Ottolenghi’s Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Aubergine

I’ve been having a fun time lately going back through my stash of cookbooks in search of some new favourites. This baked orzo from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More is a happy discovery on the way. It’s a far cry from the pasta bakes of my student years (their main feature was a thick carpet of melty cheese on top). Instead this features fried aubergine, lemon zest to add brightness throughout, and a layer of tomatoes on top. There’s still plenty of cheese though – mozzarella is spun throughout as well as hefty sprinkling of parmesan on top.

This is great with a really cold glass of white wine, and a salad alongside for dinner one night, with the leftovers stashed away in tupperware of lunch al desko the next day. Whatever direction you take it in, don’t miss out the lemon zest. For me, it’s what makes this so good, and is a trick I’ve been using a lot lately in tomato-heavy dishes for a little extra flavour boost.

Ottolenghi’s Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Aubergine

Ottolenghi’s Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Aubergine

Ingredients

  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 large aubergine, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 250g orzo, rinsed well
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • 120g mozzarella, torn apart
  • 2 tomatoes, finely sliced

Instructions

  • First, preheat the oven to 200C. Heat the olive oil and fry the aubergines until they start collapsing and are golden brown. Remove from the pan before tossing in the carrot, celery and onion. Let these cook at a lower temperature for 15 minutes until they take on some colour, before adding in the garlic and some seasoning. Add in the orzo and tomato puree, tossing everything well and let them cook for 2-3 minutes, and then return the aubergine to the pan.
  • Pour the orzo mix into a deep rectangular mix, before pouring in the vegetable stock. Mix in the mozzarella and lemon zest, making sure everything is well combined. Place a layer of tomatoes over the top before baking for 40 minutes - by this point the top should be turning golden brown and the liquid all absorbed.
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    Cardamom Chocolate Mousse Cake

    Melted chocolate

    For someone who merrily proclaimed a few weeks ago that she doesn’t really make cakes any more, somehow here we are with a cardamom chocolate mousse cake. Maybe actually making a full size cake was enough to break the spell?

    Anyway, this is a really great cake, adapted just slightly from Sabrina Ghayour’s (excellent!) Sirocco. I made it yesterday to take over to a dinner with friends and it’s an absolute whizz to pull together – you just need to leave it long enough to let the cake cool down completely before you unclip it from a springform tin.

    Oh-  and it works out to be gluten and dairy free as well, so perfect for the free-from folks in your lives as well.

    Cardamom Chocolate Mousse Cake

    Ingredients

    • 200g good quality dark chocolate
    • 175ml olive oil
    • Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, crushed
    • 1 shot strong espresso
    • 5 eggs, separated
    • 75g caster sugar

    Instructions

  • Start by lining a 24cm springform tin, and grease the sides, and preheat the oven to 200C. Melt the chocolate over a lower heat, and then gradually beat in the olive oil until you have a very smooth and glossy mixture. Let this cool for 15 minutes before stirring in the cardamom and coffee.
  • While the chocolate is cooling, beat the together the egg yolks and sugar until frothy, and in another bowl, whip the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. Then, stir the egg yolk mixture into the chocolate, before very gently folding in the egg whites. Tip this all into the baking tin, and bake for 20 minutes.
  • It will still be pretty liquid when the time is up, but take out of the oven and let cool completely before unclipping the tin. The cake will have sunk back down on itself but that's what you're aiming for. Best kept in the fridge before eating!
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    Hand Cafe in Stratford’s East Village

    Hand Cafe is the latest cafe to open up in the former Olympic Village in Stratford. We’ve lived just around the corner from here for the last three years, and over that time the village has gone from completely empty to finally buzzing with life.

    The obvious advantage of this is there are finally some decent coffee spots nearby (all the more important since Grind Stratford closed a few months ago). I’ve been a loyal fan of Tina We Salute You since they opened up last August, and now over the most recent bank holiday, Hand Cafe has opened up as well.

    An offshoot of 46B Espresso Hut in Homerton, this is now their bigger base just further along the overground line. The coffee is Square Mile and very delicious, and is served up these beautiful hexagonal cups.  We visited on their opening weekend when then kitchen didn’t look quite fully up and running, but I love sound of their greek flavours, locally sourced eggs and milk, and the natural wines offered in the evening.

    It’s about average for a flat white (£2.60) so I’m sure we’ll be back soon for a repeat visit.

    Hand Cafe, Victory Parade, Stratford’s East Village