Saturday, 3 December 2011


Cookery books have almost become an anathema to the mere mortals these days.  Once the well-guarded fortress of chefs, nowadays models, actors and reality stars try to prove that they, too, have the ability to woo us with their gastronomic abilities, that they, too, know how to come to our worlds and let  us peak into theirs ....
I am an avid amateur cook, and must admit that I simply do not understand this trend.  I suppose I never saw cooking as a skill to show-off, but rather an activity that comforts, soothes, and yes, feeds!  After trying more than my fair share of cookery books, I now tend to look for authors who are of the same school of thought, and who have something new and interesting to show me.

Reaching a milestone in my life, I started looking seriously into my dietary habits - having an iron-deficiency, I had easily opted for a red-meat diet, which had unfortunately triggered other ailments.  It was for this reason that I was initially searching the market for vegetarian recipes with a kick (an avid cook cannot be easily tricked).  Now, I don't intend to go fully vegetarian, but I would like to have more meals without meat.  There already was my problem:  many recipes have tofu-like derivatives to provide for iron, and I'm afraid I just don't like substitutes.  Other recipes looked like side-dishes, as if vegetarians should be punished for their decisions in life.  It was certainly not rosy out there...

I can't remember when or where, but the minute I watched Yotam's video preparing aubergines, I somehow knew that he would change my perception of vegetarian dishes.  I started looking more and more into his cooking and his book Plenty and became fascinated with the multitude of possibilities vegetarian cuisine can offer.  When I then found out that he was himself not a vegetarian, I knew I had found the book for me.
I first flipped through the book in London, but realising the weight it would have on me, preferred to order it online instead.

I was in awe.  I studied every page, and never lost interest.  The format of having one recipe per page, most with photos, the split into sections (so that I can skip the mushroom one, for which I don't care), the variety of herbs and spices, all gave me plenty of food for thought! I will admit that it is primarily a Mediterranean -middle-eastern type of cuisine, but I personally love that taste, so no problem there!

And then I watched an interview with him on TV and liked him even more for his cooking.  I just love cooking and I actually enjoy taking all this time to prepare a dish - I like the whole procedure.  I don't mind the endless lists of ingredients - I know by now which are the ones that really matter and I know how to introduce new flavours to replace the ones I don't like (indeed, I am pernickety...)

I have already made half of the recipes in the book, which is more than the recipes from half of the other cookery books I have.  This goes to show that there are still authors out there who have something to say, and we should take the time to look out for them.  As in literature, it is too easy to dismiss one whole type of activity (be it a literature genre, or - in this case - cookery) and to miss some real gems.  Enjoy!

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