Two vegetarian recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi's latest book, Flavour

Super-soft zucchini with harissa and lemon.
Super-soft zucchini with harissa and lemon. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Despite having championed vegetables for the past decade, Yotam Ottolenghi confesses that even he wondered how many more ways there were to roast a cauliflower, slice a tomato, squeeze a lemon or fry an eggplant. But in penning Flavour, Ottolenghi's third veg-forward cookbook alongside Plenty and Plenty More, he's discovered the answer is that there are many.

Co-written with his test kitchen colleague Ixta Belfrage, a former design student who has lived in Italy, Mexico, Brazil, France and Australia, Flavour is built on the ideas of process, pairing and produce – understanding what makes vegetables distinct, and devising ways to cook them and layer flavours to powerful effect.

Super-soft zucchini with harissa and lemon

Zucchini aren't strictly speaking controversial, but they do tend to get a pretty lukewarm reaction from many, including, regrettably, two of our test kitchen colleagues. The reason for this is probably zucchini's high water content, which tends to make them, well, watery. There are plenty of ways to combat this – frying and grilling are two examples – but we actually use it to our advantage here, cooking the zucchini slowly in their own juices, making them fantastically soft and enhancing their flavour by a long soak with fried garlic. (And in the process, we also managed to win over our two zucchini-iffy colleagues, we're happy to announce.) The zucchini are very good hot, but are even better after 15 minutes or so, or even at room temperature, once the flavours have had a chance to get to know each other. Make them a day in advance, if you want to get ahead; just hold off on adding the basil until you're ready to serve.

Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage.
Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage. Photo: Ebury Press

INGREDIENTS

  • 85ml olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp rose harissa (adjust according to the brand you are using)
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ preserved lemon, finely chopped, discarding any pips (10g)
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1kg zucchini, finely sliced
  • 10g basil leaves, roughly torn
  • salt

METHOD

Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, authors of Flavour.
Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, authors of Flavour. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin
  1. Place a large, non-stick saute pan on a medium-high heat with the oil and garlic. Gently fry for 4 minutes, stirring often, until soft, golden and aromatic. You don't want the garlic to become at all browned or crispy, so turn the heat down if necessary. Remove 3 tablespoons of oil, along with half the garlic, and transfer to a small bowl with the harissa, chilli, preserved lemon and lemon juice. Stir together and set aside.
  2. Return the pan to a high heat and add the zucchini and 1¼ teaspoons of salt. Cook for 18 minutes, stirring often, until the zucchini are very soft, but are still mostly holding their shape (you don't want the zucchini to brown, so turn the heat down if necessary). Stir through half the basil and transfer to a platter. Spoon the harissa mixture over the zucchini. Leave to sit for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt and finish with the remaining basil.

Serves 4 as a side or mezze

Spicy mushroom lasagne

This lasagne contains an epic ragu recipe, which, we believe, gives any meat ragu a terrifically good run for its money. This particular ragu pays homage to penne all'Aconese, the first dish that Ixta fell madly in love with. It's served at Ristorante Pizzeria Acone, a community-run restaurant in the Tuscan village of Acone, perched at the top of the mountain on which she spent her formative childhood years. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but the complex, earthy and deeply umami flavour of dried porcini mushrooms is impossible to miss. This is our meatless take on that mythical sauce. The ragu can easily be made vegan if you lose the cream. It can also be made ahead and refrigerated, ready to be served with pasta or polenta, saving yourself the trouble of constructing the lasagne if you're short on time. Reduce the black pepper and lose the chilli for a child-friendly version. If you want to get ahead, the lasagne can be assembled, refrigerated and then baked the next day (once it's come back up to room temperature).

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INGREDIENTS

  • 750g chestnut mushrooms*, halved
  • 500g oyster mushrooms
  • 135ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 60g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 30g dried wild mushrooms
  • 2 dried red chillies, roughly chopped (deseeded for less heat)
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and quartered (90g)
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes, quartered (200g)
  • 75g tomato paste
  • 130ml double cream
  • 60g pecorino romano, finely grated
  • 60g parmesan, finely grated
  • 5g basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 10g parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus an extra tsp to serve
  • 250g dried lasagne sheets (about 14 sheets)
  • salt and black pepper

METHOD

Spicy mushroom lasagne.
Spicy mushroom lasagne. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin
  1. Preheat the oven to 230C fan-forced (250C conventional).
  2. Put the chestnut and oyster mushrooms into the large bowl of a food processor in three or four batches and pulse each batch until finely chopped (or finely chop everything by hand). Toss the chopped mushrooms in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and spread out on a large, 40cm x 35cm parchment-lined, rimmed baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes near the top of the oven, stirring three times throughout, until the mushrooms are golden-brown; they will have reduced in volume significantly. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 200C fan-forced (220C conventional).
  3. Meanwhile, combine the dried mushrooms, chillies and hot stock in a large bowl and set aside to soak for half an hour. Strain the liquid into another bowl, squeezing as much liquid from the mushrooms as possible to get about 340ml: if you have any less, top up with water. Very roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms (you want some chunks) and finely chop the chillies. Set the stock and mushrooms aside separately.
  4. Put the onion, garlic and carrot into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped (or finely chop everything by hand). Heat 60ml of oil in a large saute pan or pot on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion mixture and fry for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Pulse the tomatoes in the food processor until finely chopped (or finely chop by hand), then add to the pan along with the tomato paste, 1½ teaspoons of salt and 1¾ teaspoons of freshly cracked black pepper. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and chillies and the roasted mushrooms and cook for 9 minutes, resisting the urge to stir: you want the mushrooms to be slightly crisp and browned on the bottom. Stir in the reserved stock and 800ml of water and, once simmering, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get the consistency of a ragu. Stir in 100ml of the cream and simmer for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  5. Combine both cheeses and both herbs in a small bowl. To assemble the lasagne, spread one-fifth of the sauce in the bottom of a round 28cm baking dish (or a 30cm x 20cm rectangular dish), then top with a fifth of the cheese mixture, followed by a layer of lasagne sheets, broken to fit where necessary. Repeat these layers three more times in that order, and finish with a final layer of sauce and cheese: that's five layers of sauce and cheese and four layers of pasta.
  6. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of cream and 1 tablespoon of oil, then cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 220C fan-forced (240C conventional) and bake for another 12 minutes, turning the dish round halfway. Turn the oven to the grill setting and grill for a final 2 minutes, until the edges are brown and crisp. Set aside to cool for 5 or so minutes, then drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of cream and oil. Sprinkle over the remaining parsley, finish with a good grind of pepper and serve.

Serves 6 as a main

*Note: chestnut mushrooms are a slightly browner strain of the familiar white button mushrooms. If you can't find them use white button mushrooms or Swiss browns.

This is an edited extract from Ottolenghi Flavour, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage. Ebury Press. RRP $55, buy now