If you were to be granted three wishes and had the opportunity to experience a once-in-a-lifetime food enthusiast's adventure, tell me my friends, what would you wish to do? For me, I'd like very much to spend a day in the company of one of my food heroes, Yotam Ottolenghi. I imagine we'd sit and peruse Yotam's cookbooks over breakfast, to see what we might cook for the day. Then we'd go to the market and shop for star ingredients: sweet potatoes, pomegranates, feta, yoghurt, lemons, tomatoes, garlic, beetroot, peppers and aubergines, perhaps. Then together we'd cook an Ottolenghi feast, arranged on big beautiful platters. And then we'd eat. Sounds wonderful, no?
You can't blame me for dreaming. Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-born London-based chef and restaurateur has just released Plenty More, a sumptuous follow up to his first cookbook, Plenty, which was a collection of vegetarian recipes from his weekly column in the Guardian.
In the introduction to Plenty More, Yotam writes that he has expanded his range of ingredients and techniques, as well as the way he works. He says he is constantly on the look out for new ideas and has sought inspiration for his recipes in a variety of ways: from his chef colleagues (Sami, Scully and Helen); his travels (i.e. the Mediterranean Islands); and his collection of cookery books and magazines, which he says take him on journeys to other lands, into the creative minds of other cooks and their heritage.
'Over the past few years I've been on a long journey to Iran - alas, a virtual one - through the pages of some of my favourite books,' he writes, citing Najmieh Batmanglij's 'marvellous' Food of Life. [I, too, have a copy of New Food of Life, and must admit I can easily lose myself in its delicious pages]. 'I have been on similar tours to Lebanon and Japan,' Yotam continues, 'Michael Booth's Sushi and Beyond is exemplary; and I was made privy to the ins-and-outs of various unusual grains through Liana Krissoff's Whole Grains for a New Generation, and vegetables by Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy.'
In terms of standout recipes, there are several. For example, a tomato and pomegranate salad (the first recipe in the book), inspired by a dish eaten in a kebab restaurant in Istanbul. Those who drooled over the caramelised fig, orange and feta salad that Yotam prepared for TV in Mediterranean Island Feasts, will appreciate his note that it's difficult to bring sugar to the right point of caramelisation while trying to look cute for the camera. He says he didn't manage to pull it off. I would beg to differ on that one! Noting that 'Iranians make the best rice', Yotam pays homage to the work of Claudia Roden with a saffron, date and almond rice, from her Book of Middle Eastern Food. He also describes how he is completely infatuated by the richness of Persian cuisine and notes that, in a previous life, he must have lived somewhere in old Persia. In a tribute to Najimieh Batmanglij, Yotam shares a recipe for legume noodle soup, which he writes is 'the Iranian answer to minestrone'. Another standout is butternut squash with buckwheat polenta and tempura lemon [wow!], inspired by memories of tempura Meyer lemon sampled at Toro in Boston. A recipe of Ruth Reichl's inspired the dish of sweet potatoes with orange bitters - which Yotam describes as 'a rhapsody for sweet, bitter and salty' [I'm road-testing this one tonight!]. There's the super French toast, which is Yotam's interpretation of a double-dipped brioche custard pudding enjoyed at Rose and Sons in Toronto. Finally, a sublime meringue roulade with rose petals and raspberries, which is the last recipe in the book, and is demonstrated in the video below. [I have fresh duck eggs, mascarpone and berries, ready to go!].
Tossed, steamed, blanched, simmered, braised, grilled, roasted, fried, mashed, cracked, baked or sweetened – there is much to cook from in Plenty More. And, if you're anything like me, you'll make haste to your nearest greengrocer or market to stock up on fresh ingredients, particularly vegetables – which are celebrated in most of Yotam Ottolenghi's creations.
Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi is published by Ebury Press (Random House Books), RRP $49.99 from good booksellers. A most worthy addition to the cook's bookshelf.
Yotam creates a meringue roulade with rose petals & raspberries...
Video appears courtesy of Random House Books and Yotam Ottolenghi
The giveaway sponsored by Random House Books (Ebury Press)...
Thanks to the generosity of Random House Books Australia and Ebury Press, one lucky reader of Good Things will WIN a hardback edition of Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More valued at $49.99. (All going well, this will be a signed copy!).
To enter the giveaway, (1) please subscribe to Good Things (you may do so via the box below). Once you've entered your email address, you will receive a confirmation email from me. (2) Please respond to confirm your subscription, this is important. In the interests of fairness to my regular readers, only genuine Good Things subscribers will be in the running.
Then (3) in the comments box below, share with me in 70 words or less what inspires you the most about Yotam's cooking and why you'd love to win a copy of Plenty More.
Chance plays no part in determining the winner. The entries will be judged according to originality and creativity, and the winner will be notified by email. Therefore, when submitting your comment, please ensure you enter your current email address (one you check regularly) with your entry so you can be reached in the event you're the winner. If the winning reader does not respond within 48 hours, Good Things will redraw the competition and select a new winner.
Please note: this competition is open to Australian readers only (with sincerest apologies to my overseas readers) and closes at midnight on Sunday, 2 November 2014 ADST.
This competition is now closed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter! Your support of Good Things is greatly appreciated. The winner is Jen Clarke. Happy cooking Ottolenghi style, Jen.
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For my friends and readers from overseas, are you a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi? What do you like best about his cooking style? Do you have a favourite recipe?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.