Thursday, July 1

Ottolenghi………the name on everyone’s lips

Well, if it isn’t it should be. Yotom Ottolenghi is an inspired chef, and the owner of 4 eponymous restaurants in London. Check them out here His second cookbook Plenty has just been released, and is a beauty. The food is fresh, interesting, and makes you want to go into the kitchen and start throwing ingredients around immediately. The July issue of Cuisine magazine has several recipes from the book, and you can also check them out on the Guardian website here

I cooked this particular dish (recipe downloaded from the Ottolenghi website) as it reminded me of a meal Mr D and I ate in Egypt a few years ago. Well, Mr Cast Iron Stomach and the rest of our group ate a plateful, I only ate about two mouthfuls, then ran off to be sick, which isn’t normally a good omen for a dish. This episode had been repeated in reverse a few nights prior except we were on our own.  We ordered dinner in a quiet neighbourhood restaurant, then about five minutes later Mr CIS turned an unusual colour (Resene Beryl Green I think it was....) stated he could not possibly stay, and left me sitting on my tod in a Cairo restaurant, where I was literally the only chick in the house. The lovely proprietor saw what had happened and dragged the TV in the corner over to my table, this made me feel worse as I was depriving everyone else of Knight Rider, but he insisted. I ate dinner and tried to concentrate on the Hoff as best I could with an entire room staring at me, and thanked him profusely when he carefully packaged up the rest of dinner so I could take it back for my missing companion. He insisted his son walk me the five minutes back to the hotel, so I was obliged to take the remains of my fragrant dinner right back to our room, where the patient strangely enough did not thank me.
I think my case of Ramses revenge was percolating well before the kushari made an appearance however, but despite this I could not even think about cooking anything remotely similar for a very long time (ie years!). Kushari is something like an Egyptian national dish, and consists of layers of macaroni, rice, lentils and sometimes chickpeas, with a vinegar tomato sauce poured over, and fried onion to garnish. Along with hummus, fried onions were also off my radar for some fact my highlight meal of that trip was a jacket potato with coleslaw and cheese I managed to locate in Luxor, and which I ate for three meals in a row. I actually managed to keep it down for a while. When we flew back to London I literally begged the BA stewardess for a second breakfast, some kind of blah"egg" type thing, it's very blandness  being a saving grace for me. You know your starving when you beg for airline food..........(despite this I adored Egypt, and would go back in a flash)

Mejadarah consists of rice and lentils, delicately spiced with cumin, turmeric & coriander, and garnished with fried onions. The original recipe actually deep fries the onions, but I simply shallow fried until crispy and golden, they were a delicious caramel accompaniment to the lentils and rice. According to the website, it is an Arabian dish, served in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. I served it with cubes of lamb I had rubbed with a little oil,  cumin and sumac, then simply fried until crusty and golden, but still pink and juicy within. A side of chopped tomato and avocado with lime juice may seem odd, but I had to use the avocado, and despite looking a bit incongruous, actually tasted great, a creamy counterpoint to the spice. A drizzle of tahini and yogurt, beaten with a little more lime finished things off nicely.

Lucky me there was enough left over for lunch, a crumble of feta would have been perfect but I didn't have any so I supplied my protein with a boiled egg, it worked surprisingly well....

Mejadarah-from the Ottolenghi website

120g basmati rice
120g lentils- I used Puy lentils
1lt water
½ Tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large onion
Vegetable oil for frying
Slice the onion, lightly salt and place in a colander to get rid of some of the liquids.

In a saucepan, place the lentils and 750ml of cold water. Cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils have softened but still have a bite.

In a separate large saucepan, toast the cumin seeds until they are fragrant. Add the rice, olive oil, cinnamon and turmeric. Make sure the rice is coated evenly with the oil. Add the cooked lentils with their liquid and the remaining water. Add salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a very low heat for 20mins. Leave covered for another 10 minutes.

While the rice in simmering fry the onion till golden brown. Place on kitchen paper. Mix half the onion through and taste for seasoning. Plate the rice and garnish with the rest of the onion.


  1. that looks delicious!! i've got his first book, i love his olive oil crackers which i've got posted on my blog ...

  2. I love Ottolenghi, he is a veritable superstar here in London. His weekly recipe in the weekend Guardian is always worth looking forward to... you can imagine my delight when they included a mini cookbook the other week, too much!


  3. Pod-thanks, am going to do the crackers this w/end, with cheese, yum!
    Tuck-yes, I would be excited too, alas I can only enjoy online!

  4. This looks so delicious!! I've been looking for some more middle eastern recipes. Def wanna check out more of Ottolenghi's recipes. Thanks!


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