’ll want to make again and again.

Our enthusiastic volunteer home cooks tackled a selection of recipes from the book; find out how they got on below.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi, Noor Murad

Savoury oat porridge with ginger-garlic crumbs

Who: Clara Triboul – Head of Data Product, Marketing Development, Penguin

What I made: Savoury oat porridge with ginger-garlic crumbs

What I thought: I managed to make this recipe during my lunch break. I love porridge, but never think of exciting savoury recipes; this is a game changer! The ginger and garlic give a kick to the oats, while the roundness of soy butter brings all the ingredients together. Incredibly delicious and comforting. I can’t wait to make it again. 

Who: Indira Birnie – Senior Manager, Penguin Audiences, Penguin

What I made: Smoky, creamy pasta with burnt aubergine and tahini

What I thought: A new Ottolenghi cookbook is always cause for celebration, and this one, from his superstar test kitchen team, is no different. As I flicked through the book, this smoky, creamy burnt aubergine and tahini pasta seemed too tempting to ignore, and I already had almost everything at home – in fact, the only thing I had to purchase was pasta, so odds are you probably have everything you need to make this right now.

With both grilling and roasting, there is a lot of heat involved. My top tip for you is not to make this on a boiling hot day, like I did, unless you enjoy sweltering over the stove. That minor gripe is the worst thing I can say about the whole experience though; the process was pretty simple and the end result irrefutably delicious. The blitzed, char-grilled vegetables were faintly reminiscent of romesco and made an unexpectedly creamy pasta sauce that felt hearty enough for autumn, yet light enough for an unseasonably hot day. The roasted aubergine added some nice texture, and the tahini dressing, with lemon juice and garlic, added some zing and set the whole thing off nicely. Needless to say, I will definitely make this one again.

Confit Tandoori Chickpeas

Who: Claire Daverley – Marketing Manager, Page Turners, Penguin

What I made: Confit Tandoori Chickpeas

What I thought: I can safely say that Ottolenghi NEVER disappoints, and this wildly simple but defiantly delicious confit chickpea dish was another absolute stunner. You literally bung all the ingredients in a pan and cook it for an hour (or even longer if you like). It doubles up as both a simple midweek meal, or a fancy dinner party dish if you dress it up with some gorgeous sides – I went for some fragrant Jasmine rice, and fresh greens sprinkled with dessiccated coconut.

The heat from the sliced chillis and Kashmiri chilli powder gave it a real zing, but the cool contrast of the yoghurt, coriander, mint and lime dressing meant it was just the perfect balance for the tastebuds. Go light on the dressing, just a drizzle, so as not to overpower the incredible, buttery taste of the chickpeas themselves. If you want flavour (and you like garlic) this is the dream dish for you. It serves four perfectly, and will soon be your new favourite vegetarian meal (if you like a bit of spice, that is!)

You can also watch Yotam and Chaya make this dish on the OTK Youtube channel, which is what inspired me to make it in the first place.

Who: Natalie Stuart – Audience Insight Manager, Penguin

What I made: Sesame-crusted feta with black lime honey syrup, smooshed carrots with coriander-pistachio pesto and pickled onions, roasted pepper salad with cucumber and herbs, butter beans with preserved lemon, chill and herb oil, and za’atar parathas.

What I thought: I was having some friends round for dinner, and had planned – in conjunction with my housemates! – to cook just one or two recipes from the book. As the process unfurled, however, we added more and more dishes into the mix, unable to resist the enduring temptation of an Ottolenghi veggie feast. 

The sesame feta was, inevitably, a huge hit; the spiralled parathas were an aesthetic essential; and the smooshed carrots were a particular favourite of mine, sweet and garlicky. On a side note: I think around two – large – bulbs of garlic were used in the process of making the meal, which is something I heartily approve of.

We loved all of the recipes, and they helped us to make use of some of the more eclectic ingredients in our store cupboard – black limes! Preserved lemons! Urfa chilli! – that rarely get a look-in otherwise.

Who: Genevieve Halbert – Marketing Executive, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Celebration rice with lamb, chicken and garlic yoghurt

What I thought: I made this aptly named “celebration rice” for my parents’ wedding anniversary and it was a huge hit. It took around two hours, but there was nothing complicated involved. The dish consists of several different components, but none of them were difficult to make. The cinnamon rice alone was a delight, fragrant with spices and enriched with minced lamb; it would make a great midweek meal in itself. Topped with the tender, poached chicken pieces, creamy garlic yoghurt, butter-fried nuts, and pomegranate seeds, it was truly a feast for the eyes. I served it alongside the super-soft harissa courgettes from Ottolenghi FLAVOUR.

Who: Alice King – Publicity Manager, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Middle Eastern mac ‘n’ cheese with za’atar pesto

What I thought: This was such a delicious, indulgent weeknight meal. Cooking the pasta in the bechamel makes it so creamy and well combined, I will be doing it every time from now on! The za’tar pesto and the cumin seeds give the mac ‘n’ cheese a lovely kick and the crispy onions give it the perfect crunch on top, although I will be buying them next time as my frying skills left a lot to be desired.

Magical chicken and Parmesan soup with Pappardelle

Who: Morgan Hayden-Kent – Editorial Assistant, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Magical chicken and Parmesan soup with pappardelle

What I thought: As the cold and cosy nights of Autumn draw near, so too does my intense craving for soup. While I will eagerly slurp down anything hot and hearty at this time of year, I will also admit to a certain proclivity for the classic, comforting, chicken noodle soup. It is something I associate with my childhood, and is so perfect for incoming duvet days spent hiding from the rain. So I was very excited to see this soup recipe in OTK: Shelf Love. The word “magical” was, I’m sure, not used lightly, and I loved the sound of the liberal Parmesan use both in the soup, and showered over the top as a garnish.

It was, as I had suspected, sensational. After I had let the chicken bubble away in the biggest pot I could find on my stove-top, I then strained away the fragrant stock to develop its flavour separately. After adding the shredded tomato, vegetables, (more) garlic and the all-important Parmesan rind, a soup stock was born that simply needed the addition of pappardelle and the cooked chicken from earlier to be complete. I managed to get 4 generous portions out of the recipe, one I devoured immediately, straight from the pot, and the others I froze for the next suitably cold and miserable day that demands it.

Sweet Potato Shakshuka

Who: Emily Brickell – Editor, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Sweet potato shakshuka with sriracha butter and pickled onions

What I thought: This was so delicious, really straight-forward and (crucially), all the ingredients were available from Tesco Express, making it the perfect low-effort weeknight dish. With smooth, creamy mash, soft boiled eggs, crispy sweet potato skins and tangy pickled red onion (not pictured), I loved the variety of textures as well as tastes. Comforting and filling, this one is going to be on regular rotation as the weather gets colder.

Crispy Spaghetti and Chicken

Who: Stephanie Withers – Audience Insight Director, Penguin

What I made: One-pan crispy spaghetti and chicken

What I thought:  I am not a confident cook, so this is the first Ottolenghi recipe I have ever tried!  I was blown away by how easy it was, using a lot of “store-cupboard” ingredients all thrown together into one pan.  It was utterly delicious comfort food, with a great combination of flavours, and very little washing up afterwards too – result!

5 a day toad in the hole

Who: Lara McLeod – Brand Executive, Ebury Publishing

What I made: 5-a-day toad in the hole

What I thought: This was such a great dish for a hearty Sunday lunch. I really enjoyed making it and it was comforting, but still felt healthy. I loved the tip about heating up your oil and then getting it back in the oven with the batter as quickly as possible to ensure you had a lovely risen Yorkshire pudding mix. I will definitely make this again, and think next time will be adventurous in my choice of veg and mix it up a bit!

Who: Abby Watson – Marketing Manager, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Chocoflan

What I thought: This recipe stood out to me instantly when I first flicked through the book. Salted caramel, flan and chocolate – what’s not to love? It’s really easy to pull together – salted caramel, cake and flan which are super simple, then put everything in a blender and mix. The cake sliced up a treat and tasted delicious! A great centrepiece if you’re having a dinner party. It’s recommended that you make it the day before serving, which is ideal if you’re looking for a dessert to prepare in advance.

Who: Morgana Chess – Campaigns Officer, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Smooshed carrots with coriander-pistachio pesto and pickled onions

What I thought: This dish made such a delicious, vibrant addition to my usual mezze spread regulars (hummus; pittas; some form of roasted aubergine) – I’ll definitely be making it again. The colours alone are hugely appetising and the garlicky mash went so well with the zingy pesto, pickled onions and yoghurt to make a really tasty and refreshing dish. It was very simple to make too; the part that took the longest was peeling the carrots! I highly recommend it as a great way to use up and jazz up any leftover veg – sweet potatoes or butternut squash can be subbed in too.

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