London restaurant cookbooks
Time Out reviews recipe books from the capital's best restaurants and cafés
Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, £25
‘Creative contemporary’ is just clumsy, but it’s the best way to describe the colourful cuisine and far-flung flavours of the dishes served at the Ottolenghi cafés in London. Chef-patron Yotam Ottolenghi has an unusual approach to food that has shaken up the London conventions on vegetarian cookery since the first branch opened in 2003.
As in his previous book ‘Ottolenghi: The Cookbook’, published in 2008, the recipes in ‘Plenty’ combine ingredients and flavours from around the world with joyous abandon. Not many cooks would dare to combine the likes of Japanese soba noodles with ripe mango and sesame oil, or to put together a dish called ‘surprise tatin’, a savoury dish of potatoes fashioned after the famed caramel-apple upside-down dessert.
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes are well represented (Ottolenghi studied at the university of Tel Aviv), but there are influences from the Far East, South-East Asia and Mexico too. Ottolenghi is known for putting to good use a broad repertoire of grains and herbs, and there are lots of recipes with the likes of quinoa, farro (emmer wheat), barley, bulghur wheat and freekeh (‘green wheat’), as well as fresh herbs by the handful.
What the recipes don’t include is meat. Although this is not strictly a book for vegetarians – some of the dishes use non-vegetarian cheeses – vegetables take a starring role, with chapter heading such as ‘the mighty aubergine’, ‘roots’ and ‘funny onions’. Even the most meat-loving cook couldn’t fail to be seduced by these recipes.
The book’s refreshingly well written – unusually for a chef, Ottolenghi had a stint working as a journalist and writes the New Vegetarian column in The Guardian. The book’s also beautiful to look at, with simple but beautiful photography by Jonathan Lovekin and crisp design. It’s a follow-up book that easily lives up to the high expectations created by its predecessor.
Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2072: May 6-12 2010