Top positive review
Another great addition to the Ottolenghi line up!
Reviewed in the United States on October 14, 2020
For fans of Plenty and Plenty More, embrace Flavor, a book that Ottolenghi describes as Plenty Three.
EDIT: I'm adding the following comment on cooking times a day after I posted my initial review. A reviewer below mentioned that in the whole book there are only 5 recipes that can be produced in under 30 mins. I disagree.
Just in the first 12 recipes alone, there are 6 recipes that have a cooking time of 30 mins or less, and the prep for all of those recipes is speedy, with some ingredients being prepped during the cooking time. Yes, there are recipes that have multiple steps, and long cooking times, but this is not advertised as a recipe book specifically for those who need to get dinner on the table in 30 mins. There are plenty of other books out there that offer that. However, a quick scan shows a number of recipes that do meet that bill. For example, Noors Black Lime Tofu. The tofu is tossed in cornstarch and fried for 6 mins, while the tofu is frying throw the onions and garlic in a food processer. Fry that for 10 mins. Add the spices etc and cook for another minute. Add water, simmer for 6 mins. Add the tofu to the sauce and toss in the spinach, serve straight from the pan and dinner is done. The One Pan Orecchiette Puttanesca cooking time is just 14 mins if you boil the pasta while the sauce is reducing, then stir together.. Some of the more labor intensive recipes you might like to save for the weekend but there are weeknight healthy and delicious sounding recipes in this book.
Flavor contains 100 recipes, which are almost all vegetarian sometimes vegan (45 recipes) that occasionally dabbles with fish sauce and parmesan, eggs and dairy. Yotam offers substitutions for various ingredients where possible such as light soy sauce for fish sauce.
At the start of the book, Yotam lists the 20 ingredients that he considers essential to this book. He is not suggesting that you rush out and purchase them all right away (if you don’t already have them, you will likely want to stock most of them anyway, after trying these recipes) He describes these ingredients are being the essence of the book. These ingredients have been used to enhance, draw out and accentuate, they are umami rich, many of them are aged, and all have complex layers of flavor.
These 20 ingredients are: Aleppo Chile (Gochugaru Korean hot pepper flakes are suggested as a substitute) Ancho chile, Anchovies packed in olive oil, black garlic, Persian dried black lime (he suggests that regular lime could be used, but to me, Persian lime has a scented, earthy tang that really is a different thing entirely from fresh lime) Cascabel Chiles (ancho as a substitute) Dried Whole Chipotle, Fish Sauce, Gochujang paste, Ground cardamom, Hibiscus flowers, jarred butter beans (canned are acceptable but jarred is preferred) Mango Pickle (not chutney) Masa Harina, Miso (preferably white not sweet white) red bell pepper flakes, rice vinegar, rose harissa (regular harissa can be substituted, I would like to add that culinary rose petals can also be crushed and added to harissa, and these can be found at World Market or online) Shaoxing Wine, Tamarind Paste.
The book is divided into three main categories. Process, Pairing and Produce.
Those categories are further divided into
Process: Charring, Browning, Infusing, Aging
Pairing: Sweetness, Fat, Acidity, Chile Heat
Produce: Mushrooms, Alliums, Nuts and Seeds, Sugar: Fruit and Booze
Finally we have Flavor Bombs which is a two page spread, showing all of the condiments that are in the book with the corresponding page number (see my photo) Butters, oils, salsas, mayonnaise, sauce, pickles, salts and spiced nuts.
Each chapter begins with an essay on that subject which covers the subheadings. I love this, as I read cookbook like novels and here, each method and the equipment used, and a run down of some of the recipes and how they embody the method used, is described in detail with some cute, cartoon-like line drawings.
Process for example, has 12 pages describing the processes and benefits to Charring, Browning, Infusing and Aging before we get to the recipes.
Here are a selection of four recipes from each chapter (please see the corresponding photo)
The Process Chapter
Charring: Iceberg Wedges with Smoky Eggplant Cream
Browning: Hasselback Beets with Lime Leaf Butter
Infusing: Chilled Avocado Soup with Crunchy Garlic Oil
Aging: The Ultimate Roasting Pan Ragu
The Pairing Chapter
Sweetness: Coconut and Tumeric Omelette Feast
Fat: Stuffed Eggplant in Curry and Coconut Dal
Acidity:Noors Black Lime Tofu
Chile Heat:Saffron Tagliatelle with Ricotta and Crispy Chipotle Shallots
The Produce Chapter
Mushrooms:Broccoli with Mushroom Ketchup and Nori
Alliums:Olive Oil Flatbreads with Three Garlic Butter
Nuts and Seeds:Tofu Meatball Korma
Sugar: Fruit and Booze Tapioca Fritters with Orange Syrup and Star Anise
I have listed a range of recipes from main courses to side dishes.
In the process chapter for example Charring has 7 recipes, Browning has 11 recipes, Infusing has 8 recipes and Aging has 9 recipes. In that chapter every recipe has a corresponding full page sized photo or even a two page photo spread, sometimes multiple photos on a two page spread. Additionally, there are a number of photos of Yotam and Ixta cooking.
This brings me to a bit of a gripe. I know that the majority of cooks like a photo of every recipe, and many people find it hard to get enthusiastic about a recipe with no photo, but this seems to be overkill at the expense of the amount of recipes in this book.
Plenty had 120 recipes to 288 pages
Plenty More had 150 recipes to 352 pages
Flavor has a mere 100 recipes to 317 pages.
Admittedly, the chapter essays take up some of this, but I never thought I would say this about a cookbook, but the photos are overkill. While I enjoy the photos of Yotam and Ixta cooking, these could have been reduced in size to half or even quarter page photos.
The two page spreads of a single recipe, for example the Hasselback Beets, could have been reduced in size to a single page to make way for another recipe.
Noors Black Lime Tofu has no less than three full pages of photos. A photo of the tofu in the pan with the paste, then a photo of the spinach being added to the pan, then a photo of the spinach being stirred in, then a photo of the spinach almost completely stirred in and almost wilted, and then a photo of the finished dish with spinach wilted satisfactorily.
This type of photo series could have been kept for recipes that were a bit more complex, such as the home made Saffron Tagliatelle. That recipe has no photo at all and could really have used a series for people who have never made pasta before. Instead the two page spread has been used for the Saffron Tagliatelle dish with Ricotta and Crispy Chipotle Shallots. And in that instance the photo series shows the already made Tagliatelle on a tray, then it being cooked in water, then it in the pan with the parmesan being added, then its in the pan with the parmesan added now, and then a full sized photo of it in the pan with the crispy shallots on top.
There always has to be a gripe, but for me this is a pretty big one. If I was the editor I would have said one photo only per recipe unless a difficult technique really needs to be shown and add more recipes in place of all the rest. The book is pretty, but beyond a photo of each finished dish, the rest of the photos are just eye candy and most of the extra photos of the type I described above, are not what I would consider helpful or even particularly interesting. Personally, I would prefer more recipes.
Another area which I think had some room for expansion was the Flavor Bombs page. While it is helpful to show all the condiments etc on one page with the recipe page number listed, and in the intro to each recipe there are some ideas on how else to use one of the Flavor Bombs I think this could have been fleshed out a bit more.
For example, if you have leftover Fenugreek Marinade from the Curry Crusted Rutabaga Steaks it is described as keeping for two weeks and can be used as a base for curries or for marinating vegetables or different meats. Perhaps this could have been expanded to say mix with yoghurt and serve with grilled chicken, or to marinate chicken before grilling (I don’t know if that would be good, just riffing here) but if I am going to make double or triple of a condiment I would love a handful of simple ideas sketched out, to start me off on the journey of what else I could do with these Flavor Bombs beyond a line or two on the recipe page. But perhaps that is just nit picking. There are some ideas, I just want more, more, more!
Gripes aside, the recipes themselves sound great and I will be cooking through this book, as I have done with all of Ottolenghis other books.
Fans of Ottolenghis will want this book, so I am preaching to the converted here but it is always nice to read an extensive review before purchase even if you pretty much know you are going to purchase a book.
Newbies, this is a pretty vegetable book with some very interesting recipes. You can't go wrong with this book or Plenty or Plenty More if you want to expand your vegetable repertoire. Or Ottolenghis other books if you also want interesting recipes that include meat and fish.
I am happy to have this book and I will post an update when I cook from it (I pre-ordered it and just received it today)
If this review was helpful to you, please click the helpful button. It always gives me a huge kick to see that my reviews were helpful to other like minded cooks. You might also be interested in my other cookbook and ingredient reviews and my ideas lists of kitchen tools etc