Thursday, 22 August 2013

Yotam Ottolenghi's Lemon and Aubergine Risotto

So, tonight I decided to try a new recipe from a book that was given to me as a birthday present: Lemon and Aubergine Risotto from Yotam Ottolenghi's book, Plenty. This is a beautiful book, which I love looking through (I sometimes just read cook books for fun, as nice bedtime reading...!), but the one criticism I would make is that sometimes the recipes seem to call for quite obscure ingredients, or time-consuming techniques. Ottolenghi does also seem extremely bothered by the quality of his ingredients.

Now, I'm not saying this is a bad thing - of course it is great to be cook with the freshest, best ingredients you can find, or afford, but sometimes he just seems to take things to extremes. For example, in the introduction to one recipe, he states that he "would ditch the idea at once if [he] couldn't get a ripe, summery tomato, juicy and sweetly intense, a tomato that has never seen a fridge or a chilled truck, only soil and sun". I don't know about you, but that kind of puts me off even trying to make that recipe. Would I really have the time and energy (and possibly money!) to go off on this massive search for the perfect tomato before I could even contemplate making what is essentially a tomato and mozzarella salad? I don't think I would. I have decided to give the recipe a go at some point anyway, with 'average' ingredients and see what I think.

But tonight was all about one of the recipes that seems at first glance a little too time-consuming, but after thinking about how delicious it would probably be, I decided to give it a go. It was also recommended by the friend who gave me the book, and I always love a recommendation!

The time-consuming part of this was the burning (yes, you read that correctly - burning!) of one of the aubergines. This can be done on the flame of a gas hob in about 15 minutes, apparently, so this makes the recipe immediately more appealing if you have a gas hob. But, as you may have guessed, I do not have a gas hob. So method number two it was, then. Method number two involves grilling the whole aubergine under the grill, turning occasionally, for about an hour. See, I told you it was time-consuming! But I have to say, the taste of the flesh that you scoop out of this burnt aubergine is just amazing, and completely worth the effort. My tip for this part of the process, if you have an electric hob, is to do this step in advance - I actually burned my aubergine on Monday afternoon as I had the day off work and thought I'd take advantage of some extra kitchen time to prep! I then stored the pre-burnt auberine in the fridge for a couple of days, only scooping out the flesh tonight when I came to that step in the recipe. This really made a difference to the amount of effort I felt the whole dish took - it was great having that first, annoying step right out of the way already! This actually links in to an idea I saw another - much more established!! - vegetarian blogger (Gemsmaquillage) talking about on YouTube, about prepping all your food at the beginning of the week. I want to talk more about this in another post, but in the meantime, head over to Gemma's blog when you've finished reading this, as it has lots of great ideas!

The rest of the recipe involved cooking a basic risotto (one onion, two cloves of garlic, 200g arborio rice, 120ml white wine [ok, I never measure wine, so there may have been more in my risotto!] and 750ml vegetable stock). Again, Ottolenghi likes to suggest that his readers make their own stock from scratch. Perhaps I am lazy, but when I have been at work all day and just want to make a nice meal for myself, the last thing I feel like doing is making the stock from scratch when I have some stock cubes in the cupboard. So I reached for the trusty stock cubes tonight, I have to admit. Right at the end, two tablespoons of lemon juice, the zest of half a lemon, butter, the aubergine flesh, parmesan and a little salt are added to the risotto. This is left covered for five minutes, and then to serve, a little parmesan, the other half of the lemon zest, some basil leaves, and some fried aubergine cubes are sprinkled on top.

I love risotto, and I love aubergine - if it is properly cooked - but I would never have thought to combine the two. I thought this was absolutely delicious, and looked pretty too. My boyfriend wasn't too impressed when he tasted a bit of the aubergine - but then, in fairness, he has always hated aubergine! This was my last-ditch attempt at converting him. I guess I failed there :-(

Another failure tonight was my camera and my phone camera - unfortunately, my phone is playing up a bit at the moment, so although it seemed that I was able to take a few nice pictures of the risotto, when I actually went back to the gallery, only one had saved. I then got out my trusty camera....but the batteries were dead and I couldn't find any new ones. So, sadly, the picture above is all I have to show for my efforts (well, that plus the leftovers in the fridge). 

I would definitely recommend that you check out Plenty - although I do think some of the recipes seem a little more complicated or time-consuming than I would normally choose, they are great for when you are in the mood to be a little bit more creative in the kitchen. Plus, you can always adapt and incorporate time-saving ideas (like using a stock cube instead of making stock, that kind of thing) to cut down on the time/effort required. And like I said before, it really is a beautiful book to flick through and be inspired by.

I would be really interested to hear what anyone else thinks of Yotam Ottolengi's books/recipes - do you have any more recommendations for me? Or any other good time-saving tips in the kitchen?

Thank you for reading my first ever blog post, and I hope you come back soon for more from my veggie kitchen!


  1. I remember bringing you stock cubes in Dresden!

    Looks yummy. Could you use your blow torch to burn the aubergines?

    1. I did wonder about using the blowtorch, actually, so that is possibly an experiment to try another day. Thanks for the suggestion! I'd forgotten about trying to find stock cubes in Dresden.....


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