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Posts Tagged ‘Ottolenghi: The Cookbook’

Granted. I’ve been absent for a long time – family life combined with running your own business can do that to your social networking life – but I’m ready to get back to food blogging. It’s something I really enjoy doing and have missed. I only hope that I can find the time and energy to do it again.

I might have been away from my blog but I haven’t been far from food. It’s just that my approach to food has adapted to suit the limited time available for cooking and, naturally, to my little boy’s developing tastes.

_EP_8202-01For a while, when LC was little, I struggled to cope with not having time in the kitchen after work (cooking had always been my creative outlet and the way I relaxed) but we’re now over some very difficult hurdles and there’s a little more time on an evening to cook. I’m working through recipes in the cookbooks that gathered on my shelves over the last two years and were subsequently neglected as well as rediscovering old favourites. Books like Persiana, Made in India, New Indian, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Comptoir Libanais, the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook and, more recently, Indian Kitchen: Secrets of Indian home cooking have reignited my passion for cooking and, importantly for me, my desire to experiment and create ‘new’ dishes.

I’ve had a little ‘me’ time when I’ve been able to hone some skills and learn new ones. I’ve been on a baking course with Hart’s Bakery and almost perfected my sourdough, I joined Wai Yee Hong and Bishopston Supper Club for the first ever #dumplingfest and learned how to make samosas with a new foodie friend, Arushi.

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Seeing LC enjoy food and want to spend time with me in the kitchen has really helped. I feel immensely proud when he names fruit and vegetables, can recognise ingredients in a cooked dish or sniffs the air and tells me he can smell that I’m cooking curry! I also felt slightly embarrassed when nursery staff reported how, as they told the children they were going to bake cakes, he jumped it to explain to them all how to make one and listed the ingredients needed.

He wants to help with everything from growing vegetables in the garden to shopping, stirring, whisking and even sweeping up. He’s been a great excuse to make time in the kitchen to do things I’ve never done or haven’t done for a long time; make pasta, stale bread gnocchi, oatcakes, meringues, jellies and cakes. He’s eager to learn, soaks up everything I teach him and demonstrates what he’s learnt in his play kitchen where he makes paella, risotto, pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage sandwiches and a bloody good cup of tea!

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And what about eating out? We still do that, just not as frequently. We have sneaky days off with LC in nursery so we can have breakfast or lunch out, or sometimes both! We eat out at lunchtime with LC and occasionally we indulge in a night out, with the help of the amazing people in our lives who offer to babysit.

The Bristol food scene continues to thrive. The variety and quality of food available is outstanding. We’ve had incredible steaks at The Ox, the most amazing chicken wraps from Matina in St Nick’s market, Sunday lunches with a difference at the Kensington Arms, Yurt Lush and Bishopston Supper Club, tapas to die for at Bravas and Pata Negra, the best brunches at RosemarinoBaker & Co and Souk Kitchen, consistently good food at out local, The Victoria Park, stunning fish and chips at Salt and Malt, spice fixes from the Jamaican Diner, authentic Indian cooking from Romy’s Kitchen, a complete surprise tasting menu at the Lido and fantastic salt beef from Aron’s Jewish Delicatessen.

_EP_3760_1Further afield we’ve tucked in at the Hardwick and eaten the best pea and ham soup we’ve ever tasted at the Hind’s Head. Even further afield we were wowed by the food and hospitality in Copenhagen. Aaman’s open sandwiches, DOP hotdogs and Papiroen street food market were highlights of our trip. Sadly there was no visit to Noma!

So, I’ve discovered that there is still room for food in our lives…it’s just that we’re on a diet!

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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.

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