When I moved to London for the first time in 2011, Ottolenghi was already a very big deal. I remember visiting his (and partner Sami Tamimi’s) Notting Hill cafe with a new girlfriend, and I thought it was wonderful – it was the first time I’d seen all the salads laid out so generously, with all the incredible desserts stacked up in the window. A true feast for the eyes and something that his since been replicated in various forms all over the world. Ottolenghi shortly after became one of my favourite chefs, and I still regularly visit his cafes and restaurant.
Sometimes I find I open a cook book and the recipes are really uninspiring, or something that you could have made up yourself. What I love about the Ottolenghi cookbooks is I’m always discovering new ingredients (e.g.za’atar, sumac, pomegranate molasses), but also that he often pairs familiar ingredients in ways I wouldn’t think to do myself. This recipe (from Ottolenghi’s book ‘Simple‘) is a perfect example of that – pairing zesty citrus, with hazelnuts and fresh green beans. Even the inclusion of sesame oil isn’t something I’d usually think of for a salad like this.
This recipe also taught me how important it is to time the cooking time for your greens to keep them fresh and crunchy!
My family go back to this Ottolenghi salad time and again – it is a firm favourite and something that we tend to cook on birthdays and at Christmas time. You can mix-up the beans and try different varieties, using whatever is seasonal and takes your fancy (snow peas, broad beans etc.). The original recipe uses mange tout (snow peas).
Note: Make sure to use unsalted hazelnuts. You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd. And finally, the recipe uses sesame but you can substitute this for walnut, hazelnut, pecan or any other nut oil you might have.
However, the key to this recipe, as mentioned, is not overcooking the beans – so make sure to check the cooking time for the bean and be exacting, I think it what really makes the recipe special.
- 300 g french beans
- 150 g sugar snap peas
- 50 g hazelnuts
- Small handful of chives
- 1 orange
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Fill a very large pot with water for the beans to cook in. The more space you give them, the more they retain their vivid green colouring. Bring the water to the boil.
While the water warms, trim and wash the beans and sugar snap peas, keeping them separate. When the water is boiling drop the beans in and cook for 4 minutes. Take them out, plonk them in a colander filled and run them under cold water. Leave them in a bowl of icy cold water (this stop them cooking).
Bring the water back to the boil and drop the sugar snap peas in and cook them for no more than a minute. Then drain them into a colander and run under cold water, leave in a bowl of cold water.
Put the hazelnuts on a tray and into the oven to roast for about 7 minutes. Remove and rub the skins off – they should mostly crumble away. It doesn’t matter if some bits are left on. Roughly chop with a big, very sharp knife, You don’t want them too finely chopped, there should be plenty of halves, even the odd whole hazelnut left.
Wash the orange and peel away the zest in strips, trying to minimise the amount of white pith you take with it. Slice the strips as finely as possible. Slice the chives in to 1cm lengths.
Dry the beans and the sugar snap peas with a tea towel and put in a large salad bowl. Add the hazelnuts, orange zest and chives, grind over some black pepper and toss until all mixed up. Add the sesame oil and olive oils and toss some more.
Serve at room temperature.