Friday, February 10, 2012

Ottolenghi's Veggie Cookbook: 'Plenty'

Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook, Plenty, draws many of the recipes from The New Vegetarian, his weekly column in London's Guardian newspaper. One of the hottest chef-foodwriters in the UK at the moment, Ottolenghi is an acclaimed British restaurateur with four enormously successful London based Ottolenghi restaurants, and now two celebrated cookbooks. In his most recent cookbook Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, all the recipes are true to the Ottolenghi form: vibrant, daring and highly original with fabulous photography by Jonathan Lovekin. 

Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam's food inspiration comes from his Mediterranean background and his unapologetic love of fresh and seasonal ingredients and exposure to widespread and eclectic culinary influences. Not a vegetarian himself, his approach to vegetable dishes is completely original and wonderfully innovative, based on freshness and seasonality, and drawn from the diverse food cultures represented in London. A vibrant photo accompanies every recipe in this visually stunning book, with mouthwatering photography by Jonathan Lovekin, an extraordinarily talented lifestyle and food photographer based in London.

Aunt Yona's Leek Fritters with Greek Yoghurt & Cilantro Lemon Sauce

Marinated Buffalo Mozzarella in basil, lemon & olive oil with tomatoes

Yotam Ottolenghi's inventive yet simple dishes are inspired by his Israeli childhood, but rest on numerous other culinary traditions, ranging from North Africa to Lebanon, Italy, and California with a focus on the Mediterranean basin, providing inventive yet honest food, anything from Yogurt Flatbreads with Barley & Mushrooms to Castelluccio Lentils with Oven-Dried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola, made only from the best basic raw ingredients. 

Mushroom and Herb Polenta

The emphasis is on veggies but chapters also include pulses, cereals, pasta, polenta, couscous and a final chapter on fruit with cheese. As Yotam himself describes in the introduction, "At the centre of every dish, at the beginning of the thought process is an ingredient one ingredient, not just any ingredient but one of my favourite ingredients. I tend to set off with this central element and then try to elaborate on it, enhance it, bring it out in a new way, while still keeping it in the centre, at the heart of the final dish". 

Avocado, Quinoa and Fava Bean Salad

I've rarely come across a cookbook that has inspired me from the moment I picked it up. The cover is mouthwateringly sumptuous, and each and every page is chocked full of unique, inspiring dishes, exquisitely photographed and drawn from an inspiring wealth of culinary traditions. The challenge now is to take the time to make each and every one of these amazing recipes, and I can hardly wait!

Sweetcorn Soup with Chipotle & Lime
Serves 6 
Recipe courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi 

3 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
3 celery sticks, cut into 1/2" dice
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp grounder coriander
3/4 lb peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1/2" dice
2 bay leaves
3 lime leaves, or a few shaved strips of lime zest
4 cups water
1 chipotle chilli, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes
4 sweetcorn cobs, kernels shaved off
3/4 cup soured cream
3 limes, halved
1 handful torn coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a medium pot, add the shallots, garlic, celery, ground cumin, ground coriander and a little salt, and sauté on low heat for 12 minutes, to soften the vegetables.

Add the pumpkin, bay leaves, lime leaves and water. Squeeze the water out of the chipotle chilli, remove and discard the seeds, chop roughly and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the corn and cook for five minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out about half of the vegetables, and remove and discard the bay and lime leaves. Blitz the remaining soup until smooth, then return the vegetables to the pot and bring to a light simmer. Add a little water if you find it too thick. Stir in half the soured cream and taste for seasoning.

Divide the soup into six bowls, squeeze the juice of half a lime into each portion, drop about a tablespoonful of soured cream in the middle and scatter over the torn coriander leaves.