From poached hake to a beetroot cocktail: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for egg whites

Our perception of egg whites has changed. They used to be mainly associated with meringues or other light, airy desserts, after making mayonnaise, say, that had left them redundant. These days, however, they’re regarded as so useful that they are even sold in cartons. Either we’re all making a lot of whiskey sours, or we are at last realising how useful the whites are in all sorts of ways. Here are two of my latest discoveries: velvety fish and pillowy pancakes – plus something to salute them with.

The Chinese method of marinating fish or meat in egg white and poaching it is known as velveting. It creates a protective barrier that seals in moisture and keeps the flesh tender, which makes the protein smoother and silkier. You could swap the hake here for any meaty fish or chicken.

Prep 40 min
Marinate 30 min
Cook 55 min
Serves 4

1 tbsp egg white
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp rice wine
(or sake or white wine)
500g skinless hake fillets, cut into 3cm-thick chunks
90ml olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped (330g)

For the masala
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp carom seeds
(AKA ajwain, or fennel or anise seeds)
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder
20g ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp soft brown sugar
50g Thai basil
, picked
500ml chicken stock
200ml coconut milk


To serve
70g shop-bought crispy onions
1 lime
, cut into quarters

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white, cornflour and rice wine until well combined. Add the fish, toss gently to coat and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the masala paste. Put the first nine ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor, add 30g of the Thai basil and 50ml water, then blitz to an almost-smooth paste.

Fill a small saucepan with 1½ litres of water and bring to a boil. Add a third of the marinated fish to the pan – use a slotted spoon – and leave for 20 seconds: the fish should turn opaque but not be cooked all the way through. Using the slotted spoon, lift the fish out of the water and place in a colander set over a bowl. Repeat with the remaining fish in two batches.

Put a large saute pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat and pour in the oil. Once it’s hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until deeply caramelised. Add the masala paste and fry, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock, half the coconut milk and a teaspoon and a quarter of salt, and cook on medium-high heat for 20 minutes, until thickened. Gently stir in the fish and remaining 20g Thai basil leaves, then take off the heat, cover and leave to sit for five minutes.

Transfer the fish to a large bowl, top with the fried onions and serve with a bowl of the remaining coconut milk and the lime wedges on the side.

These lightly spiced pancakes have all the joy of a pakora without the deep-frying. If you prefer, serve them with an Indian-style green chutney instead of the salsa. To get ahead, prepare the vegetables the day before and refrigerate.

Prep 30 min
Cook 1 hr
Makes 8

100g gram flour
100g self-raising flour
¾ tsp ground turmeric
200ml cold water
10g ginger
, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper
1 small hispi cabbage (or half a large one), cored and thinly sliced (200g)
1 carrot, peeled and roughly grated (120g)
10 spring onions, thinly sliced (175g)
5 egg whites (150g)
40ml olive oil
150g Greek-style yoghurt, to serve

For the salsa
3 large avocados, stoned, peeled and cut into 1½cm chunks (530g)
2 limes, 1 juiced, to get 1 tbsp, the other cut into wedges
1 tsp aleppo chilli (or ½ tsp regular chilli flakes), plus a pinch extra to finish

In a large bowl, mix the two flours with the turmeric. Add the water, ginger, garlic, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a good grind of pepper, and mix to make a batter. Stir in the cabbage, carrot and spring onions, then set aside.

Whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer on medium speed for about four minutes, until they form stiff peaks. Using a spatula, mix a third of the whipped egg whites into the pancake batter until well incorporated and loose, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites in two batches, until the batter is fluffy.

Put a small, 15cm or so frying pan on a medium heat. Once hot, spoon in a teaspoon of olive oil, swirl it around, then ladle in 120g batter. Using a spoon, gently spread the batter so it covers the base of the pan, then leave to cook for four minutes, until it’s golden underneath and small holes start appearing on the top. Gently flip over the pancake and cook for another three minutes, until cooked through and golden on the other side. Transfer to a rack, cover with a tea towel to keep warm and repeat with the remaining batter.

Meanwhile, make the salsa. In a small bowl, combine the avocado, lime juice, chilli and a half-teaspoon of salt, and set aside.

Put the pancakes on a large platter, sprinkle with extra chilli and serve with the salsa and yoghurt in two bowls on the side.

Cocktails are a great excuse to use up egg whites. This one is the brainchild of Léo Coquand, the very talented bartender at our Spitalfields restaurant. The leftover beetroot crisps will keep for a long time in an airtight jar and make for a tasty sweet snack.

Prep 5 min
Cook 15 min
Dehydrate 1 hr

For the beetroot syrup
250g caster sugar
250ml water
160g beetroot
, topped and tailed, then sliced thinly into circles

For the beetroot sour
100ml pisco, silver tequila or white rum
50ml beetroot syrup
(see above and method)
50ml lemon juice
¾ tbsp apple vinegar
2 egg whites
60g ice cubes

Heat the oven to its lowest setting, around 50C.

Put all the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan, bring up to a simmer on a medium heat, then simmer, gently swirling the pan occasionally, for 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl and leave the beetroot and juices to cool. Place a rack over an oven tray lined with baking paper, lay the beetroot slices flat on top and dry in the low oven for about an hour (or leave overnight at room temperature).

Put the pisco, syrup, lemon juice, vinegar and egg whites in a cocktail shaker (or in a glass jar with a lid), and shake until foamy. Add the ice, shake vigorously until cold, then strain into two glasses and serve topped with a beetroot crisp.

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