Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cooking from the books: Ottolenghi, Part 1

I went to London once. It was part of a school trip to York. One week with a bunch of other 16year olds. In a bus. It was memorable to say the least.
On our way back we stopped in London. We had 9 hours to see the city. Because we were young and our English still limited we were only allowed to move about the city in groups of at least three. 
My group had four people. Ever tried to get everyone's wishes in sync? Especially when those wishes are mixed with hormones only 16year olds can produce? Never mind.
In other words: We didn't see much of the actual London because we were too busy stumbling around the streets. That was in 2003. 
It is time for a return, I guess.

By now, my trip planning evolves around food. Even though I don't know when, if or ever I will be in the States, I have a list of places I want to see and eat at in Seattle, Portland, New York (of course) and some other places. London is no exception (or other European cities for that matter).
I wish I had known of Ottolenghi back in 2003 when the restaurant/deli/bakery was only a year old. By now, the restaurant - or more so, its chefs, has published two cookbooks and opened another location. 
I know I'd love the place because of the way they display food. If you look at the front cover of their book, you know what I mean.

It took me awhile to finally buy the book myself. I don't know what it was, really. 
It's fresh, inspired food that is easy to prepare. Both chefs take inspiration from their upbringing in the Middle East and I have found more than one recipe that I have eaten one way or another in this region. 
When I saw a sack of mograbiah in the supermarket for the first time in Jordan (my strolls through the Turkish markets in Berlin were limited so I don't know how easily available it is), I bought it in an instant as if it wasn't available again the next day.

I settled on a salad which was supposed to be accompanying barbecued quail. Quail, much to my surprise, is available in Jordan (same with the eggs), but it doesn't stir me. We barbecued chicken instead.
Mograbiah is, like couscous, made of wheat semolina. It takes longer to cook (much like pasta) than the preparation of couscous but gives a nice chew. 

Mograbiah Salad.

I loved this dish. It has lots of fresh herbs, some heat from the chili and a great lemony flavor. According to the book the amount would serve 4 generously (if each of your guests gets two quails). I found it, however, to be enough for 2 as a side dish only and would adjust the amounts next time accordingly.
The recipe also has you add butter to the cooked grains which was only nice as long as they were warm but hardened up when the salad reached room temperature, so I would omit the butter next time I make it.
Below is the recipe with my notes.

Mograbiah Salad
Adapted from Ottolenghi The cookbook

125g mograbiah
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 mild red chili
1 spring onion (MM: Which I forgot to use, ups.)
1 lemon
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped coriander
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water in a medium sized pot to a boil, once boiling add a pinch of salt and add the mograbiah. Simmer for 15 to 18 minutes or until the grains are tender but with still a substantial bite to it (check the instructions on the package as cooking times can vary). Strain into a colander to drain well, then transfer to a serving bowl (instead of a mixing bowl to save dishes).

Add the oil (and butter, 10grams, if using), season with plenty of salt and pepper and stir well. Set aside to cool. While you wait, prepare the chili by deseeding it and chopping it up finely as well as the herbs. Add the chili (and the spring onion I forgot) to the mograbiah.

Segment the lemon by trimming off 1cm from the top and the bottom. Stand the lemon up on a cutting board and follow its natural curves with a knife to take off the skin and all the white pith. Holding the lemon over the bowl of mograbiah, cut along the white membranes encasing the segments to release the segments into the bowl. Squeeze in any remaining juice.

Just before you are ready to serve, add the herbs to the salad, taste and see if you need more salt, pepper or olive oil.

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