A Kiwi twist on a Middle Eastern specialist.
I've been a fan of chef Yotam Ottolenghi for a few years, ever since I started blogging and a few friends started raving about him and his Middle Eastern-inspired recipes. One friend made the lentil salad from his ode to vegetables, Plenty. Then a friend emailed from London and said that I should make his caramel macadamia cheesecake (three of my favourite things in one sentence) and said I must come to London and try the cheesecake at his restaurant.
That was about five or six years ago, but I finally made it there this month. I was back in London for the first time in about 12 years, and I ate a lot of great stuff.
I had hot salt beef bagels on Brick Lane, great Vietnamese on Kingsland High St and the greatest chargrilled lamb of my life at a famous kebab shop in Dalston.
There were also some excellent coffees, a couple of market fresh doughnuts, and plenty of pints.
Getting to finally go to Ottolenghi though was especially exciting. I admire from afar on Instagram and am always inspired by the salads and sweet treats.
First stop was Ottolenghi in Angel Islington for breakfast - the famed shashushka. This spiced, baked egg dish comes out in a cast-iron frying pan, with a dollop of labneh on top and bread on the side.
The coffee was good and I was tempted to eat every cake/tart/slice on the counter but restrained myself.
Next was lunch at Nopi, the latest Ottolenghi restaurant offering, which has head chef Scully Rameal at the helm. Lots of people had recommended Nopi, but a conversation with Yael Schocat from Ima Restaurant in Auckland sealed the deal. She had been the week before and said, "you must, you must, you MUST go to Nopi". My friend and I had a lunchtime booking at the bar and it was gorgeous.
I have based today's recipes on the lunch we had from noting the menu items. Nopi: The Cookbook has been released, but these are a loving interpretation of some of its recipes.
The salmon dish is based on a dish of trout but I thought for a simple dinner in New Zealand with the warmer weather coming up, New Zealand King salmon was the perfect replacement.
Everything was great - the service, the amazing mirrored bathrooms, the home-made seeded crackers, the marinated olives. Everything is so carefully packed full of flavours and textures and temperatures, and it was a joy to finally eat food I'd only ever pored over in pictures.
Ottolenghi has revolutionised the way people think about vegetables and with the recent press about processed meat, that is important. I'm an unashamed fan-girl, and am glad I was able to visit two of his restaurants in London.
I highly recommend his books, and checking out his recipes online, too.