Revel in the Bounty of Spring, With a Feast From Yotam Ottolenghi

The British-by-way-of-Jerusalem chef assembles a Middle Eastern banquet in London that is as visually stunning as it is delicious.

Comments: 34

  1. Loved this article and all the recipes--I'm a big fan of Ottolenghi and Tamimi--but where is the recipe for the beet and yogurt salad? It sounds divine...

  2. Recipe for Beet and Yogurt salad is in the Jerusalem cookbook...very easy!!

  3. Thank you Susan!

  4. I'll be right over!

  5. Wow, this indeed looks like a collaborative party, sans the meat, I love this kind of get-togethers, it is not about perfection, it is more of gaiety and enjoyment for all. This is how it was done in the villages of yesteryears, :)

  6. Fresh tomatoes and eggplant are not Spring vegetables. And pomegranate comes to market in the Fall. So, as delicious as the menu sounds, I can't imagine trying to make all of these dishes for a Spring feast.

  7. My sentiments exactly.

  8. Depends where one is. We've been harvesting eggplants and tomatoes from our garden for weeks.

  9. I have 3 of his cookbooks. Every time I visit my sister in London we head to NOPI for a late lunch. It's become a ritual. He cooks the way I like to eat—rustic, full of flavor and color, a common-sense marriage of Mediterranean influences. His recipes are all delicious and, once you have all the spices on-hand, straightforward. He is my kitchen god.

  10. It's interesting to read that Yotam Ottolenghi begins by selecting the serving plates, explaining, "Food styling is what I do best." This resonates with me as I own three stunningly beautiful cookbooks by him — Jerusalem, Plenty + Plenty More. We bought them because we were seduced by the absolutely gorgeous (typically vegetable-filled) photos of each dish. But actually cooking from them is another matter.

    Almost every recipe has an incredibly long list of ingredients, many esoteric, hard to find in the US, and challenging to substitute. (And it doesn't help that he gives the measurements throughout only in metric weights.)

    And though his cuisine appears gloriously healthy — all about seasonal bounty — closer inspection reveals, for example, refined sugar in most of his recipes. (Yes, you can substitute for sugar, but still, this says something about his cooking philosophy.) So, we've ended up preparing very few of his recipes, and finding surprisingly few ideas to readily borrow or adapt.

    Still, these beautiful books sit in our kitchen — and visitors often ask: Do you ever cook from them? Turns out, they also own the books, but haven't cooked from them much either...for similar reasons! Mr. Ottolenghi has an engaging personality, a lovely enthusiasm for trans-cultural cuisine... and, perhaps most of all, a phenomenal eye for food styling. But as I always tell myself, I should just try to get a reservation at one of his restaurants... if I'm ever in London.

  11. Sorry to hear about your experiences with Ottolenghi recipes. I first encountered his cooking in his weekly column in the Guardian about a decade ago. I had no idea who he was, but his recipes were fabulous. So many of them have become staples in our house, literally dozens. I adore the fact that he uses so many fresh vegetables and fruits in his cooking. It really resonates with me.

    Sugar? I guess in the desserts, but that's what most desserts are like, no?

    Re metric weights, they do take a bit of getting used to, but any simple cellphone app will give you the equivalents in seconds.

    About the long lists of ingredients, I agree that that is a bit daunting at the beginning, but everything can be ordered on line these days and once you have the basic items that YO uses, you've got them in your pantry, waiting to be used in a multitude of yummy dishes.

    And lastly, contrary to your experience about people not cooking from the books, I know literally dozens of people who have cooked their way through a number of the books, returning to the recipes time and again. I remember being invited to a dinner party and as my offering I brought the roasted butternut squash (which I always make with pumpkin but anyway) and red onions, and the host said: "Oh fabulous you've brought the Ottolenghi dish!" One of his favorites as well.

  12. Mr. Ottolenghi's use of esoteric or exotic herbs/spices and ingredients may be due to his ethnic/cultural background and where he lives. Here in London, where there is a large population of Middle Eastern people, those ingredients are commonly found in most specialty shops. His usage of metric weights is common here and is easily converted to imperial measures.

    In my opinion, the usage of refined sugar is sometimes necessary but can be substituted or omitted altogether according to your taste. Refined sugar is not in itself such a bad thing -- it is the ubiquity of it in most food, especially ready-made meals and snacks that are consumed in huge quantities by people both side of the Atlantic that is the problem. I have no problem using his recipes -- and use them quite often too -- but I never follow any one of them to the letter. I switch and substitute as I go, depending on the ingredients on hand and they still turn out pretty good most of the time.

  13. Many of the ingredients on those lists are simply spices-- things already found in a well-stocked kitchen. And the recipes are good about suggesting substitutes. I've cooked a lot from his first four books. The recipes are clearly written and easy to follow, call for little in the way of fancy technique. And the results are not only delicious, they also look surprisingly like the books' beautiful pictures.

    As for the sugar--I mostly leave it, unless it seems needed to balance the acidity. These are forgiving recipes!

  14. Unlike Ess I do actually cook from Ottolenghi's books (of which I particularly like Jerusalem), though I do not follow recipes slavishly, and feel free to substitute and tweak according to my tastes and what's available. What I like about Ottolenghi's recipes is the many fresh ideas for combining ingredients, and yes, the constructed dishes please the eye as well as the palate. Quibbling about a bit of sugar seems a little mean-spirited (hey, life is just too short! leave it out but don't snark!), given the very real joy of cooking with lots of vegetables and sharing the delicious results with friends and family.

  15. Looks quite delicious, as sung in the film 'Oliver' food glorious food.

  16. Follow Ottolenghi on Instagram for daily food porn.

  17. This is a lovely article, thank you. I have all of the hefty, satisfyingly padded books, and try recipes as they catch my eye. I buy new spices as necessary - leading to a perilous overcrowding in my cupboard.
    It just struck me, though - who washes all the dishes? I just hope that part is as communal as the gathering itself.

  18. More generally, concretely--that is, with objects present to one's senses-- 'visualizing' a finished product can be a good way to begin and shape one's work. Advised by my author mother to do this before I wrote my first book, I drew the book. This helped: it made it clearer that although I was forming thoughts-producing words & paragraphs, I was giving instructions for making a limited physical object in a public world.

  19. I love Ottolenghi's cookbooks, restaurants and style of cooking. I only wish he would open a restaurant here! I cook many of his recipes, and unlike most of my many cookbooks, his recipes always seem to come out incredibly well. I get consistent compliments on the dishes I serve from his books, and their presentation. The ingredients while perhaps difficult to find outside the big cities, are readily available on-line. So well worth the investment to create this wonderful, fresh and healthy cuisine.

  20. I love the Ottolenghi books though, with others, do not use them quite as much as I want to. I find the recipes time consuming and a bit of a head fake. I get all lathered up and hungry and then find the recipe yields food for four. This generally means doubling the recipe if I am cooking for guests. I like the idea of making cooking the party but one has to chose guests and chefs wisely. My kitchen is small and does not lend itself to having three or four other cooks around. For this menu one might ask a guest to make the dessert at her home and bring it on the day of the feast. Ottolenghi's good point about eating with your eyes before your mouth is important. I chose the table setting, linens and serving pieces while I am designing the meal though I have precise little space to store large pieces in an old New England farmhouse. One can make a very simple meal - tonight for guests, steak tagliata, grilled asparagus, ice cream or yoghurt for dessert with cider syrup and cookies. If the table looks smashing, the napkins soft and large and lovely, the coffee table dusted or the garden tidied up, a very simple and quick meal will be abundant, generous and friendly. One simple Ottolenghi recipe would be perfect .. but it's Friday and I don't have the time.

  21. I loved this article. So beautifully written I wished I was there cooking with them. I too own these cookbooks. My family and I cook from them regularly and love the results. All the ingredients are available in ethnic markets. Even got the pomegranate seeds yesterday (in the spring) from Trader Joes. The reason to buy interesting cookbooks is to expand your cooking experiences. That sometimes means adding to your pantry. Well worth it in this case. Our smaller feast last night was amazing. Thank you!

  22. I would also like the recipe for the carmelized beets and yogurt. It sounds delicious!

  23. I own 3 of their cookbooks. As a New Yorker, I have no problem finding the spices etc called for. The current books have measurements both for Europe and America, although it is not difficult to find conversion charts on-line. Some of their recipes can seem complicated, many are not difficult. AND THE FLAVORS! They have opened my eyes to what I thought I knew of Mediterranean food. There is a reason they are world famous. YUM.

  24. Can we find someone else to plug? Hasn't he hogged the scene enough?

  25. We have made his Leek and Cardamom Fritters a few times for a special meal. They are exquisite. Extra time is spent gathering the ingredients and I hand grind the spices for the perfect flavor.
    What sounds like a humble meal, turns into a memorable event due to the blend of flavors. As a vegetarian, I am especially delighted with Yotam's array of recipes. Born Israeli, I have ingrained longing for the Middle East flavors which are hard to find in the US. Not alone, done well.
    My only gripe with this feature is the unfortunate center piece, the lamb.
    With Yotam's extraordinary sensitivity to culture, environment and love of vegetables and grains, I am disappointed with this choice. Here was an opportunity to publically present a feast for the eyes and palate which could have encompassed all the elements aforementioned, but, fell short.
    I hope this comment resonates among his fans as well as influences his choices for the next great feast. I look upon Yotam as an ambassador of sorts and look forward to his continued progress to pull cultures together through food.

  26. I am so glad to see feature-length articles on cooking with several recipes, just like the old days (Molly O'Neill and her predecessors). The recipes were the first thing I turned to when I brought the Sunday paper home from the newsstand, and I especially loved the thematic ones (4 or 5 things you could make with a specific ingredient; several varieties of sauces or spice mixes; or a several-course meal). When the Times made an editorial decision to cut the Sunday recipes back to one or sometimes two (and often very precious ones at that), I felt cheated. So if any of the editors are reading these comments, why not have a feature like this every Sunday?

  27. I live i Islington, London, just around the corner from Ottolenghi on Upper Street ( which I think was his first restaurant) and I read this article as I procrastinate washing up from today's Sunday lunch with friends and which was entirely made from Ottolenghi recipes. A total faff, and requiring military precision and planning and making ahead - but glorious flavours, simple and delicious, made for spring/early summer. Menu - lamb kebabs wrapped in courgettes, couscous with homemade labneh, spring salad, burnt aubergine salad. Nothing better for a long chatty and winey lunch wi best friends. But now the cleanup...if you havent discovered Ottolenghi just buy one of his books and dive in,

  28. I made nearly this entire menu last night for my twenty something kids and niece and nephew. Raves ensued, well worth time and effort, lovely and lively flavored dishes that I will certainly repeat. The tomato salad seemed to be the favorite. The internet gives all of us access to the more unusual ingredients, so don't be intimidated, I think it's fun to try something totally new and exotic like nigella seeds! Who knew??

  29. There is nothing more pleasurable than reading Sam Sifton writing about food!

  30. '... take a look at the china on which the food would eventually be served. “Food styling is what I do best ...”'
    Kudos to Yotam Ottolenghi for these words of profound wisdom. Nothing ruins the looks of food more than improper ways of serving it.

    I wish Mr. Ottolenghi's list of national dishes an addition of some older fare of the Middle East, such as that of the Egyptians of old, Philistines, and Phoenicians.