This is an embarrassingly unoriginal Ottolenghi knock off. I even shamelessly copied the style of the photographs. The recipe is an amalgamation of two different offerings from Yotam’s latest cookbook, ‘Plenty More’. Apart from the dressing, which we cobbled together from random ingredients lurking at the back of the kitchen cupboard, it’s pretty much a dead copy. Which is unusual, as I don’t find myself following recipes much these days. I get too frustrated with following exact measurements and prescriptive methods, and end up disregarding both and producing something that bares little resemblance to the intended dish. One of the hazards of being a food blogger, I guess.
Ottolenghi provides an unstoppable font of inspiration for me. He combines ingredients in ways that I had never even considered (leeks, goats cheese and sultanas, for example) opening up a whole range of new tastes. Also, the methods and techniques of cooking he uses are so varied and interesting that they have me running straight into the kitchen to start experimenting. There’s usually one element of each of his recipes that elevates them to another level – such the addition of a particular spice, usually an unpronounceable Middle Eastern variety that can only be ordered online. I have invested in several Ottolenghi ‘essentials’, such as pomegranate molasses, sumac and za’tar, but don’t ask me what any of them actually are. All I know is that they often provide an elusive final taste to make Middle Eastern specialities taste much more authentic.
The tumeric roasted walnuts in this recipe are an example of the above – a simple ingredient transformed by the addition of a few spices and a different way of cooking. I’ve always considered turmeric a bit of a non-spice, its chief use being the vibrant yellow colour that it imparts. However, roasting walnuts in the spice brings out their sweetness, adding a remarkable depth of flavour. I have since learnt that turmeric is commonly used in sweet dishes, and some folk swear by drinking turmeric tea first thing in the morning. This somewhat fusion recipe combines these walnuts with fresh green veg, sesame seeds and a punchy, vinegary dressing. Hopefully Yotam would approve.
I have recently upped from the sticks and moved to Bristol. Having lived in a small, and I mean really tiny, village for the past year and a half, living in a city again is exciting. The fact that I can walk to one of many bars just around the corner, have a couple of pints, then walk home again, is a novelty that I’m still getting used to (i.e. doing at every opportunity).
One of my favourite things about exploring a new city is working out all the options when it comes to shopping for food. Luckily, I live near a fantastic road (Gloucester Road, for those in the know), with plenty of brilliant veg shops, butchers, delicatessens and wholefood shops. All you could ever need really. Living near shops is another novelty for a country bumpkin like me, as my nearest shop in Devon is a 15- minute drive away.
It was on one such trip to the veg shop that I found some of this lovely kale. I promptly bought a bag stuffed full of it, and set off home feeling a little smug. I love kale. My love for it preceded the Californian-superfood-make-a-breakfast- smoothie-out-of-it craze. My favourite way to cook it is like this – simply stir-fried with garlic and seasoned with soy sauce. The addition of walnuts is optional – you could use another nut or seed, such as almonds or sunflower seeds, or leave them out entirely. It was just my attempt at making this more of a ‘dish’.
I have been quite busy lately. As well as working almost full time in the café, I have started an internship with a food magazine in Bristol two days a week. This doesn’t leave much time for coming up with unique and interesting recipes for my blog. So this recipe is willfully and unashamedly ripped out of a cookbook, with only a few minor alterations. Thanks, Nigella.
Poor Nigella, she’s got such bad press lately. Cocaine or no cocaine, I still think she’s fantastic. A brilliant food writer and presenter, she has managed to amass a net worth of around fifteen million. I have found lots of her recipes, like this one, that I make again and again. It uses ingredients that I could pilfer entirely from the freezer and store cupboard. She does simple, unfussy cooking remarkably well, and with apparent effortlessness.
My lack of time also equates to a lack of daylight to shoot in, given that the inky-black winter evenings are drawing in. So this was a good opportunity to experiment with using artificial light, rather than daylight. Ultimately, I think daylight is always going to be most flattering for photographing food, but it’s interesting to try artificial light. I used an ordinary desk lamp, the dust brushed off from the loft, as the main light source. I placed a diffuser between the lamp and the food, to even out the light, and stop too many shadows forming. This set up threw a dark and moody light on the scene, which helped to convey an evening setting.
There is something quite frustrating about trying to take a photograph of your food at dinner time, when all you want to do is scoff it down. But I think it also makes you concentrate harder on what it actually is that makes you want to eat it, and try an capture that in the photos.