I was lucky enough to be given a copy of Ottolenghi and Scully’s cookbook Nopi a couple of weeks ago. It is lavishly produced, with a beautifully-designed, textured cover and gilt-edged pages. At first glance I wondered whether the recipes would be for aspiring restaurant chefs only.
However, even though many of the recipes are complex, they are built up from several components that can be prepared in advance. So I decided to plunge in this weekend, by trying this recipe. The original is topped with a fried quail’s egg to serve as a starter, but I thought that the celeriac and cauliflower would go well with lamb – and then discovered that the left-overs could be used in several other ways too.
Do prepare the vegetables in advance – the cauliflower is most easily done in a food processor with the coarsest grating plate. Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend that generally includes ginger, cardamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper and cinnamon. You can buy it ready-mixed, but this time we mixed our own. These are half quantities, for 3-4, just double them if you are cooking for company.
2 tbsps olive oil
80g onion, diced (½ large onion)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
300g celeriac, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
250ml vegetable soup
1 tbsp tahini paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ ground coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
80g onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp ras el hanout
350g cauliflower, trimmed and coarsely grated
1 tbsp finely diced preserved lemon skin
45g almonds, skin on, toasted and roughly chopped
25g parsley, chopped
¼ sweet smoked paprika
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and fry for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until they are soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook for another minute, then add the celeriac. Fry for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the celeriac is golden-brown.
Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer on a medium heat for about 15 minutes until the celeriac is tender. Remove from the heat, take out the bay leaf and blitz to a smooth purée in a blender or food processor. Mix in the tahini and spices and season with salt and pepper. Set aside – keep in the fridge, closely covered with cling film, if you are making this ahead.
For the spiced cauliflower, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until it is soft. Add the ras el hanout and cook for another minute. Add 100ml of water and stir through for a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the cauliflower, preserved lemon skin, almonds and some of the chopped parsley.
To serve, spread the celeriac purée on the plate, drizzle with a little olive oil and then top with the spiced cauliflower. Finish with the remainder of the chopped parsley and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.
It was delicious with lamb chops, cooked pink on the griddle, and some steamed kale on the side. Browning the celeriac deepens the flavour, and the velvety-smooth purée is set off by the texture and spice of the cauliflower. The recipe suggests serving them at room temperature, which I did first time, but I think it actually tastes better served warm.
The left-overs worked well in various different meals: I tried some with a fried egg – hen rather than quail – as in the original recipe; ate the spiced cauliflower on its own with avocado and salad for lunch and the celeriac purée made a more-ish dip. Next time I make this I will be cooking enough to have plenty of left-overs to eat in different combinations!