Soon the festive season will be upon us all – a time of getting together with friends and family, sharing good cheer, good food, and presents – a time when most of us will eat too much, and some of us may drink a little too much… It’s all part of the festive celebrations, a time-honoured tradition – and seriously, who can resist all that delicious food and drink??
Mindful of the excesses which may be heading our way I thought I would share a special meal with you, which I recently prepared and ate with some very dear friends. The starting point was “Plenty”, a book by Yottam Ottolenghi, a British based cookery writer with Italian, Israeli and British passports. “Plenty” is Ottolenghi’s second book, a collection of vegetarian recipes, which he developed for his column in the Guardian Weekend Magazine. It is a book that draws on many different cuisines and influences.
My friends and I selected three dishes from the book:
“Plenty” is not strong on recipes for desserts. I wanted to stay with a recipe by Ottolenghi for dessert, so I did a search on the net and turned up an interesting sounding recipe for strained ricotta balls with banana fritters, on the Guardian website.
I started the dessert recipe days ahead of our meal, as the ricotta balls need to drain in the fridge for several days.
For the Soba noodles and wakame, I searched the internet for an on-line retailer, and found a Japanese store in Paris which did mail order!! Great!! The package arrived on time – five out of five to http://www.kioko.fr !
I had never eaten or worked with wakame before, so it was interesting to try it. Wakame is an edible seaweed, most often used in soups and salads. It was very easy to re-hydrate the required quantity:
Other ingredients for the salad were soba noodles, which are made with buckwheat flour; shredded cucumber (skin on), which is salted and left to drain for some time; as well as toasted sesame seeds, coriander and mint leaves, and radish sprouts.
The dressing was made with rice vinegar, lime juice, grated lime zest, chillies, fresh ginger, sugar, salt, sesame oil, garlic and sweet chilli sauce.
It was quite a challenge to mix all these ingredients, but the result was worth all the effort – a wonderful combination of flavours and textures!
The roasted butternut squash called for ingredients which were easy enough to find! Butternut squashes are plentiful at this time of year, and I think they are the best of all winter squashes for flavour. The squash was cut into slices, put on a lined baking sheet and liberally anointed with a mixture and oil, ground allspice and coarsely ground cardamom. A little sprinkle of salt, and 15 minutes in the oven.
The dressing called for Greek yoghurt, lime juice, tahini, a little water and salt. The sauce was poured over the cooled squash slices, and the whole decorated with lime segments, finely sliced green chilli and chopped fresh coriander. Another winner!!
The recipe for the caramelised garlic tart called for an incredible amount of garlic – three whole heads!
The peeled garlic cloves were blanched in boiling water, drained, fried and then simmered with balsamic vinegar, rosemary and thyme until tender and caramelised.
The tart case was made with ready rolled puff pastry, which was blind-baked (pre-baked).
For the filling, two types of goat’s cheese (soft and hard) were crumbled and scattered over the base of the pastry case. The garlic cloves were added, and the whole covered with a custard made of creme fraiche, double cream and eggs.
The aromas which came from the oven while the tart was baking were heavenly, and the finished tart absolutely delicious!!
When the time came, the dessert was very simple to prepare. Having made the ricotta balls ahead, all that was left to do was to slice the bananas, prepare a tempura batter and deep fry the banana pieces. I love fritters, and these were very delicious!!
I would definitely make all these recipes again! They were all straightforward to prepare and oh-so-delicious!! Vegetarian food does not have to be boring, and “Plenty” is a testament to that!
If you want to try any of the recipes, the links at the beginning of this post will allow you to print them off. Happy cooking and eating!