Saturday, 21 July 2012

Cookbook review - Ottolenghi, Plenty

Recently, Amazon sent me an e-mail inviting me to trade in my copy of Plenty. I instinctively wanted to go and clutch it. It is MINE all MINE and they can't take it away from me.

Anyway. This reminded me that I have been meaning to review it for a while though, perhaps, I hardly need to as the fact that I named this blog after one of his chapter titles probably tells you that I like it very much.

It's one of my favourite cookbooks. I particularly love the paella recipe, the ratatouille, and the stuffed onions. When he writes in The Guardian, commenters often make fun of his very lengthy lists of ingredients and it's true that virtually every recipe has more than 15 ingredients in it and is quite fiddly. But that's how you produce complex intricate flavours. It just isn't possible to do that quickly and with two ingredients, people!

I also make fun of his instructions sometimes – I find it particularly entertaining when he tells you things like “fry this for 6 minutes then add this and fry it for a further minute” but, if I'm honest, the recipes kind of do come out better when I follow those instructions than when I wing it. (Except for the stuffed onions which I've made often enough that I don't even bother looking at the recipe.)

What I really like about Ottolenghi's cookbooks is the precision, in fact, though I do mock it sometimes. You can really tell that he runs his own restaurants: the instructions are incredibly detailed and clear. There's none of this “oh, between 325 and 450ml of buttermilk”type stuff, Ottolenghi will tell you exact quantities and timings and will detail all of the spicing, so that you aren't left with “oh, season to taste” or similar rubbish.

The cookbooks are, I think, for the experienced cook but, if you are an experienced cook, especially if you are vegetarian or like to cook complicated vegetarian food, they are absolutely fantastic. If you want a cookbook that will produce nice food but with simpler recipes and shorter ingredient lists, I'd suggest High Fearnley-Whittingstall'sVeg instead.

I will review the Ottolenghi restaurants in a separate post.

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