Once upon a time, I turned thirty years old. I threw a party, put on a dress and revelled in the fact that thirty, it really is the new twenty-one. I mean, my spritely youthfulness, doesn’t it just eminate from this blog? All that life! love! colour! BAH. What am I talking about. I spotted three grey hairs the other morning and another one yesterday. Life starts at thirty if by “life” you mean “researching geriatric wards”.

But who am I to complain? When I turned thirty, my friends gave me some most awesomeness foodie presents, from gorgeous le creuset pots to adorable silicone cupcake cups and of course, cook books. From the moment I laid eyes on it, the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook had my heart ~ the scrumptious cakes, slices and all things sweet, what was I to do? I hadn’t the will to fight, what with frosting… all that frosting… and more sweet sweet.. frosting.

Wait a minute, is this post even about the Hummingbird? I don’t think it is.

Ok, focus.

So after four months of monogamy to the one cookbook I will utterly love forever, I’ve managed to unearth the dozens of other cookbooks I received and lookie here! Another gem! Not quite sweet, no frosting in sight, but a legend in its own God-given right: the Ottolenghi cookbook.

Ottolenghi is a chain of four mediterranean inspired eating houses, serving up a selection of “straight forward, yet highly innovative” dishes. I’ve had the pleasure of queuing for a good 45 minutes at their Islington branch once, and after all that queuing the even better pleasure of sampling their many dishes.

I see what the fuss is about, and I see why it is infinitely cool that I have their cookbook and all the more cooler now that I actually know that I have it.

So birthdays, cookbooks and queues aside (because y’know, I do like to frame my posts so that it looks a little less like I am just rambling on inanely), last Sunday night saw the end of my 10 day long sleep-fest, some call it “Christmas holidays” but I wouldn’t really have noticed it was Christmas because I was asleep two thirds of the time. For realz.

But Sunday evening crept up anyway and suddenly it was like any other evening of the week ~ we had to eat, sleep and kill me now, go to work the next day. I felt a sudden urge to not waste the evening and so I cooked. I flipped through my newly found Ottolenghi cookbook and I made stuff.

For starters I made a roasted sweet potato dish with pecans and maple syrup. I {heart} sweet potato, we became very good friends when I had my wisdom teeth extracted and remain tight (yeah, bruh) to this day. The dressing is a concoction of maple, ginger, lemon, orange and vinegar ~ somehow the zesty worked wonders with the sweet starch of the potato and the pecans added a terrific texture.

And the colours! Too pretty.

Happy me.

For our mains, I made a prawn dish, lightly pan frying some fresh tiger prawns with butter, tomato, olives, garlic and basil with a dash of mirin. It was kind of a tomato-ey garlic prawns, and though it was also delish, I didn’t think it was a taste sensation like the sweet potato dressing, now that was something different.

So voila! I cooked with my sort of new Ottolenghi cookbook. I’m just a little bit in love with it right now and excited to try some of the sweet stuff because that is truly the way to my heart.

ps. recipes below ~ note that I didn’t follow the recipes exactly, I swapped a few things here and there but have noted what the cookbook uses so you can do it the traditional way.

roasted sweet potato with pecan and maple
2 sweet potatoes (about 850 grams in total)
3 tablespoons olive oil
35 grams pecan nuts
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
35 grams sultanas or raisins
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.
  2. Start with the sweet potatoes. Don’t peel them! Cut them into 2cm cubes, spread them out on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, mix well with your hands and roast in oven for about 30 minutes, until just tender. Turn them over gently half way through.
  3. In a separate baking tray, toast the pecans for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and chop roughly.
  4. To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl with some salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. When the potatoes are ready, transfer them to a large bowl while still hot. Add the spring onions, chilli, pecans and sultanas.
  6. Pour the dressing over and toss gently to blend, then season to taste. Serve at once or at room temperature.

* the Ottolenghi recipe uses sherry vinegar in the dressing instead of rice wine vinegar, and also includes parsley and coriander, but I don’t like those.

Serves 2.
buttered prawns with tomato and olives
4 plum tomatoes
12 tiger or king prawns
50 grams unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
50 grams Kalamata olives, stoned
20mL mirin
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon chopped basil
  1. Start by preparing the tomatoes. Make a tiny shallow cross with a sharp knife at the bottom of each one and put them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove, refresh under plenty of cold water, then drain. Now peel the skin away and cut each tomato into 4-6 wedges. Set aside.
  2. To prepare the prawns, peel the shells away from the bodies, keeping the tal segment of the shell on. Cut a shallow slit along the back of each prawn and remove the dark vein using the tip of a small knife.
  3. Place a frying pan over high heat. When very hot, add 20 grams of the butter and saute the prawns quickly for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan as you go.
  4. Add the tomatoes, chilli and olives and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the prawns are nearly cooked through. Add the mirin and let simmer for a minute before adding the remaining butter, garlic and basil.
  5. Toss for a second for everything to come together in a runny sauce then serve immediately with bread.

* the Ottolenghi recipe uses arak instead of mirin, but I would suggest that any sort of alcohol might also do – try white wine? It also uses parsley instead of basil.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter.

11 Thoughts on “Ottolenghi cooking: roasted sweet potato with pecan & maple. and some prawns.

  1. Hi Catty, we’re big fans of Ottolenghi and can’t resist sitting outside their Islington branch on a summer’s day sipping a hot coffee and preparing to scale one of their mountainous meringues or other sweet treats. Their book is on my Amazon wishlist which I’m mailing to everyone in preparation for my 30th in a couple of weeks 🙂

    Just watched your vid interview at Lantana…I work right round the corner and have never tried it! Will be giving it a try today methinks 🙂 Not sure if you got the chance to see the guys at VietBaguette next to Lantana but they were great. Serving amazingly vibrant and fresh banh mi (Vietnamese Baguettes) with fillings like BBq Pork, Pâté, Pork Meatloaf and Pork Floss with pickled carrot and lashings of chilli sauce. They have daily specials, freshly made Vietnamese juices, gorgeous sickly sweet coffee and the original Thai Red Bull.
    Good and Bad news…they’ve now closed, but are opening a bigger premises very soon in the same area, WOOHOO!

    Happy Hump Day!

  2. ooh…this looks so delicious. I’m going to bookmark to try it out later.

  3. Peep_Squeak: Yes I did get a chance to go to Viet Baguette when they were next to Lantana.. I did a write up here: http://bit.ly/3oHGaW – they were quite good although not very traditional. Still yum though! Definitely head to Lantana if you’re just around the corner.. I was there for lunch yesterday 🙂 Enjoy!

    The Cooking Ninja: the roasted sweet potato is SO easy and ridiculously tasty – give it a go 🙂

  4. Got the Ottolenghi cookbook for Christmas & have been drooling ever since!

  5. LOL @ researching geriatric wards!!!

    I love Ottolenghi and their cookbook but haven’t made either of these yet, and they look so yum!

  6. I love the Ottolenghi cookbook – there are heaps of great recipes in there (try the eggplant salad with pomengranates) and also some of the baking is brilliant – their fruit tarts are always a big hit in my house.

  7. foodrambler: It is massively droolworthy, I only wish there were more photos in it!

    Mowie: LOL.. yeah, grey hairs… *sigh*

    Gourmet Chick: i love all things eggplant too – MUST try 🙂

  8. This book has been on my wishlist for ages .. Really have to buy it soon! The recipe looks absolutely amazing

  9. Mathilde: I’m not a great cook so I love simple recipes that produce unique and tasty dishes. This is definitely one of those 🙂 The only down side of this book, though, is that only about 30% of recipes have photos. What is up with that?!

  10. Haha, I just saw this post and I love it. I love sweet potato too, came in useful when I just got my braces fitted (many many moons ago).

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