Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for winter vegetables as standalone meals | Vegetables (2024)

Yotam Ottolenghi recipes

There’s no reason cauliflower cheese, roast celeriac or braised carrots and leeks can’t be the stars of the show, rather than just the support acts

Yotam Ottlenghi

Sat 4 Nov 2017 09.00 GMT

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Every weekend, the glossy supplements of all the newspapers (this one included) are filled with recipes, and for the past seven years food writer Ed Smith has taken it upon himself to catalogue and digest those recipes on his blog, Rocket & Squash. In all that time, he noticed there was barely a handful of recipes for side dishes among them. “Which is madness,” he writes in his book On The Side (£20, Bloomsbury), which was inspired by this gap in the recipe-writing market: “A key part of every mealtime is being ignored.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve been championing the “two veg” side of the meat-and-two-veg equation for as long as I’ve been writing recipes. After all, it’s these bits on the side that are often the tastiest and most interesting parts of a meal. In fact, dishes that I’ve planned to serve on the side often end up taking centre stage. Fill your plate with two or three sides, for example, and suddenly there’s no room or need for the roast chicken or sausages you thought were essential.

That’s the case with all of today’s dishes. By all means serve the cauliflower cheese with a substantial main course if you want, but don’t be shy about sitting a whole head of cheesy baked cauliflower in the middle of your plate and eating it. The same goes for the carrot and leek dish: while it would be more than happy to play second fiddle to that roast chicken, say, it’s a bold enough dish to play the starring role, especially if dotted with goat’s cheese and mopped up with bread. The celeriac, on the other hand, I find so instantly moreish that it often doesn’t make it on to the plate in the first place, let alone get relegated to the sides.

Cauliflower cheese

Make sure you buy untrimmed cauliflowers for this: the leaves have a great taste and texture, so don’t be tempted to trim them off. Don’t worry if your pot isn’t big enough to hold both cauliflowers at the same time: you can always cook them one after the other. Serves six to eight as a side dish, or four as a main course.

1½ litres whole milk
2 bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small cauliflower heads, outer leaves left on (1.7kg)
For the bechamel sauce
80g unsalted butter
80g plain flour
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
100g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
80g emmental, coarsely grated
100g mature stilton, broken into 1cm chunks
50g walnut halves, broken into 1cm pieces
1 tbsp tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8. Pour the milk into a saucepan large enough to fit both cauliflower heads snugly, and for which you have a lid, then add the bay leaves, peppercorns, nutmeg and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Bring the milk to a boil over a medium heat, stirring regularly so the milk doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Once the milk is boiling, gently lower in the cauliflower heads (the milk should come about halfway up their sides), cover and leave to simmer for 11 minutes. Flip the heads over (so the top half is now under the milk), check that the milk isn’t catching (give it a good stir), then simmer for another 11 minutes, or until the cauliflowers are cooked and soft. Lift them out and put them in a 32cm x 25cm ovenproof dish into which they fit snugly.

Strain the milk into a large jug, then measure out 830ml; the aromatics and any remaining milk can now be discarded.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on a medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the flour, cayenne pepper and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Once the butter has melted, add the dry ingredients to the pan and stir together with a wooden spoon. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly, then take off the heat and add the hot milk a little at a time, stirring to incorporate every addition to avoid any lumps before adding more (you can add it in larger doses towards the end). You should end up with a smooth, glossy sauce.

Return the pan to a medium heat and, stirring constantly, bring the sauce up to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook gently for two minutes, still stirring all the while, until the sauce thickens. Add all the cheddar and emmental, and 80g of the stilton, stir until the cheese melts, then stir in an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper.

Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the cauliflowers, then sprinkle the remaining stilton and the walnuts on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cauliflowers are evenly golden and nicely charred in places, then remove from the oven, sprinkle the tarragon on top and serve warm or at room temperature.

Whole roast celeriac with coriander seeds and olive oil

I love this so much, I’ve been known to eat it straight out of the pan. It’s also ridiculously easy. Serves four.

1 large celeriac (1.2kg), roots discarded, scrubbed clean (no need to trim or peel)
75ml olive oil, plus a little extra to drizzle
1½ tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
Flaked sea salt
1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. With the tip of a small, sharp knife, pierce the celeriac all over about 20 times in total, then lay it in a baking dish and rub generously with the oil, coriander seeds and two teaspoons of flaked salt. Roast for two and a half to three hours, basting every 30 minutes, until the celeriac is soft all the way through and golden brown on the outside. Cut into wedges and serve with a wedge of lemon, a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of oil.

Carrots and leeks, Turkish style

Cooking the vegetables in stock, much as you would a risotto, gives them a real depth of flavour and great tenderness. You’ll need to allow 30 minutes, and don’t be tempted to skip or speed up the process. This also works without the cheese, if you prefer. Serves four as a side or as part of a meze spread.

1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp lemon juice (ie, from 1 lemon)
1 orange, peel shaved into 5 or 6 wide strips (avoid the white pith)
1 tbsp caster sugar
15g unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp extra to serve
6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large leeks, trimmed, washed and chopped into 2cm-thick rounds
60g chèvre log (rind on), broken into roughly 2cm chunks (optional)
10g dill leaves
5g tarragon leaves, roughly torn

Put the stock, lemon juice, orange peel and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil on a high heat. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium and leave to simmer for seven to eight minutes, to infuse and reduce a little. Strain into a large jug (the aromatics can now be discarded): you should have about 950ml of flavoured stock.

Melt the butter and oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high flame, then add the carrots (in batches, if need be: you don’t want to overcrowd the pan) and half a teaspoon of flaked salt. Saute for five to six minutes, turning the carrots over every couple of minutes or so, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon, then add the leeks and half a teaspoon of flaked salt to the pan, and saute for four to five minutes, turning them over gently every two minutes but not stirring, otherwise they’ll break up. When the leeks are browned all over, return the carrots to the pan and pour over 200ml of the infused stock. Cook for a couple of minutes on a medium-high heat, until reduced by two-thirds, then add another 200ml stock and repeat the reduction process. Repeat until all the liquid has been added to the pan and the vegetables are tender: this stage should take about 15 minutes in total.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked vegetables to a medium bowl and leave the remaining stock on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until it’s reduced down to about 70ml. Pour this over the vegetables and leave to cool.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a large plate (discard any remaining stock), dot with the cheese and sprinkle over the dill and tarragon. Sprinkle over a quarter-teaspoon of flaked salt and a good grind of pepper, drizzle over a final teaspoon of oil and serve at room temperature.

• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.


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