Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Cookbook Review: Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage - Part 1

I have a bit of a process when I get a new recipe book.

First is my initial flick through, this is where I start to get excited about a new book.

Next, I get a piece of paper and go through the book again, writing a list of all the recipes I want to make, and the page numbers (side note, I did use to use sticky notes but I find this method much better for finding what I want quickly).

Then I start planning what I'm actually going to make, especially if it's a book I want to review on my blog.

From my list of recipes, I tend to choose about 8-12 I definitely want to cook for my blog review. This can vary depending on what I've got going on (right now as you can imagine, not a lot), the seasons, the faff factor and generally whatever I'm in the mood for. I also spend a lot of time looking for reviews of books, so sometimes I'll add in a recipe or two that other people recommend online, or from Eat Your Books (I promise I've got a review of Eat Your Books planned because if you have a lot of cookbooks like me it's a godsend).

Then when it comes to figuring out when to stop cooking and when to start writing my review, I usually aim for 10 recipes. It's pretty clear when I own books which aren't going to hit the 10 recipes goal - maybe they're more weekend books, or more focused on a particular cuisine (for example, it might take me longer to cook from a book entirely about curries, because while I could eat curry every single night, I'm not sure Phil would love it). 

I keep notes about every recipe I've made in my journal, and usually after 10 I feel like I've got a proper feel for the book. I try to do a good mix of recipes and after 10 I'm usually pretty ready to move on.

When it came to Flavour, this was not the case...

First Impressions



So due to a bit of a cock up with where I ordered my copy from, I ended up not receiving the book til a week after it was published (my disappointment when I was waiting for it to arrive and I saw it right there on the shelf ready to be picked up and put in my basket in Sainsburys was palpable). And as a result this gave me plenty of time to read reviews/obsess over the book that had not arrived.

Now I'm a big fan of Ottolenghi, but being honest, more in theory than in a practical sense. I own Plenty, Plenty More, Jerusalem and Simple (plus Falastin which, while it isn't Ottolenghi, it's written by his co-writer so I consider it part of the club), and until recently, I'd probably cooked 10 recipes from them all in total. As I was trying to convince myself to buy Falastin, I forced myself to cook from Jerusalem (which I'd literally never cooked from despite owning it for probably 4 or 5 years - the shame!). We had a lot of multi-dish, mezze-style meals from Jerusalem and Falastin over the summer and I found loads of new recipes I loved.

But herein lines the probably. Ottolenghi is for weekends. Ottolenghi is for one meal which is actually really 3 side dishes. Ottolenghi means a delicious-sounding vegetarian dish which is recommended on the side of some lamb (which you do not eat). Ottolenghi involves a trip to the fancy supermarket or buying ingredients online which you've never heard of before. And more than anything else, Ottolenghi means time.

So while I waited for my copy to arrive, I scoured the internet for recipes and reviews. And the reviews were very mixed. In fact, for the first few days they were really, really disappointing. I was so gutted that this delicious-sounding (and fully vegetarian!) book by one of my favourite chefs was going to be a disappointment.

But guys, this wouldn't be a post entitled "part 1" if this wasn't a success.

I admit to not being bowled over by the sample recipes in The Guardian in the weeks leading up to the book's publication. However, when the book actually arrived (finally! After a week!) I was absolutely stunned. 

I couldn't believe how many things I was dying to make.

From an initial flick through there were 23 mains (mains! There are main courses in this book!) and 25 side dishes I wanted to make, and there's a brilliant section in the back of meal planning ideas (including 19 recipes than can be made in under an hour!).

Plus, of the recipes I wanted to make, I hardly needed to buy anything that wasn't already in my cupboard (plus there are actually recommendations for alternatives if you don't already have a cupboard stuffed with dried limes).

I already knew this was going to be a favourite.

As a result, I ended up making 19 recipes from this book (hence it being a multi-part blog post!). I just kept finding "one more recipe" I wanted to make before I wrote this review.

I weighed up how to structure these posts (one on mains and one on sides?), but decided that it made more sense chronologically (plus I know I'd probably skip reading a blog post entirely about side dishes but in this book I think the sides were the best things I made), so here is part one of what I made...

What I made (part one)


Portobello steaks and butter bean mash

I actually made this before my copy of the book arrived after finding the recipe online. I knew straight away this would be very much my cup of tea and very much not Phil's cup of tea, so rather than spending the whole meal going "do you like it? You're not sure are you? Well I think it's delicious", I decided to half this and eat it over two nights just for me.

It takes a really, really long time, but if like me you're working from home at the moment, it's perfect for a weeknight as it's nearly entirely hands off, and you can get ahead by making a start at lunchtime (side note, another great thing about this book is lots of recipes have notes on what you can prepare in advance). 

This was my first experience of a flavoured oil drizzle in the book, so while I am super chill about the amount of oil in a recipe, this seemed a lot so I reduced it, but in hindsight I definitely wish I'd done the full quantity so there was extra in the fridge (this is another common theme - most of the flavoured oils in the recipes make loads extra - the idea being that you can keep them in the fridge for serving with other things). 

There is so so so much going on here with the meaty mushrooms and creamy mash and incredible sauce. It's exactly what I wanted from this book - completely delicious, restaurant-quality, and completely different from anything I've ever made myself before.

This is definitely a keeper for next time I'm cooking for myself.

The ultimate traybake rag├╣

I made this when we had friends over a few weeks ago (back in that brief period in the North West when we could have people over!). I've finally reached a point where I no longer feel the need to make 5 different dishes when we have friends over (though I do sometimes) and instead I've been finding myself making a delicious pasta dish with a nice salad and a couple of baguettes of cheap garlic bread, with bowls of crisps as a starter and letting Phil take care of dessert.

There's a lot going on here - miso, harissa, soy sauce, dried mushrooms and coconut cream, as well as minced mushrooms and lentils. I definitely needed a trip to Sainsburys for this one! It's a pretty perfect recipe for having friends over, because even though it takes a good 90 minutes, after the initial prep it's nearly entirely hands off.

I think this was a true example of the cook just being too tired by the time they served the meal to really enjoy it, as I thought it was just nice, and Phil really loved it. However it made absolutely loads (I served 4 people and had 4 portions left over) and I actually enjoyed it much more from the freezer.

I'm not very good at using my freezer for meal prep, but if you are I think this is the perfect long, slow Sunday afternoon recipe to fill your freezer with.

Sweet potato in tomato, lime and cardamom sauce


This seemed midweek do-able, so I ordered some ground cardamom online especially to make this (ebay is your friend!). The timings almost work out perfectly until right at the end, but it's definitely possible to make this midweek. I'd originally planned for us to have this for dinner one night and then I was going to eat leftovers for lunch for a few days - this ended up being so good I felt guilty "wasting" it on my lunches so we had the leftover for dinner a few days later.

We had it the first night with cous cous and the second time with rice and both were delicious. I cannot wait to make this again.

One-pan orecchiette puttanesca

Ding ding ding! First recipe I've made from this book twice already.

This is so good I cannot stop thinking about it.

Puttanesca is always a winner in this house because we both love capers and olives, and the addition of the caraway seeds and chickpeas really intrigued me. This was one of my favourite recipes I made from the book.

My only change would be that I could definitely have cooked the chickpeas while I made the pasta, although I appreciate that the logic is to not add an additional pan to the washing up pile (which is definitely not the approach in most of the other recipes in this book!). The second time I made this I crisped the chickpeas while the pasta cooks and it was much, much quicker.

This is definitely going to become a household staple.

Noor's black lime tofu


Guys I did not buy black limes. Not when the recipe states I can use regular limes instead. Regular limes than I can buy in Aldi.

I made this alongside the chaat potatoes (see below), homemade naan and rice (triple carbs yessss!) and while it was simple and straightforward (though I did shallow fry the tofu as I am scared of deep frying), it didn't really do anything for me. Maybe those dried limes do make a difference...

Chaat masala potatoes with yoghurt and tamarind


I knew I was going to love this, because it sounds exactly like the kind of thing I love to order in Bundobust or Mowgli, plus potatoes.

There's roast potatoes, tamarind sauce, coriander chutney, yoghurt and onions and chillies. What's not to love?

I could easily have just had a bowl of this for my dinner, and even though it's pretty intense with a lot to prepare, it comes together in about 45 minutes.

I can't wait to make these again!

Curried carrot mash with brown butter 


This was another recipe I knew I'd love from the ingredients - pickled chillies, ginger, brown butter, cinnamon, lime juice, curry powder, cumin seeds and nigella seeds. This is not your Mother's mashed carrot! This is unbelievably delicious - the perfect accompaniment to a roast dinner. I could have eaten the whole bowl!

I have most of these ingredients in all the time so I'll definitely be making this again.

Spicy roast potatoes with tahini and soy


I made this as something different to have with leftovers as I had all the ingredients in. It's exactly what it says on the tin - roast potatoes with a bit of spice and a tahini and soy sauce.

Super easy, super tasty, a really nice change from normal roast potatoes - I'd definitely make again.

Potato and gochujang braised eggs

When I first presented this to Phil for brunch he said "is this egg and chips?" And I guess he isn't wrong!

This is the perfect hands-off brunch which is exactly what we need on a weekend morning after we'vre been for a run. The potatoes roasted while I had a shower and by the time we were dressed and ready it was basically done!

I did all potatoes because I didn't fancy the kohlrabi, and halved it to about 2.5 potatoes in total. This is so so delicious and the kind of thing I can definitely see myself making again, particularly as it's made of ingredients I pretty much always have in. This would also make a perfect dinner with some greens on the side too.

I'll be back soon with part 2!

Charlotte x

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