Resurrecting forgotten ingredients in the back of the pantry

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Got sweet potatoes? Noor Murad developed a recipe for a shakshuka featuring a base of the potatoes with feta and cumin, and finished with a chili butter and cilantro. Photo by Elena Heatherwick.

Everyone has that one shelf in the pantry with a can, jar, bag, or box of a bygone era. Perhaps last year many reconnected with forgotten ingredients stashed away. The team at the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen have created recipes to resurrect items in the cupboard, freezer, and fridge — something they call “Shelf Love.”

Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad also recognize the disruption in the supply chain, encouraging home cooks to exercise confidence in the kitchen by swapping out one ingredient for what’s on hand to adapt recipes. Flexibility is key in their test kitchen.

SWEET POTATO SHAKSHUKA 
With Sriracha butter and pickled onions (V)
Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes

A far cry from a classic shakshuka, yes, but we’ve found that sweet potatoes provide just the right amount of moisture and heft to serve as a base for these eggs. Serve this vibrant dish as a weekend brunch; it sure looks the part.

Ingredients 

  • 2 lb 2 oz/1kg sweet potatoes, skin on and scrubbed clean
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds (3½ oz/100g)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cups/150g coarsely grated mature cheddar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2¼ tsp sriracha
  • 2 tbsp cilantro leaves, with some stem attached
  • salt and black pepper

Instructions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Poke the sweet potatoes all over with a fork (about 8–10 times) and place them on a medium, parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until cooked through and softened. Set aside to cool and turn the oven temperature down to 400°F.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the red onion, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and set aside to pickle.
  3. Remove the cooked potato skins and tear them into roughly 1 ½ -inch/4cm pieces. Transfer the potato flesh to a large bowl and set aside. Place the skins back on the baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Bake for 8 minutes, or until nicely colored and starting to crisp up. Set aside to cool and crisp up further.
  4. Use a fork to mash the potato flesh until smooth, then add the cheddar, garlic, cumin, another 1 tablespoon of oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a generous grind of pepper, and mix to combine.
  5. Put the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into a large frying pan, for which you have a lid, and swirl around to coat the bottom. Spoon the mashed potato mixture into the pan, using your spoon to distribute it evenly. Place on medium-high heat and let cook for about 7 minutes, for the bottom to start to color. Turn the heat down to medium and use a spoon to make eight wells in the potato mixture, breaking an egg into each. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, cover with the lid, and cook for 4–5 minutes, rotating the pan, or until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny.
  6. While the eggs are cooking, put the butter and sriracha into a small saucepan on medium heat and cook until the butter has melted, whisking constantly to emulsify. Remove the mixture from the heat before it starts to bubble—you don’t want it to split.
  7. When ready, spoon the sriracha butter all over the eggs, then top with a good handful of the crispy potato skins, half the pickled onion, and all the cilantro leaves. Serve right away, with the rest of the potato skins and pickled onion to eat alongside.

Make it your own:

  • Save time by cooking the sweet taters in the microwave instead.
  • Use any kind of oozy melty cheese and any spice you like for the base.
  •  Experiment with other hot sauces, such as Tabasco or harissa.

    SESAME-CRUSTED FETA with Black Lime Honey Syrup (v)
    Serves 8
    Prep time: 15 minutes
    Cook time: 30 minutes
    Chilling time: 30 minutes


Black limes have a long shelf life and are used to make a honey syrup to accompany this vegetarian sesame feta dish. Photo by Elena Heatherwick.

These impressive-looking peppers are deceptively easy to put together, and a sure way to put that bag of frozen corn to good use. Eat this alongside the fava bean and herb salad (p. 195) or some roasted potatoes, for a complete meal.

“Everything is betta with feta,” says Tara, voted the number one feta fan of all time, and, to be fair, she might be right. We try really hard not to show cheese favoritism (cheesism), but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that feta makes a prominent appearance in the OTK fridge, its salty, tangy properties lending it well to multiple preparations.

This dish is a little bit sweet, a lotta bit salty, a tiny bit bitter, and a whole bit crispy. It’s exactly what you’d serve for brunch (with bacon, if you like) and not much else °as it really is quite rich.

Ingredients  

  • 2 blocks of Greek feta (12¾ oz/360g), each cut into 4 triangles (8 triangles in total)
  • ¼ cup/35g rice flour (or all-purpose flour if gluten-free flour not needed)
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 2/3 cup/100g mixed black and white sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp lemon thyme leaves, or regular thyme leaves

SYRUP

  • 1/3 cup/120g honey
  • 1 tsp ground black lime (p. 50) (optional)
  • 3 lemons: 1 juiced to get 1 tbsp and the other 2 left whole

Instructions

Get ahead: Coat the feta the night before, cover well, and keep refrigerated. 

  1. Line a shallow baking dish (or baking sheet with a slight lip), about 12 x 8 inches/30 x 20cm in size, with parchment paper.
  2. Pat dry the feta pieces, then dip each piece in the flour, gently shaking off the excess. Coat in the egg, followed by the sesame seeds, making sure the feta pieces are completely coated. Transfer each piece to the prepared dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the coated feta pieces with the oil and bake from cold, for 18 minutes, very gently flipping the pieces over halfway, or until golden and warmed through.
  4. While the feta is baking, put the honey and black lime, if using, into a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns a deep amber caramel, about 6–7 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Use a small, sharp knife to peel and segment the remaining two lemons and stir the segments into the cooled honey mixture.
  6. When ready, pour the syrup directly over the feta in the baking dish, sprinkle with the thyme, and serve at once, straight from the dish.

Make it your own:

– Leave out the black lime if you can’t find any—this dish is just as special without it.

– Swap out the feta for halloumi cheese instead.

ON BLACK LIMES

More often than not, our cupboards will contain a few obscure ingredients: things you buy for that one recipe, pack away, and then, well, forget about. Black limes are pretty obscure for some; you might have even bought a package for an Ottolenghi recipe asking you to use them. We get it; they can be intimidating if you don’t know what to do with them—bitter, astringent, mysterious, to say the least. What even are black limes? Well, they’re limes that have been treated with a saltwater solution before being left out to dry in the sun, until completely dehydrated and very dark. Also called Omani limes, loomi aswad, or noomi basra, they’re a staple ingredient throughout the Persian Gulf, adding an earthy, bitter depth to the dishes they’re used in. If you can’t find dried black limes, then you can also use the lighter-colored dried limes, which have more of greeny-brown hue. Besides their different coloring, the two are pretty much interchangeable. You can use plenty of lime juice and zest as a substitute for dried limes, but in truth, their unique properties are unparalleled. If there’s one funky ingredient we want you to pull out of the very back of your cupboards, or maybe even—dare we say—to add to your cupboards, it’s a bag of black limes. They last forever, and oh do they pack a punch.

A few black lime hacks:

  • Throw them whole into soups and stews, adding a subtle astringent tang. Make sure to poke a few holes in them first—this will help them soften and release their flavor into the liquid they’re cooked in.
  • Blitz them into a powder to use in rubs and marinades. A coffee or spice grinder is best for this, ensuring the smoothest texture. To help this along, use the palm of your hand to lightly crush the black limes before blitzing.
  • Decrease bitterness by removing the seeds, if you wish. Although this isn’t really necessary.
  •  Use the black limes to make a sour tea called chai loomi. Roughly break apart 3–4 limes and remove any seeds. Gently simmer in 1 quart/1 liter of water for 10 minutes, then strain and add fresh mint, a squeeze of lemon juice, and sugar or honey to taste.
  •  Be sure to purchase black limes that are whole and not ground. You can grind them in a coffee or spice grinder as and when you need to, and they’ll keep for much longer.


Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad, along with the test kitchen team in London, look to resurrect ingredients on the brink of expiration. Photo by Elena Heatherwick.


When the items in the pantry, freezer, and fridge have just about reached their shelf life, Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad’s manual of recipes, “Shelf Love,” swoops in for the rescue. Photo courtesy of Clarkson Potter.

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Host:

Evan Kleiman