If you’re a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s work, his latest book, NOPI (a collection of recipes from the restaurant of the same name, co-authored with NOPI head chef, Ramael Scully) is a must-buy to add to your collection. I’ve cooked a fair bit from his previous books – my boys’ cooking club cooked beautiful turkey and zucchini burgers from Jerusalem and sweet potato galettes from Ottolenghi The Cookbook, my Cookbook Book Club enjoyed a whole Ottolenghi-themed meal a couple of years ago and I was lucky enough to eat at NOPI in London.
The beautiful, bright and bold food featured in the cookbook is most definitely what I would call “restaurant food”. Ottolenghi even states that “most of the recipes […] will be challenging to home cooks.” But don’t be put off by this – it’s more acknowledging the fact that his previous books were “conceived in and for home kitchens” meaning that the recipes a little bit more approachable for a home cook.
In NOPI, Ottolenghi and Scully have attempted is to “modify and simplify NOPI’s recipes without losing their essential core” […] allowing a nonprofessional to feel that this is an undertaking that is do-able at home, delicious and gratifying,” but the recipes are not simple “30 minute meal” type affairs. They are not the recipes you reach for when you arrive home at 6.30pm and need dinner on the table in an hour. These are recipes for curious cooks (and bakers) who enjoy the process of cooking and baking and who have the time to spend preparing a few different components in each dish then assembling them.
You might be surprised to hear that, unlike previous Ottolenghi cookbooks (Scully’s influence), NOPI is Middle Eastern meets Southeast Asian food which makes for surprising flavour combinations and gorgeous food! You’ll see curry leaves, yuzu, dried shrimp, lime leaves, pandan leaves, galangal and many more Asian flavours than you will be used to if you are familiar with Ottolenghi’s previous books.
Cooking NOPI at Home. This an important read before you embark on any of the recipes, especially if cooking with some of these less-common ingredients intimidates you.
Here are some helpful things to look out for:
- One of the most important pieces of advice is to read the whole recipe before you start – recommended for ANY recipe but especially with NOPI as many of the recipes are completed in stages, many of which take some time. Many of the dishes include components, which either need to be or can be made in advance and simply assembled at meal-time so reading the entire recipe and planning out each stage can help you avoid last-minute panic (or eating at 11pm!).
- NOPI does include alternative routes for different cooks – fancier, more complicated options but also simpler alternatives for those who want an impressive result but who don’t have that much time. Ottolenghi encourages everyone “Please don’t hesitate to choose our shortcuts, ready made alternatives and quick substitutes,” and offers options that will have your dinner on the table faster than if you go the whole “from scratch” route.
- Finally, this section offers the very key advice to Do Your Mise en Place. This is SO important – especially for less-experienced cooks tackling more complex recipes – with more complex recipes it’s really the only way to go. As Ottolenghi points out (and I am sure we can all relate…) “You really don’t want to be left trying to finely chop 2 green chiles when they are meant to be thrown into a pan 2 minutes after the diced onion has gone in.”
- There are also some recommendations for some equipment you might like to invest in to make your life easier when using the NOPI recipes – a mandoline, a spice grinder, a blender and an ice cream machine, for example. There are obviously alternatives to these (and you can get by without most of them) but they will definitely make preparing some of the recipes so much easier.
The book is divided into courses – Starters, Salads, Sides, Fish, Meat, Vegetables, Brunch, Desserts, Cocktails and Condiments. As well as the recipes being listed separately in their respective chapters, there’s a Meal Suggestions section which lists ideas for recipes that work together to make a complete meal. There’s also a list of dishes that can be served alone to make a full meal which is useful if you are new to this type of cooking and food.
I loved the inclusion of the Ingredients A to Z section which will go a long way to helping you “navigate through the seas of unusual flavours” This section is a great place to start for people new to these flavours of this type of cooking – it’s easy to figure out if these are flavours you’d like to cook with.
Don’t forget to read the headnotes of each recipe. As well as including the back story of the recipes, the headnotes also include information about how far in advance you need to start – useful if it’s “prepare the day before” type recipe.
To conclude, I think it’s fair to say that NOPI is a beautiful book but not a book for people looking for a “quick and easy” meal. NOPI is a book to cook from when you have the time to enjoy meal preparation and the research necessary to source some of the ingredients these types of dishes call for.
Ottolenghi’s earlier books are probably the better choices for more novice cooks to start with, but for those who are familiar with his food and the way he cooks this is a book in which you’ll find much inspiration.
Butternut squash with ginger tomatoes and lime yogurt
Excerpted from Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. Copyright © 2015 Yotam Ottolenghi, LLP. Food photography copyright © 2015 Jonathan Lovekin. Location photography copyright © 2015 Adam Hinton. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd., a penguin Random House company. All rights reserved.
Roasted wedges of squash and roasted slices of eggplant: these are two bad boys
that have been around the Ottolenghi delis and NOPI restaurant for a very long time.
Any new player has to have very good credentials to gain the respect of the old
timers and get a shot on the menu. The combination here of sweet roasted
squash with lime-fresh yogurt and gingery oven-dried tomatoes was deemed to cut
the mustard .
Ready-made crispy fried shallots can be found in Asian food stores. If you want to
make your own, see the instructions on page 110. They’re a nice addition but, with
the crunch already provided by the cashews, the dish can stand well without them,
if you prefer.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 medium butternut squash, trimmed, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, then cut widthwise into 1-inch/2.5-cm slices (13/4 lb/800 g)
3 tbsp olive oil
6 large plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise (1lb 1oz/500 g)
11/4-inch/3-cm piece of ginger, finely grated (1 oz/30 g)
1 red chile, seeded and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 packed tbsp dark muscovado sugar
coarse sea salt and black pepper
scant 1/2 cup/120 g Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lime, plus 11/2 tsp lime juice
1/5 oz/5 g cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 oz/30 g cashew nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/3 oz/10 g crispy store-bought
fried shallots (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 465°F/240°C (425°F/220°C convection).
2 Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Spread out on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
3 Reduce the oven temperature to 340°F/170°C (300°F/150°C convection).
4 Place the tomato halves on a parchment-lined baking sheet, skin side down. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil, and cook for 80 minutes, until softened.
5 Place the ginger, chile, garlic, sugar, and 1/4 tea- spoon of salt in a medium bowl. Mix to form a paste, then spoon this on top of the tomatoes. Cook for another 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are caramelized, and set aside to cool.
6 Place all the ingredients for the lime yogurt in a small bowl, with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
7 Spread the squash out on a large platter and layer the tomatoes in between. Drizzle over the lime yogurt, sprinkle with the cilantro, cashews, and shallots, and serve.
WIN A COPY OF NOPI!
Thanks to @randomhouseca we have one copy of NOPI to give away to a Canadian reader!
To enter, add a comment below telling us your all-time favourite bold, beautiful & brilliant recipe.
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Contest will run from Friday February 19 to Friday March 4, 2016
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She has spent nearly every summer over the past decade in France, honing her cooking and baking skills, touring different wine producing regions and in 2014 she and her husband purchased an historic home in South West France which they operate as a vacation rental property. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-14 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. Mardi is a Food Revolution Ambassador for Canada, a contributor to JamieOliver.Com and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.
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