Ok, I admit it, I bought a cookery book because I liked the photo on the cover. Possibly not the best way to select a book, but have you seen the photo? It looks delicious. I am not a vegetarian; however I think I had cooked 2 or 3 recipes from this book before I read the fine print and realized that Plenty is a collection of “Vibrant Vegetable Recipies” by London chef Yotam Ottolenghi.
In Plenty, Ottolenghi has grouped his recipes around a central ingredient, with chapters like; Zucchini and Other Squashes, The Mighty Eggplant, and Green Things. I love this, as I always seem to end up with an abundance of something; either in the bottom of the refrigerator or in the garden (swiss chard anyone?) and this grouping of recipes makes it easy for me to flick through some ideas – all with the same starting ingredient.
Ottolenghi has a tendency to use a lot of ingredients in his recipes, many of which are not staples in my pantry, and you’ll need a cabinet well stocked with herbs and spices if you plan on following them to the letter. I have a rule that I use when I’m trying a new recipe; I won’t buy any more than 3 new ingredients that I don’t already own. I’ve found it simplifies things for me. It was with this in mind that I decided to make the Very Full Tart.
It’s listed as ‘A fantastic Mediterranean feast, full to the brim with roasted vegetables’ – a very accurate description! It’s a collection of vegetables, roasted in the oven, then combined in a pastry shell with ricotta and feta cheeses, egg and heavy cream. It was fantastic. Ottolenghi would have you roast your vegetables in stages, cooking the eggplant first, adding sweet potato, and then zucchini. It’s probably not advisable, but I chucked it all in at once – with an inquisitive toddler in the house there’s only so many times I can open the oven in one morning. I then sautéed onions on the stovetop with bay leaves and salt until they were soft, sweet and delicious. The onions were spread over the bottom of the homemade, blind baked crust and topped with the roasted vegetables. I then followed the recipe exactly and added the cheeses, cherry tomato halves, eggs and heavy cream. The tart bakes for 35 to 45 minutes and is ready to serve when it’s cooled a little. We ate it for lunch – even the toddler devoured a slice, which is the ultimate test in this household!
Plenty is now my “go to” book if I need ideas to keep my vegetarian friends happy, or if I’m looking for an interesting combination of flavors to serve as a side dish or salad. I don’t always stick exactly to the ingredients listed, I frequently skip some of the harder to find items and always take shortcuts, but the recipes in this book inspire me to try something new every time I open it. Next up; the Báhn Xèo, a traditional Vietnamese pancake that I last ate in Hanoi and have never seen a recipe for in print, until now. And I’ll only need to buy a couple of things to be able to follow the recipe exactly.
Review by Hedda Staines, Holiday & Collectible Buyer