A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to eating breakfast at Ottolenghi in North London. I’ve been keeping an eye on his culinary journey for a couple of years now, admiring his namesake restaurant as well as sister establishment Nopi's predominantly vegetarian menu.
Now, I'm not vegetarian - I enjoy a rare fillet steak far too much to ever give up meat - but I do believe we should all try and eat less meat, stepping away from the mentality that every meal should include something that was once alive and kicking. Firstly, it's expensive (and if your meat meal is cheap - it's not good quality. Put down the chicken nuggets!), it's better for the environment, and good for your health.
But mostly I admire Ottolenghi because this vegetarian attitude isn't shoved down punter's throats. It's not a veggie restaurant, there is meat on the menu but the focus is on all the wonderful flavours he creates from vegetables.
Checking out the menu while sat in its almost scandi-looking restaurant with very clean, sharp, white lines and toasters sat on the table their sockets suspended from mid-air, I knew I was going to have to order his Shakshuka, this is the dish I remember of from reading many articles on Ottolenghi over the years.
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|Ottolenghi delights to take away|
|Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon enjoyed by my colleague|
This North African dish is a regional variation of baking eggs in a tomato passata, which you can see in the likes of Huevos Rancheros (Mexican eggs) or Italian baked eggs, each different geography just put their own stamp on this breakfast by using local herbs and spices. On a frosty February morning, the warmth from this spicy soupy breakfast mopped up with toast was very comforting - and the cumin and coriander really hits the spot.
Ottolenghi has kindly offered up his shakshuka recipe on the Guardian’s website, so the other weekend I decided to give it a whirl at home for a lazy Sunday brunch.
The good thing is if you get the base spices and herbs right (cumin, saffron, parsley and coriander) you can play around with other ingredients - I had some chorizo left in the fridge, so fried that off with the onions (Yes, I know – meat. But I'd sooner turn this meal away from its veggie roots, than waste food).
It takes a little care and attention, so this is a recipe definitely worth waiting for the weekend. While the eggs poach, warm up some pitta bread to mop up all the tomatoey, eggy goodness.
287 Upper Street
London N1 2TZ
Tel: 020 7288 1454
For more of Ottolenghi’s recipes, visit his website: http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes
Liking the Middle Eastern vibe? Check out my post on Honey & Co, a cute little cafe near Warren Street, which is an unofficial spin off from Ottolenghi and Nopi with former chefs starting their own venture.