Why buy it?
It’s been four years since Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty went to press. Four long years if your copy is now oil-stained, pomegranate molasses-splattered or was innocently “borrowed” by a relative. While the first book featured many of the recipes from Yotam’s The New Vegetarian column in The Guardian's Weekend magazine, his follow-up stars all-new, high-octane vegetarian meals, sprouted in his London test kitchen and whilst filming the most recent series, Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Island Feast.
Never heard of him? Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli-born restaurateur with four eponymous London haunts (one restaurant and three cafés). He’s been exalted by fans for making vegetables swish and criticised by vegetarians for doing so (Yotam's an omnivore). His influences are predominantly Middle Eastern (crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin); occasionally Mediterranean (tomato and watermelon gazpacho); and less-often Asian (butternut tataki and udon noodle salad).
While Plenty focused on groups of ingredients, this cookbook shines a light on the techniques involved in constructing a dish. As Yotam explains, “… [it’s about] putting together components and arranging them in layers of flavour, texture and colour.” The book is a lesson in how to cook his way, so that, eventually, you’ll find yourself improvising Yotam-style dishes at whim, based on which vegetables speak to you.
Yotam’s recipe intros read like a food nerd’s diary, with shout-outs to the people and experiences that inspired the dishes. Chapters are arranged by cooking method, including steamed, baked, simmered, cracked (as in, eggs), mashed and so forth. Plenty More’s photographed recipes, by Jonathan Lovekin, often resemble impressionist art. Leeks and eggplants are hurled every which way, the salad dressing is dramatic and unruly, and yet the result is always inspiring.
Beginner cooks will be deftly guided by Plenty More, while advanced cooks will likely use it more as inspiration. It's show-off food you can prepare on weeknights, so long as you've fresh herbs on hand and a few of Ottolenghi's pantry staples, including lemons, za'atar, tahini and pomegranate molasses.
Coated olives with spicy yoghurt is a stand-out. “Coating and frying individual olives may seem, at first, a little painstaking, but the resulting pre-dinner nibble is really very special,” writes Yotam. If it's something heartier you're after, don't flick past the tagliatelle with walnuts and lemon.
Most surprising dish
Aubergine cheesecake. It looks like your usual focaccia and yet it is not. In this recipe, eggplant, feta, cream cheese, tomatoes and za’atar meld together to form one savoury slab that’s destined for Instagram.
“Some people make fun of me for using a lot of lemon juice,” says Yotam. This cookbook takes things a step further and instructs you to grill, candy, caramelise or tempura your lemons.
Cooks brave enough to stray from their culinary comfort zones. If you’ve plenty of time for the meals you prepare, this also bodes well, as so much care is taken to plate-up Yotam's fresh and colourful picks. It’s not so suited for those on a budget, as each dish comprises a plump list of ingredients.
Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury Press, $49.99, hbk). Photography by Jonathan Lovekin.
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