A new cookbook is always an exciting moment for food lovers, but “Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love” is especially thrilling for foodies living in the region. That’s because it is co-authored by Noor Murad, the Bahraini-British queen of Middle Eastern feasts, and Yotam Ottolenghi, considered a driving force behind the Middle Eastern cuisine trend in the UK. And surely enough, Ottolenghi, a bestselling cookery author, and Murad, an esteemed recipe developer, ensure that Middle Eastern flavours loom large.
The book is the first in a new series from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen (OTK), a hub where around eight talented and creative individuals share their own culture, training and experiences, which is founded by Ottolenghi and headed by Murad. “Shelf Life” is all about raiding the cupboard, shelf, fridge or freezer and putting all kinds of pulses, grains, frozen foods, condiments and spices to good use. It’s based on having some fun in the kitchen while replacing certain ingredients with others, depending on what is available, saving busy bees from having to trek to the supermarket.
“I think it teaches you a timeless skill which is how to be creative with what you have,” Murad told “Happy Foodie.”
Conceived during the UK’s first lockdown and featuring contributions from other OTK team members, the book focuses on intuitive, relaxed and flexible home cooking and creating a fuss-free meal that can be easily made in the middle of the working week.
While they have been created to be practical and help those in the kitchen avoid stress, the authors have made sure the recipes aren’t short of that Ottolenghi magic. “Shelf Love” is replete with the wow factor, high standard and lots of the scrumptious twists we’ve come to expect. Vegetarian dishes include confit tandoori chickpeas, sweet potato shakshuka with Sriracha butter and pickled onions, not-your-average tomato salad, creamy dreamy hummus, very giant couscous cake and tamarind, greens, and mung beans.
Plus, black limes, used a lot in Bahraini cuisine, feature in dishes like the sesame-crusted feta with black lime honey syrup and black lime beef skewers with sumac onion. Plus, za’atar, a fragrant Middle Eastern spice mix that instantly adds some zing, makes an appearance in dishes like za’atar salmon and tahini and M.E. mac ’n’ cheese with za’atar pesto.
Every recipe suggests alternative ingredients, so for example the confit chickpeas can be transformed into confit butter beans if that's what's in your pantry. Additionally, the book leaves space for cooks to add their own notes on how they experimented with the dish.
About Noor Murad
After a summer job and a stint working with a German catering company at Bahrain’s Formula 1 track then in Germany, Noor Murad was ready to take her passion for food to new professional heights. The culinary creative with a mixed Bahraini-British heritage moved to New York to hone her skills at the Culinary Institute of America. Her tough three-year bachelor degree in Culinary Management was followed by a six-month internship in Hawaii. After that, the UK-based Murad went back to New York to work in Manhattan, a place that also helped build her character.
Before joining forces with Yotam Ottolenghi on “Shelf Love,” Murad, who leads the team at Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, developed recipes for two other cookbooks. She worked with Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley for their book “Falastin” and also proposed recipes for “Ottolenghi FLAVOUR.”