Saturday, 24 October 2020

Cookbook Review: Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage - Part 2

This is part 2 of my review of Flavour - part 1 has my first impressions and the first 9 recipes I tried. You can find it here


So here we are, part 2! In my last post I wrote about the first 9 recipes I made from this book, as well as my first impressions, so in this post I'm going to cover the second 10 recipes I cooked and my final thoughts.

What I made (part two)

Tofu meatball korma

I knew this was going to take a while so I set a timer for how long it took - 1 hour 40 in total. It's pretty intense too - maybe 25 minutes of that is hands-off - but it's perfect for a Saturday night, and I made the full portion to serve 4 so we could eat it for 2 days.

Unsuprisingly, the tofu balls completely fell apart and by the second day this was more ground tofu curry. It was tasty but needed an extra squeeze of lemon to bring out the flavours, and with the time it took I'm not sure I'd make it again.

Lime and coconut potato gratin


For day two of the tofu korma, I made the lime and coconut gratin as a side.

My first note is "no way am I going to do a spiral pattern with my potatoes", and this was true.

You definitely need a food processor for this, especially if, like me, you cut the end of your finger off with a mandolin once and can barely read the word without feeling ill. 

I did manage to somehow burn the aromatics and had to start again (10 minutes feel a long time to be frying garlic for!) and I didn't have spring onions so used shallots.

This takes a while so it's definitely a Sunday dish. It takes a good 2 hours in total, but the second hour is pretty much entirely hands off.

And it's worth it. I love a gratin anyway but this is so fresh-tasting with the lime juice. I would definitely make this again for a Sunday lunch. My only changes would be to halve it, as I ended up with loads for two of us and it was a bit of a strange for lunch leftovers on its own, and I'd maybe omit the coconut cream because it's expensive and I could barely taste it. I'm definitely making this again though.

Cucumber salad à la Xi'an Impression


I made this as a bit of an afterthought to go along with the tofu korma and potato gratin. I tried to halve it for just me and also because I didn't have as much cucumber as I thought. 

I liked the cucumber but didn't love the dressing so I probably wouldn't bother with this again.

Giant couscous and pumpkin in tomato and star anise sauce



I made this for a midweek dinner and it was just about do-able. I used a butternut squash as I'm saving my pumpkins for my favourite pumpkin curry.

This is another one where the order of the instructions doesn't quite make sense - you cut up all the pumpkin first even though you don't need it til later, so you could easily save some time and chop it up while something else is cooking.

I had a bit of a panic at the start that this was a bit too big of an undertaking for a Monday night, but after the first half an hour this is mostly hands-off.

I found the onions a bit overdone after 18 minutes so I'd cut that down to 15 next time, and also for me the squash was  a bit bland (probably why you're meant to use pumpkin!).

This was nice (Phil particularly loved it) but not my favourite and after taking an hour and a half in total I think it was a bit much for midweek. I liked a lot of the flavours (and like a lot of recipes in this book, it was better as leftovers as the flavours intensified) but I don't think I'd make it again.

Mafalda and roasted butternut in warm yoghurt sauce



Another butternut squash recipe! I wasn't sure about this at first as pasta in creamy sauces is very much not my thing, but it caught my eye and looked pretty quick so I thought I'd give it a go.

There's a lot going on at once here - squash in the oven, garlic cooking, pasta cooking, stirring the sauce - it felt very intense!

However it was really nice and Phil really loved it. The hot sauce really cuts through the rich yoghurt and it's such a delicious combination. It also made 3 portions which meant I could have a lunchbox too which was great. There's a lot of washing up after but I would make it 
again.

Roasted carrot salad with chamoy



This was part of another multi-meal dinner, with the tomato salad and roasted cauliflower (plus chicken for Phil and some nice bread). 

I have a few issues with my oven and the heat not circulating very well when there's more than one tray in it, so my carrots ended up more steamed than crispy which was a bit of a shame.

It's pretty straightforward to make and there's a lot of flavours going on, but I found it a little bit too sweet and it needed some more salt for balance.

Cauliflower roasted in chilli butter



This didn't make my original list of recipes to make, but I read a few reviews saying it was great so I thought I'd give it a go. Phil isn't a massive cauliflower fan so I halved it and ate it for 2 days (it serves 4). 

It seemed like a lot of chillies (8, on top of the harissa) so I decided to reduce it down to 2 in the tray, and I skipped the additional chill flakes. 

It's another Sunday dinner as it takes just over an hour, however it is pretty straight forward.

It's nice - the leaves especially! - but I found with the amount of butter it got very rich very quickly and needed a bit more seasoning. I'm not sure I'd make it again but I did enjoy it.

Tomato salad with lime and cardamom yoghurt



I made this because someone recommended it to go with the roasted cauliflower and they were not wrong - the rich, spicy cauliflower is really complemented by the creamy, sharpness of this salad.

I'm not entirely sure why you make one part of the salad in one bowl and then the other part in another, but it comes together quickly despite that. In my multi-dish dinner this was by far the best thing I made - it was absolutely beautiful.

I had some goat's cheese leftover so I made this again a few days later with a few adaptations (ground cardamom rather than grinding the seeds, no fresh herbs as I didn't have any) and it was so so delicious again. I always have cherry tomatoes and yoghurt in the house and I'm wondering if it would work with feta (which I also always have in) so we could have this more often. One of my favourite recipes from this book.

Miso butter onions



I'd heard a lot about these and I was intrigued although not entirely sure what to do with them!

I had quite small onions so I halved the quantities of everything (it's handy the weight of the onions is included). It's a pretty storecupboard, using only onions, miso and butter.

They take a while, but apart from the odd basting, it's all hands off.

We had these alongside a roast and they were lovely, but I wasn't sure how to handle the lefovers. They were a bit too liquidy for on toast (and don't even ask about the omelette I tried to make with them!) so while they were delicious I'm not sure I'd have a reason to make them again.

Pappa al pomodoro with lime and mustard seeds



Our final dish from this book!

This is meant to be a side dish to serve 4, so I thought it might work out about right quantity wise as a main for 2 and it was about right for that!

I didn't have any curry leaves but Ottolenghi said you can just leave them out (thank you!), and I didn't use quite as much oil as it stated (as my final recipe I'd just started to get a bit sick of all the oil in this book!). I also used some leftover tiger bread as the bread element.

This takes about 40 minutes to prep and then you just leave it to rest for a bit for the flavours to intensify.

It was quite intense as a main course but I would definitely make it again in the summer as a side dish or part of a multi-dish meal.

Conclusion

If it's not clear here, I loved this book.

It's been a long lockdown and I've only eaten out 3 times since March so I was starting to feel very sick of cooking and food shopping and meal planning.

This book completely reignited my love of cooking. I loved the experimental flavours and the unusual techniques and ending up with something unlike anything I'd eaten before. Because that's why we eat out isn't it? To try something new.

Nothing was a complete disaster, nothing took hours and hours and made me scream, nothing made me take multiple trips to the supermarket. Ottolenghi has listened to feedback and he's made a book where it's clear how long everything takes, there are suggestions as alternatives if you can't find certain ingredients, everything is vegetarian (anything with say, fish sauce or anchovies in has an alternative), everything has a  serving suggestion and everything is delicious.

Yes, I've never zested more limes in my life. I've never used so much oil. I've never filled the dishwasher so quickly. I've never had to buy two jars of rose harissa at a time. But it was all so so worth it.

This is one of the best books I own. I hope I continue to flick through it for weekend inspiration for multi-meal dishes as well as for midweek cooking. I never thought I'd be cooking Ottolengho midweek!

If you're prepared to invest some time in getting your initial set up (you definitely need harissa, miso and tahini, so if those are unusual ingredients to you, you might need a trip to Sainsburys) and you definitely need to invest some time, but if you want to be able to make restaurant quality meals at home, this is the book you need.

This the perfect book to reignite your love of cooking, to help you discover flavour combinations you'd never even imagined and to help you expand your repertoire.

It might have saved my lockdown cooking. And I can't praise it more highly than that!

Charlotte x

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