One of the last wedding gifts to arrive is one of the most handled so far…

Ottolenghi: the cookbook was a wedding gift from my old youth workers and arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago (sticking half out our mailbox which made me do a excited skip when I saw it).

Alice wrote in the card that they had been really enjoying cooking the recipes, which if you have ever been invited to their house for dinner, you will know is a good recommendation. I still remember the wild raspberry ice cream Alice made for dessert once.

Since the cookbook arrived it has been my bedtime reading most evenings. I have devoured every word, and the book is now liberally covered with mini post-it notes, marking all the recipes that need to be tested urgently.

On Saturday night I got in from the Serve the City project I had been volunteering on and decided tonight was the night to try the first recipe out. And I knew exactly what I wanted to try first…

Caramelised endive with Serrano ham

I had never eaten endives, or chicons as they are called here in Brussels, before I moved here, but now they are one of my favourite vegetables. Rasmus and I have a restaurant near St Gery that we really like. The mis-matched tables, chilled atmosphere and the fact that the unchanging menu is written up on the wall help but really we just go there for their chicons: stuffed with meat, wrapped in bacon, and served up with mash potato, gravy and broccoli. So. very. good.

So I went that way with this meal. I followed the recipe instructions pretty close except for substituting bacon for the serrano ham which was more expensive. And then I cooked mash potatoes and green beans to go with it.

It was really yummy! The chicons are caramelised in butter and sugar and then a stuffing of breadcrumbs, parmesan and thyme is spooned on top and each one is covered with the strip of bacon and baked in the oven for 20 minutes.

If all the recipes in the book are this good, I am going to need to utilise that gym membership a bit more often… ;)

On my “to-cook” list next are: Chargrilled asparagus, courgetters and manouri; Cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yoghurt; Turkey and sweetcorn meatballs with roasted pepper sauce; Sweet potato galettes; and Parmesan and poppy biscuits. Anyone fancy coming round for dinner?!

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