Isn’t it funny how some food trend crops up all over the media, just at the same time that you ‘discover’ it for yourself? You’re left wondering if you did find it on your own, or if the media planted the idea in your head so cleverly that you didn’t even notice them doing it. Just like in fashion, there are trend spotters in the food industry predicting the next year’s big fads, like gourmet popsicles (they’re the new cupcakes, don’t you know?), or liquorice in savoury dishes, or bacon and chocolate. It’s unsettling- are there any original ideas out there, or are we all just puppets in a giant marketing machine?
For example, I’ve recently become enamoured of Yottam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-born, London-based chef who seems to have a magical touch with simple, fresh salads and ordinary vegetables, treating them in such a way that any meat-eater couldn’t help but look twice. Here’s how it happened: a friend of mine made one of his recipes for a dinner party and told me about it, and his name being hard to forget, I found myself drawn to his eponymous cookbook Ottolenghi: The Cookbook a few weeks later. It was calling to me, saying ‘take me home with you!’ in that way that only a cookbook can.
I spent a few days drooling over recipes like Grilled mackerel with green olive, celery, and raisin chutney. I made his Chargrilled asparagus, courgettes, and manouri salad for a barbecue (to rave reviews from my friends), as well as my own version of his Fennel and feta with pomegranate seeds and sumac. And then I realised his name is everywhere. He’s all over the Guardian with his ‘new vegetarian’ recipes, his new book Plenty is getting great reviews, and I’ve since seen his name in food blogs like Matt Bites, David Lebovitz, and Design Sponge. So, uh, I guess I wasn’t the first one to notice him. Hell, I’ve only just got his first book!
Never mind, I don’t really care if I’m the last one to get there, I’m just glad I did. This food is so good, that even my ‘where’s the meat?’ boyfriend can’t help finishing off the last morsels in the bowl. Here’s one that went down particularly well.
Puy lentil and Sour Cherry Salad
adapted from Yottam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Serves 4 as a side, or 2 as a main meal
200 g/ 1 cup puy lentils (uncooked)
2T olive oil
3-4 shallots, sliced
75 g/ 1/2 cup dried sour cherries
3T red wine vinegar
4 slices of prociutto
75 g/ 1/2 cup stilton, gorgonzola, or other crumbly blue cheese
3 large handfuls of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Start by picking any stones out of the lentils, then cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes until cooked, and drain.
Meanwhile, sautee the shallots in the olive oil until soft and translucent, then add the cherries, vinegar, sugar, and water, and let simmer for a few minutes to soften. Once the lentils are done, add them to the cherry mixture and set aside to cool.
Fry your prociutto in a little olive oil until crispy, then drain on paper towels.
Once everything is cool, crumble the prociutto and blue cheese into the lentil mixture, and mix in the spinach. Add salt and pepper to taste.