Our Verdict – “Plenty More” and “Shoku-Iku!”

This was a combination month.

Maureen took on “Plenty More” by Yotam Ottolenghi. I can say with authority that he is a charming, lovely man, as Kirstin and I were lucky enough to go to a demonstration and book signing of his in the autumn. In fact, that’s where I bought this copy of the book.

While lovely, his recipes take more time, effort and ingredients than average recipes. But in my opinion, putting more time, effort and ingredients in elevates these vegetarian recipes to absolute deliciousness. I plan on turning to this cookbook again and again, particularly for Meat Free Monday.

Others may disagree with me. As regular readers of this blog will know, Kirstin and Anna had a terrible experience with the predecessor of this book, “Plenty.”  They liked the recipes, this just didn’t like the time and effort involved, and I can understand why they feel that way.

I would highly recommend “Plenty More”, but only if you know it’s not an easy or quick road to deliciousness.

I love Shoku-Iku and look forward to cooking more recipes in the summer from it. We already have a firm favourite that I shall be making on a regular basis. Simple, tasty Asian cuisine at its best.

“Plenty More”  and “Shoku-Iku!”
Overall Grade (A- F): Maureen: A Kirstin: A
Best recipes: Maureen: I absolutely loved the Mixed Vegetables with Yogurt and Green Chilli. Indeed, I am getting hungry just typing that in again. The whole family gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to the Grilled Ziti with Feta. Kirstin: The pork recipe is a big hit in this house.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A  (This is a beautiful-looking book, from the cover to the back page.
Any disasters? Yes! I had high hopes for the Brussels Sprout Risotto, but absolutely no one liked it. It was too much of a deviation from our usual risotto. I didn’t write it up because it was such an utter disaster and I didn’t have pictures. Kirstin: None yet!
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? High-rotation vegetarian bookshelf for me. Kirstin: Definitely staying high rotation for me too.

 

Our Verdict – “Plenty More” and “Shoku-Iku!”

“Root Vegetable Pies” from “Plenty More”

IMG_6508Beautiful pie, right? I like to think so. It tastes even better than it looks.

The problem is I can’t look at this picture without thinking about the THREE HOURS, that’s right THREE HOURS [and yes, I am shouting] that it took to make them from start to finish.

In those three hours, I could have made six 30 minute meals from Jamie. I kid. Anyone who’s read this blog knows that we completed none of the 30 minute meals in 30 minutes, let alone cleaned up from them, so that’s an exaggeration. But still. Three hours is a long time to prepare one dish. I’ve done a three-course meal for eight people in less time than that.

I’m not sure what my problem was, or if that’s just how long it takes to make a decent pie. It’s a good thing I had set aside some time to make them, though as it was we didn’t sit down for dinner until 8 p.m.

I started at 5 p.m. to make the pastry, which was easy enough as you do it in the food processor. To be fair, I did get a call that took 15 minutes at 5.45 p.m. while I was chopping up the vegetables, so that set me back a bit. But it takes time to peel and chop (in uniform sizes no less) all of these root vegetables. It also took time to roll out and then cut the pie pastry (not to mention finding a pot top that was 14 cm in diameter, and another that was 8 cm in diameter.)

Don’t get me wrong. The pies were delicious. Good meals take time, attention and love. It’s just the next time I hope it’s quicker.

Believe it or not, and frankly I think this is a miracle, Ottolenghi made these very pies in an 8 minute segment on This Morning on ITV. He says it’s perfect for “Monday night cooking,” which I would agree, provided you have three hours to do it. To be fair, he had all the chopping and making done ahead of time. Television magic and all that. But he’s still incredibly charming, so you should watch for that.  You can either watch the clip, or read the recipe, which is also provided on the website. Click through to see it.

 

“Root Vegetable Pies” from “Plenty More”

“Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Oregano” from “Plenty More”

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We are big fans of orzo. We are big fans of pasta bake. I figured putting them together would mean I’d have an automatic hit on my hands. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out that way.

To be fair, the family was divided: the adults liked it, the boys were ambivalent about it.

While it wasn’t at all like the baked ziti we love– there wasn’t enough tomato sauce– I still thought the unusual addition of aubergine, carrots and celery made it interesting.

The boys on the other hand, we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. The verdict from both of them was “Meh.”

Would I make it again? Unlikely, given the mixed reception.

If you would like to make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe in The Guardian, where it originally appeared.

 

“Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Oregano” from “Plenty More”

“Mixed Vegetables and Yoghurt with Green Chilli Oil” from “Plenty More”

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This is a delightful dish.

Is it a bit of a faff? Of course it is. Consider the source. But is it worth the effort? Absolutely.

To be fair, it is not the healthiest of dishes, with all the deep frying of the vegetables, which were aubergines, courgettes and red peppers. But perhaps this is why it was so delicious. Deep frying makes EVERYTHING better. Even Mars bars (especially when buried under a mountain of ice cream. But I digress.)

The minty yogurt and chilli and herb oil over the top elevated it to a new level of deliciousness.

Just writing about this again is making my mouth water. When I discovered at the end of the meal there was tiny bit left over, I can’t tell you how happy I was thinking about what my lunch the next day was going to be.

Yum. Highly recommended.

If you would like to make this yourself, and I strongly recommend that you do, find the recipe in The Guardian by clicking through this link.

“Mixed Vegetables and Yoghurt with Green Chilli Oil” from “Plenty More”

“Cauliflower Cake” from “Plenty More”

IMG_6420Maureen: I’ve been intrigued by this recipe for as long as I’ve had the book. It’s cauliflower cake for Meat Free Monday today.

Nicholas (11): What? Cake made of cauliflower? That sounds strange.

Maureen: It’s not actually cake like we think of cake. It’s more of a frittata, with lots of eggs, cheese and some cauliflower thrown in for good measure. What do you think?

Andrew (15): The flavour combination is interesting.

Maureen: Is that good interesting? Or bad interesting?

Andrew (considering): It’s good interesting, actually. I like it.

Tim: I’m not so sure about the texture.

Maureen: What do you mean?

Tim: It seems a bit strange.

Maureen: Does that mean you don’t like it?

Tim: If you made it, I would eat it, but I wouldn’t ask for you to make it, if you see what I mean.

Maureen: Hardly a ringing endorsement. What do you think Nicholas?

Nicholas: I’m with Dad. I’m not so sure about it.

Maureen: I like it. I’m with Andrew. I think it’s interesting. But then again, I am a big cauliflower fan, so maybe that’s part of it. So it’s a mixed result tonight.

If you would like to make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe in the Guardian. I’m with Ottolenghi when he says it’s even better the next day. I just had some for lunch and it was delicious. 

 

“Cauliflower Cake” from “Plenty More”

“Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf” from “Plenty More”

IMG_6303(Apologies for the light in this picture. It is winter, after all, and we’ve had grey skies here in London for a record 3,178 days* )

((*This may be a guess.))

I decided to make this dish for the sole reason that I wanted to cook with giant couscous. I know the recipe calls for fregola, but Ottolenghi says you can use giant couscous instead, so when I saw it on the supermarket shelf, I grabbed it knowing it was destined for this dish.

The other major difference between what Ottolenghi wanted me to do, and what I actually did, is I did not prepare the artichokes myself. Even though he included very helpful directions as to how I could go about doing that, in the end I decided that life was too short and I used the pre-made ones instead. To his credit, he does say that you can do that. (Otherwise, this dish might have wandered into Faff-Olenghi territory.)

It was typical Ottolenghi: delicious and an interesting blend of flavours I wouldn’t have thought of myself. I easily could see this being sold at his deli and taking it away for a pretty yummy lunch.

As it was, we had it on Fish Friday to go along Gwenyth Paltrow’s roasted fish, baked clam style, which is in the regular rotation of our Fish Friday favourites, although this time I used trout rather than sea bass. Everyone at the table gave the entire dinner at thumbs up.

Would I make this again? Most definitely. I don’t know if the giant couscous trend is here to stay, but it certainly is delicious.

If you would like to make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe in The Guardian.

 

“Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf” from “Plenty More”

“Spicy Chickpea and Bulgar Soup” from “Plenty More”

IMG_6325

 

It was a (very) cold, wet, winter Monday, the latest in a string of cold, wet, miserable days here in the Big Smoke. This soup seemed just the thing for Meat Free Monday.

Ottolenghi says in the introduction that this is the sort of recipe you can make at any time, because all of the ingredients will probably be found in your refrigerator or cupboard already, and that was true for me too. I love any recipe where I can use found ingredients and skip a trip to the store.

While making it, I worried that the boys (age 15 and 11) wouldn’t like this and find it too spicy. But in fact, they loved it. I did cut back on the amount of harissa paste I used, because I knew that might put them off, but the spice didn’t bother them and they emptied their bowls pretty quickly.

Ottolenghi seems to be a big fan of caraway in this book, so it’s a good thing I stocked up the last time I was out shopping, because he used it in this recipe too. But it really adds something to the soup and it’s not something I would have thought to add myself.

Not pictured: The feta paste on the top. It was lovely– I never pass up an opportunity to have feta– but if you’re vegan, you could skip adding that and the soup is still good. Ottolenghi says the paste, “elevates a midweek supper into something special,” and while that may be true, it’s not essential.

Highly recommended for Meat Free Monday on a cold winter night.

If you would like to make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe on 101 Cookbooks (you have to scroll past several unrelated photos, but it’s there, down at the bottom).

“Spicy Chickpea and Bulgar Soup” from “Plenty More”