The holidays can be stressful. What with office parties, hosting family and friends, the extra cleaning, the stress on our wallets, and don’t forget the concern over possible food sensitivities.
There are endless cookbooks dedicated to gluten-free, vegan, keto and zero-sugar diets, but very few celebrate a little of everything as well as Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’ cookbook. What makes this cookbook extra special is that Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian, but the book is an ode of sorts to vegetables. What you’ll find are low-stress, low-mess, highly creative ways to bring out the best in each vegetable he presents. You’ll end up looking like the host or hostess with the mostest by serving a few of these dishes, or you’ll be donned the rock star of potlucks if you show up with any one single dish.
Here are our top reasons why ‘Plenty – Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi’ deserves a place in your kitchen:
Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Creme Fraiche
On pages 26/27, in the “Roots” section, you will find a very easy-to-follow recipe, with a mouth-watering photo of caramelized sweet potato wedges, with the ground coriander and salt specks glistening. Alongside the recipe is a beautiful teaching lesson in how to bring out the best in this candy coloured root veg, plus an easy clean-up tip: always line your roasting pan with parchment paper!
For years, and years, some of us (we won’t name names) roasted directly on the roasting pan. The result was nothing short of pan-rage cleaning. That level of frustration be gone! Once the parchment paper cools completely, just toss it in the garbage. All that’s left to do is give the roasting pan a quick wipe with a damp microfibre cloth.
On pages 146/147, in the “Leaves, Cooked and Raw” section, you will find a beautiful salad that is meant to cleanse the palate between courses. What is spectacular, yet so simple about this salad are two things: the simplicity of the dressing and the widely available ingredient list. Too often, salad recipes create a mental madness in us; the ingredient lists are long and unpronounceable. Not this salad, even its name is a lesson in beautiful simplicity: Lettuce Salad. This salad is a confidence builder: if you’re a new chef you will feel like royalty after making it. If you are a pro in the kitchen, it will be a joyful breeze to prep. As far as allergies go, you may know someone who is allergic to lemons. If that’s the case, replace the lemon juice with apple cider vinegar and the result will be just as delicious.
On pages 278/279, in the ‘Fruit with Cheese’ section, you will find a recipe that could double as a breakfast offering, after-school snack or gourmet appetizer. Recipes that are this versatile should be bookmarked, and made over and over until you’ve perfected every step. The pine nut-olive oil-garlic paste is made in a food processor which is a much easier appliance to clean than most people think. The only trick is to clean it right away. If you have a dishwasher, just rinse each part, and then place it in the dishwasher. If you’re washing by hand, do not soak as you may forget that the sharp blade is hiding in the bubbles. Just rinse bowl, blade, and lid in hot water. Add a drop of liquid soap to a microfibre cloth and scrub each part of the hardware. Rinse until all the soap is gone. Drip dry on your counter or island.
Pro Tip: Enjoy every second of page 47! It is bursting with pantry stocking ideas: couscous, tahini, coriander seed, strong white bread flour, olives, bouillon and some type of Heinz thing in a can just to name some of the inhabitants. It’s a beautiful-mess of ingredients, feels like a home where comfort food is made. May your holidays be all those things: comforting, beautiful, and abundant!
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel