Tag Archives: capers

Book Review: Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi


This is the second ‘vegetables first’ cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi. For those of us who have his first book, Plenty, this is more of the same. It is a lushly photographed celebration of vegetables, fruits, funghi, grains and pulses. You cannot read this book without realising that this is a man who loves vegetables and knows how to put them together to make a multi-flavoured, multi-textured dish. Ottolenghi gets accused of using a lot of ingredients, most of them difficult to get hold of. The last one isn’t that true – you can get most of the ingredients in one of the big, main supermarkets. As for a lot of ingredients, well, you can’t get layers of flavour and texture without them. This is not a book to reach for when you want to throw something together after a long day at work, but if you have the time to spare this book will give you something special to eat at the end of the process.

It does have its eccentricities, though. It is divided into sections by cooking method, so you get Tossed, Steamed, Blanched, Simmered, Braised, Grilled, Roasted, Fried, Mashed, Cracked, Baked and Sweetened as chapters. Now, it might just be me, but I don’t normally wander into the kitchen when I’m hungry and think ‘Hmm, I fancy something blanched today!’ There is an index, but no glossary of ingredients. Sometimes Ottolenghi explains the more unusual ingredients at the start of the recipe or in the ingredients list, but sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he suggests alternatives, but sometimes not. If you don’t know what za’atar, shiso and freekeh are, this book isn’t going to tell you.

I think the Tossed chapter is the most successful. Yes, there are lots of ingredients, but they mostly just need putting in the salad bowl or mixing in the dressing. And there are really interesting dressings that would go well on several different dishes.

My least favourite sections are the Cracked and Baked ones. Mr Ottolenghi says in the introduction that he is not a vegetarian and does not want to be pigeon-holed as a vegetarian writer (the horror!). It really shows in this section, not just because there’s a lot of cheese in these recipes, but because there appears to be no attempt to choose vegetarian cheeses. Parmesan is used a lot, gorgonzola appears, so does roquefort. There’s no help for it, you cannot use any named cheese in this book unless you first check that it’s vegetarian. I spotted 22 recipes using non-vegetarian cheese, there may be others.

This is a bit of mixed bag of a book. It is in turns inspirational, aspirational and infuriating for this vegetarian home cook. Having said that, if more chefs took recipes from this book and put them on menus as the veggie option, I would be a much happier woman.

Title: Plenty More
Author: Yotam Ottolenghi
Publisher: Ebury Press
Year: 2014
Pages: 351
Recipes: 154 (including 49 vegan and 22 non-vegetarian)
Price: £27 (hardback)
ISBN 9780092957155

I was thinking of doing one of the Tossed salads for my recipe tryout, but then I found Ottolenghi had done a recipe for Fava, the greek version of pease pudding. That decided it for this Durham lass! Besides, as in a lot of the traditional recipes in the book, they haven’t been complicated.

fava photo DSCN1711_zps62422255.jpg

3 large onions
300g yellow split peas
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric
100ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp lemon juice
35g capers, roughly chopped
10g chives, finely chopped
salt and white pepper

Chop one of the onions into rough chunks. Add to the split peas, bay leaves and turmeric in a large saucepan.
Add enough water to cover twice the amount of peas.
Bring to the simmer, skim off any scum, cover and let simmer for 60 minutes or until the peas are soft.
Keep an eye on them and add more water if necessary, they should be loose and sloppy like thick porridge at the end.
While the peas are cooking, slice the remaining onions finely and fry in a tablespoon of the oil until they are golden brown. Set aside.
When the peas are cooked, remove the bay leaves, blend the peas with the olive oil, garlic cloves and lemon juice until you have a smooth paste. Add water if the mixture is too stiff.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Stir in half the fried onion.
Serve in a bowl with the rest of the fried onion, capers, chives and add a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe: Summer pasta


My brother Jon and my sister-in-law Maria are both excellent cooks. They’re not vegetarian, but I always get fed well when I go to stay. And one of my brother’s pasta recipes reminded me of summer, so let’s pretend that autumn’s not sneaking up on us rapidly.

First time around, both Jon and I put mushrooms in, as we happened to have some lurking around and outstaying their welcome. Jon adds parsley as well. I made the recipe again and replaced the mushrooms with feta cheese, and the parsley with basil. This one had a lighter, less earthy taste. But you might want to dial back on the capers and/or olives if you don’t like dishes too salty.

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Clove of garlic, crushed

Couple of spring onions, finely chopped

Half a chilli, finely chopped

Handful of small tomatoes, halved

A dozen small black olives, finely chopped

1tsp of capers

Feta cheese

Fresh basil

While the pasta is cooking (penne or fafalle is probably best), sweat the garlic, chilli and spring onions very gently in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, olives and caper, and warm through. Drain the pasta and mix the topping through it. Add plenty of torn basil leaves and ground black pepper. If you’re veggie rather than vegan, it benefits from feta cheese crumbled on the mushroom-free version or some hard pasta cheese (Tesco’s is very good) on the original. Parsley works better than basil on the mushroom dish.

Recipe: Vegetarian Piedmontese Peppers


There was a time in the mid-late 90s when this roasted pepper dish was ubiquitous at British dinner parties. It featured in St Delia’s Summer Collection TV series and book, but I don’t think that’s why it was so popular. It’s because it’s a simple, delicious recipe with great flavours and is very forgiving as a starter. You can prepare it well in advance. If the guests are late an extra ten minutes in the oven will not mar it, or you can take it out and it will taste just as good cold as hot and every temperature in between. It featured in the first dinner party I ever gave.

It’s taken me a while to post this recipe, principally because I needed to find a substitute for the anchovies that pack such an umami punch in the original. I decided to use a mixture of capers and olives a la grecque and they work very well indeed. If you can’t get olives a la grecque then black olives would do, but you’d have to add some salt before cooking.

I don’t normally use extra virgin olive oil in cooking, but this is one time where you want your best ingredients. It’s not one for a low-fat diet, either I’m afraid. I have tried it without the oil and it just doesn’t work.

Piedmontese Peppers photo DSCN1682_zps2fd354cf.jpg

2 red peppers
2 medium tomatoes, skinned and halved
4 olives a la grecque, chopped
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, sliced
8 tsp extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
4 basil leaves

Heat the oven to 180C.
Take each pepper and cut in half lengthwise through the stalk.
Keep the stalk on each half, but scoop out the seeds and white pith.
Put the halved peppers in a shallow roasting tin, cut side up.
Divide the tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and olive oil into four and fill each half pepper.
Sprinkle with black pepper, but no salt if you’re using olives a la grecque
Put in the oven and roast for 45-60 mins, checking after 45 mins to make sure they’re not burning or going dry.
Serve with a basil leaf on each half with the juices poured over.

Serves 2 as a starter with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices

Recipe: Puttanesca Adagio


A while back I made a quick and fresh version of Pasta Puttanesca. At the time I promised that I would post the recipe for the slow version of the sauce later on. Well, it’s a wet and windy winter’s day here, so I think now is the time for a dish with all the gutsy flavours of the mediterranean on a plate.

Make now mistake, there are BIG flavours in this dish. This has been much helped by the genius idea I found on the Guardian website, to replace the anchovy in this recipe with greek style olives – not greek olives, note, but the salted, slightly wizened kind of black olives a la greque. You can find them at delicatessen counters. Their deep saltiness is a perfect replacement for the salty fish.

I’ve set the cooking time at 40 minutes, but that depends on how low your stove’s simmering point is. This is one to keep an eye on. And I’m afraid, a certain amount of stove-top splatter is inevitable. It’s a small price to pay for a delicious sauce like this.

I’ve said this will serve 4, but it really depends on how much sauce you like with your pasta. This is quite strong though, so you probably won’t need as much as you might think.

Puttanesca Adagio photo DSCN1063_zps3a32ebc0.jpg

4 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
500ml passata or (500ml tinned tomatoes and 1 tbsp tomato puree)
8 greek style olives, chopped
2 tbsp capers, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and chilli.
When the garlic starts to brown, add the passata, olives, capers and oregano.
Stir and then let the mixture gently simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
Season with black pepper (you shouldn’t need salt).
Serve over pasta with the fresh basil sprinkled on top.

Serves 4

Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper and Red Onion Salad


You might get to the ingredients list of this recipe and wonder if I’ve mistyped it. I promise you I haven’t. That is 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 2 teaspoons of olive oil. That’s because, when the onions and peppers are roasted together like this, they go incredibly sweet and you need the acidity to cut through that sweetness. I used vinegar here, but the juice of a lemon would be great too.

This is a good recipe for use up any red (or other coloured) peppers that are beginning to go a bit wrinkly in places. Note I haven’t removed the skin. The idea isn’t to roast them to the stage of blackened skin, but just to soften the flesh and toast them a bit.

2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into large pieces
4-6 red onions, peeled and quartered
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp capers, chopped

Pre heat the oven to 220C.

Put the vegetables on a roasting tray, rub with the 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and season well with salt and pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and a little brown round the edges.
In a large bowl, mix the vinegar, olive oil and capers together and season with salt and pepper.
When the vegetables are cooked put them in the bowl with the dressing. Toss in the dressing until all the vegetables are coated.

Serves 2 with some nice green leaves for crunch

Recipe: Watercress, Avocado and Lemon Salad


I haven’t quite got to my second anniversary as a vegetarian. There are times when I still get the odd craving for meat. I’m quite specific about it too, it has to be Marks & Spencers tinned stewing steak. I have worked out that when I get this craving it’s because I’m missing iron in my diet. The best way to get iron in your diet is through green leafy vegetables. As far as I’m concerned you can’t eat too many of them. Another way of increasing your intake of iron is to eat something containing vitamin C at the same time.

Now watercress contains good quantities of iron and vitamin C, but I’ve decided to help it along in this salad with little segments of lemon.If you’ve never segmented a citrus fruit, this video will show you how. As watercress can stand up to some strong flavours, I’ve added sundried tomatoes, capers to the lemon and then some avocado for creamy contrast.

This is a great little salad. The lemon segments don’t overpower it, you just get little bursts of sourness against the iron pepperiness of the watercress and the creaminess of the avocado. If you didn’t want to use watercress then rocket or even flat leaf parsley would work well in this as well.

watercress, avocado, lemon salad photo DSCN0917_zpsf0fd126c.jpg

1 lemon, one half juiced, one half segmented
1/4 tsp mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
1 pack watercress (about 100g)
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp capers
1 avocado, stoned, peeled and chopped

Make up the dressing with the juice of half the lemon, the mustard and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Add the watercress, sundried tomatoes, capers, avocado and lemon segments to a large bowl. Toss them in the dressing.
Serve with crusty bread.

Serves 2 as a light lunch or a side salad

Recipe: Vegetarian Pasta Puttanesca


Pasta Puttanesca is one of those dishes which prompt an ‘Ooooh MATRON’ moment. A puttanesca is a little prostitute. Cue recipes for Tart’s Spaghetti (Delia) and Slut’s Spaghetti (Nigella) or Prostitute Pasta (my inner 12 year old). No one is sure where the name comes from, whether it’s a quick dish to be cooked and eaten between clients or from the hot and gutsy nature of the ingredients. And they are full-flavoured – garlic, chilli, tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies.

There are two methods of making this dish that I’ve found. You can go for slow cooking with tinned tomatoes and let the flavours build as the sauce reduces, or you can go for quick cooking and fresh tastes. As we’ve got the best of the fresh tomatoes now, I decided to go for the quick cook version here. I’ll do the slow recipe when the weather is colder and wetter.

The main problem with making this recipe vegetarian (and vegan actually) is how to replace the anchovies. You can just miss them out entirely, which is a perfectly acceptable solution, but it misses the background depth of flavour that the anchovies give to the dish. A certain welly is missing. I thought long and hard about what to use to replace it. Marmite? Vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce? Mushroom Ketchup? Miso paste? I thought about all of them and ended up discarding them as being alien to the mediterranean flavours of tomatoes, olives and basil. At least, that’s my opinion in the fresh version, I may revisit this for the slow-cook recipe. In the end I went for balsamic vinegar. Now, I’m not going to pretend that it has the same flavour of anchovies, but it does give a background strength of flavour that doesn’t overpower the more delicate version with fresh tomatoes.

A quick note on the tomatoes. These have to be the ripest of tomatoes or you’re wasting your time making a fresh tomato sauce. As far as I’m concerned, if you have to add tomato puree to boost the flavour, you may as well go with tinned tomatoes from the start. A quick tip on preparing the tomatoes as well. If you want to cut down the pain of skinning tomatoes, try grating them. Cut them in half and then use the coarse side of a box grater. This leaves you with the pulp but without the skin. Or you could get with the quick and dirty nature of the dish and just leave the skins on!

pasta puttanesca photo DSCN0894_zps8e56b7bb.jpg

250g pasta (I prefer rigatoni or penne)
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1/3 red chilli, chopped
6 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp capers, chopped
12 black olives, pitted and chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

As soon as you put your pasta on to boil, heat some good olive oil in a small frying pan.
When the oil is hot add the garlic and chilli.
As soon as the garlic starts to brown add the tomatoes, capers, olives and balsamic vinegar.
Stir for a minute on a high heat and then lower the heat and let the sauce simmer and reduce while the pasta cooks.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked and draining, turn the heat off the sauce and stir in the basil.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir thoroughly.
Serve in warmed dishes.

Serves 2