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Yotam Ottolenghi at the Vegetarian Cookery School

"Let's talk about food all of the time."

This was one of the first things Yotam Ottolenghi insisted upon at his Eastern Mediterranean Masterclass at the Demuths Cookery School last Tuesday. The words set the scene for a day of rich discussion, endless food stories and constant collaboration. Ottolenghi shares our commitment to raising the profile of fresh, seasonal vegetables as the star ingredients on the plate, so it was a thrill to have him here to teach for a day.

Ottolenghi's approach to cooking was relaxed, put us all at ease, and his recipes were easily achievable. And very Ottolenghi.

He started with a demonstration: braised eggs with potato, tahini yogurt and sumac. The challenge is to cook the onions until they are brown and caramelised, which takes at least 15 minutes. As with many of his recipes, well-cooked onions are the basis of a good dish.

Yotam makes us breakfast

From Israel, Ottolenghi introduced us to several essential ingredients in Eastern Mediterranean cooking such as sumac, za'atar and freekah. Anyone familiar with Ottolenghi know that fresh herbs play a huge part in his dishes. At the same time, he takes advantage of British ingredients like kohlrabi and pickled walnuts, creating a cuisine that is uniquely his own. Fresh herbs were in ample supply, with bowls of overflowing flat parsley, mint, coriander, tarragon and delicate chervil decorating each of our cooking stations.

Learning

Good ingredients are essential, but execution is just as crucial. Ottolenghi likes to add very lightly cooked or raw ingredients to dishes, adding garlic right at the end of the cooking, or at the last minute stirring in fresh herbs and lemon zest to lift the dish. He implored us to taste and taste and taste again, to be happy with the flavour and seasoning before serving.

"We put so much love into reading recipes and cooking food; to miss out on this critical step at the end is a shame."

It's not just the flavour and texture but the colour is so important, and that's where vegetables truely come into their own. We feast with our eyes!

"If the food doesn't look good, then that's just not good enough."

Epic amounts of food

Great fresh ingredients, large bowls of colourful food, a feeling of generosity, dishes to share, to relax with and enjoy around a large table with friends and family: tenets shared by Yotam Ottolenghi, the Vegetarian Cookery School and all of the students who were there to learn from him. You couldn't ask for a better day.

Rachel and YotamPotatoes and eggs: a sure sign that something good is about to happenEggs for Yotam's breakfast surpriseEverything in orderEverything in orderSquash
PrepOlive oil a'plentyEssential herbToday's menuRachel, Yotam and HelenRachel, Yotam and Helen
Chef gossipChef gossipChef gossipChef gossipBonus vegan almond cookiesYotam makes us breakfast
Yotam makes us breakfastIntroducing...Yotam makes us breakfastYotam makes us breakfastYotam makes us breakfastYotam makes us breakfast

Yotam Ottolenghi Eastern Mediterranean Masterclass, a set on Flickr.

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