This feature is part of The Happy Foodie's A Home-Cooked Summer series, in partnership with Waterstones.
Time spent in the kitchen has increased significantly over the last couple of months. We’ve suddenly found ourselves in a world where the conveniences of restaurant gatherings, office lunches or sporadic trips to the grocery store are a thing of the past. To some, it’s been a time of discovery, innovation, gaining and regaining the joy of cooking. To others it has been more of a chore and source of anxiety – attempting to feed both children and adults multiple times a day while juggling the demands of day-to-day life. Regardless, the kitchen has become the centralized focus of quarantine and, with a few tips and tricks up our sleeves, can easily become the grounding safe-space we all need.
Ottolenghi SIMPLE wasn’t created with lockdown in mind. The mission was to allow everyone to join in on what many saw as a weekend activity. My co-author, Tara Wigley, and I wanted to show that the core of what we considered ‘Ottolenghi’ didn’t necessarily require an endless amount of time spent in the kitchen or a manic search for that one obscure ingredient. In essence the core of how we cook is actually, well, simple.
Almost two years have passed since Ottolenghi SIMPLE was released into the world, and now more than ever I strongly stand by my original sentiments that cooking needn’t be a stressful ordeal. Find the five dishes you love and can easily make again and again. Swap out certain ingredients using what you have in your fridge or store cupboards. If you forget to buy feta, finish the dish with yoghurt. No coriander? Replace with parsley. You’ll find that most recipes are merely a guideline and, with enough confidence, you can eventually make the dish your own.
These are five recipes from Ottolenghi SIMPLE that will be on regular rotation in my house this summer. As promised, they are all simple in one or more ways.
One easy meal – Chilli Fish with Tahini
I stand by my claim that very few dishes won’t benefit from a good drizzle of tahini sauce, and this one is no exception. It’s a quick dish to make from start to finish, but you can get even more ahead by making the sauce in advance; it’ll keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
One bowl of comfort – Gnocchi alla Romana
My Italian grandmother first introduced these pillowy, cheesy semolina discs to me as a child and, to no surprise, they went down a treat. She knew we wouldn’t be able to resist them, and she was completely right. Many years later and whenever I need a dose of comfort, this is where I turn.
One store cupboard superstar – Orzo with Prawns and Marinated Feta
I try to keep a steady supply of this rice-shaped pasta in my cupboard, it's reliable and cooks quickly. Orzo doesn’t need much to make it sing but, paired with prawns and feta, it truly finds its rhythm.
One no-frills dish with all the frills – Sumac-roasted Strawberries with Yoghurt Cream
Berries are like little fruit jewels, they don’t require much but, with the right treatment and pairing, they’re sure to bedazzle your kitchen table. Roasting soft berries or using frozen ones and pairing them with yoghurt and sumac, gives them a whole new shine.
One make-ahead bake – Courgette and Ciabatta Frittata
This frittata quickly became a regular weekend favourite in my home. The combination of parmesan, courgettes and basil is a classic winner and, even better, making it a few hours before serving means less stress at mealtime.
Love all things Ottolenghi? Don't forget to pre-order your copy of Ottolenghi FLAVOUR to be among the first to get your hands on his next instalment of fantastic recipes.
Five more reasons why Ottolenghi SIMPLE is an essential companion to your Home-Cooked Summer, from The Happy Foodie team
1. From fast fish tacos with a mango salsa and crisp salads dotted with peach, to hot charred cherry tomatoes with cold yoghurt and no-churn raspberry ice cream, Ottolenghi SIMPLE is packed with fun, vibrant recipes that celebrate the very best of the season's produce, helping you to bring the summer inside.
2. At the back of Ottolenghi SIMPLE you'll find a brilliant guide to pairing recipes in the book with plenty of ideas to help inspire your summer feasting. We particularly love the laid-back summery midweek spread ideas. Think tomato carpaccio paired with a broad bean mash and couscous salad, or imagine a balmy summer evening with the table laid with stuffed courgettes and baked rice topped with pomegranate and olive.
3. If you've joined the millions of us baking our way through lockdown and have now mastered banana bread and tried every easy cookie recipe you can find, the fresh baking inspiration to be found in Ottolenghi SIMPLE won't disappoint. From a straightforward blueberry and almond loaf cake to a perfectly seasonal hazelnut, peach and raspberry cake or fig and thyme clafoutis, you'll find plenty of summery cakes and other bakes to try.
4. For those of us who previously relied on a shop-bought lunch al-desko, we've got a whole new meal to stump up inspiration for every day, and getting past just cramming something easily in reach between two slices of bread can feel like a major achievement. That's where the make-ahead recipes in Ottolenghi SIMPLE come in. Not not only will they make cooking easier, but you'll soon stock up your fridge with quick work from home lunches or dinners that need little more than a few finishing touches. We're talking vibrant dips of avocado and broad bean, a verdant courgette, pea and basil soup or herby couscous salad that will all last in the fridge for days ready to be whipped out for your lunch. And for speedy suppers, we're talking chicken traybakes that can be left to marinate and then tumbled into a roasting tin, and sauces that can be batch cooked days in advance and simply reheated and tossed through pasta.
5. Finally, as we look ahead to a summer without the usual getaways to Europe or beyond, the ability to recreate the flavours of our favourite culinary destinations will bring us some much-needed kitchen globetrotting. In Ottolenghi SIMPLE you'll find dishes that take inspiration from flavours from across the world, from Italian pastas to Middle Eastern fritters, Chinese stir fries to Levantine dips.