What story do you want your food to tell?
I want my food to be a happy story, one where everyone is nice and vibrant and gets on well. I want the story to be bold but also comforting, a little bit surprising but also familiar enough not to make anyone feel left out. I feel like I’m describing the story of Mary Poppins!
You’ve made it to the uppermost echelons of food stardom. What do you want to do when you grow up?
I want to be a potter. Or, at least, to be able to make a pottery bowl that is wonky where it is meant to be and not wonky where it is not meant to be.
Simple is just that, simple. What inspired you to return to the basics?
I didn’t have time to cook Ottolenghi food at home. No, that’s a joke! I love the fact that my food is traditionally associated with celebration and the weekends, but I wanted a book which people will reach for on a Monday night or when wanting to do a chilled brunch on the weekend. It’s Ottolenghi food for the everyday.
You have an egg. How would you prepare it?
I love braising eggs in whatever vegetables I have around. If I have some leeks or spinach or chard (or any combination of these) around, for example, I’d sweat these down in a pan with some butter and then stir through some chopped preserved lemon skin or crushed cumin seeds. I’d then make a little well in the greens and then crack in an egg or two and braise them. That’s breakfast, lunch, or supper.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Braised Eggs with Leeks and Za’atar
Reproduced with permission from Ottolenghi Simple
This is a quick way to get a very comforting meal on the table in a wonderfully short amount of time. It’s a dish as happily eaten for brunch, with coffee, as it is for a light supper with some crusty white bread and a glass of wine. The leeks and spinach can be made up to 1 day ahead and kept in the fridge, ready for the eggs to be cracked in and braised.
2 T unsalted butter
2 T olive oil
2 extra-large leeks (or 4 smaller), trimmed and cut into -inch slices (6 c)
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
½ small preserved lemon, seeds discarded, skin and flesh finely chopped (2 ½ T)
1 ¼ c vegetable stock
7 oz baby spinach leaves
6 large eggs
3 ¼ oz feta, broken into ¾-inch pieces
1 T za’atar
STEP 1 Put the butter and 1 T of the oil into a large sauté pan with a lid and place over medium-high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the leeks, ½ tsp of salt, and plenty of pepper. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft. Add the cumin, lemon, and vegetable stock and boil rapidly for 4–5 minutes, until most of the stock has evaporated. Fold in the spinach and cook for 1 minute, until wilted, then decrease the heat to medium.
STEP 2 Use a large spoon to make 6 indentations in the mixture and break 1 egg into each space. Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of salt, dot the feta around the eggs, then cover the pan. Simmer for 4–5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.
STEP 3 Mix the za’atar with the remaining T of oil and brush over the eggs. Serve at once, straight from the pan.
Yotam Ottolenghi returns to Seattle October 30-31 for two sold-out chef talks about his new cookbook, Simple, at Seattle First Baptist Church and the Stroum JCC. sjcc.org