Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for a five-ingredient feast | Food (2024)

Yotam Ottolenghi recipes

Irresistible, five-ingredient recipes for black pepper chicken with soy butter, cheesy cauliflower bites, and a herby orzo pilaf

Yotam Ottolenghi


Sat 14 Sep 2019 10.30 CEST

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When, a few years ago, one Mr J Oliver wrote a bestseller with a five-ingredient promise on its cover, I couldn’t help but quietly ask myself: “Could I possibly cope with such a bare minimum? What would I do with a limit of five?” Having now taken on this challenge, along with all my fellow contributors to a special issue of Feast this week, I can happily report that the folks at the Ottolenghi test kitchen actually enjoyed the restriction.

Excluding a few staples (fat, sugar, salt and pepper), the rule of five liberated us from any notion of “an extra pinch of this or maybe some of that” – which, I have to confess, turned out to be a welcome relief. So, for today, at least, less is more.

Black pepper chicken with soy butter and lots of garlic

Soy emulsified with butter makes a rich and glossy sauce that elevates what is essentially a humble stir-fry (which you could also make with sirloin steak, if you prefer, cut and cooked in exactly the same way).

I urge you to try it – just make sure you whisk the butter into the sauce at the lowest possible temperature, because it will split if you let it boil. Don’t leave the sauce to sit around for too long, either, because it won’t hold together for more than about 20 minutes. Serve with sticky rice or noodles.

Prep 15 min
Cook 50 min
Serves 4

700g skinned chicken breasts (ie, 4-6 breasts), cut into ¼cm-thick strips (freeze the chicken for half an hour first, to make it easier to cut)
75ml soy sauce
10 garlic cloves, peeled, 3 crushed, the rest thinly sliced
1¼ tsp black peppercorns, coarsely crushed in a mortar, plus a little extra to garnish
60ml sunflower oil
40g cornflour
2 tsp caster sugar
600g choi sum, leaves left whole and stems cut into 5-6cm lengths
140g fridge-cold unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes

Put the sliced chicken in a bowl and add two tablespoons of the soy sauce, all the crushed garlic and half the crushed pepper. Toss to coat, then leave the chicken to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.

While the chicken is marinating, put the oil and sliced garlic in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat. Cook, stirring regularly, for seven to eight minutes, until the garlic is golden. Strain through a sieve set over a bowl, to catch the garlic-infused oil, and reserve the fried garlic slices, too. Wipe out the pan with kitchen towel, because you’ll be using it again later.

Add half the cornflour to the chicken bowl and mix well to combine. Leave this to sit for another two minutes, by which time the cornflour will have been mostly absorbed into the mix. Now add the rest of the cornflour and all the sugar, and mix again to combine.

Pour two and half tablespoons of the reserved garlic oil into the wiped-clean saute pan and put on a high heat. Once the oil is very hot, add a third of the chicken, and cook, stirring continuously to keep the strips from clumping, until nicely browned and crisp – about three minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the rest of the chicken, cooking a third of it at a time.

Once all the chicken is cooked and on the plate, add the remaining garlic oil to the pan, stir in the chopped choi sum stems and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and fry on a high heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly coloured. Now add the choi sum leaves and stir-fry until wilted – about two minutes more.

Return the chicken to the pan, heat through for another two minutes, then keep warm until you’re ready to serve.

Now make the soy butter sauce. Put the remaining three tablespoons of soy sauce, the rest of the crushed pepper and two and a half tablespoons of water in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer for three minutes, then turn the heat to its lowest setting. Whisk in two or three butter cubes and, once they’ve melted, add two or three more cubes, and repeat, whisking continuously, until all the butter has been incorporated and you are left with a thick, hom*ogenised sauce.

To serve, transfer the chicken stir-fry to a large platter and pour over the soy butter sauce. Top with the crisp garlic slices and a little extra crushed black pepper, and serve warm.

Crispy cheese and mustard cauliflower bites

These are like a mustardy, bite-sized cauliflower cheese. They’re great as they are, but a sprinkle of paprika, a squeeze of lemon and some mayo would do no harm (though that might be construed as cheating).

Prep 10 min
Cook 35 min
Serves 4 as a snack

2 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
2½ tbsp English mustard (Colman’s, ideally), plus 2 tbsp extra to serve
70g panko breadcrumbs
70g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
Sunflower oil, for frying
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized florets (750g net weight)

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks and mustard until smooth. In a second medium bowl, combine the panko, parmesan, a small pinch of flaked salt and plenty of pepper.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a medium saute pan to come 5cm up its sides and put on a medium-high heat. Dip each cauliflower floret first in the egg bowl and then in the panko bowl, until well coated. Once the oil is hot, fry the florets in four batches, until cooked through and golden – about five minutes for each batch. Transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining batches of cauliflower.

Pile the fried cauliflower on to a large plate and sprinkle generously with flaked salt and a good amount of grated parmesan. Serve warm, with extra mustard for dipping.

Orzo pilaf with fennel and dill

This is a super-easy vegan main course to add to your repertoire. If you fancy adding dairy (and an extra ingredient), sprinkle some grated gruyère or cheddar over the top towards the end of the cooking time and return the pot to the oven until it’s melted and bubbling.

Prep 10 min
Cook 65 min
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side

3 fennel bulbs (800g in total), trimmed and each bulb cut into 6 wedges
60ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
700ml vegetable stock
100ml white wine
15g dill, roughly chopped, plus 1 tbsp extra, chopped, to serve
250g orzo

Heat the oven to 250C (230C fan)/ gas 9+. Put the fennel, two and a half tablespoons of the oil, a third of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper into a large, oven-proof saute pan for which you have a lid. Toss to coat, then pour in 100ml vegetable stock, transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the fennel is soft and well browned. Remove from the oven and turn down the heat to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7.

Add the wine, dill, orzo, remaining stock, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a good grind of pepper to the pan, and stir everything together. Cover the pot with a lid and return to the oven for 20 minutes, or until the orzo is cooked through and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove the lid and return to the oven for eight minutes more, until the pasta mix is golden around the edges. Sprinkle the extra dill and the remaining tablespoon and a half of oil all over the top and serve warm.


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