Thursday, 21 June 2012

Cooking from Ottolenghi's Plenty

Although I eat in a meat-free manner, I'm not a proper vegetarian as I'm rather keen on fishfingers (as well as fish and chips). But I still often eat completely vegetarian meals, so am always keen on finding new things to put in them. I'd heard quite a bit about Yotam Ottolenghi, and in fact cooked his black pepper tofu recipe last year. So I was quite excited when some lovely friends bought me his vegetarian cookbook, Plenty, and I've recently tried out a few recipes from it.

Firstly, some sweet potato cakes. The recipe, which initially appeared in Yotam's Guardian column, can be found here and rather unusually I don't think I changed anything about it at all. The recipe is pretty straightforward, as it's basically just mashed potato with some added seasonings, but I did like the idea of steaming the potato (presumably to avoid it getting water-logged through boiling). The cooked cakes were very flavourful, with an excellent combination of sweetness from the potato, and chilli and spring onion savoury-ness. I definitely had to cook these longer than the recommended six minutes though, and they were also a lot less robust than they looked, which made flipping them over a bit tricky. But the end product was worth the careful prodding, and they went very well with the garlicky yoghurt sauce that's suggested accompany them.

Next up were mushrooms stuffed with Taleggio cheese. This recipe is essentially the same as this one which appeared in the Guardian, but Plenty swaps the fennel for a small onion and a stick of celery and also adds a little taragon to the stuffing too. The mix also contains some sun-dried tomatoes, which I've generally found to be little chewy bullets of bitterness, but either they've really improved in quality or else cooking them for a while really does transform them. I made a minor adjustment, which was using the smaller portobellini mushrooms rather than portobello ones, as I prefer these. Again, this is quite a simple and straightforward recipe but used ingredients that I wouldn't think to put together. And for me Taleggio cheese was a new discovery too, as I've somehow never tried it before.

So overall I thought Plenty was an excellent book. I'd not read Ottolenghi's Guardian column, so these recipes were all pretty new to me. I liked the organisation into chapters on different vegetables, and though many of the recipes aren't the quickest to prepare they all seemed quite original and interesting. I have a list of additional dishes from the book that I'd like to make and, unusually for me, I might well stick to the recipe.

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