Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi & Ixta Belfrage


Welcome to the next instalment of #notanothercookbook. If you want to know why I am doing this, you can read about it here. But in a nutshell, I have a problem and I need to use my cookbooks more. 

Hope you’re having a lovely Easter weekend, whether you’re celebrating or just enjoying the seasonal goods (Galaxy mini eggs for me). Would have been nice for that sunshine to stay, but I guess that would be just too indulgent.

Today’s hero is ‘Flavour’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage. This is a book that made the monotony of lockdown more bearable. It’s filled with incredible flavour pairings, textures and so much knowledge. This book celebrates vegetables and teaches you how to bring out the best through different processes (charring, browning, infusing, ageing); how to pair flavours (sweetness, fat, acidity and chilli heat); and lastly celebrates produce (mushrooms, aliums, nuts and seeds and sugars). 

At the beginning of the book, you get a handy list of 20 ingredients that dominate the recipes. Now, 20 might seem like a lot but if you’re already familiar with Ottolenghi you’ll probably have some of these ingredients on your shelves. And if you’re just getting acquainted - start easy, with maybe 5 ingredients? Pick out a few recipes that you like the look of, grab the key ingredients, cook, cook again and then you might find yourself adding new ingredients to your favourite dish to see how it’ll alter the flavour. 

This is not my first Ottolenghi rodeo so I wasn’t discouraged by the lengthy ingredient list and I anticipated the elaborate processes and long timings. The thing I found the hardest is actually sourcing some of the fresh ingredients - daikon, kohlrabi, Romano peppers and few other items aren’t easily available in the local supermarkets. So planning ahead is essential and might require visiting a few different shops to get your hands on ingredients. My local farm (Holt Farm) grows and sources a lot of great ingredients and there’s always Natoora you can rely on too.

A very minor but exciting point - the book has 2 bookmarks, which is handy when you’re cooking two recipes at once; it’s all in the details. 

The book is full of beautiful recipes, suitable for mid-week dinners, lazy brunches and special treats. And here are my 10 recommended recipes. 

White Bean with Garlic Aioli p.76

This is the one! (I say this is a lot when it comes to food). You won’t regret going through all the steps but don’t forget to pre-soak your beans overnight. This recipe makes the most beautiful garlic oil that I still haven’t used up and you’ll end up with a little stash to put away to drizzle on things. In fact, I think I will be making another batch this weekend. 

Unfortunately, I discarded the fried chillies and the thyme from my oil. It was supposed to go atop the dish to decorate but it didn’t really ruin it for us, but once again I should read the instructions ahead. 

Za’atar Cacio E Pepe p.104

I am very much a pasta fan, I am even more a fan of Cacio E Pepe. If it’s on the menu, I’ll be ordering that cheesy peppery bastard. And I will not be sharing, sorry. Quick simple, perfect for a lazy ‘I really CBA’ mid-week dinner. Za’atar is a beautiful middle eastern spice mix that’s now easily available in most supermarkets, or you can visit local specialist shops (online and in person). 

Cucumber Salad a la Xi’an Impression p.113

This is a refreshing salad, perfect for warmer months. But it’s not a quick and easy dinner/lunch option. The cucumber needs marinating for up to 2 hours and then another 20-30 to drain the liquids. But the results are so worth it. I can’t wait to have a Prosecco soaked summer lunch with friends and make this for them.

Whole Roasted Celeriac Three Ways p.54

I do not like celeriac, I’ll never willingly add it to my shopping list, I’ll never be enticed by a celeriac recipe. My hopes were placed onto Ottolenghi to turn it around (a few years ago, he was the only person to have a vegetarian dish at Meatopia and it was celeriac shawarma, I had to give it a go).  

The roasting method is simple and is very hands-off, no peeling required, a lot of passive time and it came out smelling beautiful gleaming in sugary juices, with a beautiful crust. Promising. 

So I decided to make… 

Cabbage ‘Tacos’ with Celeriac and Date Barbecue Sauce p.59

Except, instead of using cabbage leaves to be the vessels I made mini corn tacos. I made the gorgeous date barbecue sauce and had to stop myself from sneaking small spoonfuls. I shredded the celeriac and assembled the tacos. I was buzzing in anticipation. What a fabulous weekend lunch this could be! 

Reader, it turns out I do not like celeriac. Even if it’s cooked using an Ottolenghi method, even if it’s smothered in the most delicious homemade barbecue sauce. Unfortunately, celeriac won’t be making any more appearances in my kitchen. But if you are a celeriac lover, you will be absolutely blown away by this dish. Promise. Pete loved it and he’s someone who often says ‘’This would be nice with a bit of chicken’’ when it comes to most vegetarian dishes. 

Asparagus and Gochujang Pancakes p.102

Gochujang is one of my favourite funky kitchen companions! Widely used in Korean cooking, it has become a regular on my kitchen shelf. Always get the real deal, not the “knock off” supermarket attempt. 

These pancakes were easy enough to make, though a bit of a faff as you need to cook off each pancake individually. Starting off with asparagus, followed by spring onions and only then the batter comes in. However the results are worth it! I am not a big fan of sweet pancakes so I think these will be making regular appearances instead. The recipes suggests that it feeds two people (4 pancakes in total). I made two pancakes and reserved the rest of the batter. We had ours with chorizo and shrimp and one pancake each was more than enough for a lunch. I used the leftover batter and prepped asparagus the next day to make lunch. 

Aubergine with Herbs and Crispy Garlic p.251

Simple, delicious, can be prepped in advance. If you have some aubergine that looks past its best this will work a treat. Added bonus: I had a bunch of leftover garlic oil to use on my salads etc. To make really good thinly sliced garlic chips, it’s worth investing in a mandolin. We didn’t need to though, Pete won a mini mandolin at his work Christmas ‘crap’ raffle. #winning. 

I enjoyed this so much, we had it with our lamb yesterday. I am blowing up all the Easter traditions this year. 

Confit Garlic Hummus with Grilled Mushrooms p.234

I started this from scratch, so it felt like a lot more effort than it actually is. I had half a bag of dried chickpeas, so I went through the whole soaking, boiling, draining process. Or you can just buy good quality chickpeas for this. The confit garlic is cooked in the oven, hands-off time to read a book or plan your next meal. The mushrooms need marinating after they’ve been dry grilled and it’s SO worth it. The aromatic oil is what makes it I think. 

I don’t know if it was the effort of cooking my own chickpeas or the power of the giant blade on my *fairly new* Magimix but it made THE smoothest hummus. 

The marinated mushrooms will make a great addition to fresh polenta, or mashed potatoes or just some toast. Or stirred through some orzo. Just saying. 

Iceberg Wedges with Smoky Aubergine Cream p.38

This salad. Wow. This is dish is probably the closest I got to a tasting menu in 2021 (so far, I have faith, restaurants will be back). This is not a quick throw together a mid-week salad. You’ll need to spend time preparing your aubergine ( I charred mine over open flames, but the recipe suggests a couple of more ‘hands off’ methods). Then it’s turned into a beautiful cream that I could eat all day, every day with a big spoon. Then you need to think about your crispy bits - I made a crunchy topping made of almonds, pumpkin seeds, sourdough crumbs and Urfa chillies. I will definitely be making more of this and using it as a salad/pasta/egg topper.

The actual salad is a pretty straight forward assembly, again, a mandolin might come in handy. The final result is what blew me away, the perfect combination of textures (crunchy, creamy, crispy) and smoky flavours. Yes, please, come again. 

Coconut Ice Cream with Lychee and Passion Fruit p.286

If this was my first time cooking from an Ottolenghi recipe I probably would have been discouraged by the lack of coconut flakes in most shops and I wouldn’t have settled for desiccated coconut. Or the fact that I couldn’t get any lychees. But I wasn’t discouraged, I really wanted to give this vegan ice cream recipe a go. 

So here’s a quick breakdown of all the unfortunate and fortunate events: 

  1. I burnt the first batch of coconut when toasting in the pan, so decided not to ruin another bag and didn’t toast it at all. 

  2. If I actually had the coconut flakes, I’d use them to infuse the cream and then would have to drain and reserve the flakes. I did no such thing and left desiccated coconut in the cream. For texture. 

  3. Coconut cream separates in the tin, which one do I use? The solid creamy bit or the water? Both, I use both. 

  4. Chickpea water really is quite something. It took good 10 minutes on the handheld mixer but that murky water from the bottom of the tin turned into beautiful soft peaks. Word of advice - don’t pre-beat it as it will eventually start going back to liquid form and you’ll have to redo it. 

  5. Star Anise is super easy to grind down with a pestle & mortar BUT the scent of star anise is super hard to get rid of. 

  6. Once I finally mixed all the ingredients and whacked them in the freezer, I stirred it a few times. So rich and creamy. The next day it was frozen solid and as I was scooping the bits out to share with our neighbours it reminded me of the inside bit of Bounty. Which I love. So it’s a win for me. 

I also made the One-Pan Orecchiette Puttanesca, Brown Rice and Shiitake Congee, Potatoe and Gochujang Braised Eggs and Spicy Roast Potatoes with Tahini and Soy.

If you love cooking or want to learn more about flavour pairings, textures, exciting combinations and understand how to get the most out of the vegetables then this book is for you. It’ll take time to get to know it and get confident, but you won’t regret it. I think it’ll take me a little while to cook a lot of the recipes in this book but I look forward to getting the pages stained. 

You can grab your copy of Flavour here. Or can you visit your local library and request it. Borrow it, use it, decide if you love it. Libraries are due to reopen on the 12th April in the UK and you can find your local library here.

Anya xx 

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