Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ottolenghi...Couscous With Grilled Cherry Tomatoes And Fresh Herbs

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I may be stuck in a small town on a lake in Northern Georgia, but believe me, I have ears to the ground everywhere...and I mean everywhere.   Luckily,  two of my best friends live in big cities, New York and Paris, and they are both gourmets and gourmands who still travel the world in the pursuit of pleasure. Or so I thought...

It was on a trip to Miami last month, that I was handed a copy of Ottolenghi, The Cookbook, by one of my scouts.  I must admit that, initially,  I was ho hum about it and did not give it a second look.  That was until I came home and, on a trip to the local library, was surprised to find a copy on the shelves.  Hmmm...Lindaraxa prides herself on being on top of the latest trends, particularly in cooking, so how come I had never heard of this before. Where were my scouts! Worse, if it was at the local library in my little town in Georgia it was old news!

With time on my hands and snow on the ground, I devoured the first book, and then the second and a third.  Finally a cookbook that was new, fresh and innovative.  For months I had complained that there was nothing new in the world of cooking that excited the imagination.  Well, at long last, here it was...Ottolenghi.

Born in Jerusalem and a resident of the U.K  since 1995, Yotam Ottolenghi has written a vegetarian column for the Guardian since 2008 called The New Vegetarian based on recipes from his restaurants. No, he is not a vegetarian, trust me.  He attended the Cordon Bleu in London and together with his partner, Sami Tamami, owns four eponymous restaurants—each a patisserie, deli, restaurant, and bakery rolled into one—in some of London’s chicest neighborhoods.

Ottolenghi, The Cookbook features 140 recipes culled from the popular restaurants and inspired by the diverse culinary traditions of the Mediterranean. They reflect the authors’ upbringings in Jerusalem, yet also incorporate culinary traditions from California, Italy, and North Africa, among others. Featuring abundant produce and numerous fish and meat dishes, as well as Ottolenghi’s famed cakes and breads, Ottolenghi invites you into a world of inventive flavors and fresh, vibrant cooking.


His other two cookbooks, Plenty and Jerusalem have been runaway bestsellers here and in UK.  The U.S. editions came out in the Fall of 2013 to rave reviews, one of them from the New York Times.

The excitement over Jerusalem, the newest cookbook, has led to clubs, Facebook pages  and cooking marathons.  And where was I? Sad to say, asleep at the wheel! In all fairness to myself, I can understand this lapse in my life.  It is not the type of cuisine that has ever interested me until I actually held three of his books in my hand and was marveled at the combinations of flavors and the creativity and originality of the recipes.

Tonight, I am correcting this lapse and stepping into the world of Ottolenghi with a side dish to accompany the leg of lamb roasting in the oven, after marinading for four hours in Dijon mustard, rosemary leaves, olive oil, garlic paste and Lea & Perrins Sauce. For the couscous,  I chose a very conservative recipe to begin with which, unfortunately, is not in the cookbooks but on his website. I played around with the measurements.  It was divine.   Little steps...


Couscous With Grilled Cherry Tomatoes And Fresh Herbs

Serves 8

6 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, sliced into 2mm thick rings (400g net)
1 tsp honey
½ tsp ras el hanout spice mix*
2 oz golden raisins or sultanas
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2 cups couscous
1 oz unsalted butter, cut into dice
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
25g (1 1/2 oz) rocket, roughly chopped (did not add, don't ask)
1 oz coriander, roughly chopped
1 oz parsley, roughly chopped
1 oz mint, roughly torn
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp argan oil, or olive oil if unavailable
Salt and black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Start by caramelising the onions. Place a medium sauté pan on a medium to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the onions, honey, ras el hanout, ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Cook for 15-30 minutes, on until the onions are soft, dark brown and sweet. Remove from the heat, stir in the raisins or sultanas and set aside.

 Place a ridged griddle pan on high heat and leave until piping hot. Mix the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of oil and cook on the hot pan for about 4 minutes, until the skin is slightly charred and the flesh is soft, turning occasionally. Set aside.

 Line the base and sides of a roasting tin, approximately 20 x 30 centimeters, with baking paper and put in the couscous, along with ½ a teaspoon of salt. Pour over 3 1/2 cups of boiling water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir and leave to soak for 10 minutes, covered with foil. Dot the soaked couscous with the butter cubes, cover with foil again and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and fluff up with a fork
Once the couscous has cooled slightly transfer it into a large bowl. Add the onion and raisin mix and stir. Add the cumin seeds, garlic, almonds, rocket and most of the herbs, leaving a little to the end. Finally add the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper and mix gently.
Gradually transfer the couscous to a serving platter scattering with the cherry tomatoes as you go. Finish with a sprinkle of herbs and drizzle with argan oil.




What a wonderful dinner party menu this would make with a cucumber and yogurt salad!

*This is something you can mix together at home.  I used a Thai mix which has most everything, but added coriander seeds which I love.

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi
Photos #1,6, 7, 8 Lindaraxa
all other Google


  1. Call me behind the times, somewhat. I have seen his cookbooks advertised and read articles about him, but have never actually laid my hands on one of the books. With this lovely couscous and tomato dish you have me intrigued. I would stay and visit longer, but I must rush off to my on-line library site to see if they have any of his books available ;)

  2. Have loved all his books! And his flavors! And the photos! But mostly I love the taste. I've made quite a few of his recipes by now and most of them are downright glorious!

  3. I just made his "pizza" with beef and pine nuts and a wonderful salad on top... great flavors. He's a genius. Your dish looks just perfect. mmmm. will try next.


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