It is so difficult to choose which book to do your next review on. Do you go for a book in your collection, that’s an old favourite, one that you have cooked from for years and the pages of your favourite recipes show all the signs of being around in the kitchen? Or, do you go for a new book that has a cuisine that you’re interested it? Maybe it’s something that you’ve never tried before, with a few ingredients that you haven’t used or even heard of before.
Well for me, I’ve gone with the latter option. I’m always interested in learning new dishes and trying different ingredients, that fill my kitchen cupboards and drive my wife crazy!! (Sorry Babe) So, after looking at a few options, Bernie and I decided on Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi. It’s a beautifully presented book, full of Middle Eastern recipes that look delicious.
After experimenting with veganism for a couple of months, we have reintroduced meat and animal products back into our diet, but only a couple of days a week. We still cook some of the dishes that we liked from the veganism period!! Flicking through Simple, it initially appeared to us that it was a vegetarian book as there were so many raw salads and cooked vegetable dishes, but as we got further through the book, there was a Fish & Meat section.
One person’s idea of cooking simply is the next person’s culinary nightmare. For me, it’s about being able to stop at my greengrocer on the way home, pick up a couple of things that look good and make something within 20 or 30 minutes of getting in. My husband, Karl, on the other hand, has a completely different idea. If we’re having friends over at the weekend, he’ll want to spend a good amount of time prepping and cooking as much as he can beforehand, so that very little needs to be done when our guests are here.
There are other approaches, too. Esme, who tests my recipes, prefers to be in the garden at weekends. Her idea of simple cooking is to put something in the oven on a Saturday morning and leave it simmering away, ready to be eaten four or five hours later. My colleague Tara, on the other hand, can’t relax without knowing that a meal is ready a full day before it’s due to be eaten: sauces are in the fridge, stews in the freezer, vegetables are blanched or roasted and ready.
Whatever our take, it all looks effortless and easy when friends and family come to eat in our respective kitchens. But that’s only because we’ve worked out what makes cooking simple, relaxing and fun for us. This idea, then – that there’s more than one way to get a meal on the table – is what my new book Ottolenghi Simple is all about.
And, no, it’s not a contradiction in terms. I know: I’ve seen the raised eyebrows, I’ve heard the jokes. The one about the reader who thought there was part of a recipe missing because they had all the ingredients in their cupboard. Or the one about “just popping out to the local shop to buy the papers, milk, black garlic and sumac”.
I hold up my hands, absolutely. There have been lists to make and ingredients to find, but, truthfully, there’s not a recipe to my name that I feel sheepish about. Cooking, for me, has always been about abundance, bounty, freshness and surprise. Four big words to expect from a plate of food, so a single sprig of parsley was never going to cut the mustard. That’s the reason I’m so excited about these recipes: they’re still distinctly “Ottolenghi”, but simple in at least one way – and very often more than one.
Lamb & Pistachio Patties with Sumac Yoghurt
A quick and easy recipe to make, just a few ingredients are needed to produce these delightful little burgers. Interestingly, it has pistachios and rocket through the patties, which give it a little crunch and texture, with a slight pepperiness from the rocket. The only draw back that I found with using pistachios is that I could only find them in their shells, which meant it took me a little while to deshell them. So if you can find them deshelled, I recommend you snap them up.
Tomatoes with Sumac Onions
A really nice summer salad. Try to find a variety of different tomatoes, most supermarkets have quite a few these days, go for ripe ones which will have more flavour and sweetness. The Sumac shallots can be prepared in advance and add a citrus punch to the tomatoes. Sumac is a berry from the Sumac shrub, that is dried and crushed. The basil brings a floral note to the dish and marries so well with tomatoes.
Cavolo Nero with Chorizo & Preserved Lemon
A wonderful side dish, a slightly different take on Cabbage and bacon but essentially the same. You have all the goodness of hearty dark green Cavolo Nero with the hits of the Preserved Lemon and the lightly spiced porky heaven that is chorizo all bound in a creamy garlic sauce. I’m salivating like Homer Simpson in a doughnut shop just writing this!!! It’s very versatile and goes with almost anything and is simple to make. You definitely need to make it.
Roast Cabbage with Tarragon & Pecorino
A different type of Cabbage dish, I was quite intrigued by the recipe, which was why I chose it. It’s cooked and served with a very lemony dressing, which I thought was a bit overwhelming when I tried the dish by itself, but when paired with the lamb Patties, it really complemented each other. I could imagine it going well as a side dish on a buffet or with a BBQ.
Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils & Dolcelatte
I love a bit of roast Butternut Squash, so I was pleased when I came across a couple of recipes. Firstly, I tried this one with roasted red onions, puy Lentils and Dolcelatte. It is such clever combinations of Ingredients, the little touches of lemons, garlic & herbs to the lentils, just elevates the flavours and then you have the tangy, salty flavour of the Dolcelatte, DELIGHTFUL
Butternut Squash with Sweetcorn Salsa & Pumpkin Seeds
The second squash dish follows similar flavour bombs as the first; you have the earthiness of the squash, with the sharp citrus flavour of the salsa and the tangy, salty feta on top. Both are amazing dishes. I particularly liked the salsa and have been putting it on top of as many dishes as I can!! It goes really well on burgers and in wraps. Just a pleasant, tasty versatile component.
Roasted Aubergine with Curried Yoghurt
This was probably my favourite dish and looks amazing!! The contrast of colours and flavours is amazing. The bright red pomegranate seeds against the backdrop of dark nutty beige is stunning. Flavour wise the soft roasted aubergine with the curried yoghurt and sweet, slightly spiced onions topped with almonds and pomegranate seeds is just to die for. I highly recommend that you try this dish, you won’t be disappointed
We thought the book would be a natural progression for us from the veganism, lots of salads & vegetables and some meat and fish to complement the vegetables.
The title SIMPLE, whilst making you think that all the dishes and recipes are simple to make, which the majority of them are, actually, it’s an acronym. It Stands for Short on time: less than half an hour; Ingredients: 10 or fewer; Make ahead; Pantry-led; Lazy and Easier than you think.
It’s the first Ottolenghi book that I have cooked from. I had heard about him and knew that he had a couple of restaurants and delis down in that Smokey London Town. I had even seen him on TV a couple of times, presenting food from the Middle East, but I had never bought one of his books. Maybe it was due to the lack of space in my kitchen because there are ingredients everywhere and Mrs T had banished my books from the kitchen to the garage when they started blocking out the sun’s rays!!
Yotam Ottolenghi is described as the guy who taught Britain to love vegetables, apart from being a very cool description, it is bang on!! The recipes are amazing, full of different flavours and lots of versatile ways to use vegetables. With us being in Spring and Summer not too far away, it’s the perfect book for those, hopefully, warm Summer evenings were you throw some charcoal on the barbie and you need a few delicious salads and vegetable dishes to cut through the mountain of meat that you intend to consume
Simple is a New York Times bestselling with a collection of 130 easy, flavor-forward recipes from beloved chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Packed with his signature Middle Eastern; inspired flavors, made in 30 minutes or less, with 10 or fewer ingredients, in a single pot, using cupboard staples, or prepared ahead of time for brilliantly, deliciously simple meals. Brunch gets a make-over with Braised Eggs with Leeks and Cauliflower, Pomegranate, and Pistachio Salad refreshes the side-dish rotation; Lamb and Feta Meatballs bring ease to the weeknight table; and every sweet tooth is sure to be satisfied by the spectacular Fig and Thyme Clafoutis
Available to buy atAmazon brand new for around £27 or second hand at amazon market place for around £12