Fans of Ottolenghi (and I am one) will be thrilled to discover that there is a new cookbook to explore from Nopi, their central London restaurant. The book has been co-authored by Yotam Ottolenghi and Nopi head chef Ramael Scully. I popped by to have brunch with them and chat about their book before I left to explore Canada a couple of weeks ago.
The first thing you notice when you chat to Ramael is just how enthusiastic he is about cooking. He loves it and has lots of little projects on the go in the Nopi kitchen. I tasted some fermented rice that he was playing with (and that was good, very interesting & complex flavour!), and chatted to him about his culinary influences. The food at Nopi is a little different to the food at their other restaurants, steered by Ramael’s cultural influences which include his Malaysian heritage. He is also clearly inspired by other Asian cuisines, the food and recipes that result are joyful and very interesting.
I cooked the Sweet Potato Pancakes with Date Molasses from the Nopi cookbook at home, with a cheeky substitution of cream cheese for yogurt as that was what my fridge offered up that day. I would recommend it, the sharpness of the cream cheese was wonderful with the date molasses and sweet potato pancakes. I also highly recommend the Black Rice with Coconut Milk, Banana & Mango and the Courgette and Manouri Fritters with Cardamom Yogurt (both of which I have had in Nopi but I have yet to cook at home.
Date molasses? A syrup that is made from pure date juice, wonderful, unctuous and thick. I am lucky that I can get it locally, but you can buy it online from Ottolenghi too (they deliver worldwide). Or, substitute maple syrup or honey.
Recipe: Nopi’s Sweet Potato Pancakes with Date Molasses
from NOPI: The Cookbook
2 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled (about 700g)
200g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grated nutmeg (do this fresh – it makes a huge difference)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
150ml full fat milk
50g unsalted butter, melted (plus 80g extra cut into dice for frying)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp runny honey
coarse sea salt
160g Greek yogurt (or cream cheese if feeling indulgent)
60g date syrup
1 tsp icing sugar, for dusting (optional: I didn’t include this but it is in the original recipe)
Preheat your oven to 240 deg C (220 deg fan oven).
Place the sweet potatoes on a parchment lined baking tray and roast for an hour until completely soft and browned. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, and peel. Discard the skin and place the flesh in the middle of a clean piece of muslin or j-cloth. Draw up the sides, roll into a ball and squeeze out any liquid that is released from the flesh. The drained weight of the sweet potato should be about 320g. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 deg C (160 deg fan).
Mix together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon in a medium bowl with 1.5 teaspoons of salt. Place the egg yolks, milk, melted butter, vanilla and honey in a separate bowl and whisk well to combine. Fold into the dry ingredients and stir to combine before adding the sweet potato flesh. Whisk well until completely smooth. You can make the pancakes a day in advance up to this stage.
Place the egg whites in a separate bowl and whisk until stiff, this should take 3-4 minutes if whisking by hand or 1-2 minutes if using an electric whisk. Gently fold into the sweet potato mix and set aside.
When ready to serve put 20g of the diced butter into a large frying pan and place on a medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, ladle about a heaped tablespoon of pancake mix into the pan. You should be able to cook 3 pancakes at a time. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning once half way through once the edges of the pancake are brown and the mixture starts to bubble in the middle. The pancakes are quite soft, so be careful as you turn them over. Transfer to a parchment lined tray and set aside while you continue with the remaining mixture, wiping the pan clean before adding 20g butter with each new batch. You should make 12 pancakes. Transfer to the oven for 5 minutes to warm everything through.
To serve place 3 pancakes in the middle of each plate (or create a ridiculous tower as I did ;) ), and spoon the yogurt (or cream cheese) on top. Drizzle with the date syrup, dust with icing sugar (if using), and serve.