In London, a test kitchen is growing. The debut cookbook from the test kitchen team for Yotam Ottolenghi, the London chef with a collection of restaurants, recipe columns, packaged items, and volumes, has many daring concepts. The book, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love: Recipes to Unlock the Secrets of Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer, was conceived during the epidemic and is packed with ideas for Ottolenghifying the frozen and canned, the bagged and the boxed.
The book’s most important message is that Noor Murad, Shelf Love’s primary author and the head of Ottolenghi’s test kitchen, now brilliantly dubbed the OTK, is likely to be the world’s next culinary superstar. Murad, like Ottolenghi, is adept at bridging the gap between the tastes generated by professional chefs and the home cook. In a recent interview, the chef discusses her hummus, her career, and how the word “Ottolenghi” became a verb.
“You have to question, ‘How did you decide on only one hummus recipe?'” said my editor.
Because it is the only pure one. It is the recipe upon which all other recipes should be built. We were doing a lot of stuff on Instagram during the initial lockdown. Everyone was on social media, and that’s how we got to know each other—by cooking. “Oh, can you offer a hummus recipe?” someone inquired. “Yeah, you know, why not?” I said. “I’ve got time.” [Laughs at the universal irony of “I have time.”] Then I went through all of these suggestions, like, “OK, you have to do this. There is no olive oil. You must also use ice. “Peel the chickpeas and remove the skins.” And everyone was like, “WHAAAT?”
Were those hints you gained at a difficult period in your life, or were they passed down from relatives?
I’m from Bahrain and grew up in the Middle East, so I’m not unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cuisine. I just assumed that these were common sense concepts that most people were aware of. “Of course you have to do that,” I said. So sharing it was simply drawing on what I understood and sharing that information with others, which is what we do at the test kitchen. We are a highly multinational staff, and we operate extremely individually, even though we work as a group. Everyone goes through a recipe from beginning to end on their own and then receives constructive criticism from others.