Yotam Ottolenghi’s Californian recipes (2024)

California, the state of plenty and infinite possibilities, had me hooked at the age of eight. It was 1977, Elvis had just died, and I landed there with my family to live for a year. In contrast to our dusty corner of the Middle East, the land of hot dogs, endless seafood, Taco Bell, Flintstones-shaped vitamins, multi-channel colour TV and big Cadillacs had a dizzying effect on my young mind. Decades on, I still adore California for its abundance and irreverence, for its rich cultural blend and for its ability to excite and give pleasure.

Cobb salad with mango and lime dressing (pictured above)

Cobb salad is (almost) as American as apple pie, and is all about the shameless display of abundance (hence the even longer-than-usual ingredients list here). Pick and choose from my selection, and add some of your own, so long as you keep to the spirit of plenty and fun.

Prep 35 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

6 slices prosciutto
2 large eggs
60ml olive oil
350g asparagus, woody ends trimmed and discarded, spears cut widthways into three
Salt and black pepper
2 corn cobs
, kernels shaved off
350g extra-large, sustainably sourced shelled king prawns, veins removed, and patted dry
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
200g datterini tomatoes (or baby plum tomatoes), halved
1 large head iceberg lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
15g coriander, leaves picked with some stem attached
1 large avocado, stoned, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into thin rounds (use a mandoline, ideally)
½ lime

For the dressing
200g ripe mango chunks (ie, from 1-2 mangoes)
75ml fresh lime juice (ie, from 3-4 limes)
60ml olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, drained and roughly chopped
1½ tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Lay the prosciutto on a large oven tray lined with greaseproof paper and roast for 15 minutes, or until it is starting to crisp up, then leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile, boil the eggs in boiling water for seven minutes, then drain and run under the cold tap until cool. Peel and cut each egg into four wedges, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Now for the dressing: put the mango, lime juice, oil and anchovies in a blender and blitz smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the coriander, chilli, a third of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper.

Put a teaspoon and a half of oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the asparagus, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook for four minutes, turning a couple of times, until softened and charred, then transfer to a plate.

Pour another tablespoon of oil into the same pan, add the corn kernels, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and charred in places – about four minutes – then transfer to a bowl. Pour another tablespoon of oil into the pan, turn the heat to high and, once it’s very hot, add half the prawns, half the garlic, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook, turning occasionally, for three minutes, until just cooked through and browned. Transfer to a separate bowl and repeat with the remaining prawns and garlic.

In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and pepper and a teaspoon and a half of oil.

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, coriander, a third of the dressing, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on a large platter. Top the lettuce with separate piles of tomato, avocado, onion, corn, asparagus, eggs, prosciutto and prawns. Squeeze the half-lime over everything, drizzle half the remaining dressing on top and serve the rest alongside.

Steak and cheese tacos with jalapeño and orange

You can use ready-made corn tortillas, if you prefer, but the real deal are hard to beat. You can make them a few hours ahead of time, too – just cover them with a tea towel, and later warm them through in the pan after cooking the steak. Cheese can be a bit messy to fry, so just use uncooked if you prefer.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Californian recipes (1)

Prep 15 min
Cook 55 min
Makes 12 tacos

3 jalapeño chillies, halved lengthways and finely sliced (remove the pith and seeds if you prefer less heat)
1½ tsp chilli flakes (or red bell pepper flakes if you prefer less heat)
60ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing and frying
125g masa harina (Mexican corn flour) - from supermarkets or online)
360g skirt steak, in one piece
140g piece mature cheddar, cut into 12 x 5mm-thick rectangles (optional)
1 small orange, skin and pith removed, then cut into segments (discard any pips)
1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges, to serve

Put a frying pan on a high heat until smoking hot, then toast the jalapeños, stirring a few times, until they start to char – about four minutes. Tip into a bowl, leave to cool for two minutes, then stir in the chilli flakes, oil and a quarter-teaspoon of salt.

Put the masa harina, a good pinch of salt and 250ml hot water in a medium bowl and stir until it comes together into a dough. Once it’s cool enough to handle, knead vigorously until you end up with a smooth ball the consistency of Play-Doh, then divide into 12 30g pieces. Lightly grease a work surface and your hands with oil, roll each piece into a smooth ball, and cover with clingfilm.

Put a nonstick frying pan on a high heat and, once it’s smoking, add a teaspoon and a half of oil. Fry the steak for a minute and a half to two minutes on each side, or until well browned on the outside and still rare inside. Transfer to a board, season generously with salt, cover with foil and leave to rest while you cook the tortillas.

Wipe the pan clean and return it to a high heat. Meanwhile, get a clean tea towel ready and cut out a few pieces of greaseproof paper, which you’ll need to help you press the dough. Place one piece of dough between two sheets of paper, then, using a heavy-based pan (or other similar round weight), press down evenly and firmly on the dough to spread it out into a 10cm-12cm-wide circle. Remove the top sheet of paper and use the bottom sheet to transfer the tortilla to the hot pan. Cook for 90 seconds until nicely browned, then flip and cook for another minute to brown the other side. Transfer the cooked tortilla to the tea towel, fold it over to cover, then repeat with the remaining dough (cook as many tortillas at a time as will fit in the pan).

Once all the tortillas are done, reduce the heat under the pan to medium-high. In two batches, lay in the cheese slices and leave for a minute or two, until they form a crust on the bottom and start to melt. Using a butter knife, carefully lift out the slices (they will be melting and hot) and put on a plate, so they don’t stick.

With a very sharp knife, cut the steak against the grain into 24 slices, each about ½cm thick. Top each warm tortilla with two slices of steak and one slice of cheese. Cut any thicker orange segments in half lengthways and top each taco with a couple of pieces.

Sprinkle over the coriander, drizzle over some jalapeño oil and serve at once with the lime wedges alongside for squeezing on top.

Salted coffee, pecan and lime rocky road

Rocky road may have originated in Australia in the 1850s, but it is incredibly popular in California, and indeed across the entire US, where you can find it in all sorts of combinations of chocolates and nuts. Here, I’ve given it a grown-up twist by adding coffee, cardamom and lime zest.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Californian recipes (2)

Prep 10 min
Cook 25 min
Set 4-8 hr
Makes 25 squares

125g milk chocolate
125g dark chocolate
125g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp lime zest, plus 1 tsp extra to garnish
100g mini white marshmallows

For the crumble
100g petit beurre or rich tea biscuits
140g shelled pecan nuts, roughly chopped
¾ tsp ground cardamom
¾ tsp flaked sea salt, plus extra to garnish
50g unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp maple syrup

Heat the oven to 175C (165C fan)/365F/gas 4½ and line the base and sides of a 20cm square tin with baking paper.

Put the biscuits in a zip-lock bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into 1cm-2cm pieces. Tip into a bowl with all the other crumble ingredients and mix to combine. Transfer to an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper, spread evenly and bake for 17 minutes, stirring once, then leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile, put the chocolates, butter, syrup and coffee in a heatproof bowl and set it over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water on a medium heat (make sure the water doesn’t come into contact with the base). Leave to melt, stirring occasionally, then leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Put the lime zest, marshmallows, crumble and melted chocolate mix in a large bowl and stir to combine. Transfer to the lined tin, and press down to even it out. Sprinkle all over with a small pinch of flaked salt and the extra zest, then refrigerate to set: at least four hours or overnight. To serve, cut into 25 squares.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Californian recipes (2024)


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