Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes to mark the #CookForSyria campaign

The month-long #CookForSyria campaign is the perfect excuse to have a celebratory feast and do some good into the bargain

On Monday, #CookforSyria launches a month-long campaign to raise funds for and awareness of the plight of Syria, and to give supporters the chance to share in a feast with a Syrian twist.

For those, like me, who live to eat, its pretty mind-bending to think of how many people in the world still eat to live. Somewhere in between these two extremes, the campaign is holding a month of events and celebrations nationwide, from supper clubs to charity bakes, and from cooking demos to restaurants and cafes giving a share of proceeds on special dishes to Unicef UKs Children of Syria Fund. Its an opportunity to cook, eat and raise as much money and awareness as we can, so if you fancy joining in, go to cookforsyria.com for all the details.

The charity banquet that kicks off the campaign is in London on Monday, so if you havent got a ticket, I thought Id start this weeks column with the dish Im cooking on the night. Make it for friends, ask them to donate and hold your own charity supper at home.

Harak osbao

This simple dish of lentils with pasta has a tonne of bold flavours. Its at once comforting and hearty and, thanks to all the colourful garnishes, also fit for a celebratory feast. The name translates from Arabic as he burnt his finger, which goes some way to explaining how irresistible it is, even when its piping hot. Serves six to eight.

40g tamarind pulp, soaked in 200ml boiling water
250g fettuccine, roughly broken into 4-6cm pieces
60ml olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 litres chicken stock
350g brown lentils
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
30g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
20g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Seeds from half pomegranate
2 tsp sumac
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Mash the tamarind in the water, to separate the pips, then strain into a small bowl and discard the pips.

Put a large saucepan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the pasta pieces and toast for a minute or two, until they start to brown. Tip into a bowl.

Return the pan to the heat and add two tablespoons of oil and the onions. Fry for eight minutes, stirring regularly, until golden and soft, then tip into a third bowl.

Pour the stock into the pan and bring to a boil. Add the lentils, turn down the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, until soft. Add the toasted fettuccine, strained tamarind water, pomegranate molasses, 150ml water, four teaspoons of salt and lots of pepper, and leave to cook for eight to nine minutes, until the pasta is soft and almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Leave to rest for 10 minutes, during which time the remaining liquid will continue to be absorbed by the lentils and pasta.

Heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high flame, then fry the garlic for one to two minutes, until just golden-brown. Off the heat, stir in the coriander.

Spoon the lentil and pasta mix into a large, shallow serving bowl, scatter over the fried onions, the garlic and coriander mix, the parsley, pomegranate seeds and sumac, and serve with lemon wedges at the table.

Bulgur with tomato, fried aubergine and cucumber yoghurt

This works as a standalone dish or light meal, or as part of a mezze spread. Serves four.

1 aubergine, cut into 2cm chunks
About 120ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
5 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
200g coarse bulgur wheat
tsp ground allspice
tsp Aleppo chilli flakes (or another chilli flake)
250ml chicken stock (or vegetable)
250ml tomato passata

For the cucumber yoghurt
250g Greek yoghurt
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
10g mint leaves, finely shredded
1 tsp lemon juice
120g cucumber (about half a cucumber), peeled, cut in half lengthways, watery seeds removed and cut into 3mm slices

Mix all the ingredients for the yoghurt in a medium bowl with a pinch of salt, and set aside.

In a second bowl, mix the aubergine with two tablespoons of oil and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan on a high flame and, once its very hot, add half the aubergine, turn down the heat to medium-high and fry, stirring regularly (and adding a bit more oil, if need be), for eight minutes, until golden-brown all over. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle over an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Repeat with the remaining aubergine, heating another two tablespoons of oil before you fry.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-high flame and, once hot, saute the onion and thyme for eight minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft. Stir in the bulgur, allspice, chilli flakes and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, pour over the stock and passata, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan with a clean tea towel, clap on the lid, and collect and lift the edges of the towel over the top of the lid, so they dont catch light. Leave the sealed pot to cook on a low heat for 15 minutes, then take off the heat and leave, still covered, to rest for five minutes. Gently stir the aubergines into the bulgur mix and serve with the cucumber yoghurt on the side.

Chicken meatballs with molokhia, garlic and coriander

Yotam Ottolenghis chicken meatballs with molokhia, garlic and coriander. Photograph: Louise Hagger for the Guardian. Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay

Molokhia is a dark green leaf, a bit like spinach, thats hugely popular throughout the Levant and in parts of North and West Africa. It is used mostly in soups and stews, and has a gloopy, gelatinous consistency a bit like okras. It is virtually impossible to get fresh leaves in the UK, but you can buy them frozen in Middle Eastern food shops. If you cant get hold of any (or dont like the texture of okra), use the same quantity of fresh or frozen spinach. All you need to turn this into one of the most comforting of meals is some rice. Serves six.

75g sourdough, crusts cut off and discarded, blitzed into fine crumbs
750g chicken mince (or minced turkey thigh)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
tsp chilli flakes
20g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
20g parsley leaves, roughly chopped, plus 5g extra to serve
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp sunflower oil, for frying
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges, to serve

For the molokhia sauce
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 strips of finely shaved lemon zest
250ml chicken stock
800g frozen molokhia (or fresh or frozen spinach)

First make the meatballs. Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl and add enough water to cover. Stir, then drain through a colander and squeeze out most of the moisture. Mix in a large bowl with the chicken, garlic, spices, herbs, a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Using your hands, shape into about 40 small balls, each about 20g in weight and 3cm wide.

On a medium-high flame, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large, nonstick saut pan for which you have a lid. Once hot, fry half the meatballs for three to four minutes, turning them regularly, until golden-brown all over. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining oil and meatballs.

For the sauce, heat the last tablespoon of oil in the same pan on a medium-high heat, then fry the garlic, lemon zest, a third of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper for about a minute, stirring often, until the garlic is light golden-brown, then transfer to a small bowl.

Pour the stock and 250ml water into the same pan (theres no need to wipe it clean) bring to a boil and add the frozen molokhia. Once the leaves have defrosted, return the garlic and lemon mixture to the pan and leave to boil for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mix is viscous but still pretty liquid. Drop in the meatballs, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook for three to four minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

Divide the meatballs and sauce between six shallow bowls, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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