From barley risotto to sorbet: Yotam Ottolenghi’s lemon recipes (2024)

Those close to me often mock my uninhibited love for the lemon. ‘When in doubt,’ they say with a big glug of irony, ‘add lemon. Zest and juice, a bit of chopped-up flesh and, perhaps, some preserved lemon to round it all off.’ I don’t take this to heart, though: I acknowledge and embrace my habit. Lemon is a fruit of great wonder. If it didn’t exist, someone would invent it and make a killing. What makes it so fantastic is the enchanting aromatic oil in the skin and the fruity-zingy-crisp acidity of the flesh. You just can’t beat the magic of those two coming together, and you shouldn’t really try. So next time life gives you lemons, forget lemonade and make a cake, risotto, sorbet – or just about any other dish with my name above it.

Amalfi lemon, bay leaf and olive oil cake

This cake is epically fragrant (thanks to the lemon zest, fresh bay and olive oil) and has the supplest crumb (the ricotta and olive oil take care of that). It keeps for up to three days in a sealed container, and is even better a day after baking.

From barley risotto to sorbet: Yotam Ottolenghi’s lemon recipes (1)

Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr 25 min
Serves 8-10

200ml whole milk
150g ricotta
4 Amalfi lemons (or regular lemons), zest finely grated, to get 2½ tbsp, then juiced, to get 3½ tbsp
300g ‘00’ flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
350g caster sugar, plus 2 tbsp extra for sprinkling
3 fresh bay leaves, roughly chopped
3 large eggs
225ml good-quality olive oil, plus extra for greasing

For the glaze
100g icing sugar
½ tsp good-quality olive oil
3 fresh bay leaves, roughly chopped, plus a few whole leaves for decorating

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/375F/gas 5. Grease a 24cm bundt tin. In a jug, whisk the milk, ricotta and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarb into a medium bowl.

Put the caster sugar, chopped bay leaves and two tablespoons of lemon zest into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the bay is finely chopped. In a free-standing mixer with the whisk attachment in place, beat the eggs and bay leaf sugar on high speed until thick, pale and creamy – about three minutes. Turn the speed down to medium-low and drizzle in the oil in a slow, steady stream, until fully incorporated and hom*ogeneous – about a minute. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment and, with the speed on medium-low, add the flour and milk mixtures in three increments, starting and ending with the flour. Combine until just incorporated, taking care not to over-mix.

Pour the batter into the bundt tin, smooth the top with the back of a spoon and sprinkle over the last two tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and a knife comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, put the icing sugar and bay leaves into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the leaves are very finely chopped. Add the oil and remaining tablespoon and a half of lemon juice, and blitz again until smooth. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze all over the cake, letting some of it run down the sides. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon and a half of zest and top with a few bay leaves.

Barley risotto with lemon, spinach and spicy breadcrumbs

Nutty barley and spicy breadcrumbs give this more texture and a deeper flavour than you might expect, with a spoonful of creme fraiche to bring it all together.

From barley risotto to sorbet: Yotam Ottolenghi’s lemon recipes (2)

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 25 min
Serves 4

3½ tbsp olive oil
30g panko breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
⅓ tsp chilli flakes
1½ tbsp parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 lemons, finely grate the zest, to get 2 tsp, and juice, to get 1 tbsp
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme leaves, roughly chopped
220g pearl barley
Salt and black pepper

75ml dry white wine
200g baby spinach
50g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve, if you like
50g creme fraiche
1 handful basil leaves, to garnish

Put a tablespoon and a half of oil in a large saute pan on a medium heat. Add the panko and half the garlic, and cook, stirring, for about seven minutes, or until they start to colour. Add the chilli, parsley and lemon zest, and cook for four minutes, stirring continuously, until the crumbs are golden, then transfer to a plate to cool.

Bring the stock and 500ml water to a simmer in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat, and keep warm on a low heat while you make the risotto.

Put the last two tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and sweat, stirring occasionally, for about six minutes, or until softened but not browned. Add the thyme and remaining garlic, cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then stir in the barley, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook for 90 seconds, until the grains are very hot. Add the wine, and cook until almost completely reduced – about 30 seconds – then ladle in 200ml of hot stock. Turn the heat down to medium and let the stock bubble away, stirring often, until absorbed but not completely reduced. Repeat, adding a ladle or two of stock at a time and stirring often, much as you would a risotto, until all the stock is absorbed and the barley cooked – about 45-50 minutes in total.

Add the spinach in batches, until just wilted, then add the cheese, creme fraiche and lemon juice. Divide the risotto between four shallow bowls, top with the breadcrumbs, basil and extra parmesan, if using, and serve.

Lemon and hibiscus sorbet (main picture)

Some may think this a little garish – the sorbet is such a bright shade of pink – but I think it’s fun. My son Max proclaimed it the best dessert ever, “better than custard”. If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, pour the mix into a plastic container and freeze, breaking up the crystals with a fork every now and then. Serves eightAnd by all means set it in a regular container if you don’t want to carve out lemons.

Prep 3 min
Cook 40 min
Churn 25 min
Freeze 4 hr
Serves 8

8 large unwaxed lemons
200g caster sugar
10g dried hibiscus flowers
300ml water
2 tbsp fresh mint, stalks and leaves

Cut the top third off each lemon, then juice both parts to give you 350g of juice and pulp combined. Use a spoon to hollow out the lemons (discard the flesh, seeds and pith) – don’t worry if you can’t get it all out, and take care not to pierce the skin. Shave a little off the base of each lemon, so they sit straight (again, don’t puncture them), then arrange cut side up in a tray, so they’re snug and balanced. Put the lids on a separate tray, then freeze both while you get on with making the sorbet.

Put the reserved juice and pulp in a medium saucepan with the sugar, hibiscus and water. Bring to a simmer on a medium-high heat, and cook for six minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sugar melts. Off the heat, add the mint and steep for 15 minutes – the liquid will go very pink.

Strain through a sieve into a wide container, discard the aromatics and refrigerate until chilled. Pour the liquid into an ice-cream machine and churn for 25 minutes, until frozen and smooth, then transfer to a piping bag and seal. Freeze for two to three hours, until firm, crushing the bag with your hands a few times to break up the ice crystals.

Remove the hollowed lemons from the freezer. Cut the tip of the piping bag to create a 2-3cm-wide opening, then pipe the sorbet into the lemons, so it comes about 5mm above the rim. Top with the lids and press down so they stick. Return to the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

From barley risotto to sorbet: Yotam Ottolenghi’s lemon recipes (2024)
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