Yotam Ottolenghi keeps it Simple

This slow-cooked chicken is freezer-friendly (simply add the crust on top).
This slow-cooked chicken is freezer-friendly (simply add the crust on top). Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

These recipes will be available online until October 11.

A reviewer's copy of Yotam Ottolenghi's latest cookbook, Simple, alighted on the Good Food desk six weeks ago. I greedily grabbed it and took it home to see if the bold premise was remotely true. Simple? Could the man who forced legions to stock sumac, dried barberries and zaatar next to the Vegemite in the pantry really crack the midweek meal market? In a word, yes.

Many of the recipes have fewer than 10 ingredients, can be made ahead and frozen and can be concocted in less than 30 minutes. All are elevated by the Ottolenghi twist – the addition of an unexpected ingredient or three – that lifts the dish from pedestrian to pedestal-worthy.

Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi.
Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi. 

Sure, you need a plentiful supply of herbs and spices but after that what you need most is a big table to pile all these wonderful dishes on.

Ardyn Bernoth

Slow-cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust

This is a wonderful meal on an autumn day, served with a crisp green salad. The slow-cooked chicken is packed full of flavour and the crust – gluten-free, rich and corny – makes for a welcome (and lighter) change to a heavier mash.

Yotam Ottolenghi.
Yotam Ottolenghi. Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

You can make the chicken well in advance if you want to get ahead: it keeps in the fridge for up to three days or can be frozen for a month. You want it to go into the oven defrosted, though, so it will need thawing out of the freezer.

The batter needs to be made fresh and spooned on top of the chicken just before the dish gets baked, but it then can just go back in the oven. It can also be baked a few hours in advance – just warm through for 10 minutes, covered in foil, before serving.

I love the combination of the chicken and the corn, but the chicken also works well as it is, served on top of rice, in a wrap or with a buttery jacket potato.

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INGREDIENTS

3 tbsp olive oil

3 red onions, thinly sliced (500g)

Slow-cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust.
Slow-cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust. 

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tbsp rose harissa*

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

850g chicken thighs, skinless and boneless (about 9-10 thighs)

200ml passata

5 large tomatoes, quartered (400g)

200g jarred roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 2cm thick rounds

15g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)

20g coriander leaves, roughly chopped

salt and black pepper

Sweetcorn batter

70g unsalted butter, melted

500g corn kernels, fresh or frozen and defrosted (shaved corn kernels from 4 large corn cobs, if starting from fresh)

3 tbsp whole milk

3 eggs, yolks and whites separated

METHOD

1. Heat the oil in a large saute pan, for which you have a lid,on a medium high heat. Add the onions and fry for 8-9 minutes, stirring a few times, until caramelised and soft. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, harissa, paprika, chicken, one teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently, then add the passata and tomatoes. Pour over 350ml of water, bring to the boil, then simmer on a medium heat, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while.

2. Add the peppers and chocolate and continue to simmer for another 35-40 minutes, with the pan now uncovered, stirring frequently, until the sauce is getting thick and the chicken is falling apart. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander. If you are serving the chicken as it is (as a stew without the batter), it's ready to serve (or freeze, once it's come to room temperature) at this stage. If you are making the corn topping, spoon the chicken into a ceramic baking dish – one with high sides that measures about 20cm x 30cm – and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced).

4. Pour the butter into a blender with the corn, milk, egg yolks and ¾ teaspoon salt. Blitz for a few seconds, to form a rough paste, then spoon into a large bowl. Place the egg whites in a separate clean bowl and whisk to form firm peaks. Fold these gently into the runny corn mixture until just combined, then pour the mix evenly over the chicken.

5. Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden-brown: keep an eye on it after 25 minutes to make sure the top is not taking on too much colour: you might need to cover it with tin foil for the final 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

*Rose harissa is a key ingredient in North African cooking. It is made from chilli peppers, more than 40 herbs and spices, rose petals and garlic. It is available in specialist grocers.

Hot charred cherry tomatoes with cold yoghurt. From Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi, published by Ebury Press, RRP $49.99.

Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Hot charred cherry tomatoes with cold yoghurt

One of the beauties of this dish lies in the exciting contrast between the hot, juicy tomatoes and fridge-cold yoghurt, so make sure the tomatoes are straight out of the oven and the yoghurt is straight out of the fridge.

The heat of the tomatoes will make the cold yoghurt melt, invitingly, so plenty of crusty sourdough or focaccia to mop it all up with is a must alongside.

INGREDIENTS

350g cherry tomatoes

3 tbsp olive oil

¾ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp light brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

3 thyme sprigs

5g fresh oregano (3 sprigs left whole and the rest picked, to serve)

1 lemon (finely shave the skin of half to get 3 strips and finely grate the other half to get 1 tsp zest)

350g extra thick Greek-style yoghurt, fridge-cold

1 tsp Urfa chilli flakes* (or ½ tsp regular chilli flakes)

flaked sea salt and black pepper

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan-forced).

2. Place the tomatoes in a mixing bowl with the olive oil, cumin seeds, sugar, garlic, thyme, oregano sprigs, lemon strips, ½ teaspoon of flaked salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix to combine, then transfer to a baking tray just large enough to fit all the tomatoes together snugly. Roast for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are beginning to blister and the liquid is bubbling. Turn the oven to the grill setting and grill for 6-8 minutes, until the tomatoes start to blacken on top.

3. While the tomatoes are roasting, combine the yoghurt with the grated lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon of flaked salt. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

4. Once the tomatoes are ready, spread the chilled yoghurt on a platter (with a lip) or in a wide, shallow bowl, creating a dip in it with the back of a spoon. Spoon over the hot tomatoes, along with their juices, lemon skin, garlic and herbs, and finish with the picked oregano and chilli flakes. Serve at once, with some bread.

Serves 4 as a starter or mezze

*Grown in Turkey, Urfa chilli, otherwise known as Aleppo pepper, has a sweet fruity flavour and mild chilli heat. It is available at specialist grocers.

Vanilla custard with roasted strawberries and rhubarb. From Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi, published by Ebury Press, RRP $49.99. Single use only

Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Vanilla custard with roasted strawberries and rhubarb

The custard and fruit mixtures can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to assemble. Serve this with some shortbread alongside, if you're looking for crunch.

INGREDIENTS

200g rhubarb, cut into 3cm chunks

200g strawberries, hulled and halved lengthways

90g castor sugar

Custard

4 large egg yolks

1 tsp cornflour

60g castor sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

600ml double cream

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 220 (200C fan-forced).

2. Mix the rhubarb and strawberries with the sugar and arrange in a medium ovenproof dish: you want the fruit to fit snugly. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until the fruit has softened but still retains its shape and the sugar has melted. Don't worry if there is a tiny amount of sugar that hasn't melted: just give the fruit a gentle stir and the sugar will dissolve. Set aside to cool.

3. Lower the oven temperature to 190 (170C fan-forced).

4. For the custard, place the egg yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually pour in the double cream and whisk until combined. Pour the custard into a 25cm round, high-sided ovenproof dish. Place the dish inside a larger ovenproof dish and fill the larger dish with boiling water so it rises about 1cm up the sides. Bake for 25 minutes, until the custard has set and is starting to brown on top. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, then transfer to the fridge to chill.

5. Once chilled, spoon half the fruit and juice on top and serve with the remaining fruit and juice alongside.

Serves 8-10

Recipes adapted from Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi, published by Ebury Press, RRP $49.99.