3 August 2011

Second helpings of Yottam Ottolenghi- Plenty

We are all big enthusiasts of Ottolenghi and our only criticism of this book was the lack of a pudding section! We liked everything from the padded cover that felt all nice and squishy to the photography, layout and design. Where Hopkinson leads yet another chef follows and the sections are based around ingredients or families of ingredients. This is obviously how the mind of a great chef works!! The recipes in the book seem a lot better than the recipes printed in his newspaper column.
I will confess now that if you had said I would choose to make a dish that contained tofu a few months ago I would have laughed you out of my house, yet here I was thinking about what to cook for the book club meeting and I was drawn to the black pepper tofu (a dish I have now made many times since and the sauce is also good with beef and chicken). Other dishes we sampled that evening were Soba Noodles with Mango and Aubergine (really refreshing and herby), Garlic Tart and Gorgonzola Tart (fantastic pastry and deliciously rich fillings), Butter beans and Sorrel (a great foil for more robust flavours) and Stuffed Onions. All were consumed with relish.

There aren't many recipes that we haven't tried from this book and interestingly when Sarah was moving house the Ottolenghi books were the ones that had to be kept to hand!

Here is the long list of recipes that are tried, tested and loved-
Pasta and Fried Courgette Salad
Two Potato Vindaloo
Green Pancakes with Lime Butter
Lentils With Grilled Aubergine
Shakshuka (perfect for an indulgent lazy brunch)
Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce
Sweet Winter Slaw (loved by everyone I serve it to)
Sweet Potato Cakes
Cucumber Salad With Smashed Garlic and Ginger
Mixed Vegetable Paella (so colourful I felt the need to tweet a picture of it)

It is a well known fact that most people will only make a few of the recipes in any given cook book but I think you will agree that there is something special about Ottolenghi that keeps you dipping in again for more. He should have a TV series .......promise you I'm not his agent!

PS Just off to buy some more tofu!

Roast Chicken and a Whole Lot More!

My copy of Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson proudly bears a big yellow sticker proclaiming it to be the most useful cookbook of all time (as voted by Waitrose Food Illustrated) so with such a provenance it was only right that it should feature at the cookery book supper club. The style of taking one ingredient and offering various recipe suggestions was novel in 1994 when it was first published and there have been many imitators; the most recent being Bryn’s Kitchen.

So from anchovies to veal we are taken through a culinary alphabet of Hopkinson’s favourite ingredients and given a little insight about either the food or the recipe. We liked the fact that Simon gives you plenty of alternative ideas for a recipe and that the book is well indexed. There is a wide variety of dishes and the connections between chefs and the provenance of the recipe is explored to such an extent that it’s like reading a little recipe family tree. Some of the stories are amusing too. We thought it was a good manageable size and liked the flaps (great as bookmarks). There are some classics in this book that most culinary enthusiasts would agree should be in everyone’s repertoire namely the famous Roast Chicken and the St-Emilion Au Chocolate.

On the downside some comments are a bit outdated now (see Veal) and some recipes a little vague, 2 or 3 tomatoes? The surprise pudding was not a great success for Sarah and made her wonder if the recipes had been fully tested? Perhaps our sensitivity to recipes laden with cream and butter has been heightened since the book was published so some recipes can seem a bit too rich. Simon sounds a bit like a grumpy old man at times!!

Here are recipes we have tried and enjoyed-

Curried smoked haddock soup

Salmon in pastry with currant and ginger (a favourite dish for about 25yrs!)

Salade Frisee Aux Lardons (Rose had this in France)

Breast of Lamb Ste Menehould (confirmed not to be greasy at all)

Green Paste (highly recommended with the lamb)

Onion Tart (best to do the onions the day before or at least one hour ahead)

For our meeting we had a great selection of dishes these were-

Onion Tart

Poached Salmon

Oriental salad

Baked New Garlic with creamed Goats Cheese


We are all enjoying Simon’s new TV series a no nonsense simple approach to good cooking and great graphics to boot.