Israeli born Yotam Ottolenghi is loved for his inventive recipe style and adventurous flavour combinations, his London restaurants and delis are favourite foodie haunts and his cookbooks much coveted. His latest publication Sweet, released this month, is written together with long-time friend and collaborator Helen Goh.
Local food enthusiast Joel Braham talks to Helen about her passion for cooking, working with Yotam and what to expect when they both come to Chorleywood on 7 September
Helen Goh is the culinary creative involved in much of development and exhaustive testing of Ottolenghi’s recipes. Her academic background might help in analysing dishes but it is her passion and perserverance that are key to success. Helen, who hails from Australia, has always made time for cooking and perfected professional patisserie skills over seven years at a restaurant in Melbourne. Whilst living in London and doing a Psychology PHD she checked out Ottolenghi’s Notting Hill store, started working there the next day and has been involved in the business ever since.
“ I wanted to learn with Sami (chef Sami Tamimi) and started on salads then desserts. Some Ottolenghi branches are restaurants, others are delis although meats play a minor role. They are all characterised by sumptuous abundant displays of food, particularly salads and on the other side of it is the Sweets – cakes are really the window display!”
Helen’s role at Ottolenghi varies from testing breakfasts to concocting canapés for boardroom lunches and summer parties but the last four years she has concentrated on cakes and sweets.
“I enjoy recipe development, it’s like an ongoing conversation – somebody does one thing then someone else adds to it! I always begin with basics. We may follow store feedback or a customer request but generally it’s whatever strikes my imagination – Yotam is incredibly open, we have a great rapport. I run an idea by him, trial it – and we decide whether it has legs. I tend to be a purist and like classic simple things and he likes big flavours so between us we usually strike this sweet spot, well honed, well crafted and something that has a bit of a twist, we say we Ottolenghicise it!
We recently updated a bakewell tart (which I’ve never loved). I broke it down and decided the jam gives intensity but then added fresh sour cherries and instead of traditional almonds I made pistachio cake.”
The new book Sweet is a return to Yotam’s roots as a pastry chef and draws on Helen’s patisserie experience. It’s described as Ottolenghi formula brought to baking with unique twists in flavour (pineapple ‘Christmas’ tarts from Helen) and covers cooking with kids, intermediate and expert bakers.
“We wanted people to feel comfortable with recipes that aren’t too challenging but still have an element of surprise. My favourite is the meringue roulade – there are so many variations… you can change the nuts, the fruit, spike the cream with vanilla, lemon zest or cognac. It brings a real wow to the table. We will be showing people how to make it when we come to Chorleywood!”
No further persuasion needed to attend the event then!
Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Peden and Munk.
Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh in conversation with Wendi Peters, Barbirolli Hall, St Clement Danes School, WD3 6EW on Thurs 7 September, 7.30pm
Event vouchers £28 inc glass of wine and book (RRP £28)