Ottolenghi Cooks Sweet

It was hard to choose among the many delightful options at Yotam Ottolenghi’s cafe. Photos: Charlotte Peale.

My daughter Charlotte and I were in England last summer, exploring London and the northern countryside, and discovering the revival of good cooking now in full swing there. Even the traditional foods like bangers and mash, fish and chips, and Cornish pasties were tasty and well-prepared.

A highlight was taking the Underground from London out to Ottolenghi Islington. On arriving at this wonderful eatery, with its long communal tables bathed in natural light, we found glorious savories and alluring baked goods set out in sumptuous array among fresh flowers and greenery. After we selected two or three items (a hard choice with all the tempting options), the food was plated and delivered to our table. We chose from quiches, savory pastries and cakes, salads, and vegetables, all tossed, baked, roasted, or served with rich mixes of curries, cardamom, chilies, lemongrass, za’atar, sumac, dukkah, ruby-red pomegranate arils, full-bodied grains, fresh yogurt, cheeses, and a myriad of other delicacies. The abundant, colorful spread was as beautiful as it was delicious.

But the sweets—studded, sprinkled, and flavored with rose petals, pistachios, saffron, dark chocolates, cinnamon, aniseed, coffee, cardamom, and orange blossoms—were a whole different order of wonderful. We loved our meal and couldn’t wait for the release of Ottolenghi’s latest book, Sweet, so we could try some of his recipes at home. Like so many Mediterranean dishes, these recipes are well-suited to cooking here in Northern California because ingredients like dates, pomegranates, orange blossoms, and rose water are easily available, locally produced, and of fine quality. Ingredients can be found at local groceries around town, as well as shops like Zand’s on Solano in Albany and the newly opened second location of Oaktown Spice Shop just a few doors down.

Edible East Bay book editor Kristina Sepetys and her daughter Charlotte enjoyed a memorable lunch at Ottolenghi Islington.

by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh
(Ten Speed Press, 2017)

Well-known for his savory dishes featuring fresh vegetables prepared with complex flavorings and generous portions of herbs and spices, Yotam Ottolenghi in fact began his career as a pastry chef. His patisserie experience is very much in evidence in his latest cookbook, a collaboration with longtime friend Helen Goh. The book features over 110 recipes for sweets, baked goods, and confections, including several dozen that are gluten- and nut-free. Enjoy delicious and inventive combinations like these: Saffron, Orange, and Honey Madeleines; Rosemary Olive Oil Orange Cake; Parsnip and Pecan Cake with Aniseed and Orange; Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream; Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut, and Rosewater; and Gingerbread with Brandy Apples and Crème Fraîche. A lovely cookbook with delicious recipes suitable to a home kitchen and featuring beautiful close-up photos similar in style to previous books. A perfect gift, sure to delight any cook or eater.

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.