from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, p. 126.

As soon as I settled in to my home, after returning from Bordeaux by way of London, I decided to cook from one of the two cookbooks I brought back. I’ve been waiting for Yotam Ottolenghi’s first cookbook, published earlier this year, and so was very pleased that Ann and Jonathan in London gave me a copy for my birthday while I was visiting them. As the post I wrote on his restaurant makes clear, I love his way with food. Reading the cookbook’s introduction made me even more enthusiastically supportive. Until I read it, I had had no idea that Yotam, an Israeli Jew born in Jerusalem and raised in Tel Aviv, only met his business partner, Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian Israeli, born in Jerusalem and raised in Tel Aviv, in London in 1999. They are the same age and both gay. That’s the kind of heartwarming background to a food business that makes people want to be loyal, because the partnership and friendship between Ottolenghi and Tamimi amount to a sum that is bigger and better than its parts.

If only they had found a good editor to work with them. I’ve now made four recipes from the book. Although I still am glad I have the book, the recipes need more interpretation than many other books. The flavors, the ingredients, and the presentations make it worthwhile. I present here the recipe that turned out best. When I have made the other ones I’ve tried again, I’ll rework them into a post.

Ultimately, Ottolenghi and Tamimi tease us with an abundance of appealing recipes. But how bridgeable is the gap between the excellent food I have so much enjoyed at the restaurant and the seemingly delicious food promised by what’s written on the page remains to be seen. I will work hard on it.

So, here is the recipe as it appears in the book:

4 tbsp mint leaves

4 tbsp parsley leaves

4 tbsp coriander leaves [cilanto]

1 garlic clove, peeled

60 ml [about 3 oz] lemon juice

125 ml [about 4 oz] white wine

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 small organic or free-range turkey breast (about 1 kg)

1. Put all the ingredients except the turkey breast in a food processor or blender and process for 1-2 minutes to get a smooth marinade. Put the turkey in a non-metallic container and pour the marinade over it. Massage the marinade into the meat, cover the container and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Make sure the turkey is immersed in the sauce.

2. Preheat the oven to 220 C [425 F], Gas Mark 7. Remove the turkey from the marinade (keep the marinade for later) and put it on a roasting tray. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce them temperature to 200 C [400 F], Gas Mark 6. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature again to 180 C [350 F] Gas Mark 4. Cook until the turkey is done — another 30-45 minutes. To check, stick a small knife all the way into the centre; it should come out hot. If the meat goes dark before it is ready, cover it will foil.

3. To prepare the sauce, heat up the turkey marinade in a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes, until reduced by about half. Taste and season with some more salt and pepper.

4. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice it thinly and serve with warm sauce.

5. To serve cold, leave the meat to cool completely and then slice. Adjust the seasonings of the sauce once it is cold and serve on the side.

I translated the above instructions to really mean:

First of all, I first wondered what 4 tbsp of the herbs meant. 4 tbsp before or after mincing. I decided that the list of ingredients really should have read, “4 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves,” and so on.

I used half a turkey breast and thought it more than sufficient for the amount of marinade.

The next bit that struck me as odd was the amount of liquid in proportion to the chopped herbs. Put together, it made for a very liquidy marinade. For this reason, I decided not to pour it over the turkey in a pyrex baking dish, because the turkey breast would have simply sat in a puddle of wine and lemon juice. I put the meat in a gallon-sized plastic zip-lock bag and poured the marinade in after it. I sat the bag as upright as I could keep it propped in the fridge so that the turkey was immersed.

Another note: double the cumin. Half a teaspoon vanished into the thicket of sharper flavors.

I roasted the turkey in a pyrex baking dish. It didn’t brown as well as I would have liked. And I decided that the suggested method of checking for doneness was a bit dumb. A meat thermometer told all I needed to know. I took it out when it reached 150.

The sauce needed something else to make it more interesting. I threw in a pat of butter at the end, in the hope that it would make it richer, but it didn’t.

If I make this dish again, I would:

  • increase the cumin
  • would cook it for half an hour at the starting temperature of 425, skipping the reduction to 400 F. This might help with the browning.
  • cook the meat until the thermometer ran 140 and then let it rise on the counter another ten degrees.
  • reduce the sauce and consider adding additional ingredients: shallots, a dab of mustard?