Orange and feta, tofu and shiitake: Yotam Ottolenghi’s ways with lettuce – recipes (2023)

Baby gem lettuces are little gems, don’t you think? They’re so versatile, for starters, being soft enough to be eaten raw, yet also robust enough to be cut into quarters and grilled. Flavour-wise, the leaves are sweet enough to stand alone, but they are also happy to take a back seat and showcase other flavours. Half my test kitchen team seem to use the leaves, instead of bread, to carry their lunch break food in, as though it’s in a sandwich, but we’ll save that (and possibly a recipe or two) for another day.

Green salad with grated carrot and pistachio (pictured top)

This is a spin on the humble, ubiquitous and very French carottes râpées salad. You can even make the carrot component in full the night before, if you like: it only gets better with time. If you can’t get hold of carrots with leafy green tops attached, don’t worry: just use extra chopped parsley instead.

Prep 20 min
Marinate 30 min+
Cook 25 min
Serves 4

4 carrots, trimmed, peeled and grated (180g), plus 10g green tops, washed and finely chopped
1 tsp dijon mustard
20g sultanas
5 tsp white-wine vinegar
60ml olive oil
Fine sea salt and black pepper
1 small garlic clove
, peeled and crushed
100g plain yoghurt
½ tsp caster sugar
10g mint leaves
, finely chopped
10g parsley leaves, finely chopped (or 20g if your carrots didn’t come with green tops)
1 baby gem lettuce, leaves separated and halved lengthways (100g)
1 white chicory, root trimmed, leaves separated and halved lengthways (100g)
1 butterhead lettuce, leaves separated, larger leaves halved lengthways (200g)
30g pistachio kernels, toasted, lightly crushed in a mortar

In a small bowl, mix the grated carrots with the mustard, sultanas, four teaspoons of vinegar, a tablespoon of oil and a half-teaspoon of salt, then set aside to marinate for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, make the dressing by mixing the remaining teaspoon of vinegar and three tablespoons of oil with the garlic, yoghurt, sugar, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. In a small bowl, combine the herbs with the carrot tops (or extra chopped parsley).

Put the salad leaves and half the herbs in the dressing bowl, then toss gently to coat.

Arrange the leaves on a shallow serving platter and scatter the grated carrot on top. Serve with the remaining herbs and the pistachios sprinkled on top.

Grilled lettuce with orange, almond and feta

Orange and feta, tofu and shiitake: Yotam Ottolenghi’s ways with lettuce – recipes (1)

A bit of heat transforms crunchy lettuce leaves into a smoky, flavour-bomb. I use orzo in the base of this salad to absorb the dressing, but feel free to swap it with giant couscous or a similar small-shaped pasta. The dressing also works beautifully with raw salad leaves or spooned over roast chicken.

Prep 15 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 4 as a side

1 banana shallot (40g), peeled and cut into thin rounds
1 lemon, zest finely grated, to get 1 tsp, and juiced, to get 2 tbsp
Fine sea salt and black pepper
100g orzo
60g pitted kalamata olives
4 baby gem lettuce
, cut lengthways into quarters
50g feta, crumbled

For the orange and almond dressing
80ml olive oil
1 tsp runny honey
½ tsp nigella seeds
¼ tsp aleppo chilli flakes
1 large orange
50g skin-on almonds
, toasted and roughly chopped

Put the shallots, lemon juice, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper in a medium bowl and mix well.

In a dry, medium saucepan on a medium-high heat, toast the orzo, stirring frequently, for seven minutes, until golden, then pour in just-boiled salted water to cover and leave to cook for seven to nine minutes, until softened but still with a bite. Drain well, then stir the pasta into the shallot bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, put a griddle plan on a high heat and ventilate the kitchen. Once the pan is hot, grill the olives for seven minutes, until lightly charred all over, then tip on to a board, slice thinly and stir into the orzo bowl.

Working in two batches, grill the lettuce quarters, turning them as necessary, for six minutes, until nicely charred on all sides, then transfer to a large plate or tray.

Whisk the first four dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Using a small, serrated knife, top and tail the orange, then cut away and discard the skin and white pith. Cut the orange into ½cm-thick rounds, then tear these into half-moons and gently toss in the dressing with the almonds.

Scatter the still-warm orzo mix over a large platter, arrange the grilled lettuce quarters on top and sprinkle over the feta. Spoon over the dressing and serve.

Mapo tofu gem lettuce with pickled cucumber

Orange and feta, tofu and shiitake: Yotam Ottolenghi’s ways with lettuce – recipes (2)

Gem lettuce is a wonderful carrier for this mapo tofu-inspired sauce, which works equally well with Chinese or other cabbages, or stirred into noodles, or with steamed fish, or simply served on its own alongside some steamed rice.

Prep 20 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 4

30g dried shiitake mushrooms
75ml sunflower oil
, plus 1 tsp extra
150g fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps and stalks separated, caps cut into ½cm-thick slices
Fine sea salt
160g extra-firm tofu
, roughly broken
1½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns, roughly ground in a mortar
1 tbsp soy sauce
20g ginger
, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
40g harissa
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1½ tsp brown sugar
1½ tsp cornflour
2 baby gem lettuce
, leaves trimmed and cut lengthways into quarters
1 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp black sesame seeds, toasted

For the pickled cucumber
2 tbsp rice-wine vinegar
¼ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp sesame oil
1 small Persian or baby cucumber
(80g), trimmed and cut into 3-4mm-thick slices
2-3 spring onions, trimmed and cut at an angle into 1½cm-wide pieces

Put the dried shiitake mushrooms in a medium bowl, cover with 350ml just-boiled water, then weigh them down with a small plate and leave to rehydrate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put a tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan on a medium high heat, then add the sliced fresh shiitake caps and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until golden. Tip the fried mushrooms into a bowl and set aside.

Next, make the pickled cucumber. Put the vinegar, sugar and sesame oil in a small bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of fine sea salt, mix to combine, then stir in the cucumber and spring onions and set aside.

To make the mapo base, strain the soaked shiitake mushrooms to remove any sandy bits, and reserve the soaking liquid. Put the soaked mushrooms in the small bowl of a food processor with the tofu and the fresh shiitake stalks, and pulse a few times to break them up into a coarse mince.

Return the saute pan to a medium-high heat, add the remaining 60ml oil and, once it’s good and hot, stir in the minced mushroom and tofu mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until crisp and golden in places. Stir in the Sichuan pepper and a tablespoon of soy sauce, cook for a minute, then take off the heat.

Put the ginger, garlic, harissa, dark soy sauce and sugar in the small bowl of a food processor, add half the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and blitz for two or three minutes, until you have an almost smooth paste.

Return the minced mushroom and tofu pan to a medium-high heat, add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Mix the cornflour and the remaining mushroom soaking liquid, then pour into the pan and add the reserved fried shiitake caps. Cook for another two or three minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens, then take off the heat.

Drizzle the lettuce quarters with the remaining teaspoon of oil, sprinkle with an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, then, using tongs, gently fold the lettuce into the mapo sauce so it’s coated all over and the sauce gets in between the layers of leaves.

Arrange the lettuce quarters and sauce on a platter, spoon on the cucumber and spring onion pickle, then dress with any remaining pickling liquid. Serve at once with the toasted sesame seeds scattered on top.

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