Yotam Ottolenghi’s (All the) Herb Dumplings with Caremelised Onions

Serves: 4

A few weeks back, Nat pull together an absolutely wonderful three-part Yotam Ottolenghi dinner.

Every dish was just Yoman clever/unique/amazing as they always are.

Though these herb dumplings with caremalised onions were the evening’s winner. (They’re from his cookbook Ottolenghi Test Kitchen (OTK) Shelf Love, a cookbook I highly, highly recommend. An absolute delight to flick through, not a recipe you wouldn’t cook.)

Slightly Middle Eastern, it’s one part the herbs which really are earthy and deep. With the other part being the slow-cooked onions, with the butter, saffron and cardamom.

It would be a meal in itself, alongside a green salad.

Though as a side, it was just damn clever; and it would certainly indicate to your quests that a special meal was coming.

Ingredients

1kg onions (about 5 or 6), halved and sliced 1/2cm thick
10 cardamom pods, roughly bashed open with a mortar and pestle
60ml olive oil
110gm unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 garlic cloves, crushed
100gm fresh coriander, roughly chopped
100gm parsley, roughly chopped
70gm dill, roughly chopped
30gm tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
7 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed with a mortar and pestle
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
50gm whole-milk ricotta
100gm Greek feta, roughly crumbled
60gm Parmesan, finely grated
1 large egg
70gm plain flour
1/3 tsp saffron threads, roughly crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Put the onions, cardamom, half the oil, 40gm of butter and 1 tsp of salt into a medium baking dish and mix together to combine. Bake for 60 – 70 minutes, stirring 4 – 5 times during, until softened and nicely caramelised.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a large, non-stick sauté pan on a medium heat. Add the herbs and spring onions and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and turmeric and cook for 10 minutes more or until the herbs are deeply green and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  4. Beat together the ricotta, feta, 50gm of the Parmesan, the egg, 1 tsp of salt and plenty of pepper in a large bowl. Add the flour and the cooled herb mixture and mix well. Refrigerate to set, about 20 – 40 minutes. Use your hands to roll into 12 compact dumplings, about 45 – 50gm each.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer on a medium heat. Drop in the dumplings and cook for 10 – 12 minutes, or until they rise to the surface and have cooked through the centre. Use a slotted spoon to gently transfer the dumplings to a tray lined with kitchen paper, to dry.
  6. When the onions are ready and hot from the oven, add the remaining 70gm of butter, the saffron and the lemon juice and mix everything to combine. Turn the oven temperature up to 200c fan.
  7. Top the onions with the dumplings, slightly spaced apart, then sprinkle over with the remaining Parmesan. Return to the oven for 8 – 10 minutes, or until everything is bubbling and warmed through.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Roast Cauliflower with Yoghurt and Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

Serves: 4

I start every Ottolenghi recipe with some statement about how they are all consistently great and I’m agraid I am going to have to do it again.

Because this dish – you could call it a salad – is layers upon layers of just incredibly complimentary flavours, with crunch and spice and the cooling yoghurt at the end.

Nat cooked it along side a medium-done, barbequed eye fillet and the pairing was magic.

Indeed, bring this salad to a barbeque and even a medium-rare, chargrilled tomahawk will struggle to knock the cauliflower off first stage.

Yum!

Ingredients

1 large cauliflower, trimmed, then cut into wedges (800gm net)
75ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 onion peeled, halved and cut into 1.2cm-thick slices
1 tbsp coriander seeds lighly toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1 tsp caraway seeds, lightly toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1 1/2 tsp sumac
25gm mint leaves roughly chopped, plus 1 handful extra to serve
30gm pine nuts, toasted

For the yoghurt sauce

300gm Greek-style yoghurt
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 – 2 lemons)

For the red pepper sauce

70ml olive oil
2 tbsp mild Turkish pepper paste (or tomato paste)
1 tbsp red chilli flakes (or 1 1/2 tbsp if using tomato paste)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220c. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 3 tbsp of oil and 1/2 tsp of salt, then spread out on a large oven tray lined with greaseproof paper. Roast for 22 – 25 minutes, until lightly charred though still with bite. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a medium saute pan on a medium heat, Once hot, add the onion and 1/8 tsp of salt and cook, stirring occassionally, for 15 – 18 minutes, until soft and browned. Tip the onions into the cauliflower bowl and wipe clean the pan.
  3. Put the oil for the pepper sauce in a saute pan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the pepper paste and red chilli flakes and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Take off the heat, stir in a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper and transfer to a medium heatproof bowl.
  4. For the yoghurt sauce, mix the yoghurt, garlic, a tbsp of lemon juice, 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper in a medium bowl and set aside.
  5. Stir the coriander, caraway, sumac, mint, half the pine nuts, the remaining 1 tbsp of lemon juice and a good grind of black pepper into the cauliflower bowl.
  6. To serve, spread the yoghurt sauce over a shallow platter and arrange the cauliflower mixture on top. Spoon over half the red pepper sauce, then top with the extra mint leaves and the remaining pine nuts. Serve with the rest of the pepper sauce in a bowl alongside.

David Leite’s Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts

Serves: 8 as a snack

My mother whipped these up as part of a long, grazing lunch of cured meats and focaccia.

In the same way we should all be making our own dips for special meals, the same is true of nuts.

So here you go.

Ingredients

Cooking spray
1 egg white
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried red-pepper flakes
2 cups mixed raw nuts of your choice

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 150c. Line a lipped baking sheet with foil and coat the foil lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the egg white until very foamy. Add the sugar, salt, cumin and red-pepper flakes and whisk well. Stir in the nuts and coat completely.
  3. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until they’re deep golden brown about 25 – 30 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Remove the sheet from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool. Break up any nutty clumps. (The nuts can be made a week in advance, stored in an airtight container.)

The French Laundry’s Staff Dressing

Makes: 2 cups

We have been on a salad tear the last six months.

Neil Perry’s classic palm sugar dressing with leaves and herbs is just amazing.

My mother said that this Giana De Laurentiis’ salad of leaves tossed with caramelised pancetta and fennel was the best salad she had ever had.

Though in what is certainly seeming like a never-ending crescendo, the podium needs to be cleared again.

Because this dressing is superb.

Nothing less than one would expect from Thomas Keller.

The basic ingredients don’t vary from a traditional vinaigrette, though the use of the blender and the addition of the egg yolks completely transforms what would have been a vinaigrette, into the most wonderful cream.

Just add leaves and some fragrant herbs: dill, basil, coriander, chervil, tarragon, whatever you have in the fridge.

Get excited. It’s superb.

Ingredients

1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 1/2 tsp chopped shallots
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 large egg yolk
2 c canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Place the garlic, shallots, mustard and vinegar in a blender and blend until well combined. Add the egg yolk and blend again.
  2. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the dressing is thick and emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be refrigerated in a covered container for 1 week.)

Nigella Lawson’s Involtini

Serves: 6

We were booked for lunch at Alberto’s Lounge, a totally hip Italian joint in the middle of the Sydney CBD.

No kids, long-lunch, no deadlines. A perfect Saturday lunch.

And then the text lobbed in on Friday night. I was a casual contact at my new gym: get tested and isolate until you have a result.

Bugger.

So Nat said Alberto’s was coming to our place and whilst I was getting tested, Nat was procuring veal shoulder for a ragu and all the ingredients for this wonderful involtini.

The last time I had involtini, Nat also cooked it though with veal and during a long weekend in the Hunter Valley. I really wish I had typed that dish up; a mistake I was not going to make with this involtini.

I mean, thousands of 5-star reviews on NYTimes Cooking are unlikely to be wrong.

Open the Champagne and decant some solid wines!

In fairness, I don’t really know if this is what Alberto’s would have dished up, though if it was to be excellent, home-cooked Italian, then this involtini would have been on the cards.

Ingredients

3 eggplants, about 500gm each, trimmed and cut into 1cm thick slices; about 16 slices
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
225gm feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c pine nutes
1/3 c raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes until plump, then drained
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
2 tbsp (fresh) breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley leaves plus some to serve
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 c canned crushed tomatoes
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180c. Place a ridged cast-iron skillet over a medium-high heat and working in batches, brush eggplant slices on both sides with extra virgin olive oil and cook, turning until soft and crisscrossed with grid marks. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine feta, pine nuts, raisins, 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, mint and parsley. Mix in egg and season well.
  3. Spread eggplant slices on a surface and divide stuffing evenly among them, placing 1 to 2 tbsp at one end of each slice. Roll up slices tightly to secure filling and place in a baking dish large enough to fit snugly in a single layer.
  4. Pour crushed tomatoes on top of the eggplant rolls and arrange the mozzarella slices in a line lengthwise down the centre of the pan. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil evenly over the pan and season well.
  5. Bake until the cheese has melted and eggplant is bubbling and fragrant; about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, stand for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Caper Gemolata

Serves: 6

Anything that successfully dials up potatoes is a win for me.

Indeed, in our always-dieting house, we need an excuse to be pairing potatoes and this recipe is one such excuse.

It’s luxurious, it’s bursting with flavour from all the vinegar capers, anchovies and herbs.

And it looks wonderful plated.

You can see the effort and the effort is worth it.

Ingredients

1.5kg potatoes
Salt
4 tbsp olive oil plus more for the pan
1/4 c sherry vinegar
3 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
1 tbsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 c flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes until tender and drain.
  2. Heat the oven to 240c and arrange the shelves high. Oil a baking sheet on a baking pan and place each potato down, gently pressing until crushed though still intact. Brush the tops of the potato with 1 tbsp and roast for 25 minutes.
  3. Brush the potatoes with 1 tbsp more oil and then grill until golden brown: 4 – 7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. While the potatoes cook, combine in a bowl the vinegar, capers, anchovy paste, garlic and remaining 2 tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp salt: drizzle over the potatoes and serve immediately.

Lara Dunson’s Burmese Coconut Rice

Serves: 4

Lara Dunston is a Cambodian food and travel writer: she also makes a solid coconut rice, something Nat whipped up to accompany a great Burmese Chicken Curry we had last weekend.

Nothing says you’ve made an effort than a rice that has colour, or additional elements, or both.

This is one such rice, perfect for any Southern Asian curry.

Ingredients

3 c jasmine rice
1 c coconut milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves

Method

  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear then transfer to the rice cooker. (We cooked in the microwave).
  2. Pour coconut milk into the rice cooker and then water until it reaches the 3 cup measure.
  3. Add vegetable oil, shallots, salt, spices and bay leaves and combine well.
  4. Cook until the rice is cooked through and then rest for 10 minutes.

Crispy North Indian Style Aloo Tikki with Stuffed Green Peas

Serves: 6-8

Aloo tikki is a popular Indian street food snack made with boiled potatoes, aromatic spices and herbs.

These patties are crispy on the outside and soft and aromatic on the inside. The peas stuffing really adds to the dish though often you find recipes that don’t include the peas.

Do not cut this corner.

They are absolutely moorish and your guests will have smiles all over.

Ingredients

Green peas and potatoes

4 to 5 large potatoes
1/2 c frozen baby peas
2.5 c water

For the stuffing

1/4 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp coriander powder (ground coriander)
1/2 tsp fennel powder (ground fennel seeds)
1/2 teaspoon dry mango powder or ¼ to ½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp finely chopped green chillies
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
2 pinches black salt
Salt as required

For the potato mixture

1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dry mango powder or 1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp black salt
Salt as required
1/4 c bread crumbs or add as required
1/4 c cornstarch (or as required)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
4 to 5 tbsp oil for frying the tikki or as required

Method

  1. Cook the potatoes and the peas: I cooked mine together with the potatoes boiling under a trivet holding the peas in a metal bowl. This got a bit complicated so I would recommend peeling the potatoes and boiling them in a pot until soft.
  2. Steam the peas in the microwave safe dish until soft. About 4 minutes.
  3. Green pea stuffing: Take the peas in a bowl and mash them to a coarse texture.
  4. To the peas, add red chilli powder or cayenne pepper, coriander powder, fennel powder, dry mango powder, finely chopped ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, black salt and regular salt as per taste.
  5. Potato mixture: Meanwhile drain the water from the potatoes and let them become warm.
  6. When the potatoes are warm, mash or use a ricer. Let mashed potatoes cool completely.
  7. Add chilli powder, Garam Masala, coriander powder, dry mango powder, black salt and regular salt as per taste.
  8. Next add bread crumbs and cornflour and mix very well.
  9. Stuffing and shaping: Divide the mixture into small or medium shaped patties with a hollow center or cup shaped discs. You can apply some oil on your palms when making the patties or tikki.
  10. Place the green peas filling in the center.
  11. Bring the mashed potato edges on the top and seal them.
  12. Frying: Heat 2 tbsp oil on a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) or frying pan till it is medium hot. Gently place the tikki and begin to pan-fry them
  13. When the base is crispy and golden, gently flip each tikki with a spatula.
  14. Fry the second side till crispy and golden. You can gently flip once or twice more till the aloo tikki are golden and crisp evenly.
  15. Remove and on paper towels. Fry all tikkis this way. Add 2 tbsp more oil when frying the second batch.
  16. Serve with coriander, chutney and yoghurt.
Stuffing the peas into the potato mixture before sealing.

Jake Cohen’s Chicken Matzo Ball Soup recipe

Serves: 6 – 8

Halfway through Sydney’s Covid lockdown, instead of being negative and talking of boredom, restrictions and homeschool, Nat and I reflected on what we had learnt and what we would take away from lockdown.

A big part of the answer was around family traditions that were forged because we had no choice but to all spend lots of time together.

One tradition that popped out of nowhere was Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).

We went all out: we found an old Menorah on Facebook Marketplace that we promised to dust out every year: played hide the Matzo and did the full spread. Apple and honey, many things with matzo, brisket, potatoes with capers and a great challah bread.

And we dressed up.

I usually only make the Jamie Oliver Matzo Ball Soup. I’m sorry to say Jamie, I will only ever be making Jake Cohens going forward.

It is so delicious, it will sway even your most sceptical customers.

Matzo balls

2 c matzo meal
1/2 c schmaltz, melted (I used 1/4 c duck fat and 1/4 c ghee)
2 tbsp minced fresh dill
2 tsp kosher salt plus more as needed
6 large eggs, beaten
2/3 c fizzy water

For the soup

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
4 medium carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
4 large parsnips, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 c chicken stock
1/4 c minced fresh dill
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Method

  1. For the matzo balls: In a large bowl, stir together the matzo meal, melted schmaltz, dill, salt, and eggs until smooth. Gently stir in the seltzer until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Scoop the chilled matzo mixture into 1/4-cup balls, using wet hands to roll them until smooth. You should have about 14 matzo balls. Gently add the matzo balls, one at a time, to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until fluffy and tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes, then keep warm until the soup is ready.
  3. For the soup: While the matzo balls cook, preheat the oven to 230°C.
  4. On a half sheet pan, toss together the chicken legs, carrots, parsnips, onion, olive oil, and a heavy pinch each of salt and pepper, then arrange the legs skin-side up on the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are lightly golden.
  5. Transfer the vegetables and chicken to a large pot and cover with the stock and 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium- high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until the chicken is extremely tender, about 30 minutes. Using a ladle, skim off any fat from the top of the liquid and discard. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  6. Transfer the chicken legs to a bowl and let cool slightly. Once they are cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. Stir the shredded chicken, dill, and lemon zest into the soup, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Mix the matzo balls in with the stock, chicken and vegetable mix.
  8. Ladle a matzo ball and soup into a serving bowl and enjoy!

Elizabeth David’s Onion Tart with Green Pea Sauce

Serves: 6

To mark the first day out of Sydney’s lockdown, we did a lengthy, Provincial French lunch.

Nat’s parents came over armed with Champagne and a cracking French red: and our great mate and builder, a man who finishes off all my half-arsed projects and kindly looks after the dogs when we are away.

(Only costs a case of beer or two for that service!)

There was a lot of talk about how I had butchered our big teak outdoor table with a belt sander, or the time I blew something else up.

Acknowledgement, I am not handy.

So I needed to prove that I had at least one passing skill (with laughter in the background about the time I broke a wheelbarrow or the time I installed a swimming pool upside down).

This tart was a wonderful starter and put the needle back in my court. Subtle, simple, elegant, the onions sweated for hours and hours.

Your guests will know a special afternoon is on the menu.

Maybe the addition of gruyere or bacon lardons would have added to it, though its simplicity is all you need to make the point.

The green pea sauce is a wonderful addition.

Even our mate conceded it made up for the poor table sanding job.

Note: I used store bought shortcrust pastry which worked fine. Also, I softened the onion as slowly as possible – 4+ hours – and I know that this makes such a difference if you have the time.

Ingredients

210gm plain flour
Pinch of salt
125gm unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten
60gm butter, plus extra for greasing
1kg onions, thinly sliced
Sat and freshly ground pepper
6 egg yolks
300ml cream

Green Pea Sauce

20gm butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
500gm baby (frozen) peas
1 1/2 c chicken stock

Method

  1. To make their pastry, save the flour and salt. Chop the unsalted butter through the flour. Make a well in the centre and add 20 – 30mls of cold water and the egg.
  2. Carefully bring in the flour mixture from the outside until the dough comes roughly together. Push the dough outwards with the palm of your hand too roughly blend the butter – you should be able to see large streaks of butter in the dough. Shape into two discs and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the regular butter over a low heat. Add the onion to the butter. Stir until well combined.
  4. Cover and cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until soft and golden. (As per the absolutely genius Boathouse Snapper Pie, cooking the onions longer and slower is where the best tastes come from, though leave that to you.) Season and set aside to cool.
  5. Whist the egg yolks and cream in a bowl. Add the cooled onions and stir until combined.
  6. Heat your oven to 200c.
  7. Grease six 12cm fluted tart tins with removable bases or one 24cm flan tin.
  8. Roll the pastry out and line the prepared tins, trimming any excess. Place tins onto a baking tray, line each with baking paper, fill with baking beans all the way to the top and blind bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the baking beans and paper, then return tunas to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until the base is golden.
  10. Remove from the oven, turn the oven to 180c, fill the tart shell(s) with the onion mix and return to the oven.
  11. Cook for 25-35 minutes until golden on top and set. Remove from the oven.
  12. Meanwhile, to make the pea sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until soft.
  13. Add the peas and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 – 2 minutes or until the peas are just tender. Strain the peas, reserving the liquid.
  14. Put the peas and one cup of the reserved liquid into a food process and process until smooth, adding more liquid if required.