Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for cooking with hot sauce (2024)

I was tickled by a recent interview with Wole Soyinka, in which the Nobel laureate revealed that he never travels without his own hot chilli sauce. The interview took place over lunch in the UK, and Soyinka had left his sauce in Russia, where he’d just been, so when his spaghetti vongole arrived, he pulled out a substitute from his pocket: a plump green chilli. “This one I got when I arrived in London,” he explained, “because I forgot my paste in the fridge in Sochi.”

I had a similar experience last year, when a famous chef sat next to me at a party cooked for by another respected member of our profession and attended by many others. When dinner was served, this chef pulled out a nifty case loaded with little bottles of chilli oil and proceeded ceremoniously, and not at all discreetly, to apply different oils to the various components on his plate. “You need to match the right oil to each food,” he boomed. (Luckily, our cook for the night was in the kitchen while this was going on.)

Professional pride aside, I kind of see the famous chef’s point. Hot sauces are a fast-track way to inject savoury complexity and heat into a dish; for those such as Soyinka and my chef colleague, who travel a lot and eat out all the time, they also offer a safety net for flavour. Still, I’m not sure I’d want to be around if either of them ever walks into one of my restaurants. Would the fresh chilli or bottle of oil emerge?

Tofu and french beans with chraimeh sauce

The sauce keeps in the fridge for a month, so make more than you need for this: it’s fab with chicken and fish, or even just for dipping bread into as a snack. Serves four.

450g trimmed french beans
Salt and black pepper
50g plain flour
350g firm silken-style tofu, cut into 2-3cm cubes
3 tbsp sunflower oil
5g dill, roughly chopped
10g coriander, roughly chopped

For the sauce
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1½ tsp ground cumin
⅓ tsp ground cinnamon
1 green chilli, deseeded
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp caster sugar
3 limes – 2 juiced, to get 1½ tbsp, the other cut into 4 wedges, to serve

For the sauce, put the garlic, spices, chilli and two tablespoons of oil in the small bowl of a food processor, and blitz to a thick paste. (You may need a touch more oil to bring it together.)

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium frying pan on a medium-high flame. Stir-fry the spice mix for 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and 250ml water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the sugar, lime juice, half a teaspoon of salt and some pepper, then take off the heat.

Bring a medium saucepan half-filled with salted water to a boil, then boil the beans for five to six minutes, until cooked but still with a slight bite. Drain and set aside.

Mix the flour in a medium bowl with a half-teaspoon of salt and lots of pepper, then add the tofu and toss in the flour. Heat the oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high flame. Once hot, fry the tofu for three to four minutes, turning the cubes every minute or so, until golden brown all over. Transfer to a wire rack lined with kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt, and wipe the pan clean.

Heat the sauce in the pan for a minute, stirring, until bubbling, then add the beans, stir for a minute more, until hot, then take off the heat. Gently stir in the tofu and herbs, divide between four shallow bowls and serve with lime wedges.

Spicy prawn and celeriac pasties with hot sauce

A take on the Brazilian pastel. To take down the spice levels, serve with lemon. Makes about 15 small pasties.

For the dough
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
100 ml warm water
1 egg, beaten
About 800ml vegetable oil, for frying

For the filling
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
50g celeriac, peeled and roughly grated
1 green pepper, finely diced
200g peeled raw king prawns, half roughly blitzed, the rest roughly chopped
½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
½ tsp onion powder
1 green chilli, finely chopped (deseeded, if you don’t like too much heat)
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp Tabasco (or other good hot sauce), plus extra to serve

Start with the dough. In a large bowl, mix the flour with a teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil. Mix the vinegar and water in a small bowl, pour into the well, then stir until you have a soft, smooth but not wet dough. Tip out on to a lightly floured worktop and knead for a few minutes, until smooth and silky, then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least two hours (and up to 12).

For the filling, heat the oil in a large nonstick pan on a medium-high flame, then saute the onion, garlic and celeriac for six minutes, until soft and golden. Add the chopped pepper, cook for four minutes, still stirring, then tip into a large bowl. Add the other filling ingredients and half a teaspoon of salt, and mix well.

Take the pastry out of the fridge 15 minutes before you’re ready to roll. On a lightly floured worktop, roll out the dough to 2-3mm thick. Using a 10cm-wide cookie cutter, cut out circles of pastry: you should get about 10 at the first go, but after gathering together the trimmings, re-rolling and cutting again, you should end up with 15. Spoon just over a tablespoon of filling into the centre of each pastry circle, then brush around the edges with the egg wash. Fold over the pastry to make half-moons, then press together the edges with the back of a fork, to seal.

Half-fill a medium pot with the vegetable oil (depending on the size of your pot, you may end up with more or less than 800ml). Gently heat up the oil on a medium flame until very hot, then lower in the pasties five at a time (they should sizzle if the oil’s hot enough). Fry for two minutes on each side, until crisp and golden, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and put on a tray lined with kitchen paper. Serve hot with extra Tabasco on the side.

Chicken wings St Claude

Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for cooking with hot sauce (1)

This dish is inspired by one I had at Upperline in New Orleans: deep-fried oysters with St Claude sauce. The oysters were sublime, but the punchy sauce – an ingenious combination of sweet, sour, savoury and spice – stood out even more. Even then, I had a hunch it would work brilliantly with crisp chicken wings. Serves four.

1.2kg chicken wings
75ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
10g parsley leaves
3 tbsp paprika
75ml hot sauce (I like Encona Hot Pepper Sauce)
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lemon – zested to get 1 tsp, then juiced to get 2½ tbsp
1½ tsp maple syrup
90g soured cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. In a large bowl, toss the chicken wings with 60ml oil, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then put on a 40cm x 30cm oven tray lined with baking paper, making sure they’re spaced apart. Roast for 40-45 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the parsley, paprika, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and maple syrup in the small bowl of a food processor, and blitz to a smooth sauce the consistency of passata. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium, nonstick saute pan on a medium-high flame, then cook half the sauce for five minutes, stirring often, until it thickens and reduces by nearly half. (You want it to keep its colour, so if it starts to turn brown, take off the heat.) Set aside to cool.

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Once the wings are cooked, put them in a large bowl with any oil from the tray. (You’ll use the lined tray again, so don’t throw away the paper just yet.) Pour the remaining non-thickened sauce over the wings and mix with a spatula until they’re well coated. Return the wings to the tray, again spaced apart, and roast for 15 minutes more.

Once the reduced sauce has cooled, add it to the soured cream in stages, less than a tablespoon at a time, and taste after each addition, to make sure it’s not too hot for you. Put the wings on a platter and serve hot with a bowl of the sauce for dipping.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for cooking with hot sauce (2024)
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