As I explained last week, due to travels to Paris for work I didn’t have much luck in the way of planning. I did indeed have pork chops, salmon and faggots, a tasty crab sandwich, plus a delicious Sunday lunch with local pals Isi and Michael earlier today. I made a speculoos cheesecake for pudding which I’ll share the recipe for tomorrow, as despite my worst fears it turned out to be pretty damn good.
I did have a delicious lunch at Ottolenghi’s on Thursday. Despite admiring Yotam Ottolenghi: I enjoyed the excellent series he presented called ‘Jerusalem on a plate’ a couple of years ago; I read his articles in the Guardian and Observer; and I have wandered past his deli on Upper Street, Islington on many occasions; I am not sure I have ever actually cooked one of his recipes and I definitely haven’t eaten in one of his restaurants or delis.
So when my friend Ian invited me to lunch in Spitalfields earlier in the week, I accepted enthusiastically. As always, I checked out the menu online in advance, and discovered that the focus is on salads: you can either choose a selection of two or three salads for around £11-14, or you can pick from main courses and top up your plate with salad – again this costs around £14-17. There are also different breads to choose from.
If you have ever walked past an Ottolenghi you will probably be aware of the huge platters of salads which look fresh and appetising, and about as far removed from the bog standard lettuce, cucumber and tomato you may expect.
I couldn’t resist the rare roast beef with horseradish as my main choice, and asked our cheerful waiter for his recommendations for a couple of salads. He chose roasted aubergine with sorrel yoghurt, turmeric pickled radish, spring onion and almonds; and cauliflower with peanut yoghurt, coriander, spicy peanuts and Aleppo chilli.
As there’s not too much in the way of cooking involved, your food arrives at your table almost immediately, so it’s the perfect venue for a quick lunch, although you are certainly not rushed by staff so you could easily turn it into something longer if you didn’t have to head back to work (sadly I did).
I was delighted with the waiter’s choice for me as the aubergine (a current favourite of mine) was soft and smoky with a delicate sauce and the crunch of nuts. There were a few slivers of preserved lemon which I picked off, but otherwise it gorgeous, as I immediately resolved to buy an Ottolenghi cookbook so I could make it myself. The cauliflower was gently spiced and the more solid texture complimented the aubergine salad. The beef, as you can see from the picture, was cooked to perfection: pink and juicy. I think two salads plus a main is a good size for lunch, and there was just enough room for us to squeeze in a pudding each.
Ian had chosen free range chicken with soy, chilli, honey, sesame, red onion and coriander and two salads: roasted new potato with leek, caper tapenade, samphire and preserved lemon, and mixed green beans with broad beans, peas, toasted coconut, mint and lemon (obviously my memory is not good enough to remember this detail, I have copied the details of the salad from the Ottolenghi website). His meal looked great, and the potatoes were especially good, which I know because he allowed me to pinch one.
Anyway, onto the puds. I was torn between the choice of caramel cheesecake with apples or chocolate brownie with gianduja. Luckily Ian decided to choose the cheesecake so I picked the brownie and helped myself to some of Ian’s pudding (for research purposes so I could share my verdict with you all).
The cheesecake was delicious but I definitely made the best choice with the brownie: the dough was moist and riddled with swathes of hazelnut chocolate. I thought I made the best brownies in the world (a faithful Nigella recipe) and the best shop-bought ones I had tried were from Leon, but Ottolenghi’s are my new favourite. I could have eaten a second one easily, so I’ll have to go back and sample them again. A splodge of cream would have made the brownie perfect though.
If anyone has any recommendations for which book of his I should buy (ideally one that contains the recipe for brownies) let me know. Until then, I’ll make do with my planned menu for this week:
- Monday – Cookbook Challenge from Rick Stein’s new book
- Tuesday – my Mum’s over for dinner and I might be serving her leftovers, but I am also going to make arlettes as a treat for her
- Wednesday – my next Alphabet Adventure and we’re planning I for Israel
- Thursday – Andrew’s working late so it might be poached eggs on toast for dinner
- Friday – plaice, capers and lemon
- Saturday – sausage pasta
- Sunday – we’re out and about so TBC
Do you have any nice plans for this week?
Oh yeah, and by the way, I BOUGHT A NEW KITCHEN. Arghhhh! It’s scary but exciting. Now I need to start cleaning out my kitchen cupboards and saving my pennies. Eeeek!