Yotam Ottolenghi Is a Very Nice Man

Yotam Ottolenghi Is a Very Nice Man

Yotam Ottolenghi Is a Very Nice Man 2000 1334 Alison Ashton

A riff on London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s classic tomato, chile and cilantro chutney brings back delicious memories.

Just gimme the recipe

Ask someone who works in food – a cookbook author, a chef or even an avid home cook – to cite a culinary influence, and you’ll often hear: “Ottolenghi.” As in Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-born British chef and restaurateur, best known for his wildly creative recipes featuring Middle Eastern flavors and ingredients often melded with other flavors and dishes from around the globe.

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His books, especially Ottolenghi Flavor, Plenty and Plenty More, are on countless bookshelves. His newspaper columns, for The Guardian in the U.K. and The New York Times on our side of the pond are delicious reading. His restaurants, including a small chain of Ottolenghi delis, are a must-stop for food-loving visitors in London.

And it’s based on this last bit that I can tell you that in addition to be a real-deal culinary genius, Yotam Ottolenghi is a very nice guy.

It was 10 years ago that we were in London and popped into Ottolenghi’s Notting Hill outpost. It’s one of those places where you pick and choose from platters of gorgeous salads, cooked veg, proteins and pastries to enjoy there or take to go.

In addition to our lunch, I grabbed a couple of jars of this Chilli and Coriander Chutney, one for us to enjoy and one to give our pet sitter when we returned to the States.

This taste of London lasted maybe a week as we plowed through the savory-sweet tomato-based condiment, using it on everything from toast to pasta. When I couldn’t order more through Ottolenghi’s U.K. website, I dropped them an email: We love this chutney, we need more, is there some way we can have it delivered to us in the U.S., please?

I figured I’d get a boilerplate “sorry, no.” Or nothing at all.

But newp, Ottolenghi, as in Yotam, replied. He was sorry to say the chutney wasn’t available for shipping to the United States, but he directed me to a similar recipe (actually a subrecipe for a steak sandwich with many components) in his Guardian column. It’s not exactly the same, he noted, but pretty close.

The upcoming fall release of his new cookbook Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things, which is all about condiments, sauces and other “extras,” reminded me of this exchange and the recipe he shared. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a version of it in the cookbook. It’s that good.

This time, I also took a peek at the ingredients for the chutney on the website and made some tweeks to mimic that a little more closely.

It’s an all-purpose spicy/sweet/umami condiment that we slather on everything. Alongside pickled red onions, it’s become something we want on hand at all times. Of course, that means I make it often, because it never lasts very long as it goes on sandwiches and burgers, tossed with pasta and, thinned with a little water, on pizza in place of standard marinara-ish sauce. If I were smarter, I’d double up and freeze half. Next time.

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This particular batch lasted about 24 hours. My mistake – I left it at eye level on the fridge shelf. Richard, home unsupervised while I was gone much of the day, gobbled up most of it. We didn’t even have bread left in the house, so what he ate it with is a mystery. Rolled up on a tortilla with cheese (probably)? Spooned straight from the jar (quite possibly)?

On the one hand, I was annoyed. On the other, I took his greediness as a sign that this chutney is extra-extra delicious. 

My advice is this: Hide this chutney at the back of the fridge, behind – I dunno – the tubs of miso paste so you’ll have it when you need it.

A Note About the Chiles

Ottolenghi’s recipe calls for “2 red chillies.” I’m not sure what this means, exactly. A British acquaintance tells me that means short, fat mild chile.

Where I live in Southern California typical supermarket options for “red chillies” range from fiery little Thai Birds to mild Fresnos (likely what they commonly have in the U.K., according to my acquaintance) to the generically labeled “red long peppers.”

So, take your pick with these. I’ve done batches with each variety, and they all work just fine. Generally, the smaller the chile, the hotter it will be. Use fewer (or more!) chiles as you like. And it’s up to you whether to keep the seeds or leave them out.

Can’t find any red chile options? I’d also happily do this with a couple of jalapeños or serranos.

tomato-chile-cilantro-chutney-ottolenghi-recipe

Tomato-Chile-Cilantro Chutney

I’m a fiend for great homemade condiments, and this doesn’t disappoint. I’ve made some adaptations to Ottolenghi’s Guardian recipe – mainly to incorporate some ingredients that are readily available to American home cooks. Namely, coconut sugar and fish sauce, both of which I think give it even better flavor. I’ve also added “tomato” to the name, since that’s as important a component as the chiles and cilantro (a k a coriander).

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red chiles, seeded (if desired) and finely chopped
3 tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ cup chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients, except cilantro, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir in cilantro. Transfer to a clean jar. Cool, cover and refrigerate up to 3 weeks. (Haha, nah, it’ll be long gone by then.)

Makes about 1½ cups.