As happens every year in early August, people prove their love and affection to me by buying me stuff. *cough*
One of my presents was Ottolenghi: the cookbook, the first collection by the fellows behind one of London’s hippest restaurants. I know, I know, English food! My time in England and Wales was coated in mayonnaise and memorable for the utter dearth of fresh ingredients anywhere – did everyone just eat takeaway from M&S? – but apparently they have gotten better about it in the last dozen years.
Ottolenghi’s team has put together a lovely cookbook, full of gorgeous photographs and Middle Eastern-influenced recipes. It’s also a cookbook without an American edition, so it requires some fluency with both the metric system (or a good cheat sheet) and English cooking argot and ingredients.
The first recipe I tried out of the book was a case in point. In translation:
Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad
(adapted from Ottolenghi)
1 pound Persian/Israeli or kirby cucumbers (4-6 depending on size), sliced into manageable spears
2 mild red chilis… or 1 small Serrano chili, thinly sliced
3 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp superfine sugar (powdered is acceptable, but ideally just dump your table sugar into the blender/grinder)
spare 1/2 cup nice neutral oil
spare 1/4 cup white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything together, preferably with your fingers so you can make sure the spears are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
notes: (1) The recipe asks for caster sugar, which we call “superfine” and tend not to stock in the house unless you barkeep. Powdered will work in a pinch, but you can just make superfine sugar by putting granulated sugar in the blender or food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Don’t use table sugar; it won’t dissolve easily. (2) I used the amount of oil and vinegar required, which is what’s listed above, but it’s too much. There’s a lake at the bottom of the bowl. My suggestion is to halve the amounts – at least – or, better yet, just do the oil and vinegar to taste as you do the salt and pepper.
My homemade caster sugar and the photo from the book, so you can see what it’s supposed to look like.
A little color’s not a bad idea, so I used part of a plum that I had lying around.
All in all, not a bad debut for the cookbook. I look forward to more adventures with it.