Book review: Ottolenghi Flavour
"I have never been shy about my love of vegetables," says Yotam Ottolenghi in the introduction to Flavour. The restaurateur's mission to present vegetables "in new and exciting ways" began over 10 years ago with his book Plenty (a "great big party" for vegetables), followed by Plenty More, which looked at preparing and cooking them. Now Flavour, the third book, co-authored with "detail-obsessed" Ixta Belfrage, examines what makes a vegetable distinct, unlocks its inherent flavour and boosts it with complementary ones.
The book, which initially had the working title ‘The Ottolenghi F-Bomb', is bursting with dishes so vibrant they seem to jump off the page. Chapters are divided into Process, Pairing and Produce (the Three Ps) which, say the authors, are the key principles for explaining why vegetables taste so darn good or, rather, why they can if you know what to do with them. Process (which covers charring, browning, infusing and ageing) includes a recipe for iceberg lettuce wedges with smoky aubergine cream and illustrates charring with fire-licking aplomb. There is also a recipe for whole roasted celeriac, slow-cooked in the oven for almost three hours.
Pairing considers sweetness, fat, acidity and chillies, which come in so many varieties, while Produce examines how a vegetable's inherent flavour potential can shine without the need for additional fanfare or support, as the mushrooms in the recipe for spicy mushroom lasagne.
If the 320-page book overwhelms, consider beginning towards the end with ‘flavour bombs'. These are mini recipes within recipes, such as the lusciously pink hibiscus pickled onions (for cheese tamales in the fat section), yellow lime leaf butter (for hasselback beetroot in browning) and orange nam prik, an intense Thai chilli sauce for the Hispi cabbage recipe in charring.
Ottolenghi says he embraced the book's undertaking "with nothing but enthusiasm" and vegetable-curious cooks with a shelf sturdy enough to store this tome will no doubt devour it in much the same way.
Ottolenghi Flavour, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Ebury Press, £27)
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