Ras el hanout is a north African blend of sweet and hot ground spices. There's no definitive list, but hanout means "shop" in Arabic, so "top-of-the-shop". Usually it includes ginger, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, black, pepper and cinnamon. Shop-bought ras el hanout is fine, Ottolenghi says, but feel free to add to to it. He prefers more cinnamon.
The purée is a good alternative to hummus, and can be made in advance, and kept under cling film in the fridge until ready for the eggs. If you are doing this make sure the film touches the purée to stop it developing a skin.
Credit: Jonathan Lovekin
60ml olive oil, plus 1 tbsp to serve
1 large onion, roughly diced (160g)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut roughly into 2cm pieces (600g)
500ml vegetable stock
2tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
coarse sea salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp ras el hanout
1 medium cauliflower, trimmed and coarsely grated (650g)
2 tbsp finely diced preserved lemon skin
90g almonds, skin on, toasted and roughly chopped
50g parsley, roughly chopped
2 1/2 tsps olive oil
6 or 12 quail's eggs
1 First make the celeriac purée. Place the 60ml of olive oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until soft and starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for another minute before adding the celeriac. Fry for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until all sides are golden brown. Pour over the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer on a medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the celeriac is cooked through. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves and transfer to a blender or food processor. Blitz to form a smooth purée before adding the tahini, lemon jouice, cumin, coriander, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Set aside until ready to serve. (You can make this in advance and keep it in the fridge.)
2 Put the oil for the spiced cauliflower into a large sauté pan and place on a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the ras el hanout and cook for another minute. Pour over 100ml of water and stir through for a minute before removing from the heat. Fold in the cauliflower, preserved lemon and almonds, half the parsley and a teaspoon of salt and set aside to cool.
3 When ready to serve, divide the purée between six plates. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of oil over each portion, spread the cauliflower on top and sprinkle over the smoked paprika and remaining parsley.
4 To fry the quail's eggs, place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the oil. When hot, crack each egg individually into the pan and fry for 30-40 seconds. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper, then place an egg or two on top of each portion of cauliflower and serve at once.
This is just what I expect from Ottolenghi. Lots of quite fiddly preparation - over an hour - that results ultimately in a new and unexpectedly delicious combination of flavours. The timing wasn't helped by a run on quail's eggs in SW London, a first world problem but a major inconvenience if you're planning to photograph the finished dish. The chosen egg then flunked its big moment as you can see from the picture.
This would make a delicious starter, main course at lunch or a Sunday night supper. The celeriac purée is like hummus, only nicer, and the cauliflower adds bite and texture. You could do without the eggs, but it would be a shame.