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Killing two birds with one stone

"Ottolenghi ne sa una più del diavolo!" (Ottolenghi doesn't miss a trick) Soffici Blog

Actually if you translate that Italian phrase literally I think it means Ottolenghi knows more about it than the devil - which is rather more colourful. Let's keep to 'hellishly good'. And the quote is in Italian because even the Italian bloggers are making this particular Ottolenghi dish.

I'm making it for dinner tonight - It's called Butternut, orange and sage galette - and it's from his book Flavour, which I had thought was my least favourite Ottolenghi book, but looking at it again I think I might revise that opinion. I almost made it a couple of weeks ago for my oldest grandchild's birthday - she is vegetarian - but in the end I was not required to contribute.

I probably go about these single recipe posts all wrong. Really I should write them after I've made the dish in question but I always get so excited at the prospect that I can't wait to attack it as it were. Killing two birds with one stone? Well each week I try to cook something new, something vegetarian, something with fish and something with legumes. An aim I often don't quite achieve. This dish allows me to tick off two of those in one go - new and vegetarian. So win win.

To kill two birds with one stone though is a really unpleasant saying isn't it if you think about it? So I looked it up and it seems they think it comes from the myth of Daedalus and Icarus in which Daedalus kills two birds with one stone to get the feathers for the wings he made for he and his son Icarus to escape from Crete. But why would he need to use just one stone? Surely there were plenty of stones? But whilst searching for a suitable illustration for this proverb I found a rather amusing quote (if somewhat macabre) on Quora where people were asking if it was even possible to kill two birds with one stone.

"Take your stone, kill the first bird with it. Find another bird, kill second bird with same stone. Nobody said it had to be simultaneous." Alexis Phoenix

He did hasten to add that he abhorred killing birds. Actually if you've got nothing to do, look up this particular Quora conversation. There are a range of responses from the humorous to the frightening and on to the scientific. It's amazing what the human mind is capable of really. Oh the internet is such fun.

Back to Ottolenghi squash, oranges and sage. And don't forget the carrots for there are two carrots in there as well. Fundamentally the recipe has four different components each of which is really intriguing.

The pastry - is a sort of rough puff pastry that includes polenta, sage, caraway seeds and olive oil. So it's a tiny bit more complicated to make and you also have to rest it, but it's apparently pretty easy to work with. The pumpkin and carrots need to be roasted - together with a whole garlic bulb and a shallot - and more sage.

Then there's the base - a mix of mascarpone, sage and orange juice plus the chopped garlic and shallot. And this is where I shall come a bit unstuck because I have no mascarpone and we have done our shop for today. In normal circumstances I would say to hell with it and just go to the shops again, but we are off to Port Douglas next week and I am going to try to stay at home from now until then (except for a trip to the hairdresser) for fear of getting COVID and stuffing up the entire holiday. So I checked on the net - where you can find an answer to everything - well not really - but certainly when it comes to cooking you will find something. People have lots of substitutes and there are endless recipes for making your own, but that requires cream cheese, which I also do not have. However the answer I think is a mix of some real thick cream from Meander Valley that needs using and yoghurt - which should give a little bit of a tang. I had thought of using feta instead and I'm sure you could, but I think that would fundamentally change the final taste.

And since I'm fully into rambling mode at this point, on the way to finding a substiute for mascarpone I found this recipe which uses the same mix of flavours as Ottolenghi and which looks rather wonderful I have to say. And a lot easier than his tart. It's one of those very simple pasta dishes - I suppose a variation of spaghetti al limone - Mascarpone, orange and sage spaghetti. It's from a blog calle eat in my kitchen.

The last element in this tart is the glaze made of maple syrup and orange juice - I can do that.

It's not a throw-everything-together and cook for 5 minutes kind of dish at all but it's the sort of dish that would give a cook like me immense pleasure to make on a dull day like today. I shall try to forget the fear of David not liking it because he's not a huge fan of pumpkin and a bit suspicious of the truly vegetarian. But this is the other reason for having a go at this - I have half a butternut pumpkin in the fridge which will need using before we leave on our ten day trip to the far north. And this looks like just the thing.

Besides when I was looking for the recipe I found that a very large number of people had made this and raved about it. For example:

"We’ve eaten it twice and although the list of ingredients is long and it’s quite a faff to make (sorry, Ottolenghi), it gets wolfed down in minutes." Years of Practice

And like most of the cooks who have made this, and Ottolenghi himself, she thinks the pastry is the star, so I'm glad I've got everything I need for that. And actually I don't think it looks like that much of a faff. Yes there are several steps but they are all pretty easy. And I have the time.

It is always interesting to check on whether other people have made a recipe you are considering, and to see what they said. I this case there were dozens. Here are nine more that I found. I won't give you the links because the recipe is the same, although, like me, a few have had to fiddle to cope with what they had or could get. I don't have any fresh sage leaves either, so it will have to be dried I'm afraid. Just hope I've got enough. Anyway here are some of those other attempts:

Joanne Eats Well With Others (on the right) - her topping looks a bit more sparse than others - maybe she rolled the pastry out to too big a size. She made hers for a Valentine's Day dinner and used the somewhat more expensive (and different) blood oranges.

Bread'N Butter Kids (below) - now this is her second version - with just carrots, lemon to replace some of the orange and thyme instead of sage - because -

"While I liked it, my family didn’t like it as much because the glaze was a bit too strong for them and they aren’t fans of pumpkin."

The carrot version was a success. Indeed it just shows it's a recipe you can play with. I'm sure it would work with sweet potato too. Maybe parsnips and/or swede.

Next, is the recipe as cooked by the lady of Amy's 3 Day Weekend who says:

"Everything about this is spot on! ... it is the kind of food that keeps you questioning: is it a savory pie, a flatbread, appetizer or dinner?? My answer is all of them!"

Now she made hers with a different kind of pumpkin - more like a Kent pumpkin and roasted it in thicker slices. Looking at this picture I'm guessing she then cut it up into small pieces. Not as beautiful but it obviously tasted good.

Moving on to Lorrie Graham and à la Damaris. These two are a bit cheaty - if that's a word. Lorrie Graham used puff pastry, and it looks like she burnt it a bit, and if you believe everyone else it would be a shame not to make the pastry. She also, in her very brief introduction, uses some of the very same words that Ottolenghi uses in his. Black mark. But a bigger black mark to à la Damaris because he or she actually says the recipe is by Damaris Beems and then proceeds to reproduce the Ottolenghi recipe - minus the mascarpone base - but then this is a vegan site. I'm only including it here to show what frauds some people are. I have come across this kind of thing here and there. Why would you? I mean this is obviously a well-known recipe and even if you do leave out one component that doesn't really make it different does it? And when I come to look at the picture I'm not sure that's pumpkin and carrot on the top there is it?

Fortunately though the whole world is not like this. So here are two more. On the left No Ordinary Cook who had to adapt a bit because she couldn't find polenta - such is America - so she substituted cornflour. And she didn't have enough maple syrup so substituted honey - fair enough I think. On the right 4 Passion Food which is written by a Moroccan lady called Dalila. She has a French version of the site too, although I suspect she actually lives in America. Anyway this is her version of Ottolenghi's dish. Looks pretty good.

Two more and then I'm done. Just to show how Ottolenghi's fame has spread, here is a version from an Italian blog called Soffici blog. She describes this as 'meravigliosa', one of those Italian words which is instantly recognisable I think. And she is responsible for my leading quote. Good photograph too. And finally Just By Layla - on a kind of Instagram site - who says:

"The whole dish is just gorgeous and so unusual - seriously clever cooking by Ottolenghi. Next time you're hosting foodie friends, make this and bask in the glory!"

Well I hope my not very foodie husband will be appreciative enough to enable me to do just that.

One thing I will say is that just about all of them have been able to produce something that looks seriously good. The only thing I'm wondering about is the fact that you keep the skin on the pumpkin. I will do as I'm told, and I guess if you slice it thin enough it will just be like the skin on potatoes - which I love.

I was going to write about what other things people had done with pumpkin, orange, carrots and sage, but I have wittered on enough I think. I will try to remember to take a photograph and report back tomorrow.

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