An interview with Yotam Ottolenghi

Is there any cookbook more popular right now than Sami Tamini and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem? With their previous book Plenty also remaining in the spotlight, the folks at 10 Speed Press have rereleased a US edition of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, the very first Ottolenghi cookbook which was previously only available in its original UK edition.

Are you experiencing Ottolenghi-mania amongst your circle of friends who cook? I haven’t gone to a potluck or dinner party in the last several months where there wan’t at least one dish from Jerusalem and Plenty, the two Ottolenghi cookbook’s available in the US at the time. I would complain but the truth is, everything I tried has been delicious. The flavors are fresh and new, and it’s really wonderful to see so many people excited about cooking and discovering new ingredients.

Now that Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is availble here in the States, it’s a perfect time to check in again with Yotam Ottolenghi on the past, present, and future of all things Ottolenghi!

What was it like to revisit Ottolenghi: The Cookbook after five years and two subsequent cookbooks?

Lovely, actually! Unlike novelists, who tend to write books, set them free and then not return for years to come, I never really ‘let my books go’. It hasn’t been so much a revisiting, therefore, as a continued engagement. We constantly use the recipes for our menus at Ottolenghi.

Though first published over five years ago, so much that is at the heart of Sami and my vision, philosophy and pantry remains the same. New ingredients and techniques have appeared and the design of the books has evolved but many of the fundamentals – the cooking methods, our favourite products, the Ottolenghi team – have remained the same. It feels good to see that we haven’t swayed in this regard.

How would you distinguish it from Plenty and Jerusalem?

The recipes in Plenty are exclusively vegetarian and there are no puddings [desserts] so it’s different in that way. Speaking in generalisations, people are inclined to cook one or two single dishes from Plenty, unlike Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, where entire menus are often put together for lunch spreads or dinner parties. Although all our books come from the same place, as it were, Jerusalem more obviously has its roots in the food and place Sami and I grew up in. Ottolenghi The Cookbook is really a reflection of our shops: salad spreads, roasted veg, cold meats, small cakes, large cakes, breads — it’s all there.

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