In London in 2002, gastronomy began to breathe more heavily, escaping the rusticity of English cuisine and gaining in lightness and creativity on the trail opened the previous decade with River Café and daring chefs like Marco Pierre White.
That year, another novelty appeared that would bring freshness to the scene even more: the small delicatessen Ottolenghi. He guaranteed exaggerated meals a few intervals of gastronomic tranquility, without losing the emotion of flavors.
The proposition of its creator is clear in reading another of his books, “Simples”, now launched in Brazil (Companhia das Letras, 320 pages, R $ 129.90, e-book R $ 59.90).
Yotam Ottolenghi, 51, grew up in Israel until he emigrated to Holland in 1997, then to London, where he traded doctoral projects in comparative literature for a cooking class.
London is used to the intense and spicy tastes of Indian or Pakistani restaurants, which dominated in colonial times. But the Orient that Ottolenghi brought was different: less spicy and richer in spices; less local and more Mediterranean; less meat and more vegetables. It has become a success: there are now six restaurants, in addition to eight cookbooks launched.
“Simples” brings 130 simple recipes, many with vegetables (but not only), ingredients typical of Arab and Israeli cuisine (but available in Brazil) and categories such as “Little time” (less than 30 minutes) And “Ten ingredients or less”.
Suddenly, a book that was more than enough during quarantine.
You studied literature in your youth. Do you see a link between the old vocation and the current one? I spend a lot of my time trying to tell a story about the recipes. Many are simple, like the ones in this book, but what makes them even more valuable is understanding what they stand for, what the story behind them is, what brings them together. To tell a story, you have to know how to do it, which I probably bring from my literary activity.
Your proposal in the restaurant is like the book – look for the simplest, easiest and fastest; or perfection, detail? In our test kitchen, each recipe has to be tested over and over again. I want it to be perfect. Already in the book, I try to come up with quick dishes that don’t require a lot of skill.
England has a more rustic traditional cuisine, very different from that of the Middle East. How do I get to London? I don’t do typical Middle Eastern food, falafel, hummus, things like that. We use elements from there, traditions and ingredients – yogurt, garlic sauces, herbs, olives, condiments. New for the British public, who, for historical reasons, knew a lot more about French and Italian flavors. But this kitchen was very well received.
“Simple” dates from 2018. Do you imagine that a quick, easy and healthy cookbook could be as current, as adapted to a time of pandemic as it is now? I see so many people using the book here in England, the United States, Australia, with this pandemic, lockdown situation. This turned out to be a highlight for the book, as people are forced to cook every day. And these are good recipes, I always cook them myself, because they are quick, they have few ingredients, but they are full of flavor.
Pasta with shrimps, tomatoes and marinated feta cheese
Love the combination of shrimp, feta, tomato and pasta. I always use it when I want to make the whole dinner by messing up one pot. Risoni is a rice noodle and is very tasty. If you buy peeled shrimp, keep some with your head for decoration. Marinated feta looks great in salad, so always make more and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Serves 4 people
200 g feta cheese, broken into 1 to 2 cm pieces
½ teaspoon of pepperoni pepper flakes
4 teaspoons of fennel, toasted and lightly crushed
75 ml olive oil
250 g risoni
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 thin strips of orange zest
400 g canned diced tomatoes
500 ml of vegetable broth
400g shelled raw shrimp
30 g coarsely torn basil leaves
salt and pepper
1. In a medium bowl, mix the feta with ¼ teaspoon of pepperoni pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of fennel and 1 tbsp of oil. Reserve while the risoni cooks.
2. Take a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, risoni, 1 to 8 teaspoons of salt and a good handful of black pepper. Sauté, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of pepperoni pepper flakes and 2 teaspoons of fennel, garlic and orange zest. Cook for 1 minute, until the garlic begins to brown, and add the tomato, broth, 200 ml of water, ¾ teaspoon of salt and lots of black pepper. Cook, 2 to 3 minutes, or until boiling, and add the fried risoni. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and let stand 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the risoni is cooked through. Remove the lid and let stand another 1 to 2 minutes, until the consistency resembles that of a risotto. Add the shrimp and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until pink and cooked through. Add the basil and serve immediately, with the pickled feta sprinkled on top.