Tag Archives: Yotam Ottolenghi

Out & About in London – October 2016

My parents visited F and me in London for five days this month. Luckily, their visit coincided with both a chorus concert and Half Term, which meant no teaching duties for me and so the ability to take a few days off work. It was fun to be a bit of a tourist around London for a few days — I hadn’t done that in a while. Here’s what we got up to, including pictures.

Bletchley Park

A co-worker of mine recommended visiting Bletchley Park as a nice day trip outside of London. My parents wanted to get out of the city for a day, and it turned out that Bletchley Park was an easy train ride away from Euston Station. In case you don’t know, Bletchley Park is where the British Government Code and Cipher School (CG&CS) set up their codebreaking endeavors during World War II. CG&CS recruited bright young minds from Oxford and Cambridge to work machines, translate, and cipher/encipher/decipher enemy codes, the most famous of which being the Enigma code. Alan Turing, perhaps made better known recently by the movie The Imitation Game, led a team in developing the Bombe Machine to help crack the Enigma code.

Bletchley Park is centered around a mansion on lovely grounds surrounded by lots of “huts,” where various teams were set up to work on codebreaking projects. It was a lovely day when we went, which made for pleasant wandering in and out of huts and learning about what went on at Bletchley Park. There’s also a very detailed museum, which we didn’t spend much time in, having already become saturated by the information in the mansion and huts. It was a nice and informative day out and I’d recommend it.

Dinner at Ottolenghi Islington

Eating at Ottolenghi has been near the top of my “to eat in London” list for a while. We’ve got one of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks — Plenty, or Genussvoll vegetarisch in our German version — that I’ve enjoyed using at times. A few friends recommended the Islington restaurant, and my parents, who love trying new restaurants, were game!

Ottolenghi Islington has cold salads and desserts in the front window and operates a bustling (upscale) takeaway business. The restaurant consists of two long, communal tables and a handful of small two-person tables. The decor is more modern than I expected, but I quite liked the simplicity with splashes of color. The menu consists of small plates that are conducive to sharing — I love this kind of eating, because I get to try a few bites of a lot of dishes! We ordered eight dishes for the four of us, which was plenty and allowed us to save room for the delicious desserts. Dinner highlights for me were: the beetroot and cumin mash, the cauliflower, the braised artichoke and fennel, the pork belly, and the octopus. The almond financier cake for dessert was incredible.

National Portrait Gallery

Looking for something to do before afternoon tea (see below), I suggested to my parents that we pop into the National Portrait Gallery for an hour or so. I had never been there before, and to be honest was not sure I’d like it — how interesting can it be to look at a bunch of dead people’s painted portraits? Turns out, it’s fascinating! We stuck to the 19th and 20th century displays, and they did not disappoint. It was cool to see painted portraits of famous historical figures, from statesmen to the first woman admitted to the British Medical Association to authors like Dickens and Hardy. There was a small but powerful photograph of Virginia Woolf’s husband (or maybe father? I can’t remember) in the foreground with an out-of-focus but so obviously Virginia Woolf in the background. Wow.

My favorite part of the Portrait Gallery was a temporary exhibition, “Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862-1948.” It was incredibly moving to see such dignified, soulful photographs from the early-ish days of photography. There is something much deeper about photographic portraits from 100+ years ago: carefully composed poses and backdrops, and no cheesy smiles, as people had to hold poses for a long time for the exposure. It is a stunning exhibition and highly recommended.

Afternoon Tea at The Delaunay

My mom suggested that we go out for a proper afternoon tea, like we did a couple of years ago when my parents spent time in London. And who am I to refuse afternoon tea? I had The Delaunay on my list as a well-reviewed (but I can’t remember by whom!) and affordable afternoon tea spot. We each ordered the full Afternoon Tea — my dad and I with scones, and my mom with Gugelhupf (remember that from Bake Off last year?).

Two tea towers (what are they actually called?) arrived, chock full with sweets and savories. The tea also came with brilliant straining devices that had solid bottoms to catch drips when you put them back on the table. It’s the little things! I have a big sweet tooth, but surprisingly I ended up preferring the savories at The Delaunay. The smoked duck sandwich had a great blend of flavors, and I could have eaten five of the cheese puff/choux flatbread-like things sandwiched with cream cheese. The fruit scones were deliciously light and balanced. I found most of the cakes a bit too sweet, although the pistachio financier with poppy seeds and orange cream was really nice. The Delaunay’s afternoon tea selection was very generous, and the three of us agreed that next time we’d only get two full tea menus plus a couple of extra scones.

Wicked

In addition to afternoon tea and a day out of London, my parents wanted to see at least one theatre show. We settled on Wicked, the music of which I knew thanks to my Oberlin housemate Claire, who introduced me to the soundtrack in college. But I didn’t know the story that links the songs together (other than that it’s about the Wicked Witch of the West). 

Well, the musical was brilliant. Along with the hits like “Defying Gravity,” “No Good Deed,” and “For Good,” Wicked actually has a relatively complex plot with a good deal of character development and many messages about trust, friendship, love, and self-regard. The cast was great, with Suzie Mathers and Rachel Tucker more than living up to my expectations as Glinda and Elphaba, respectively. They had personality, depth, and great singing voices — I got chills more than a couple of times.


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Recipe: Caramelized Garlic & Goat Cheese Tart

Oh man. This tart is SO GOOD. It’s like an explosion in your mouth. Slightly sweet, caramelized garlic meets earthy rosemary and thyme meets smooth, tangy goat cheese. If any of that sounds good to you, make this tart now. It’s so delicious that we made it last three days because we didn’t want it to disappear too quickly (it tastes great cold).

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This caramelized garlic and goat cheese tart comes from our German version of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook (it’s called Genussvoll vegetarisch in German). We enjoyed it alongside these poached spring vegetables, also from Plenty. It’d also be great cut into small wedges and served as an appetizer or as part of a brunch or dinner buffet.

Caramelized Garlic & Goat Cheese Tart (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty/Genussvoll vegetarisch; makes 6-8 generous servings)

Ingredients

  • 375g puff pastry (store-bought is the easiest)
  • 3 heads of garlic, cloves peeled & kept whole
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • to taste: salt & pepper
  • 230-250g goat cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g single cream
  • 100g crème fraîche

Procedure

  • Cut a large circle out of the puff pastry and press it into your tart pan (or springform cake pan, like we used), making sure to build up the sides at least 1-2 inches. Cover the crust with baking paper and weight it with dried beans, then refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C. Blind-bake the weighted crust for 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven, remove the baking paper and beans, then put the crust back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes or until it is golden. Set the crust aside and leave the oven on.
  • While the crust is chilling and baking, caramelize the garlic: in a small pot, blanch the garlic cloves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain the garlic cloves well and dry out the pot. Put the garlic back in the pot and add the olive oil; place on the stove on high heat, cooking until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the balsamic vinegar and 220mL of water, bring to a boil, and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary, thyme, and 2 pinches of salt, then let the mixture simmer over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are in a thick syrup (20-30 minutes). Set aside.
  • Prepare the tart: drop blobs of goat cheese onto the crust, then add the garlic and its syrup. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, crème fraîche, 1/2 tsp salt, and some pepper. Pour the creamy mixture over the cheese and garlic.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 160C and bake the tart for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is set and the top is golden-brown. Let cool, then serve warm or cold.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Poached Spring Vegetables

London’s springy weather has been tempting me to try some new, fresh-tasting recipes. For inspiration, I turned to Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, of which we have the German version (called Genussvoll vegetarisch). Also, my mom keeps making recipes from her (English-language) copy of Plenty and telling me how good they are (I know, too; we’ve made this a few times), so she also inspired me to crack open the book and find something nice for a Sunday dinner.

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so springy

For a main dish, F and I made an amazing caramelized garlic and goat cheese tart. As a side, we tried these “pochiertes juges Gemüse” (“poached young vegetables”). The vegetables, lightly poached in a white wine-olive oil-lemon juice mixture, turned out well. They retained some crunch and still tasted fresh and bright. Poached spring vegetables would be a great accompaniment to any meaty main you might cook up. The recipe is also easy to expand or contract, depending on how many people you’ll be feeding and/or how many leftovers you want.

Poached Spring Vegetables (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Genussvoll vegetarisch/Plenty)

Ingredients

  • Vegetables:
    • 5-7 young carrots, peeled
    • 3 fennel bulbs
    • 2-3 bunches thin green asparagus
    • 3 thin zucchini
    • 2-3 thin leeks
    • to taste: minced fresh dill
  • Poaching liquid:
    • 750mL  (1 bottle) white wine
    • 250mL olive oil
    • juice of 3 lemons
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 onion, quartered
    • 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
    • 1 tsp salt

Procedure

  • Wash the vegetables. Cut the carrots, zucchini, and leeks lengthwise into sticks that are about the same thinness as the asparagus. Slice the fennel thinly.
  • Pour the wine into a large pot and let it heat over medium-high for a few minutes. Add the rest of the poaching liquid ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • When the liquid boils, poach the vegetables: first carrots and fennel, then asparagus, then zucchini and leeks. If your pot is big enough, you can poach everything together; if not, poach the vegetables in batches (like I did). Each set of veggies should take 3-5 minutes to poach — you want them cooked but still a little crunchy.
  • Serve the poached vegetables with some of the liquid and garnish with fresh dill.

Enjoy!