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Customer Review

50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative and Divine, 16 May 2009
This review is from: Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (Hardcover)
I purchased Ottolenghi on the recommendation of Nigel Slater, who I consider a practical chef that has taught me a great deal about simplicity on food through his books. At a first glance it would be very easy to dismiss this book as one for the pro's and those who really want to impress at dinner parties, and in truth it is, but if you look a little deeper there are many simple practical recipes that will become part of your standard fayre.

The recipes for savoury dishes are inspired and I have already started experimenting with Tahini following on from the ideas in this book.

The vegetable dishes are good enough that even a confirmed omnivore such as myself does not miss meat when cooking them. They are also the perfect match for the meat and fish dishes detailed. It goes without saying that some of the salad recipes will not scale down well for single cooks (unless you have a grocer that can provide about 15g of each ingredient), but the other areas of the book more than make up for it and this is unlikely to be an issue for most people.

The section on baking and patisserie (chapter 3) is my personal favourite with a wide selection of breads, biscuits, tarts and cakes that put most other volumes to shame. Everything I have tried in this section has worked perfectly; I'm using a budget oven in a normal kitchen and easily managing to bake breads and cakes which far surpass any available locally. I would happily have paid the money for this section alone so everything else in the book is a bonus.

As an aside anyone disappointed with the desserts in the Nigel Slater books (they are nice but I struggle to consider fruit with different sauces a real dessert) should definitely consider this volume as an accompaniment.

The book is however not perfect.

The lost star was not however for the quality of the recipes but issues with the layout, occasional spelling errors and using a phrase to the effect of "Available in most supermarkets". The latter being the greater crime to me though perhaps forgiveable given they are based in Notting Hill... anyhow here are the 4 main offenders:

Endive - A form of Chicory, though normal chicory does seem to work well in the recipe

Labneh - A cheese made with Greek yogurt, takes about 3 days to do it at home.

Mograbiah - This ingredient does not currently have an entry on Wikipedia (16-05-09), and is not available at Tescos, Waitrose, Asda or Morrisons... and only precooked as part of a meal in Sainsbury's. Apparently it is a form of round couscous but I have been unable to find it anywhere in Reading (even the few specialist shops we have here).

Fregola - Semolina Dough rolled into little balls 2-3mm and toasted in an oven (good luck finding it for sale).

I think you will definitely need to find a specialist to get most of these items, though Mograbiah is apparently about to become a celebrity ingredient so it may appear in the supermarkets soon.

The layout of the book will not be to everyone's taste, those with red spectrum visual issues will have difficulties with the opening chapters of the book while those with dyslexia may struggle with lack of spacing between recipe instructions. It would also have been nice if the descriptions of specialist ingredients at the start of the book were in alphabetical order for easy reference later.

Verdict: 4.45 Stars - Buy it.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Feb 2012 20:28:10 GMT
www.melburyandappleton.co.uk sell some of the ingredients mail order. Prices don't include VAT (20%) and UK delivery is pricey £5.25 (free on orders over £75 but £75 buys a lot of ingredients!) I believe Waitrose now sell Mograbiah.
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