21 May 2010

Some of you may remember that I’ve written about Ottolenghi before. They’ve been running this fabulous place for eight years now, and I still love what they do.

I regularly chat with Yotam, the owner and chef patron, who is always helpful and generous in responding to me bombarding him with dessert questions, where to get special ingredients in London etc. In one of his emails last summer, he told me that he was writing his next book while at his parents’ place in Israel (where he’s originally from). Having been a huge fan of the first Ottolenghi book, you can imagine my anticipation – and it didn’t disappoint me when it finally arrived last month.

Plenty is a collection of vegetarian recipes from his weekend column in The Guardian, The New Vegetarian. The book is beautifully shot by Jonathan Lovekin (who also does Nigel Slater‘s books), and Yotam has added many new recipes as well as revising all the Guardian ones.

As he confesses in the book, he wasn’t so sure about writing a vegetarian column – primarily because he is not vegetarian. But as he says, Ottolenghi has become famous for what they have done with vegetables and grains; for the freshness and originality of their salads, which is what I like most about them too. I’m not vegetarian either, but the recipes are substantial and throughout the book, you can see his bold, fresh approach to the ingredients. (I must say I was a little sad that it doesn’t have any dessert recipes, but I’m sure he will make up for it in his next book :))

A while ago Yotam had asked me to photograph the restaurant – so I went to see him at their Notting Hill branch (their first and still my favourite) last month. As always, the shop was filled with the aroma of freshly prepared food, and the hustle and bustle of both staff and customers coming and going. We enjoyed lunch together – catching up about his exciting new projects, his recent trips to Japan and Australia – which he seems to have enjoyed very much – and his love of pilates, among many other things.

Yotam kindly gave me a couple of recipes that didn’t make into the book – one of them I’m sharing here is polenta balls with rocket salsa. He said he likes polenta so much that he’s written too many polenta recipes to fit in the book :)

I’m not a big feta cheese fan normally, but it was quite subtle and well balanced by Kalamata olives and the rocket salsa on the side. Perfect for a canape or starter. The recipe suggests shallow-frying them, but I deep-fried in vegetable oil which works as well.

There are many other recipes that I love in the book, but this soba noodle salad is becoming more in demand as the weather is getting summery here in the UK. I’m a total noodle fiend (apparently so is Yotam) and having tried many of his soba recipes, this is one of my favourites. I wasn’t so sure about mixing aubergine and mango with soba at first, but it works and it’s lovely :)

Polenta balls with rocket salsa

Serves 4–6 as a starter

For the polenta balls
600ml water
140g quick polenta
20g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
50g Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
4 tbsp finely chopped chives
80g feta, crumbled
2 egg whites
100g panko breadcrumbs (I blitzed old sourdough in the processor)
vegetable oil for frying
salt and black pepper

For the salsa
40g rocket, plus extra to finish
40g parsley
2 tbsp lemon juice
90ml olive oil
2 tsp water
1 garlic clove, crushed

Bring the water to the boil in a medium pot, adding a pinch of salt. Gradually pour in the polenta while stirring with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat and keep on cooking and stirring for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the butter and olive oil, then the olives, chives and feta. Add salt to taste and lots of freshly ground pepper. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the polenta mixture. Shape into walnut-size balls and toss in breadcrumbs to coat all over. Chill to firm up.

To make the salsa, blitz together all the ingredients in a blender until thoroughly smooth.

When ready to serve, heat up some vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan. Shallow-fry the polenta balls, turning gently to brown all sides. Remove to kitchen paper to drain. Serve warm, or at room temperature, on some rocket leaves with the salsa on the side.

Soba noodles with aubergine and mango

Serves 6

120ml rice vinegar (I use Japanese black vinegar which is milder)
40g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
220ml vegetable oil
2 aubergines, cut into 2cm dice
250g soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into 1cm dice or into 5mm thick strips
40g basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some use Thai basil, but much less of it)
40g coriander leaves, chopped
1/2 red onion, very finely sliced

First make the dressing. In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chilli and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the vegetable oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the aubergine in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5-8 minutes to become tender but still retaining a bite. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a tea towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1-2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Food - Savoury    Books    51 comments    Permalink

  • I must be the only person who hasn’t been to Ottolenghi – I must correct that next time I am in the UK. The photos are STUNNING, as usual

    Posted by Kitchen Butterfly | 21 May 2010 #
  • delicious! i really need to get round to purchasing plenty!!!

    Posted by jessica | 21 May 2010 #
  • Dear Keiko-san
    I’ve been looking at your photos quite long time, here I post a message first time.
    I always got strange felling, when I look at your photography.How can you put your sprits or passion or love into their photography so much?. I can see plenty of your love in your photos, it makes me speechless and warming my heart.
    Thank you very much.

    Posted by kana | 21 May 2010 #
  • Your photos are stunning whether they are photos of food or anything else. I still have a new Ottolenghi cookbook on my list. I hope to get my hands on it soon! In the meantime I’ll definitely give a try to both of those recipe. The polenta balls sound very intriguing.

    Posted by Sarka | 21 May 2010 #
  • I love the first book, and am looking forward to their sweets book, too!
    Great pics. I need to visit this place when I’m in London next.

    Posted by Maninas | 21 May 2010 #
  • I found Ottolenghi first book very intersting!

    The polenta recipe looks great!

    Posted by maia | 21 May 2010 #
  • A friend just introduced me to your site and I am smitten. :) Your clear, stunning pictures are like a breath of fresh air, so light and bright.

    Posted by Krista | 21 May 2010 #
  • I’ve bought the first book last week… It’s so nice, I want to try all the recipes. If the second one is interesting too, I have to buy it… And your photos… Wowwww! I love!!!

    Posted by Dominique | 21 May 2010 #
  • WOW – fantastic photography as usual. Love the bright clean feel to the photos. You are so lucky to live in London with this place near by.

    Posted by matt | 21 May 2010 #
  • Gorgeous photography as usual, wish I lived close enough to check out this beautiful restaurant!

    Posted by Danielle | 21 May 2010 #
  • I recently visited their Islington/Upper Street store and bought some cakes. They were soooo delicious and not too sweet. I’m definitely going to go again to try their savoury dishes – they looked so moreish!

    Posted by Sakura | 21 May 2010 #
  • Your new post made my day! I was so happy to find out that you posted a new entry! I even read all the comments you’ve received. :) As always your photos are stunning and I can feel the warmth of your personality throughout the post. The reason I started my blog several months ago is you and your blog and you have never ceased to inspire me! I have many vegetarian friends, so I will introduce Ottolenghi cook books to them. I love vegetables, so I will definitely have to check them out as well. Have a great weekend!

    Posted by Kaho | 21 May 2010 #
  • Keiko-san
    Thank you for the wonderful post. Beautiful images and I can’t wait to take a peek inside Plenty. I wish I could transport myself to Ottolenghi for a taste!

    Posted by Yumi @ Natsukashii | 21 May 2010 #
  • Wow! Great pictures! Unfortunately we don’t know Ottolenghi in Italy, but I’ve heard about him and his restaurant some times thanks to food bloggers. Now that I can see your/his photos and recipes I hope to get to London soon :) ciao

    Posted by Alelunetta | 22 May 2010 #
  • Wonderful post and photos! love the recipes

    Posted by Rowaida Flayhan | 22 May 2010 #
  • Beautiful photos Keiko. I bought myself a copy of Plenty and love it. I made two recipes in the first two days. I’ve also sent a copy to a friend for her birthday.
    Another friend left this week on a trip to Europe and is dining at Ottolenghi while in the UK. I’m so looking forward to hearing all about it.

    Posted by barbara | 22 May 2010 #
  • Your photos really do Ottolenghi justice – I love it (especially the fist sized meringues!)

    We sell Plenty at our bookshop and I love enthusing about it when a customer picks it up.

    Posted by Ali | 22 May 2010 #
  • wow…such amazing pictures!!! makes me want to travel!

    Posted by Gardenpig | 23 May 2010 #
  • Lovely post Keiko, like you I’ve long been a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s style of cooking and I completely agree that there’s something wonderful – as a non-vegetarian – about going into his shops or using the recipes from both the Ottolenghi book and Plenty, and not feeling deprived at all.

    p.s. brilliant photos, can see why he asked you to take a few for him ;-)

    Posted by scandilicious | 23 May 2010 #
  • I like a lot this noodle salad: an original mix aubergine and mango. I’ll try it soon.

    Posted by Vanille | 23 May 2010 #
  • Amazing pictures… refreshing and wonderful. I’m a HUGE fan of the Ottolenghi’s and their first book is my all time fave on the shelf. ‘Plenty’ is on my wish-list! This is a gorgeous post Keiko!

    Posted by deeba | 23 May 2010 #
  • This shop looks as if the gallery. Beautiful light is always reflected in your photograph.

    Posted by y_and_r_d | 24 May 2010 #
  • Hello Keiko,
    I am Laura, writing for Italy: I found your beautiful blog via Il Cavoletto di Bruxelles. Just wanted to say that your photos are stunning, really!!!!

    Posted by Lilja | 24 May 2010 #
  • Wow this looks like one stunning and delicious place to go for lunch. I often read the recipes in the newspaper but have yet to visit the shop as I don’t get to London often. Looks fab

    Posted by Katie | 24 May 2010 #
  • I just ordered the book from the UK as it’s not available in the US yet (only imported). Can’t wait to receive it and cook from it. Your photos are as lovely as ever Keiko. How lucky to be able to go there often!

    Posted by Cannelle Et Vanille | 25 May 2010 #
  • Your photos always takes me to my happy place.

    Posted by Oishii Eats | 25 May 2010 #
  • Never have vegetables looked more sexy!! It’s all so vibrant and colourful. I’m defo going to have to go and check out the Notting Hill branch as it’s not too far from me.
    My friend was singing the praises of Yotam’s first book, and how she’s pretty much cooked everything in it again and again. Hi praise indeed. I reckon that and your beautiful pictures and words have twisted my arm to order a copy of Plenty :)

    Posted by Katie | 25 May 2010 #
  • I love Ottolenghi.The new book is just fab! Try the butternut squash with lime and chilli. really evokes the interesting flavours they are famous for. Yotam is a real genius. love it!
    Please tell him to open one in Suffolk!

    Posted by isobel mcgovern | 26 May 2010 #
  • Hey Keiko am back here in Europe. Wont be long I make my way back to UK again why not at this place?

    Posted by shalimar | 27 May 2010 #
  • Dear Keiko,

    I have been a great follower of yours for many years. I absolutely love your pictures and reading your blog really takes me into your world :)

    I would like to send you some of my teas for you to taste and comment on. Would it be possible for you to email me a postal address where I can send this to you (no need for you to post this onto the blog). We also produce Mulberry tea powder with gives out bright green colour. I see that you like to use Matcha powder in your baking so perhaps you can give this a try.

    Our Mulberry tea is very unique which has many health benefits without any caffeine. I am sure you will be delighted to try this.

    Thank you for giving us such a wonderful website to set our eyes on ;)

    Posted by Premjit | 27 May 2010 #
  • I like this. High end take out. It the style fill your own box or you just select and the staff fill sit up for you? Is it easy to maintain freshness for a take out store?

    Love to see something like this in Melbourne.

    Posted by Tzu-yen | 27 May 2010 #
  • Hi Keiko san!

    O Hi Sa Shi Bu Ri De Su!!
    Love your photos! Again it is breath taking!

    Thank you for your inspiration, and sharing with us such a beautiful article!!

    BTW, I went to the Joan’s on Third today. I thought about you… :-D

    Posted by junko | 29 May 2010 #
  • Dear Keiko,
    I plan to stop into as many Ottolenghis as I can if not daily for the 10 days I’m in London. THIS is so my kind of food. I’ve been away too long from Nordjus and London!
    Can I invite you to a private view at the Chelsea Arts Club Tuesday June 8th 6-8
    I’m having a little exhibit there..
    Please email me if you make it.
    It would be nice to meet you at last..
    All the best,

    Posted by ParisBreakfasts | 30 May 2010 #
  • oh wow. Why oh why do we not have something like this in Cape Town! Maybe that should be my next project?

    Posted by Forage | 2 June 2010 #
  • Amazing pictures….and this polenta balls…oh my god, i want some!

    Posted by Médaille Gourmande | 3 June 2010 #
  • I’ve been very curious about Ottolenghi lately as I’ve heard of his wonderful cookbook and place. Thanks for a great post.

    Posted by Nisrine@Dinners & Dreams | 5 June 2010 #
  • These photos are beautiful! I’m planning on buying his cookbook after seeing all the pictures. what lenses do you use?

    Posted by austin | 5 June 2010 #
  • Just discovered your blog on a ‘Top 50 Food Blogs’ list and I can definitely see why.

    Gorgeous photos (particularly your Japanese blog) and interesting posts. Will be checking back often – your blog makes me want to eat (although at my present weight, that may not be a good thing, LOL)

    Posted by Michelle@TastyThailand | 6 June 2010 #
  • a friend accidentally ordered two copies of the book so i managed to get my hands on one this week :D i tried the recipe for baked pumpkin with parmesan crumbs but added my own touch with a little butter, cumin, nutmeg and kale. it was surprisingly crisp and crunchy and oh so wonderful with a dollop of european yoghurt! i can’t wait for the next book! hint hint :P*

    Posted by cathy x. | 6 June 2010 #
  • I’ve been wanting the first Ottolenghi cookbook, and now there’s a second one! How exciting.

    Posted by Indie.tea | 9 June 2010 #
  • Keiko – love your photos, your story, this place Gros bisous

    Posted by Alisa Morov | 9 June 2010 #
  • I’ve loved your site for years, thank you. Once again a lovely glimpse into a place I hope to visit.

    Posted by Donna | 10 June 2010 #
  • Ottolenghi- I will have to remember this. I wonder if the new cookbook will make it to Singapore soon. My sister is a vegetarian but I cringe at the way she cooks.In an attempt to eat healthy,she almost doesn’t give regard to the taste of food… A good vegetarian cookbook would be enlightening.

    Posted by shirley@kokken69 | 12 June 2010 #
  • UGH! I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!! =) It makes me happy. haha. Your photos are out of this world!

    Posted by boody | 14 June 2010 #
  • Thank you! I just received my cookbook today (I bought it from, and the first impression is that it´s the most fabulous vegetarian cookbook I´ve ever seen. So clean and fresh. Can´t wait to try out the recipes!

    Posted by lee | 15 June 2010 #
  • I have just found your wonderful blog – the photo’s are beautiful!
    I live in Australia so have never had the chance to eat at Ottolenghi, but am a huge fan ever since I bought the first book. I just got “Plenty” this week and am every bit in love with it as I am with the first.

    Posted by Amanda | 16 June 2010 #
  • MMmmm, yes, just received Plenty in the post, highly anticipated, ahead of US release. So good, every last thing, the pitch of flavors as spot on as your photos. Lovely.

    Posted by molly | 16 June 2010 #
  • Hi Keiko… Here I am again to give you praises not just on your blog, recipes, experiences but also with your photos. I often wonder how you capture that mood and feel. Seem hazy, relaxing, breezing, sophisticated and zen. I dunno how you achieve that. I have this funny conclusion that maybe the lighting and the weather in England is way way different from Asia. :p

    Posted by The Artist Chef | 23 June 2010 #
  • Oh Keiko – lovley!! I am embarrassed to say I have STILL not been to Ottolenghi, but I have cooked from his cookbook and the recipes are heavenly. It’s alwas hard to take photos on location but you do such a fantastic job :)

    Posted by Jeanne @ CookSister! | 8 July 2010 #
  • i love your photographs!!

    Posted by Yue Edwards | 6 September 2010 #
  • Love yr. blog & yr.foto very very….much ^^

    Posted by siB | 26 October 2010 #

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