The Chef’s Take: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Honey-Roasted Carrots with Tahini

by in Chefs and Restaurants, Cookbooks, October 22, 2014

Plenty More
If you’ve cooked from Plenty, Israeli chef and London restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi’s bestselling and award-winning cookbook, it’s probably dog-eared and food-stained from loving overuse. (Baked eggs with yogurt and greens, Brussels sprouts with tofu, and soba noodles with eggplant and mango, are personal faves.)

Now comes the hotly anticipated follow-up, Plenty More, in which Ottolenghi unapologetically celebrates the wonderful world of vegetables one cooking method at a time — braising, steaming, roasting, char-grilling and frying. In keeping with his signature inventive and vibrant style, Ottolenghi’s recipes in Plenty More feature rather exotic pops of flavor — yuzu in a dish of candy beets with lentils, sorrel and mustard in a bowl of fresh sweet peas, sweet labneh on a plate of warm baked rhubarb, and tahini on a sweet mess of honey-roasted carrots, featured below.

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
All sorts of places: in books, kitchens, out for a run in the park. I’ve got stacks of books, which I’m constantly looking through and some food magazines are also great. The chefs in our delis and restaurants are amazing — we have regular chef’s meetings where they bring their ideas. Or it could be something I’ve eaten in a restaurant or a seasonal ingredient or cooking method I want to play with — the desire to slow-roast something other than meat the other day, for example, lead to the most incredible act of transformation for the wedges of white cabbage I’d put in the oven four hours earlier, with just a little bit of miso and some chicken stock.

Do you think about sustainability and the source of your food when you cook?
We have a purchasing manager called Lucy who is very much taking all these things into consideration when she sets up accounts and forges relationships with our suppliers. We are a relatively small company so these relationships are very real ones, with everyone caring to a very great degree about where the food has come from and how it is produced. When I’m cooking in the test kitchen, however, my thoughts are more on seasonality (and seasoning!). I’d always look into the sustainability of a certain type of fish, for example, before recommending it but something being hard to source has not, in the main, held me back in the past from recommending it. I’ll always suggest more widely available alternatives, though.

What food are people afraid to cook with that they shouldn’t be?
It varies from person to person. Some people think they just can’t cook rice properly or something as apparently simple as quinoa. Others can’t bear making their own pastry or attempting a souffle. I guess it proves the maxim that you should never assume that someone knows what you take for granted. If you can read, you can cook, I think, so long as you are happy to get things ‘wrong’ along the way and also, importantly, to taste the food you are making as you go along, you shouldn’t go too far down roads which lead nowhere.

What’s your favorite recipe in the book and why?
It changes from day to day – from meal to meal! – but I do love the tomato and pomegranate salad. I have eaten a lot of tomatoes in my life and a lot of pomegranate seeds, but I hadn’t thought to combine the two in a salad until relatively recently. The result was a revelation: I was so excited both because it tasted so delicious, sweet and fresh but also because it reminded me that there is still so much to discover and learn about ingredients we think we know so well. A renewed perception of the everyday, if you like.

What foods did you grow up on? Are any of those still in your repertoire?
I had a voracious appetite for all the food of Jerusalem — the shakshuka, the tahini, halva, falafel, zhoug, pita, shwarma and on and on — but also the food my parents made: my father’s pasta bakes, my Mother’s tomato, coriander and sourdough soup. All these flavors, textures and spices are not just part of my repertoire: they are, like old friends, my bookends. My old friends are, thankfully, happy to embrace the new crowd as well, though, so the pantry shelves are not at all tense. The tahini is happy to sit alongside (and sometimes be mixed with) the soy sauce, the halva doesn’t mind sharing a dish with a little cube of honeycomb dotted on top of some banana bread, and the miso and chicken stock make their magic on those wedges of cabbage.
Honey-Roasted Carrots with Tahini
Honey-Roasted Carrots with Tahini
Serves 4

For the Carrots:
3 tbsp honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
3 thyme sprigs
12 large car rots, peeled and each cut crosswise into two 2 1/2-inch batons (3 lb)
1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper

For the Tahini Yogurt Sauce
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Place all the ingredients for the tahini sauce in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk together and set aside.

Place the honey, oil, coriander and cumin seeds, and thyme in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and a good grind of black pepper. Add the carrots and mix well until coated, then spread them out on a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring gently once or twice, until cooked through and glazed.

Transfer the carrots to a large serving platter or individual plates. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a spoonful of sauce on top, scattered with the cilantro.

Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

Photography credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2014

Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Edible Brooklyn. She’s probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Queens with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.

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