OTTOLENGHI TEST KITCHEN "OTK"
There’s a quirky building in north London, built from equal parts brick and tahini, walls coated in olive oil and floors stained with spice: habanero and fenugreek, Aleppo chilli and black lime. This is the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, the OTK to some, where a stripped-back railway arch makes absolute sense, where a group of individuals meet and eat, cook and write, tear and share and gather with just one motive: to create good food with good ingredients, and to share it with the world.
MEET THE TEAM
Those who know us will tell you that Yotam Ottolenghi and his Test Kitchen colleagues are an eccentric bunch, our various backgrounds and stories leading us to this one shared space. To say that the Test Kitchen can be narrowed down to one voice would be inaccurate, really, when it is in fact a collection of voices and personalities, the comings and goings of chefs and writers, of food stylists and photographers, of sommeliers and every other talent in the trade. It is a decade of collected fingerprints, the kind of space you walk into and know, ‘This place is greater than the sum of its parts.’
Leading the crew you have Noor Murad, who informally crowns herself the queen of Middle Eastern feasts; Verena Lochmuller, who is basically the Google search engine to all baking questions; Tara Wigley, the in-house word wizard; and, of course, Gitai Fisher, the man who keeps us all in check while making absolutely sure we stay out of trouble. The latest addition to our team of misfits is Chaya, who joined just as the book was coming together, adding heaped spoonfuls of spicy personality to the brew. There’s also our trusted colleague Claudine Boulstridge, our secret OTK weapon, who tries and tests all of our recipes from her family kitchen in Wales. Ultimately, of course, there is Big Y, as we dub him, who pushes and inspires us, while making sure we have enough wiggle room to sail our own course. Our stories are sprinkled across this book, written and narrated by Noor, whose Middle Eastern influence makes a prominent mark on these pages.
OTK - SHELF LOVE
For the longest time, we called this book ‘Stripped’; we thought of it as a stripping down of our shelves, pantries, cupboards, fridges and freezers. It felt like a liberation, getting rid of the old to make way for the new. In turn, we wanted to set the foundations and framework in place for you to flex your own creativity, stripping down your own kitchens, raiding your own shelves and swapping things out with your own pantry ingredients. This decluttering approach was freeing, teaching us how to love our kitchens and our stoves, but most importantly teaching us how to love ourselves at an otherwise very challenging time. And so Shelf Love (thank you, Caz!), was born, a whimsical description, yes, but also a truly accurate one.
To build up this book we have broken down our kitchens: pulling ingredients apart only to put them back together again – cohesive dishes based on kitchen finds. A bag of dried chickpeas, repurposed. A kilo of onions, cooked down. Some wonky-looking vegetables, chargrilled. There is a ‘this for that’ ethos here; the understanding that, in this new world, the need to improvise, to roll with the punches, is more crucial than ever before.
We carry this ethos throughout the book, as we map out our recipes based on kitchen logistics: from fridge to pantry to one-dish bakes and sweet, sweet endings. It’s food that we’d cook at home, for our friends and families, comforting but with a slight edge, a little twist, a ‘cheffy’ addition. They’re recipes with stories and personalities, with swap-outs and suggestions, recipes that say without saying, ‘I’ll show you the rules, but here’s how to break them.’ We want you to take these recipes and make them your own, turning this cookbook into a handbook – one to write and scribble on, to stain with turmeric and fold down pages. We want this book to be that book, the most haggard-looking book on your shelves, indicating that it serves its purpose and then some. We want, more than anything, for you to show this book some love. Shelf Love.
Dishpatch gives you the opportunity to have first taste of OTK Shelf Love at home. The menu features a mezze selection from the new cookbook. “Both Yotam and I agree that the best way to eat is to have lots of different dishes that you can share with friends and family,” explains Noor “so, for this menu, we chose a selection of vibrant, veg-focussed dishes that you wouldn’t expect from a typical mezze, which use lots of different textures and unique flavours.” These accompany a larger main dish of marinated mushroom or lamb rump skewers with flatbreads and yoghurt aioli.
© Photography by Elena Heatherwick