Interestingly, this book deviates from his former successes. It’s a co-write with one of his chefs, Ramael Scully, which itself isn’t new – Jerusalem was also a joint effort between Ottolenghi and business partner Sami Tamimi. But where the others championed recipes for the home cook, and mainly vegetarian, Nopi features recipes from the hot London restaurant after which it’s named. Read: it’s much more cheffy. It’s also laden with proteins, such as beef, venison, pork and fish, and Asian ingredients from sambal to pandan.
Readers not familiar with the restaurant’s fusion Middle Eastern-Malaysian-European approach may be taken aback by the bold combos, but the book begins with the fascinating tale of how a young, classically trained Malaysian-Australian chef ended up in Ottolenghi’s kitchen and went on to fashion a whole new branch to the global chef’s style.
Sure, the delicious close-up dish images help, but it’s the writing that really hooks you in to Nopi. Every recipe is accompanied by a vivid and lengthy description, from the ingredients used to how it came to be, and quite quickly you have overlooked the complexity, are intrigued by the pairings, and have ear-marked half the book. So, yes, it’s different to what we’ve seen before – there’s a lot more fancy restaurant presentation and not as much of the chic laissez faire we have come to love – but Ottolenghi’s endearing writing and flair with flavours is ever present here – which makes it just as appealing.
Cookability There is a bunch you could whip up for a weeknight dinner or weekend brunch, but many dishes require a bit of advance planning and time. In saying that, these are achievable chef recipes and not the usual essay-cum-recipes you’ll find in restaurant cookbooks. And true to Mr Ottolenghi, ingredients are widely available and most are fresh.
Must-cook recipe Ottolenghi’s ability to make vegetables sexy is unending and the duo’s pearl barley risotto – emerald green from watercress, spinach and leek, and crowned with shaved asparagus – epitomises this talent and is just plain beautiful. The Asian-inspired croquettes, packed with soft, sweet, master-stock slow-cooked brisket also look so good (um, hello, deep-fried brisket?), as does the pair’s dessert of farro pudding with caramelised orange, tahini and pistachios – what a flavour combo.
Most surprising dish Most Aussies would be right at home with all the Asian and Middle Eastern dishes in this book. For the large part, they are kept as separate entities, but there are some wonderful mash-ups, such as quails with burnt miso butterscotch and pomegranate and walnut salsa.
Kitchen wisdom In a section of the intro entitled “Taming Scully”, Ottolenghi describes his initial frustration with Scully’s complicated dishes, which were at odds with his and Tamimi’s throw-it-together fare. With time, all parties learned to compromise. “Scully showed us how to do ‘restaurant’, we taught him how to do ‘Ottolenghi’, and the result was this new hybrid set of dishes that are now the ‘Ottolenghi haute cuisine’, and that are featured in this book.” The lesson? Even culinary greats continually learn, grow and evolve.
Ideal for Ottolenghi fans, restaurant cookbook collectors, Asian and/or Middle Eastern food cooks, produce lovers, flavour kings and queens.
Cook the book
Recipes and images from Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully (Ebury Press, $59.99, hbk).