Yotam Ottolenghi’s chilli recipes (2024)

Recent readers’ letters highlighting the liberal use of chillies in Feast magazine have made me think seriously about the subject.

Over the years, I have undoubtedly increased my own use of chillies, but that has very little to do with any increased tolerance to heat or need to feed a habit, and much more to do with having a better understanding of how chillies interact with other ingredients.

Their heat has an incredible ability to marry with acidity and sweetness, for example, to create a new, singular harmony, and that can be achieved as much with lots of fiery spice as with very little. In fact, none of today’s dishes needs to be particularly hot – it’s your call how much chilli you need.

Steamed aubergines with charred chilli salsa (pictured above)

If you’ve never steamed aubergines before, please set aside any scepticism and give them a go. Yes, they are great browned through frying or roasting, but steamed aubergines have a notably silky texture and an incredible ability to soak up other flavours. You can make both the salsa and the oil up to a day ahead, but the aubergines should be cooked just before serving.

What can I use instead of chillies? | Kitchen AideRead more

Prep 10 min
Cook 55 min
Serves 4 as a side

2 large aubergines (700g)
2 spring onions, trimmed and very finely sliced into 6cm-long strips
1½ tbsp roasted and salted almonds, roughly chopped
1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely sliced

For the salsa
2 large, mild red chillies (for a milder salsa, use just one, and remove its pith and seeds)
140g cherry tomatoes, finely chopped (datterini, ideally, though any sweet cherry tomato will do)
1½ tsp sherry vinegar, plus ½ tsp extra to serve
Flaked sea salt

For the garlic and ginger oil
40ml olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh ginger

For the salsa, put a frying pan on a high heat and, once very hot, add the chillies and dry-fry, turning a few times, for about 10 minutes, until well charred all over. Transfer to a small bowl, cover with a saucer and leave to soften for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the pith and seeds from one of the chillies, then finely chop both chillies, including the charred skin. Put in a bowl with the tomatoes, vinegar and a quarter-teaspoon of flaked salt, and stir.

For the garlic and ginger oil, put everything a small frying pan with half a teaspoon of flaked salt and turn the heat to its lowest setting. Leave to cook very gently, stirring occasionally, for about eight minutes, until the garlic and ginger soften and give way when pressed with the back of a spoon. Make sure the oil is not too hot or the garlic will burn: if it does start to bubble, just take it off the heat to cool down.

Cut the aubergines into 7cm x 2cm batons, then toss in a bowl with two tablespoons of flaked salt. Fill a large saucepan for which you have a lid with enough water to come 4cm up the sides and bring to a boil. Place a steamer (or colander) over the pan, add the aubergine batons and cover with the lid (or seal tightly with foil), to prevent the steam escaping. Turn down the heat to medium and steam the aubergines for 20-25 minutes, until very soft but still holding their shape. Lift off the steamer and put in the sink to drain for five minutes.

Transfer the drained aubergines to a platter, drizzle over the extra half-teaspoon of vinegar and season with a quarter-teaspoon of flaked salt. Add three-quarters of the spring onions and gently toss through. Spoon the salsa on top, then drizzle over the garlic and ginger oil. Scatter on the almonds, coriander and the remaining spring onions, and serve.

Butter beans in smoked cascabel oil

Sweet, nutty and smoky, cascabel chillies make these beans very special. Serve them as an antipasto, alongside good olives and plenty of crusty bread to mop up the delicious oil. If you can’t get hold of cascabel chillies, dried ancho chilli would also work. Once cooked, the beans will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, and their flavour will only improve.

Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
Infuse 2 hr-plus
Serves 6

4 dried cascabel chillies, roughly broken in half
5 garlic cloves, bashed with the flat of a knife
2 jalapeños, sliced lengthways seeds and all (or use just one, or even none, if you prefer)
1 lime – skin finely shaved, to get 5 strips, and juiced, to get 1 tbsp
1 lemon – skin finely shaved, to get 5 strips, and juiced, to get 1 tbsp
1½ tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
400ml olive oil
Flaked sea salt
1 x 660g jar good-quality butter beans (I like Brindisa’s), drained

Put a large, nonstick frying pan on a high heat and ventilate the kitchen. Once the pan is smoking hot, turn the heat down to medium-high, add the cascabels, garlic, jalapeños and the strips of lime and lemon peel, and dry-fry until well blackened in places and very fragrant – about three minutes for the citrus skins, four for the garlic and cascabel chillies, and nine for the jalapeños. Remove them one by one as they’re ready and transfer to a saucepan. Once they’re all in the pan, add the toasted seeds, lime and lemon juice, oil and two teaspoons of flaked salt. Put on a medium heat and cook gently for four minutes, or until the oil begins to bubble a little, then turn off the heat. Use a pair of tongs or a potato masher to squeeze and crush the charred ingredients into the oil to release their flavour, then stir in the drained butter beans and leave to cool.

Once cool, tip into a bowl and leave to infuse for at least two hours, and ideally longer, if you’re planning to eat the beans that same day (if you’re making them ahead, decant into a suitable container, seal and put in the fridge). Serve at room temperature.

Roast and pickled celeriac with sweet chilli dressing

Yotam Ottolenghi’s chilli recipes (2)

This is a vegan equivalent of a slow-roasted joint of meat, both in the way the celeriac is cooked as well as in its deep flavour and how striking it looks on the table. The pickle and the dressing can be made a day ahead, but don’t mix the fried chilli and garlic into the dressing until you’re ready to serve. These quantities make much more pickle than you need, but it’s great stuffed into sandwiches or tossed through a salad, and it keeps for up to a week.

Prep 35 min
Cook 2 hr 45 min
Serves 4 as part of a vegetarian spread

1 large celeriac (900g), hairy roots removed and scrubbed clean – there’s no need to peel it
Flaked sea salt
60ml olive oil
2 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle, to serve
5g Thai basil leaves, roughly torn, to serve

For the pickled celeriac
1 medium celeriac (500g), trimmed, peeled and julienned or coarsely grated
3 celery sticks, cut into 6cm pieces and then julienned
2 garlic cloves, bashed with the flat of a knife
3 limes – 1 pared of its skin in 6 wide strips, all juiced, to get 60ml
150ml rice vinegar
25g flaked sea salt

For the dressing
120ml sunflower oil
3 red chillies, finely sliced into rounds (or use only 1 if you prefer less heat)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely sliced (use a mandoline, if you have one)
2 star anise
1½ tbsp mixed black and white sesame seeds, well toasted
2½ tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp rice vinegar
60ml soy sauce (or tamari to make the dish gluten-free)
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
Flaked sea salt

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/ gas 5. Jab the large celeriac all over about 30 times with a fork and put on an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper. Stir a teaspoon and a half of flaked salt into four tablespoons of oil, then rub three-quarters of the salted oil over the celeriac. Roast the celeriac for two hours, basting every 30 minutes, then pour over the rest of the oil mixture and roast for 15 minutes more, basting once halfway, until soft and golden brown. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, then cut into eight wedges and brush all the cut sides with the oil left on the tray. Put the wedges skin side down on the tray, turn up the heat to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 and roast for 20 minutes, until golden brown all over.

While the celeriac is roasting, mix all the pickle ingredients in a large bowl and set aside for at least two hours, stirring every now and then.

For the dressing, heat the oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once very hot, add the chilli, garlic and star anise, and fry, stirring to keep the garlic slices apart, for two to two and a half minutes, until the garlic is crisp and pale golden. Strain into a small bowl to collect the oil, and reserve the solids. Mix 40ml of the oil with the remaining dressing ingredients, and reserve the excess aromatic oil for another use: drizzle it on soups, stews, roast vegetables or indeed anything that could do with a bit of a kick.

To serve, arrange the celeriac wedges on a platter and sprinkle on a little flaked salt. Mix the reserved fried chilli and garlic into the dressing and spoon over and around the celeriac. Top with 200g pickle, avoiding the liquid, garlic and lime peel. Scatter the spring onions and Thai basil on top, and serve.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s chilli recipes (2024)


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