Mix master: Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes with spice blends | Food (2024)

Yotam Ottolenghi recipes

Homemade spice blends always beat bought ones. They're also incredibly easy to make, and take next to no time, too

Yotam Ottolenghi

Fri 21 Mar 2014 22.00 CET

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How many of the spices in Chinese five spice can you name? Or in the quatre épices? Would you be able to reach for the right spices to make garam masala or panch phoran? Or baharat, the Arabic spice mix that translates as "spices"? I am never quite certain myself. I mostly blame my patchy memory for that, but also the fact that many of these mixes don't have a definitive list, only versions, each championed by a particular family, restaurant or shop.

That's one reason to buy ready-made blends rather than making your own. Another is to avoid waste: if you can't buy spices in very small quantities, you'll have to put all those half-used jars in the larder, where they'll soon lose their mojo.

Then there's the issue of grinding. Many whole spices – cinnamon, star anise and dried chilli to name only three – just won't process down to a fine powder using pestle and mortar, so you need a spice or coffee grinder, which many people don't have.

In an ideal world, though, I'd want to make my own, in much the same way that I prefer making my own vinaigrette. Mixing and matching to create your own blend is a great way to get to know spices and how they work together; it also ensures freshness. That said, leave it to your mood, means or the equipment and ingredients you have to hand. Garam masala, for instance, is made by whizzing up cinnamon, clove, black pepper, cardamom, coriander and cumin. With panch phoran, you don't need to do even that: just stir together whole fennel, fenugreek, cumin, nigella and mustard seeds. Crushed spice mixes, meanwhile, are best made with a pestle and mortar. Dukkah (the name's from the Arabic verb for "to pound") involves grinding sesame, coriander and cumin seeds, plus chopped hazelnuts and salt and pepper; Ioften add sunflower, fennel and nigella seeds, too. I sprinkle it on everything from leafy salads and roast veg to legume-based spreads and dips. Wet spice mixes, such as today's salsa, are just as easy, and Ican't think of a quicker way to transform everyday cooking. The thing is, for all the bottles and tubes of sriracha and harissa in my fridge, homemade versions are usually far more subtle and better than bought.

Spiced potato and almond koftas

Lemon wedges aside, I also like these with a potent dipping sauce made by blitzing yoghurt with preserved lemon, tahini paste, garlic and fresh herbs. Serves four, as a first course.

450g baking potatoes
30g unsalted butter
10g fresh dill, chopped
15g fresh chives, chopped
10g fresh parsley, chopped
10g fresh coriander, chopped
1 medium green chilli (deseeded if very hot), finely diced
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp smoked paprika
75g feta, broken into rough chunks
½ tsp caster sugar
40g plain flour
1 egg, whisked
90g flaked almonds, chopped
1½ tsp coriander seeds, toasted and gently crushed
¾ tsp cumin seeds
1½ tbsp black sesame seeds (or white, if unavailable)
About 600ml vegetable oil, for frying
1 lemon, quartered, to serve

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Prick the spuds a few times with a fork, put on an oven tray and bake for an hour, until cooked. Leave to cool a little, then peel; discard the skins. Put the potato flesh in a bowl and roughly mash with the butter; it should be lumpy, not smooth, so don't over mash. Gently mix in the fresh herbs, chilli, spices, feta, sugar and half a teaspoon of salt, then form into eight koftas of about 60g each, and lay on an oven tray.

Put the flour in one bowl, the egg in another and the nuts and seeds in a third. One by one, gently roll each kofta in flour, dip it in egg, then roll in the seeds and return to the tray.

Pour enough oil into a small sauté pan to come 4cm up the sides. Put the pan on a medium-high flame and, once the oil is hot, carefully lower in two or three koftas. Fry for about aminute, turning once, so the crust turns golden brown and crisp, and the middle is hot but soft. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and keep somewhere warm while you repeat with with remaining koftas.

Serve two koftas per person, with a wedge of lemon alongside.

Smoky chilli salsa

Serve this versatile salsa over rice or couscous, as a condiment to fried tofu, roast chicken or oily fish, or as a sandwich spread to go with mature cheddar or feta. Don't be alarmed by how long the chillies are on the grill: the skin needs to be totally black and blistered to get the required smoky flavour; your kitchen will also be pretty smoky, even with the extractor on. The salsa keeps in the fridge for several days, and improves over time. Serves four as a condiment.

10 red chillies
10 green chillies
12 large-ish cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove, crushed
5g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
10g oregano leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of caster sugar
½ tsp salt

Put a small, ridged griddle pan on ahigh heat. When smoking hot, lay in the red chillies and cook for 10 minutes, turning regularly, so the skin is burned all over. Transfer to abowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside. Repeat with the green chillies, adding them to the same bowl, before covering again. Keeping the pan on a high heat, add the tomatoes and cook for four to eight minutes, turning once or twice, until blackened all over (keep them on as long as you can before they start to mush up). Transfer to a small plate and set aside.

Once everything is cool enough tohandle, peel and discard the skinsof the chillies and tomatoes. Cut the chillies lengthways down the middle, and discard the stalk and seeds. Cut the flesh into long, 0.5cm-wide strips, and place in abowl with the tomatoes and all theremaining ingredients. Stir withthe back of a wooden spoon, soyougently crush the tomatoes and release their juices. Cover and store in the fridge. Give the salsa plenty of time to get back to room temperature before you serve it.

Urad dal with coconut and coriander

The difference between black and white urad dal (aka black gram or lentil) is that the white one has had its skin removed. I prefer black – the skin helps the dal keep its shape and adds a pleasing bite – but white works just as well (and you don't need to soak it either). Thanks to Aasmah Mir, whom I met on Twitter and whose blog Cracking Curries inspired this dish. Serves four, generously.

250g black urad (or urid) dal, soaked overnight in plenty of water
60g clarified butter or ghee
1 large onion, peeled and finelychopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
60g fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely grated (net weight)
1 whole green chilli, finely chopped, seeds and all
1 tbsp garam masala
5 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
120g coconut cream
2 tsp lime juice
1½ tbsp black mustard seeds, toasted

For the toppings
100g fresh coconut, roughly grated
50g crisp fried shallots (homemade or shop-bought)
30g fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Drain the dal, rinse under cold water and set aside. Put the ghee in a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. When it starts to sizzle, add the onion and fry for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft and golden-brown. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and garam masala, fry for two minutes, stirring constantly, then add the tomatoes and cook for four minutes. Add the dahl, a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt, turn the heat to medium and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until the sauce has the consistency of thick soup and the dal is cooked but still holding its shape. Towards the end of cooking, if the sauce is still very liquid, bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes, to reduce. Turn down the heat to low, stir in the coconut cream, lime juice and black mustard seeds, and remove from the heat. Serve with the toppings in separate bowls alongside, for your guests to sprinkle on as they like.

• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

Follow Yotam on Twitter.


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Mix master: Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes with spice blends | Food (2024)


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