If you are a fan of Ottolenghi's weekly column 'The New Vegetarian' in the Guardian, then you may (like me) vaguely remember reading some of these recipes before. You may even have cooked a few, or (more often in my case) vowed to cook them at some point, possibly cutting the recipe out, or just throwing the magazine on the stack in the corner of your cluttered desk, or kitchen table, then tidied them away and allowed the Pear Crostini (Dec 2007), or the Puy Lentil Gallette (Jan 2007), or even (shame on you) the Scrambled Smoky Duck Eggs on Sourdough (June 2008) to drop off the wipe-clean tablecloth of your culinary agenda. Which is why this book is a dream-come-true: it is a cupped palm collecting all those crumbs (adding some previously unpublished ones for good measure) and repackaging them in a stunning, beautifully photographed hardback book. 'Plenty', indeed.
I absolutely believe that this is the best book of vegetarian food I've ever read or cooked from. The reason for that is, I genuinely never once felt like I was reading or cooking from a vegetarian book. Some vegetarian cookbooks speak 'meat' as a kind of Derridean absent subtext almost as loudly as they speak vegetables; I'm thinking of recipes I remember reading in other books like 'vegetable toad in the hole'.
In Ottolenghi's cookbook the absence of meat is silenced, easy-to-forget, totally squashed and rendered unimportant in culinary terms. Of course there is no meat or fish in the 'Artichoke Gratin' (p.178) or the 'Ultimate winter couscous' (p.262) or the 'Saffron tagliatelle with spiced butter' (p.260), 'Halloween Souffles' (p.64) or 'Egg spinach and pecorino pizza' (p.156) because these recipes are complete and perfect and authentic as they are, meat would be an unnecessary embellishment.
It's wonderful to have Ottolenghi's New Vegetarian recipes collected in one place, organized by a central ingredient, so that if you fancy an inventive egg dish or a quirky but wholesome cereal recipe, you know exactly which chapter to consult. This is a great followup to The Ottloenghi Cookbook.
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