Book review: Ottolenghi Simple

19 September 2018 by
Book review: Ottolenghi Simple

Within the first four paragraphs of Ottolenghi's Simple, the chef tackles the fact that for many the name of this book will appear to be an oxymoron.

But he insists there is not one recipe among the 130 listed that he feels sheepish about, arguing that "simple" means different things to different people, before acknowledging that, being Ottolenghi, "a single sprig of parsley was never, really, going to cut the mustard".

Creating an acronym, Ottolenghi's definitions are: "Short on time", "10 Ingredients or less", "Make ahead", "Pantry", "Lazy" and "Easier than you think". Each recipe lists the definitions that apply.

The recipes are distinctly Ottolenghi, with an abundance of beautiful plates of vegetables topped with herbs and yogurt, stuffed courgettes, many incarnations of roasted aubergine and lots of preserved lemons and sumac.

While vegetables, as expected, take centre stage, the meat and fish chapters are equally inspiring, featuring lamb siniyah - a Middle Eastern shepherd's pie with tahini crust; slow-cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust; and Bridget Jones's pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa - as referenced on-screen by actor Patrick Dempsey in the film franchise's latest outing.

While instantly recognisable as an Ottolenghi cookbook, Simple is distinctly different from the cheffy techniques and forensic attention to detail seen in Nopi. It's an easing into the chef's food for the home cook and the recipes within its 308 pages appear destined for a family feast or dinner party.

That said, this is Ottolenghi's Simple, not Delia's How To Cook and it should not be dismissed as just for the home chef. The flavour combinations and visual appeal that have made him a box-office hit for more than a decade pour out of every page and are a lesson for anyone aspiring to entice diners or readers.

Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth

(Ebury Press, £25)

•Make slow-cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust from the book here

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