"good things come to the table, where good things are food things and food things must absolutely be good." Noor Murad/OTK
I know. I've been raving about this book, my latest Ottolenghi purchase, for weeks now. Well ever since I bought it really. So I think it's time to just summarise it a bit, encourage you to go out and buy it, and cook something from it straightaway. Then put it on the shelf, rather than leave it on my increasingly cluttered desktop. I just hope that by putting it on the shelf I don't forget to use it. After all I have dozens and dozens of excellent books on my shelves that I rarely use once they are there. No matter how wonderful they are.
I have been mostly blown away by all of the Ottolenghi books that I own, although Nopi, Jerusalem and Flavour are probably the least immediately on my mind when I am searching for something new to cook.
In fact the same could be said of all those other books I own. Maybe I should work my way through them methodically and cook at least one thing from each, each fortnight say. And if I can't find anything I fancy then maybe it's time to take it down the road and put it in the street library.
But back to Ottolenghi. Simple, Shelf Love and this one Extra Good Things are the standout books for me and it is interesting to see, through his books how the Ottolenghi empire has evolved - to the point where Ottolenghi himself may well have had minor input into this and the previous book. In the past he has often written in conjunction with one or other of his ever-growing team which keeps his restaurants, website, recipe making and publishing going. And he has always acknowledged their input. Of course his name is always on the cover. Why would you not put it there? It sells. But these days his name is second on the title page - Noor Murad who heads his test kitchen is first, and the entire team are named, photographed and acknowledged.
OTK - stands for Ottolenghi Test Kitchen and these people are the people who run it. Obviously Ottolenghi himself has some input and almost certainly has to give the OK before anything goes to print. Although even here he says that their 'taster' Claudine who lives in Wales is the one who must give each recipe a 'pass' - even a 'wow'. The team changes from time to time. When Shelf Love was created Ixta Belfrage was still an Ottolenghi girl before striking out on her own.
So yes this is a team effort. Well every book is - I have not mentioned the publishing team at all. Well - my focus is the food - but let's face it without the photographers, the designers, the editors, the marketers, and so on who actually bring a book to market, the Ottolenghi food would not reach our plates. Well some of it would if you read The Guardian columns and visit his website, but they only give a taster of what is in an entire book.
However, the team effort here extends to the recipes. Normally in a cookbook there is just one author of the recipes, with the occasional acknowledgement of somebody else for a particular recipe. However here, although the idea may come from one person, the team pitches in with ideas of how to Ottolenghify it - under the leadership of the very young looking Noor Murad. To Ottolenghify? What is that? Well the writer of the introduction - Noor, Ottolenghi, Tara Wigley? defines it thus:
"Derived from the noun 'Ottolenghi', also an adjective.
- To Ottolenghify is to make something feel unequivocally Ottolenghi
- To add flair, a slight twist to the familiar
- A surprise in the mouth"
Which more or less sums it up - particularly that last point. Something you would not have thought of doing that adds the wow factor.
In this particular book - the 'extra' is not just that Ottolenghi taste:
"You get a meal, a dish, a recipe, but you also get a takeaway - a sauce, a sprinkle, a pickle! - a condiment you can repurpose time and time again, with limitless opportunity."
Each recipe features an extra created ingredient, or in the case of dessert, a new technique, that can be used elsewhere. At first glance I was disappointed that the recipe did not give much in the way of suggesting what else I could do with my extra - like my cheat's preserved lemon. But then I discovered a fold out list at the beginning of the book with headings - On toast; On pasta; With eggs; With rice; With a roast chicken; With roast veggies; On a baked potato; On hummus and beneath each of these headings is a long list of the recipes including an appropriate 'extra'. And of course the list is not exhaustive, and neither are the headings - what about in soup, in a casserole, on a salad ...?
The book is divided into sections that feature a particular kind of extra - the first being Funk - which is all about pickles and ferments and each time you get a look at what there is to choose from - as here for Funk:
Then follow the recipes that feature the particular ingredient. So let's take A little bit of Funk which is the first - the others are A whole lot of sauce; Crunch time; Something fresh and A good drizzle of oil. On flicking through Funk in preparation for this post I had to get to the eleventh recipe before I came to something that I didn't want to make straight away - a chickpea and carrot dish which was just a bit too vegetarian for me. Although, admittedly a couple would have to be modified because of chilli and blue cheese. Eminently doable though.
This is the very first recipe in the book - Cheesy curried butter beans on toast with pickled onions. I sent the recipe to my vegetarian granddaughter who seemed impressed. I must ask her if she has tried it yet. And this is one for which you can find the recipe online. And here I should say that if you buy the book you can register on the Ottolenghi website to have access to an online version of the recipe as well as the book in your hand - which is very generous really.
Feta dumplings with fresh chilli sauce is the next one up and equally tempting, but alas you will have to buy the book for this one. Then there's the chicken that I have already made - and on it goes. They are such excitingly different taste sensations and mostly pretty easy to make as well. Like the nutty cake that I made and which took around half an hour, maybe less of work. We shall be eating the last pieces tonight with dinner.
One last thing - although not absolutely a vegetarian book it is very definitely leaning that way. But vegetarian in a way that even we carnivores can appreciate. And there is also a list of vegan or modifiable vegan recipes at the back as well.
I can hardly bear to put this back on the shelf for fear of it being forgotten. I just have to make time to dip into it again - and then have the joy of inventing something else to do with the 'extra' I have some of the cheats preserved lemon paste sitting in the fridge.
Big W has it for sale at a mere $29.00 - so go get it before they are all gone. Actually when I looked in Big W at Doncaster there were none - I suspect all gone.
But what shall I cook next?