I wouldn’t consider myself someone who gets caught up with trivial things and I like to think that I don’t judge a book by its cover. In the case of Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi all that went out of the window and I can honestly say I would buy this book just for the cover; a soft, cushioned cover, which as far as I can tell, serves no other purpose than to make you want to pick the book up! It’s a tactile book, so pleasing to touch, to hold and, in that same therapeutic fashion as bubble wrap, to squeeze.
If you can bear to take a pause from stroking the cover for a few moments, inside you’ll find a collection of recipes from Ottolenghi’s New Vegetarian column in the Guardian. Many of the recipes have been reviewed, refined and re-written for the book. It’s not because the recipes weren’t successful, but because Ottolenghi believes that a recipe isn’t set in stone. Changes to the recipes reflect the way in which his cooking and writing style has developed over the years. He also believes that each time you make a dish you find ways to tweak it, to enhance it, to make it suit your mood or your guests’ tastes.
Presenting food in chapters based around favourite ingredients has become a popular choice for cookery book writers. Though there is an even more unsystematic approach to the chaptering in Plenty – favourite ingredients combined with botanical categories and associations which make sense only to the author. This approach reveals something about the way he thinks when cooking and developing recipes, focusing on one ingredient at the heart of a dish and building the recipe around it, adding influences from the flavours of his childhood and the chefs at the Ottolenghi restaurant.
Yotam Ottolenghi isn’t a vegetarian but he has a real knack of creating interesting, colourful dishes, packed full of flavour and which just so happen not to contain meat or fish. Whether or not you’re a vegetarian, the dishes are a joy to cook and eat and every recipe cooked so far recommended.
Anyone, like me, who already owns and has devoured most of the recipes in Ottolenghi: The Cookbook may find that this book has less of the flair and excitement and none of the jaw-dropping and tempting desserts of the first but should still find plenty of inspiration.