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Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi – book review

04 June 2010 by

Plenty By Yotam Ottolenghi
Ebury Press, £25
ISBN 9780091933685

It still comes as a surprise to some that Yotam Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian, his name being so inextricably linked to meat-free dishes thanks to his weekly New Vegetarian column in the Guardian Weekend magazine.

While upsetting some Guardian readers, particularly when he "suggested serving a salad with some barbecued lamb chops", Ottolenghi has thrilled many more with his original and innovative approach to vegetable dishes.

That inventiveness and inspiration is captured in Plenty, a collection of four years' worth of dishes derived from his column, alongside brand new recipes.

Informed by Ottolenghi's background, his recipes mix Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours to produce dishes of vibrancy and imagination.

Plenty echoes his instinctive approach, with chapters divided by types of vegetable, principally Ottolenghi's favourites. This, he says, reveals the way he thinks and works when writing a recipe.

"At the centre of every dish, at the beginning of the thought process, is an ingredient, one ingredient - not just any ingredient but one of my favourite ingredients," he says.

So we have chapters on roots, funny onions, brassicas and leaves cooked and raw - to name a few - providing the space and freedom for some creative concoctions including green pancakes with lime butter; vine leaf, herb and yogurt pie; and caramelised garlic tart.

His imaginative way with ingredients leads him down some experimental routes. For aubergine tricolore, the reader is urged to consider "the sacrilegious use of coriander in a very Italian dish", while a Moroccan slant is evident in saffron tagliatelle with spiced butter.

Reflecting growing public opinion, Ottolenghi points out "how wasteful it is to gain our calories from meat rather than from vegetables, pulses or grains" and that many consumers want to make meat "special and valuable again".

That being the case, more chefs will no doubt be hunting for inspiration to satisfy those seeking to cut down on meat, and this stylish and exciting book will be the ideal reference point to satisfy both meat eaters and vegetarians.

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