We're all full of germs here at the moment. 13yo went to see a friend on Saturday, together with two other friends to do some homework. On Monday morning, after I'd come back from taking 10yo to the bus stop, she'd just got up and complained of a 'funny bubbly tummy'. She didn't look particarly bright, so I kept her home, and later she heard that two of the other girls from Saturday were off school too. In the course of the day my headache that had been threatening for hours, increasingly got worse, and then 10yo complained of feeling sick and stomach-ache. Not entirely sure if it was a reaction to my announcement he was helping me with the washing up, but I had to wake him up this morning (he is usually awake by the time I go downstairs) and his first word was 'headache'. So, now we're all feeling sorry for ourselves, wrapped in blankets on the sofa with endless cups of tea. In fact, that is not such a bad place to be, as it has just started snowing in Suffolk. Again.
For my birthday back in December B. bought me the latest Ottolenghi book. I knew of Ottolenghi as last year we'd given one of his books to B's daughter's boyfriend (still with me? ;-) who's a vegetarian. B. had watched a programme with Yotam Ottolenghi and told me all about it, because B. lived in Israel for a few months in his early twenties. At the same time my dad had happened to give me a newspaper article about Ottolenghi's popularity in Holland, and that article turned out to have been written by a friend of my colleague S. By now I was getting quite curious and the Jerusalem book was on special offer, so I dropped a few not so subtle hints and lo and behold, the book turned up for my birthday! At first I just enjoyed reading through it and admiring the photos, but then when Christmas and all the other December festivities were out of the way, it was time to start trying out some of the recipes.
My first go was falafel. I have vivid memories of eating a falafel as a 12 year old in Amsterdam. My parents bought a few on a day trip there and I thought it'd be like a meatball. Which it isn't at all of course, and I thought it was rather disgusting. But my tastes have grown up along with me and I'd made falafels over the years, but never the proper ones. I thought there was an error in the recipe at first as you're not supposed to cook the chickpeas and I didn't think that would work at all. Oddly enough, I had planned to have them at B's house as he loves them, but the first two times I made them, I couldn't make it to Norfolk and ended up having them on my own. This was my first go:
and they were lovely, but too big according to B. My second go looked very similar and then this was the third try, which were made with B's help:
Not sure about the colours now I see the photos together! (still playing with and learning about the best white balance settings). These were delicious, it helps that in Norfolk I have a very good food processor which really minced the chickpeas up, plus we had lovely tahini sauce and a fantastic salad to go with it. Definitely one to make again, and again, and again.
Next up was braised eggs with lamb, tahini and sumac. Of all meat, lamb is by far my favourite, so this recipe appealed immediately. It seems quite difficult to find sumac in a real life shop so I'm going to have to order it online - Anna recommended a website to me but I'm a bit loathe to spend the same amount on postage as on the spice! It was still very good without the sumac though and I'm looking forward to trying it again with all the proper ingredients:
I also made hummus but that doesn't lend itself all that well for photographing - just a thick paste of beige. Again, I'd made hummus before but not like this. It doesn't really compare to the shop-bought stuff - it's so different.
The last recipe I've tried was the almond and clementine cake. We used to have bags and bags of ground almonds, not sure why! Of course, when you then want it, there isn't any to be found. So I ground up a couple of bags of whole almonds in the coffee grinder... worked quite well, although obviously the result is a slightly coarser flour than you buy in the shop. Because some of the almonds still had skins on, the cake was much darker than it was in the book, but did it taste divine...
The top is a little too dark, but I still regularly burn cakes in the Aga, despite having cooked with it 4 years or so now.
For this weekend, I've put fishcakes in a tomato sauce on the menu. This is the sort of book that is going to get covered in food stains, for sure!