Ottolenghi The Cookbook

16 December 2008

Before I start, let me remind you that this year’s Menu for Hope launched yesterday – as many of you know already, it’s an annual fund raising campaign hosted by our Pim and food bloggers all over the world. Last year, Menu for Hope raised nearly $100K to help the UN World Food Programme – there are amazing prizes lined up again this year, so make sure to take a look and donate whatever you can!

Also, I would like to mention my dear friend Barbara – as many of you may know, she is a cancer survivor and is now going through chemotherapy. I have never met her in person, but I’m really looking forward to the day I can. Please send her lots of love and hugs to help her through it!

It has taken me much longer than I anticipated to write about this fabulous cookbook from one of my favourite delis in London, Ottolenghi. I must confess that I now try less new recipes from books as my work is getting busier and I go away a lot more than I used to – so having managed to cook quite a few recipes from this book means something, but then I knew I would – I was so excited when I learnt that their first book would be out this year.

Quite a few cookbooks have found a way into my favourites this year – it would be really hard, but if I had to choose just a couple, then along with the Ottolenghi book, one of them would be My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell who is the head chef at Petersham Nurseries (where I was shooting a Christmas story for a magazine last week, the atmosphere was absolutely magical). As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a big fan of her cooking and just like her first book, it’s full of her love for seasonal ingredients which the recipes make the most of. Her books are always in my kitchen (I have a lot of cookbooks but not many actually live on my kitchen shelf!) – they are an absolute joy to read, and cook from.

The other would be Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf – I’ve been a big fan of this great chef and writer team since I met them here. Having had a chance to visit Istanbul last year, I waited eagerly for this book to come out – and it didn’t disappoint me. The gorgeous images and stories alone make this one of my favourites, but I’m fascinated by the beautiful recipes also. It has definitely made me decide go back to Turkey sometime soon!

Back to Ottolenghi. I still remember when I first found this little gem by chance in Ledbury Road more than five years ago – the clean white interior with a hint of red, a big chunky communal table in the middle, the vibrantly coloured dishes piled up – I knew straight away that it was my kind of place, and the food of course excited me the most.

Let me tell you their story a little. Yotam Ottolenghi, the patron chef of Ottolenghi (pictured below), and Sami Tamimi, the head chef and co-author of the book, were both born in Jerusalem in the same year. Yotam grew up on the Jewish west side, whereas Sami on the Arab east side, although they may have crossed paths they never met each other until they come to London when they started working at Baker & Spice (another of my favourites, they would meet Dan Lepard, my bread making hero, there).

If you go there in the late morning, you will see the chefs bringing out all the freshly prepared food on huge platters – I can assure you that you would have a hard time choosing what you are going to have, everything looks so fresh and irresistible.

Although they serve all sorts of dishes (mainly Mediterranean inspired) including meat and fish, my favourites are their salads and pastries. Samphire and asparagus salad was one of the first things I tried there – I wished I could get the recipe somehow so you can imagine how happy I was to find it in the book! Their gorgeous Camargue red rice and quinoa salad has become my regular choice (Heidi posted the recipe here), as are their various aubergine dishes with middle-eastern twists. I keep making their French bean salad with hazelnut & orange and the twice-baked flourless chocolate fudge cake – just to name a couple.

Despite his very busy schedule, Yotam kindly agreed to meet me at their Islington branch (which is another of my favourites) last month. As I imagined, he was such a lovely person and quietly – but very evidently – passionate about good food. I told him how excited I was to read their first book while tucking into their freshly baked croissant that Yotam generously offered.

They’ve recently opened two more shops in Belgravia and Kensington – I’ve asked him if they are planning to open any outside London – he shook his head straight away and said no, he is keen to maintain the standard by being personally involved with each branch on a day to day basis – and I’m glad he thinks that way :)

He told me enthusiastically about his and Sami’s Christmas food supplement for the Guardian, which came out last weekend (Yotam regularly writes a column called The New Vegetarian for them). As you can see, what a feast! There are so many choices along with excellent wine suggestions – I must thank them that I don’t have to spend time making a Christmas menu this year – I’m already excited about having an Ottolenghi-y Christmas!

Their blog is full of inspiration too – you can find more of their fabulous recipes there, I think this one will be the next thing I will try :)

I must emphasis that I had such a hard time choosing just one recipe from the book – this cheesecake is definitely one of my favourites, but I have so many others too.

Their recipe uses only cream cheese, but being a big fan of ricotta, I couldn’t help trying this out with it. Armed with Yotam’s great advice to get rid of as much water as possible from the ricotta beforehand (as it tends to have a much higher water content than cream cheese), it turned out wonderfully. I was actually not a big fan of baked cheesecakes as I often found they were quite heavy, but this version is light in both texture and flavour. The macadamia and caramel combo is another winner here.

Caramel and macadamia ricotta cheesecake

Serves 8-10

For the cheesecake
400g good quality ricotta cheese, at room temperature
(if it seems too watery, hang it in muslin overnight to drain)
200g good quality cream cheese, at room temperature
120g caster sugar
2/3 vanilla pod
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
60ml soured cream
Icing sugar for dusting

For the base
160g dry biscuits
(I used HobNobs, but you can use any digestive biscuits)
40g unsalted butter, melted

For the nut topping
150g macadamia nuts
90g caster sugar

For the caramel sauce
65g unsalted butter
160g caster sugar
100ml whipping (or double) cream

Preheat the oven to 140ºC/Gas Mark 1. Lightly grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.

To make the base, whiz the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor (or put them in a plastic bag and bash with a mallet or rolling pin). Mix with the melted butter to a wet, sandy consistency. Transfer to the lined tin and flatten with the back of a tablespoon to create a level base.

To make the cake batter, put the sugar, ricotta cheese and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Slit the vanilla pod lengthways in half and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Whisk by hand, or more easily with an electric mixer, until smooth. Gradually add the eggs and soured cream, whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and place in the oven. Bake for about 60 minutes, until set; a skewer inserted in the centre should come out with a slightly wet crumb attached. Leave to cool at room temperature, then remove the side of the tin. Transfer the cake to a cake board or plate – but you can serve from the tin base if that proves tricky. Now chill the cake for at least a couple of hours.

To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 140ºC/Gas Mark 1 for about 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the sugar in a saucepan with a very thick base (it is important that the layer of sugar is not more than 3mm high in the pan, so choose a large one). Heat the sugar gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir it at any stage. Don’t worry if some small bits of sugar don’t totally dissolve. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife. It’s nice to leave some of the nuts just halved or even whole.

To make the sauce, put the butter and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, dark caramel. The butter and sugar will look as if they have split. Don’t worry; just keep on stirring. Once the desired colour is reached, carefully add the cream while stirring vigourously. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To finish the cake, dust the edges and sides with plenty of icing sugar. Spoon the sauce in the centre, allowing it to spill over a little. Scatter lots of caramelised nuts on top. The cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Food - Sweet    Books    49 comments    Permalink

  • Oooh! I had this cheesecake as a birthday cake for someone in the one year. So delicious! I have to confess, I haven’t had time to look through this book properly although I got it a while ago. Very heartened by Ottolenghi’s plans not to open any branches outside London because of QC. I wish there were more places with heart and soul like that.

    Posted by tommy | 16 December 2008 #
  • This looks incredible. Your photography is amazing—I always look forward to your posts!

    Posted by Elle | 16 December 2008 #
  • Dear Keiko, I have been visiting your blog for a while, and I admire your beautiful and wistful aesthetic. I also have to thank you for introducing me to Hidemi Sugino’s books, which are among the best pastry cookbooks I have encountered (why are there so few step by step pictures in the pastry books one finds in the US???)
    I also returned from Turkey recently, and I bought Turquoise as soon as I came back. Of course, it will be tough to recapture the vivid tastes and smells of Istanbul, but I will do my best. :)

    Posted by Victoria | 16 December 2008 #
  • Keiko thank you for your virtual hug.I look forward to us meeting some day too. I love the Ottolenghi cookbook. The only thing I’ve made so far is the florentines to which I added pink Turkish Delight, an idea I got from a Greg Malouf book. I’ll send you a PM as your package arrived today.

    Posted by barbara | 17 December 2008 #
  • Wow..! Really great are all: sweets, photos, and the program:))

    Posted by akane | 17 December 2008 #
  • Dear Keiko, thank you for the inspiring post. We really should make our way to London soon! Have a lovely Christmas and a fabulous new year! XO

    Posted by S | 17 December 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko san – This place looks absolutely fabulous!!!!! I’ve added this to my list of places to go in London. I’ll have to procure this cookbook soon too! Hope all is well!!!!

    Posted by joyce | 17 December 2008 #
  • こんにちは

    ところでところで! 右側のリンク先の新しいフォトサイト、素晴らしいです。
    ではでは ;-)

    Posted by azu | 17 December 2008 #
  • Keiko-san, I pray that GOD will give your friend Barbra, comfort and peace during her chemotherapy. I can only imagine how tough that would be, My prayers are with her…

    I am so happy to see you are doing really well! I’m living in San Jose, CA since last year, We left San Diego shortly after I met you in west Hollywood (time does fly!) Hopefully I will be able to see you again with Juju-chan, please let me know when you come to California. Wish you have a very Merry Christmas with your partner and lovely cat! Blessings, Posted by Misuzu | 17 December 2008 #
  • This place looks absolutely gorgeous, with a huge variety of sweet and savoury dishes. I definitely have to go there when I return to London…
    I’m glad to see you back here!

    Posted by Botacook | 17 December 2008 #
  • Dear Keiko,

    What a delight to read about your tribute to Ottolenghi. I had just purchased the book about a month ago, together with Ingredients and Turquoise. What a delight! Your photography remains truly amazingly gorgeous! Thank you for the post. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. :)

    Nur Suraya

    Posted by Nur Suraya | 17 December 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko, I thought I left you a comment, I don’t know what happen, it seems disappeared. It might have be lost somewhere. Anyway, I thought I just leave you another comment here.

    It’s good to read your post again, and thanks for the review. I am really fond of Turkish cooking, and most definitely will ask my husband to buy it for christmas present.

    I do too love ricotta, your recipe sounds really tempting.
    Have a wonderful season.

    Posted by elra | 18 December 2008 #
  • う~んなんだかロンドンに住んでないことが口惜しくなるようなポストですねえ。そのうち出向けることを期待して、OttolenghiのHPをお気に入りにいれました。




    Posted by cocopuff1212 | 18 December 2008 #
  • caramel, macadamia, cheese…oh my! i am so loving this combo

    Posted by mochachocolatarita | 18 December 2008 #
  • I have never visited the store, but I’ve got the book, and it’s wonderful! Those pictures are gorgeous, Keiko, like always.

    Posted by Pille Petersoo | 18 December 2008 #
  • love to read you again!

    Posted by sooishi | 18 December 2008 #
  • you always take such beautiful photos! thank you for sharing your talents and discoveries to the world. i only hope to be as good a photographer as you!

    happy holidays! :)

    Posted by aby | 19 December 2008 #
  • Beautiful shots and of course another great place to visit in London…I must return soon to enjoy all its pleasures.

    Have a wonderful holiday!

    Posted by Eleanor van Overdijk | 21 December 2008 #
  • Oh I love all of these photos – I’d like to invite you to visit, I think it is right up your street!!!

    Posted by Emily Snapper | 22 December 2008 #
  • Yaay great to read another post from u and beautiful pics as usual ! I remember being most impressed by the shop window of ottolenghi’s in islington when I visited london last year. Did’nt have a chance to try out their stuff so they are on my list for the next trip across the channel take care and continue your beautiful work

    Posted by liz | 23 December 2008 #
  • Dear Keiko,

    Ottolenghi was one of the great places in London for bread, recommended by Dan Lepard quite some time ago when I asked him, and it’s a real shame I haven’t made it to one of their stores just yet. I know they have a plenty more wonderful things to offer other than bread, so this will be among the top of my list of places to go to in London next time I’m over.

    Meanwhile, I hope you get some time off over Christmas to relax and enjoy time with your families and friends, after a utterly busy yet successful year. Hope all is well with you.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, Matthew, and Maya

    C x

    Posted by chika | 23 December 2008 #
  • Amazing photos. Love cheesecake. Merry xmas! x

    Posted by till rolls | 24 December 2008 #
  • こんばんわ。
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Posted by y_and_r_d | 24 December 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko!, just to wish you have a very happy Christmas, with Mathew, Maya and all your beloved ones. I hope you spend very nice and warm days having lovely cakes as the one you have posted and get back soon with beautiful pictures of your Xmas time, if possible!
    Kisses from Pipi, and from me, Nat;-)

    Posted by Nat | 24 December 2008 #
  • Merry Christmas Keiko-san!!!
    The world looks so beautiful through your lens. すばらしいっっ!

    Posted by tamami | 25 December 2008 #
  • I love Ottelonghi too and sometimes go there for buying sourvenir cakes before going up to the North. islington is just around the corner from me so always find it hard to walk pass! Take care Keiko. Sxx

    Posted by kitsch-en | 25 December 2008 #
  • Dear keiko, it has a while. i used to live just a few blocks away from Ottolenghi in Ledbury Road. I used to walk past their shop every day and I since then have become a big fan. i want to wish you a very merry xmas. i would love to meet up in the new year even if just for a cup of tea somewhere.

    Posted by valentina | 26 December 2008 #
  • Just the thought of this cheesecake makes me swoon.
    Happy new Year.

    Posted by Melanie | 28 December 2008 #
  • 明けましておめでとうございます。

    Posted by mop | 1 January 2009 #
  • Hello Keiko,
    Happy New Year to you and family. A new year with new beginning and I wished you good health and properity.

    Thank you for the info of Ottolenghi… will be another addition to my hang out when I cross the channel soon.

    Take care & warmest regards

    Posted by pixen | 1 January 2009 #
  • 明けましておめでとう御座います。そして、初めまして。


    Posted by ila | 3 January 2009 #
  • ケイコさん、あけましておめでとうございます!
    Ottolenghiや Petersham Nurseries は私も是非訪れたいお店。

    お友達の Barbaraさんを始め、世界中の人々が健やかで明るく穏やかな日々を

    Posted by Lee | 3 January 2009 #
  • Keikoさんお久しぶりです!あけましておめでとうございます。
    しばらくのあいだに素敵なportfolio siteもあって、癒されてしまいました。



    Posted by yuki | 4 January 2009 #
  • I’ll certainly try this recipe, looks wonderful

    Posted by sema | 6 January 2009 #
  • hello Keiko


    wishing you a happy 2009 and may this year bring you a lot of happiness.

    i have started a new blog, link as embedded on my name. you are very welcome to visit :)

    warmest regards

    Posted by shereen | 6 January 2009 #
  • dearest keiko, a very belated merry christmas and happy new year to you! what an absolutely inspirational and beautiful post, as always! my 2009 resolution was to buy less books – there is simply no more storage space left here! – but faced with all your fantastic recommendations, i fail to see how i am going to resist temptation ;-)

    Posted by Joycelyn | 8 January 2009 #
  • はじめまして、keikoさん。

    Japanese blogが更新されなくて残念ですが、


    Posted by Dimartino | 9 January 2009 #
  • Oh Keiko, I’m so glad you love Ottolenghi too – I’ve posted two of his recipes (so far!) and am totally smitten. Do yourself a favour and try the cranberry & pear upside down cake soon – I don’t think it’s in the book but it’s on my blog :) stunning photos as always and all the best for 2009!

    Posted by Jeanne | 11 January 2009 #
  • Just wanted to stop by to wish you a very belated Happy New Year. I wish you all the best, even better than the best as already been for you :)

    Posted by Tartelette | 19 January 2009 #
  • Happy belated New Year, and early Lunar New Year, Keiko. Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing and photography. We have always greatly admired your photography, and as our eyes become more trained, the greater the respect we gain for you. Absolutely beautiful. I’m going to have to improve my smattering of Japanese so that I might be able to read your Japanese blog as well. Until then, we shall just have to enjoy the photos. Wishing you the best in the upcoming year. T & D.

    Posted by White on Rice Couple | 21 January 2009 #
  • Wow fabulous photos and so fantastic that you got to meet Yotam. I just blogged about Ottolenghi the Cookbook as my cook book of the year. Have you tried the Fresh Berry Tartlets? They are sensational.

    Posted by Gourmet Chick | 21 January 2009 #
  • Hi Keiko, I just went to Ottolenghi’s today for brunch. It was delicious and every bit as wonderful as I imagined with their selection of fresh salads and amazing pastries.
    Had the macadamia and caramel cheesecake. Wow!

    Posted by Jen | 7 March 2009 #
  • Love your work. Been a fan for awhile. Is most of your work natural lighting, or do you use strobes?

    Posted by David McCarty | 15 March 2009 #
  • Hi everyone, thank you so much for all your kind notes and I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.

    Tommy – I totally agree with you about QC :)

    Victoria – glad you’re enjoying the book. I hope you can visit Turkey again some time.

    Barbara – I seem to love any cookbooks from Australia ;) They are gorgeous.

    Joyce-san – please come visit anytime ;)

    Azu-san – すっかりご無沙汰していますが、元気でいますように。

    Misuzu-san – I’m really looking forward to seeing you again, hope all is well. xx

    Cocopuff-san – いつもありがとうございます。cocopuffさんのお友達も早く元気になられますように。

    Chika – did you manage to go there this time? I love Dan’s recipes too, he is so talented.

    y_and_r_d-san – これからもルウちゃんの素敵な写真で癒してくださいね。

    Nat – love to kitties!

    Mop-san – また近いうちにお会いできるのを楽しみにしています。

    Yuki-san – 今度は日本でお会いしましょう!

    Jeanne, Gourmet Chick – look forward to trying those recipes too!

    Jen – maybe we can meet there for brunch ;)

    David – I mostly use natural light :)

    Posted by keiko | 27 April 2009 #
  • Hi Keiko
    Not a cook book, but I enjoyed Simon Majumdar’s Eat my Globe this year (2009). Rohan Daft’s Menu del Dia was charming to read and the recipes perfectly simple. Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook was just lovely.

    Posted by Matty | 15 December 2009 #
  • Your pictures are great and I just can’t stop clicking around on your web page. Adorable.

    Posted by Linn @ Swedish Home Cooking | 29 March 2010 #
  • Hello Keiko,
    It is such a pleasure reading your posts and discovering new things. Your site is elegant and the recipes are easy to follow. Thank you

    Posted by BB | 15 June 2010 #
  • I’d been dying to try the cheesecake, but kept eating the Hobnobs. This time, I raced home from London and went for it. I used your help in making the cake (see my new blog) and am so glad to discover you! Thanks!

    Posted by Good Thyme Girl (Carel) | 11 August 2011 #
  • Hi Keiko

    I am making this cake for a dinner party tomorrow and cannot wait. I’m slightly nervous about burning the nuts though.

    This is one of my favourite cakes and always order when I go to Ottolenghi.

    Sarah x

    Posted by Sarah Kemp | 11 November 2011 #

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