The odd couple: Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes combining meat with fruit (2024)

While Iam a son of the Middle East, favouring concentrated flavours and lots of heat, colour, spice and acidity, my dad is an Italian cook for whom subtlety and moderation are his underlying philosophy. We tend to clash most over putting meat and fruit in the same dish. He, the purist, can't stand the notion; Iam so inclined towards it that I must have been Persian in a previous life. Lamb meatballs studded with sweet-sharp barberries orprunes; chicken or quail stuffed with dried apricots; date or pomegranate molasses to deepen the flavours of aslow-cooked stew… I'm a sucker for them all.

One of the very few concessions my father makes to this notion is in the time-honoured Italian starter of melon and Parma ham, a dish that showcases the relationship at its simplest and, perhaps, best, with the sweet fruit revelling in the salty, dry-cured meat. For the dish to work, the melon has to be properly ripe; if it's not, you can tease out its natural sugars by brushing it with olive oil and putting it on a very hot char-grill for a minute or so on each side. (This also works with stone fruit such as nectarines, peaches and apricots.)

The other option is to go with dried fruit to begin with. Whether it's whole apricots, figs or prunes in a tagine, medjool dates with roast chicken, or chopped apricots mixed with minced lamb and stuffed inside a bird, as the dried fruit plumps up, it both takes on the flavours of the dish and gives back a deep sweetness. Smaller dried fruits are just as good at swelling with flavoursome liquids: blackcurrants, say, left to plump up in brandy or sherry vinegar before being mixed with shredded chicken or pigeon in a Moroccan pastilla; or tossed into awarm roast chicken and bread salad with bitter greens.

Another approach isto boil a lemon or orange in water for an hour, then whizz to a puree. Add honey or sugar and you have a base for all manner of spectacular dressings and marinades for chicken, lamb or oily fish.

Lamb koftas with pomegranate jam and tahini

Use a food mixer with a dough hook attachment to break down the meat – this will make your koftas juicier (you can do it by hand, but you'll need a good half-hour and a lot of elbow grease). I'm a recent convert to pomegranate jam – this is the second week in a row it's featured here – and am currently spooning it over all sorts of meat. Makes 30 koftas, to serve six.

1kg minced lamb
3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
3 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 tsp ground allspice
30g parsley, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finelychopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper
About 120g tahini paste
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

For the pomegranate jam
250g pomegranate seeds (ie, the seeds of 4 small pomegranates)
80g caster sugar
1½ tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

First make the jam. Put everything in a medium saucepan on a medium heat, add a pinch of salt and bring toa gentle simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the mix is jam-likein consistency, then set aside; once cooled, you may need to add atablespoon or two of water to thinitdown a little.

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put the lamb and spices in the mixer and, on a slow speed, workwith a dough hook for about 15minutes. Stir in the parsley, onion, garlic, ateaspoon and a quarter of salt and agrind of black pepper, cover and rest in the fridge for 10 minutes. Rollthe mix into 30 3cm x 5cm koftas, each weighing about 35g.

While you're working the lamb, give thetahini a stir in its jar, to evenit out, then pour into a bowl and add 100ml water and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to a thick, pourable sauce – if need be, add a little more tahini or water to get theright consistency (you want it like double cream) – then cover withclingfilm and set to one side.

Put a griddle pan on a high heat and, once it's smoking, cook the koftas in batches for just a minute ortwo, turning so they get charred on all sides. Transfer to a baking tray and roast for about eight minutes more, until cooked through.

To serve, drizzle the warm koftas with some of the sauce, then spoon a little jam on each and sprinkle with coriander. Serve at once with any remaining sauce on the side.

Fried veal cutlets with apple and pistachio salad

Pork or lamb make perfectly good substitutes in this dish. Serves four.

70g panko breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
70g parmesan, finely grated
2 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
Salt and black pepper
40g plain flour
2 eggs, whisked
4 rose veal cutlets
About 500ml sunflower oil

For the apple and pistachio salad
75ml olive oil
½ tsp orange-blossom water
1½ tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and julienned
1½ tbsp capers, roughly chopped
40g pistachio kernels, toasted and lightly crushed
1 tsp poppy seeds
30g chives, roughly chopped
20g mint, roughly chopped

For the salad, put the oil, orange-blossom water, lemon juice, mustard and garlic in a bowl with a third of ateaspoon of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Whisk to combine, add the remaining salad ingredients, stir gently and set aside.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, parmesan and thyme in a bowl, add half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and mix. Put the flour in a separate bowl and the eggs in a third.

Season the cutlets with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and some pepper, then dip in the flour, one at a time, until covered. Shake off any excess, then dip in the egg, followed by the panko, using your fingers to press the crust into the meat.

Fill a large sauté pan with enough oil to come 1cm up the sides, put on a medium-high heat and, when hot, add two cutlets. Fry the cutlets for three minutes, turning once, until golden and crisp. Use tongs to transfer to a rack on a baking tray, then fry the other cutlets. Put the cutlets in the oven to finish cooking: depending on the thickness of the meat, they'll take anywhere between eight and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to rest for three minutes, and serve warm with the salad alongside.

Hawaiian pork chops

The odd couple: Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes combining meat with fruit (1)

Serve with sticky rice. Serves six.

1 small 750g pineapple, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
20g ginger, peeled and finely grated
60ml light soy sauce
120ml coconut cream
75g caster sugar
90ml sunflower oil
1½ tsp chilli powder
50g salted and roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1½ tbsp ground coriander
40g fresh coriander, chopped
6 pork chops

Cut off the top third of the pineapple, and coarsely grate the flesh into a bowl. Cut the rest of the pineapple lengthways into quarters, cut out the core and cut each quarter widthways into 1cm slices. Add the garlic and ginger to the grated pineapple, then the soy, coconut, sugar, oil, chilli, peanuts, ground coriander, 30g of fresh coriander and half a teaspoon of salt. Mix in the chops, cover and marinate in the fridge for an hour.

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put a ridged griddle pan on ahigh heat. Lift out the pork and scrape off the marinade back into the bowl. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt over the chops and griddle them two at a time for three minutes, turning once, until nicely charred on both sides. Transfer to a deep-sided 32cm x 22cm baking tray. With the pan still on a high heat, griddle the pineapple slices for two minutes, turning once, until charred on both sides, and add to the tray. Spoon over the marinade and roast for 10 minutes, until the pork is just cooked (timings may vary, depending on the thickness of the chops) and the sauce bubbling. Rest for three minutes, sprinkle on the rest of the coriander and serve.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

Follow Yotam on Twitter.

The odd couple: Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes combining meat with fruit (2024)


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