It’s hard enough to get a vegetarian book, and worse is the case when you get one and most of the recipes are either variants of chickpeas salad or similar to a ratatouille. I have had that, quite a lot. Very few vegetarian chefs get it right and Yotam Ottolenghi is one of them.
I’m not sure it’s possible to be a foodie or a vegetarian and not have come across at least one of Ottolenghi’s recipes before. He is a master of making the vegetables shine and writing the kind of recipe notes that make you understand why the recipe is going to be so good you’ll never do cauliflower a disservice again. His writing tells you how the flavours will balance and why- which allows you to understand how to substitute for the sometimes very esoteric ingredients he calls for in some recipes.
If you wish to know more about him, visit his website which also contains some of his amazing recipes and tempting photos. I keep on gawking at them and let my hunger pangs start boiling high.
The first vegetarian book from Ottolenghi was “Plenty” released in 2010, which was a huge success. And you can only read it to get to know why. Plenty More follows on from Plenty, proving with brio that the potential of plant-based cooking is boundless – it’s a hefty tome of salads, bakes, stews and cakes, spreads, pies and pikelets.
This new cookbook is organized via techniques which I particularly enjoy since it gives me an idea of managing the meal based on what I crave for at the moment. The recipes are divided into the following sections by technique:
- Tossed (salads)
- Cracked (recipes with eggs)
- Sweetened (puddings)
Well, I am personally quite impressed with the organised and beautifully styled list and the recipes that fall right under each one of them. You might be tempted to think the obvious – that only veggies would love the recipes. But Ottolenghi has the palate of a discerning omnivore and embraces so many flavours that it’s entirely possible everyone will. In this book the absence of meat is silenced, easy-to-forget, totally squashed and rendered unimportant in culinary terms
Another good part, and that is very important for me a blogger is – engaging narration. I don’t feel personally attached to the book if it’s just the recipe and nothing else. Ottolenghi does write intriguing text to accompany his recipes which convey his real passion for flavours and makes the story of food into a narrative you want to follow.
And of course, photos are worth ogling at. Most of the recipes have photos along with, some with step by step procedure. Beautifully takesm rustic picture blend well with the mood of the book.
Yes, there are a few recipes with incredibly long ingredient lists and the odd obscure ingredient, but there are also plenty of things that are easier to throw together. Also, some of the ingredients might not be easily accessible if you don’t live in a multi-cultural city, luckily I do. Even still, there were also a few recipes which contained ingredients I had never heard of such as pandan leaves, kohlrabi, dakos (Cretan barley husks), brown beech mushrooms, panch phorah, shiso leaves and lemon geranium water. I learnt how and why its so important to read the entire recipe once before you decide to start working on it.
I have tried 2 recipes out of the book so far, one is a Brussel sprouts stir fry and another one is this Thai style Mushroom soup. Thai cuisine is my favourite anyways and when I was choosing the recipe for the post, I had to check this one out. Though the pictures were tempting as it is, but with the list of ingredient so long it almost went off the page. But then, Asian cuisine is my weakness and I had to try this on.
Of course I omitted a few ingredients from the list, only those who I knew won’t make much difference. I substituted one or two, and that’s it. The procedure was followed to the tee. The best part was- I prepared the stock on Thursday and put together in soup with vegetables on the weekend. Since the whole process was divided into stages, it wasn’t any pain at all and the soup got ready in minutes on Saturday.
They key to this soup is a rich and hearty stock, with many flavours hitting the palate at different stages, a bit like a great aged wine. This soup is intentionally light but it can be bulked up with cooked rice noodles. Add more tamarind paste if you like super sharp. I specially loved the addition of prunes in the vegetable stock. Have never had that before and was delighted and surprised at the subtle sweetness they add and how well it goes with the tartness of lemongrass. Basil of course was a pleasure to have in which subtly stirred in the flavours along with lime leaves.
Coriander roots, available in many Indian and oriental grocers; have a deeper and more intense flavour than the leaves. If you can’t get hold of any, tie together a small bunch of coriander stems with a piece of string, gently bruise them with a rolling pin to help release the flavour, and use those instead.
I had it with toasted garlic bread aside. And some butter. But the soup in itself is vegan, most of the Vegetarian Thai dishes are. I have tried another Thai mushroom soup in the past, where I had added coconut milk and the list of ingredients was considerably small. The taste was entirely different from this one of course.
If you are a sucker for Asian inspired soups like me, then this is for you. Tart, sweet and very flavourful- this Mushroom soup is one of the best recipes I have got taken from Ottolenghi’s Plenty more.
For vegetables stock:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 small onions, roughly chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 1 inch long ginger root piece, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped
- 6-8 prunes, seeded
- 3-4 red chilies, roughly chopped ( you may take green chillies instead )
- 3-4 star anise ( I used a pinch of nutmeg instead)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, to drizzle on top
- salt to taste
- 7-8 mushrooms, rinsed and sliced (about 100 gms)
- juice from 2 limes ( I used juice from 1 lime and 1 lemon)
- a handful of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
- a sprig of Thai basil leaves
- 100 gms bean sprouts
- Begin by heating the oil in a large sauce pan and add the garlic, ginger and onion, fry for 3-4 minutes
- Add in the carrot and celery pieces and cook together on a high heat for about 5 minutes until the edges begin to colour.
- Pour in about 2.25 litres of water and add the lemongrass, prunes, chili, star anise, soy, lime leaves and coriander roots to it.
- Bring to the boil , then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring a few times in between. Turn off and keep aside till it comes to room temperature, that also helps in absorbing flavours.
- Strain the stock and keep aside. You can discard the vegetables though I love eating the boiled carrot in soup.
- Get back to the pan. Bring the stock back to a very low simmer , add the tamarind paste followed by the soy sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes till it all get dissolved properly.
- Add in mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients, apart from the sesame oil.
- Throw in salt ( and black pepper , if using) and allow to simmer for further 5 minute. Turn off
- Ladle into warm bowls and finish with a little drizzle of sesame oil no more than a few drops in each bowl.
You can buy the book “Plenty more” from Amazon link HERE. Also, check out their cool recipe cards below:
And if you are looking for more Vegan soup options, try this smooth and creamy tomato basil soup. Ohh! I am in love with the subtle flavour of basil in soups now…
With thanks to EBury publishing for sending me a copy of the “Plenty more” cookbook to review. All opinions are my own and I have not received any monetary reward for the review. The Ottolenghi image is copied from random Google search results.