Umami me up!
I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.
Some weeks you look for the easy fix. Last week, Ravneet Gill’s no-cook miso caramel and chocolate tart blew the family’s collective palate. This week, it’s Guardian Feast Issue No.160. It’s a raging hoolie outside. I return from the newsagent (four and three quarter minutes along the road from my front door), drenched.
Because it’s lockdown and, well, rain or shine and all that, we go for a bleak, wild coastal walk. When we return, we’re all a bit miserable and we need a quick, simple fix. Yotam Ottolenghi’s coffee mousse with tahini chocolate sauce (from Ottolenghi recipe developer Ixta Belfrage) is totally simple and OMG it offers all the umami salt, sweet, sour flavours of a full blowout Chinese takeaway without the monosodium glutamate and cornstarch. It has to be done. It’s the work of moments. A child could make it. Except…
Once doubts creep into your head, they enter food by osmosis.
Dear reader, I messed up.
But I rush ahead. I know I will never be a proper cook. I know this because I can single-handedly deflate the simplest of delicious mousses, and also because I shudder (and mutter expletives) when recipes say 3/4 tsp or 2 1/4 tbsp (don’t get me started on 1/8). I don’t know why the quarter thing gets to me more than, say, a half. But it does. Will a tiny fraction of an ingredient really make that much difference? Now, Ixta’s delicious idiot-proof mousse.
You create the mousse element by putting the first six ingredients into a stand mixer and whipping to medium soft peaks. I’m feeling a bit zoned and tip all the ingredients into my blender. I immediately realise this isn’t a great idea and want to transfer to a bowl and whisk by hand. But, you know, I’ve started now.
Once doubts creep into your head, they enter food by osmosis. As the blender grinds on, anxiety kicks in. I think I’ve got soft peaks, then I don’t. I leave the blender running a bit more. Then I let the mousse (which looks fine at this stage) stand for a while. I go to scoop it into my sundae glasses and decide it’s a bit runny. I chuck it back on the blender. It splits. Not badly, but that wonderful plumptious moussey sheen is disappearing fast. I start talking incessantly to myself about what an idiot I’ve been.
Hey-ho. It tastes fab-u-lous. Coffee. Tahini. Maple syrup. Cocoa. Soy sauce. Salty nuts. The Husband declares it ‘Sesame bars for people with no teeth’. Eldest daughter says ‘the salt and nuts bring it together. Gorgeous.’
It’s a damn fine pud. The perfect quick whip, no stress finale to impress friends with. Next time, (and there’ll be a next time) I’ll get a grip. In fact, in the three and a quarter minutes it took me to eat the mousse, I was already planning to make it again. Maybe for breakfast. Umami me up!
Meanwhile, I’m eyeing Lara Lee’s spicy soy pork and peanut instant noodles. I only have chicken in the house. That’ll be fine, yes?
Yotam Ottolenghi (Ixta Belfrage) – coffee mousse with tahini chocolate sauce