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Behind the Scenes at Ottolenghi and Lunch

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Sami Tamimi of Ottolenghi, cooks us lunch

Some of you are going to hate me now, but here goes.

Yesterday I went for lunch behind the scenes at Ottolenghi. The hub of all Ottolenghi activity, where recipes are developed and a lot of the restaurant items and most of the deli items are made.

Ottolenghi are proud of their sourcing, and this is evident from the food. Each bite has an intensity of flavour and freshness that isn’t delivered unless you take extreme care with your ingredients, and how they are stored. Secret places and people. Every good restaurant has these. They generally don’t share them with us.

Except Ottolenghi does now. In response to readers craving exotic ingredients from the books in order to recreate the food at home, Ottolenghi have now set up an online store, and they deliver all over the world. Ingredients, products, and wine too.

Exciting, eh? And really delicious. Date molasses, sumac, za’atar, rose petals, (proper) rose water, dukkah. Fragrant and delicious. I cook a lot with rose petals (see the rose petal butter in my book among others), dried and fresh, but the dried rose petals that we ate there, were fantastic in their fragrance. I was surprised. At once delighted that I could source them, and disappointed with the ones that I had been using before.

Yotam’s co-author and business partner, Sami, cooked us lunch. A gorgeous meal peppered with stories of Sami’s cooking with his grandmother, and stories making homemade mograbiah and pomegranate molasses in the Palestinian sun.

The food was divine, I will be digging out the recipes and recreating them at home for myself and for friends. Great wines too, an unusually complex and rich prosecco from Casa Coste Piane di Loris Follador, a spicy rich orange wine, Tenuta Grillo from Baccabianca, and a spicy soft fruity red wine, a Nerello Mascalese from Caruso & Minini.

Most of the recipes are from Ottolenghi’s books and Guardian column, and all ingredients are available online. So you can also recreate yourself at home.

Enjoy!

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Sweet potato purée with date syrup and black sesame seeds

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Labneh sprinkled with za’atar

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Dukkah

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Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, fresh from the oven

Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, grilled with dukkah and lemon and served with piccolo pepper, cherry tomato, caper, basil and chopped herb salsa

Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, grilled with dukkah and lemon and served with piccolo pepper, cherry tomato, caper, basil and chopped herb salsa

Roasted chicken with sumac, za'atar and fresh lemon

Roasted chicken with sumac, za’atar and fresh lemon

Muftoul & mograbiah salad with dried Iranian lime, celery, tomatoes & cucumber

Muftoul & mograbiah salad with dried Iranian lime, celery, tomatoes & cucumber

Rose cupcakes

Rose cupcakes

Black glutinous rice pudding, with orange blossom, pineapple, banana, rose and green pistachios. Toast with halva on the side (I was greedy!)

Black glutinous rice pudding, with orange blossom, pineapple, banana, rose and green pistachios. Toast with halva on the side (I was greedy!)

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Those rose petals

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Halva on toast – will be my new favourite breakfast although it will have to fight with the rice pudding

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

34 Comments

  1. Thirded. I have made one of Sami’s recipes which was Couscous, Onion and Tomatoes cooked in a pan until crisp. It was very delicious.

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  2. In my top 3 food Heros, I’m an avid fan, always got my head stuck in their books, don’t hate you, certainly envy your divine experience though. I use the online shop and will be visiting at least one Ottolenghi premises in a couple of months, can’t wait, thanks for the warm up, Tracey

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  3. I’m not jealous, not at all. Pleased for you in fact, very pleased. Honestly, I mean, why would I be jealous? You only met the gods of food and got to taste and talk and explore behind their kitchen door. Not jealous AT ALL.

    Ok, ok, I’m jealous.

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  4. Oh my goodness what a fantastic experience, I am very jealous. Just about to cook my way through ‘Jerusalem’ having had it for Christmas and very excited about being able to source some of the more exotic ingredients easily.

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  5. Ottolenghi food looks wonderful. But why, oh why, is everything in their shops SO expensive. No person who loves food but on a low income could possibly afford it. It’s a real shame.

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    • Hi Marie. If they were cheaper they would have to make compromises and wouldn’t be the same. They use expensive ingredients, they pay their staff properly and rent in really nice areas, so I guess that would be a lot of it. When I first moved to London I used to treat myself to take away lunches and occasional treats. Cakes are under £5 and are affordable that way :) In fact with a friend I went in recently and we each had a cake and a drink (a glass of wine and a beer) and had change from £20.

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  6. oh – i am jealous… and HUNGRY after this post. Thank you for sharing – and thanks to Sami and Yotam for allowing you to share with us!
    I just bought PLENTY – I sure I shall fail spectacularly at trying to reproduce anything, but I’ll give it a shot! I live in Dublin, and Ottolenghi is on the agenda for a first time visit when I am next in London
    Loving your blog and Twitter posts – keep up the good work
    Thank you

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    • Thank you Maria! So lovely to get a comment like this. I would really recommend the first book too – it is one of my favourites. Enjoy!

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  7. You are right! I am so jealous!! such a fiest for the eyes! I can only imagine what my taste buds would saying!!!

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  8. I made a salad of his for Christmas that blew everyone away..spinach leaves chopped dates marinated in lemon juice, toasted pita bread crumbs and almonds tossed with sumac and dried chilies with olive oil and lemon juice dressing. I loved it so much, I made it the next week too. Must make more from his fab new book. Thank you so much>

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  9. Gorgeous photos! And I don’t hate you, but I am incredibly jealous of all that good eating… I’m also so happy to have discovered your lovely blog! :)

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  10. Envy you big time! I saw them speaking and dem-ing at their book launch in Bath which was fabulous. Love the food – I travel to Lebanon a lot so found it fascinating how similar it all is, but yet all the different influences that the Israelis bring to Arab food. Love the blog :)

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  11. Echoing all of the above comments – really jealous!
    I have just been given a signed copy of Jerusalem for my birthday and I can’t stop looking at the amazing pictures. Thanks for the info about the online store – I will be getting involved!
    Rebecca

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  12. What a fabulous experience. I saw Yotam do a demo at Harvest at Jimmy’s a couple of years ago and it was amazing. And I can imagine that the online shop could become an expensive habit!

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  13. Those cupcakes sure do have an ‘acceptable’ amount of topping on them!

    When you say you cook a lot with dried rose petals do you mean something specialist or can a rose you have dried yourself work? Asking because I dried a load from my wedding and would be tempted to use them for something tasty if I could.

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  14. Im so sorry, I hate you too. That looks so wonderful! Have been cooking ottoleghi solidy for the last week or so – I used to work right by the notting hill office and picked up a coffee from there everyday. So much I miss it, I even blogged on it too!
    Laura x

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  15. Just moved to London and have read several good reviews of this place- after seeing your photos it’s definitely on my “must-vist” list! Thanks :)

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  16. Pingback: OTTOLENGHI – N1 2TZ | Food Diaries London

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