08 March 2011

book of the moment: PLENTY (by Ottolenghi)



My book of the moment is PLENTY, by Yotam Ottolenghi. 


This book is completely excellent.


Much more than just a vegetarian cookbook, PLENTY is a book that celebrates MEAT-FREE DELICIOUSNESS. I wonder how much of this distinction has to do with the fact that Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian....... ? 


Ottolenghi might be described as London's chef du jour, running 4 signature eateries around London and, just a few weeks ago, opening his new restaurant NOPI in Soho. PLENTY is essentially a collection of recipes that appeared in Ottolenghi's weekly column in the Guardian called 'The New Vegetarian". When the Guardian approached Ottolenghi to start the column, a number of the Guardian's readers were outraged that their vegetarian column was being written by a carnivore; (it might not have helped that he once wrote that a particular salad would go well with some barbequed lamb chops...!) In any case, the very popular column, which he started in 2006, continues to this day, and happily for us, an edited collection is now available in your local bookshop !


The spirit of celebration emanating from these recipes is already captured in the very simple title. Ottolenghi's concept for the book is summarised in the opening lines of the book where he writes:


I'll start with something as simple and unassuming as rice. When I try to think of all the uses for this grain I immediately go dizzy with the countless possibilities - within and between cultures, pairing with other ingredients, all the types of rice available, the methods of cooking and when you serve it... I think of paella, wild rice salad and ho fan noodles. I visualize arancini with their golden breadcrumb crust, Iranian saffron rice with potatoes, Chinese friend rice, rice pudding... I can then move on to another cereal grain such as wheat, then lentils, beans, peas... herbs, leaves, seeds, flowers, roots, bulbs, fruit and funghi - each part of a separate little universe, with a million varieties and variations within it...


What I'm getting as is how lucky we are... to be cooking in a world that offers such a spectrum of ingredients and so many cultural heritages to draw on.


Inspiring stuff !


And, more than just inspiration, I reckon this book demonstrates a degree of culinary genius. There are techniques he uses with veges, that would just never occur to me. Combinations of veges/herbs/grains which are just so clever, and so DELICIOUS, I seriously think I could eat of this book most days of my life and be very, very happy. 


Since discovering the book, I may have raved about it somewhat to those around me (put your hand up if I've talked you into buying this book in the last month ?) but, I take nothing back. If you're thinking about reducing your meat intake (becoming a flexitarian, as I believe it's now called) or you would like like to be more excited about preparing veges or vegetarian meals, BUY THIS BOOK. I am convinced you won't regret it - let it be your vegetarian cookbook for life. Everything I have prepared from it has been excellent and also flexible, which is always good. The caramelised garlic tart (with two types of goats cheese in) was a particular highlight... need I say more ?




ps Okay, just one very small thing... in the 'capsicums' section, Ottolenghi does a "Multi-vegetable paella". Ah - call me precious, but I can't quite cope with this. Vege paella ain't paella, friends. None-the-less, it still looks like a very tasty recipe ... !

10 comments:

IC said...

Yum! Booktopia here I come! Thanks oh wise foodie friend

jm said...

could come in handy if you're giving up meat for Lent (which starts today).

Reemski said...

I have Plenty but the first book, Ottolenghi really captured my heart and is the one I use most often. Though there's a recipe in Plenty for baked harissa eggplant with a yummy salad which is now a staple in my kitchen

tanja said...

thanks for the comments all !

@Reemski - that's really interesting - I don't have the first one, I bought Plenty mainly because I wanted to get more into cooking veges. I think I'll need to add Ottolenghi to the (ever growing!) wishlist... thanks for tip !

Marie (Food Nouveau) said...

Oh Tanja, this is torture! I am so longing to hold this book in my hands! It was scheduled to be released yesterday in Canada and I had preordered it, but now it's on backorder. And it won't come out in the US until two weeks from now! I wonder why there is such a delay to release the book here, maybe it's the metric to imperial thing, but we're metric in Canada...!! Just give us the book!! :) I guess we're synchronized with the US market, which explains why we also have to wait... At least, you confirm how great the book is. I can't wait to get it!

tanja said...

Hello Marie ! I am so happy to hear that you've ordered this one - you'll love it. Let me know what you particularly enjoy cooking when you (finally!) receive it : )

Joanna @ Finding Shibusa said...

I stumbled upon this book today at Williams-Sonoma and was blown away... it's rare that I find a cookbook and want to cook ALL of the recipes. Page after page of amazing.

tanja said...

I totally agree Joanna - this is why I've been so raving about it ! Wonderful, wonderful.

Siobhan said...

I just bought this book last week. My reason? Yay! A recipe book that reminds me that vegetarian food is in fact interesting.

Siobhan said...

PS I totally felt the same way about the paella recipe. As I started writing down the ingredients on a shopping list, I couldn't help byt add 'chorizo' and 'chicken thighs'.