12 January 2011

Yoghurt pie and grain salad

What I like about Ottolenghi is that he suggests things I’d never make myself without prompting in a million years. Anyone can dream up a few salads or roast veg tarts and the like, but mixing yoghurt with chopped herbs and nuts, thickening it with flour and baking it is a combo that would not have cropped up in my head any time soon. Obviously I have inherent cultural bias and all the rest but just saying...

As ever the ingredients were tinkered with as I’m mean and don’t like buying things when other things I have can do the job. Check the official recipe.

The nature of the beast is this: fry some onion or shallot, toast a few nuts, chop lots of herbs and mix with rich (‘Greek’) yoghurt to form a thick paste. Season. Thicken this with flour and encase with vine-leaves slathered in melted butter and olive oil in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for forty minutes.

Pine nuts can be a bit dear and I found the walnuts I had worked fine. I also used normal flour instead of rice with no obvious adverse effects.

I’ve gotta say I was initially wobbling on the fence a bit with this one – not outright horrid or anything you understand but not a straight-off head nodding success. But having some of it later and cooler after a trip to the pictures it started to make more sense. Rather than a hot pie this is much nicer as a room temperature slice of contrasting but complimentary flavours and textures – the leathery, briney vine leaves, the modest crunch of nut and crumb, the herbs in their giving yoghurt matrix, the butter sheen of fat that coats the thing. In fact, looking back at the recipe Otto specifies leaving it for ten minutes to cool – something I totally missed - eek!

If I made this again I’d serve it more as a mezze component and add garlic to the onion/shallot stage.

We had the pie with roast toms and grain salad – all you do is chuck in small amounts of every grain in the cupboard according to cooking time and then flavour when cool. We had puy lentils, rice, bulgar and orzo pasta with chopped preserved lemons and olive oil. Delicious.

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