It is a pleasure to speak to you and I am very excited about your new book ‘Flavour’. As ‘Flavour' forms part of the multi award-winning ‘Plenty’ series of books, what is it specifically about the process, or pairings, of flavours that we need to understand?
Process explains how to ramp up flavour in a vegetable by subjecting it to a process like charring, browning, infusing or ageing. Pairing explains how flavour can be dialled up by what you pair it with. Produce shines a light on some key vegetables and ingredients- the sheer depth of flavour that they naturally possess that allows them to play starring roles.
Of course I’d love people to identify the recipes they love and cook them over and over again, but armed with the knowledge of how to build flavour through process, pairing and produce, I hope that people will become more confident and adventurous cooks.
I recently adopted a largely meat-free diet, does the use of ingredients and flavour pairings become more critical in plant-based recipes/dishes?
I’ve always said that it’s harder to build flavour with vegetables- not because vegetables are less delicious than meat- but because they lack the fat and protein which makes meat taste good with very little effort. For this reason, flavour pairings and processes become critical when you are trying to create big flavours and win people over to the veg camp.
What were some of those early dishes you remember, and do you ever revisit them adding in new flavours and ingredients to enhance the dish?
A great example of a dish in Flavour that has evolved through time is the Stuffed aubergine in curry and coconut dal. This reminds me of melanzane alla parmigiana, a dish my father used to cook and I have published this version with curry and coconut in the past, but in Flavour we added mango pickled to the stuffing, which really elevated the whole dish and made it sing.
How important are your collaborations when creating new dishes for the books?
Collaborations are extremely important to me and keep the books I publish fresh and relevant. I am lucky to have worked with some fantastic people over the years who have shed a light on the food and ingredients of their native countries and helped evolve the way I cook. Ixta always says that I introduced her to the majority of Middle Eastern ingredients that she now feels so familiar and comfortable with, and this is a wonderful exchange, because she has introduced me to ingredients and techniques from her Brazilian and Mexican heritage that I didn’t know before, and we have tried to combine these in a few recipes in Flavour.
Ottolenghi's Stuffed aubergine in curry and coconut dal
What is your food ethos and have your travels had a huge influence on your own style of cooking?
My food ethos is really that there are no rules when it comes to cooking and mixing flavours. I’m a big believer in fusion cooking, for want of a better word, as ideas and flavours can cross oceans in the time it takes to refresh a mobile screen. I am absolutely inspired by the flavours of the food I eat on my travels, just as I am by the people I work with, who often have very culturally different backgrounds to me, and bring with them a whole new set of ideas and ingredients.
Ixta Belfrage spent her youth dipping her fingers into mixing bowls in
places as far-flung as Italy, Mexico and Brazil and so became an expert without a title. She began her formal culinary career at Ottolenghi’s NOPI restaurant, before moving to the Test Kitchen, where she has worked for Yotam Ottolenghi for four years, contributing to his columns in The Guardian and The New York Times. She lives in London, where she makes regular guest chef appearances in some of the city’s top restaurants. Flavour is her first book.
With the recent pandemic, have you discovered any new flavours that have inspired you on your next offering?
Not necessarily new Flavours, as I was in Ireland during lockdown and new ingredients were hard to come by, but I certainly embraced a different style of cooking, using mostly freezer and pantry ingredients. I also embraced fridge-raid cooking, which involves creating recipes only from the few ingredients left in your fridge (or pantry). Often this would result in wonderful recipes and flavour combinations that might not have otherwise been.
I also embraced fridge-raid cooking, which involves creating recipes only from the few ingredients left in your fridge (or pantry). Often this would result in wonderful recipes and flavour combinations that might not have otherwise been.
The pandemic has also shone a light on healthy eating, plant-based diets and less sugary meals. If you could help influence government policy, what would you encourage?
I would love the government to put more of an emphasis on cooking from scratch using fresh ingredients. That’s quite important to me. Obviously that’s more easily said than done as fresh ingredients can often be more expensive than fast food.
Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage
Published on 3rd September,
What's your flavour?
Yotam Ottolenghi talks about his new book 'Flavour'.
Yotam Ottolenghi is the restaurateur and chef-patron of the four London-based Ottolenghi delis, as well as the NOPI and ROVI restaurants. He is the author of eight best-selling cookery books. Amongst several prizes, Ottolenghi SIMPLE won the National Book Award and was selected as best book of the year by the New York Times. Yotam has been a weekly columnist for the Saturday Guardian for over thirteen years and is a regular contributor to the New York Times.
Flavour is the third instalment in Yotam’s bestselling and multi-award-winning
PLENTY series (over 2 million copies sold). The new book celebrates the
limitless potential of vegetables and reveals how to transform them into
Flavour-forward, vegetable-based recipes are at the heart of Ottolenghi’s food.
In this stunning new cookbook, he and Ixta Belfrage explore the three principles
that create great flavour and offer innovative vegetable dishes that deliver new
ingredient combinations and techniques to excite and inspire.
The book is broken down into three sections, which reveal how to tap into the potential of vegetables to create extraordinary food:
PROCESS explains cooking methods that elevate vegetables to great heights;
PAIRING identifies four basic pairings that are fundamental to great flavour;
PRODUCE offers impactful vegetables that do the work for you.
Click the buttons below to order your copy of Ottolenghi Flavour, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Ebury Press, £ 27.00), and to take a look at some mouthwatering recipes from the book that you can try from home.
We caught up with Yotam to talk about the book, his career, how he rediscovered some previous flavour favourites in lockdown, and what he would change if he were PM for the day.