Have you seen the multi-Oscar winning Everything, Everywhere, All At Once? OMG you should, it’s great. Michelle Yeoh travels through the multiverse to save the world from destruction, amongst other much more nuanced things. The film exists in a place where up is not only down but left, right, a circle, a square, you, me, a reasonably priced hatchback, a holiday in Tenerife and every permutation above and beyond.
How else to explain Extra Good Things, the latest from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen? A book with introductions to recipes such as “Potato slab pie: Think potato dauphinoise, meets quiche, wrapped up in pastry”. It is everything, everywhere, all at once. This has been the Ottolenghi way for years, who now surely exists as a multiversal version of himself: man, brand, restaurant and as the book tries to make the case for, a verb. It defines to Ottolenghify as taking an Eastern inspired, “vegetable-forward” approach to familiar dishes and mix with exotic ingredients from this universe or the next.
The authors are listed as Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi though more broadly, it comes from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, a diverse team of chefs assembled in a bespoke North London kitchen tasked with finding new ways to blister pepper skins or marinate swedes. This spirit of adventure and experimentation makes its way into their cookbooks with the first, Shelf Love, reaching into the back of the cupboard to repurpose unloved ingredients into something greater. Extra Good Things looks at filling that space by making recipes featuring sauces, oils, ferments, pickles and salsas to be used again. Each chapter is arranged by these condiments, rather than the ingredients. “Something Fresh” features recipes with added pestos or salsas for instance while “A Little Bit of Funk” plays with ferments, brines and pickles.
It is a typically glossy and considered cooking experience as you would come to expect from Ottolenghi publications. The photography is just on the right side of messy, measurements are exacting and replacements are suggested for hard to find ingredients. Every recipe has an explicit aim for you to take something away with you, whether a bit of extra sauce to pair with other ingredients or pickles to layer onto sandwiches. A peanut gochujang dressing adds a zingy, spicy and creamy edge to the suggested tenderstem broccoli, but I’ve made it repeatedly since to throw onto other green veg, rice and sandwiches. Harissa butter mushroom Kyiv were both a spectacular main dish and a jumping point for stuffing other buttery herby things in between breaded mushrooms. The burnt aubergine pickle has been applied to pretty much everything it can.
While there are a handful of meat and fish dishes, the recipes are overwhelmingly vegetarian. The Ottolenghi approach to vegetables is where I think these books really shine, awarding an indulgence and satisfaction that can be missing in many plant-based dishes. I can understand why they’re not for everyone, recipes can be complicated or like maximalist artistic experiments in flavour. There is, of course, beauty to be found in minimal ingredients cooked well and dressed sparingly. I would also argue there’s beauty to be found in an aubergine Parmigiana pie the size of a Victoria Sponge baked with a spiced tomato sauce and stuffed with cheese and filo. There’s a reason these books are popular: the recipes are diverse, interesting, sometimes spectacular like the Butternut crunch pie or deceptively easy and impressive like 2-scalloped potatoes with chimichurri. I’ve yet to make anything that isn’t delicious.
In my opinion, all good cookbooks should seek for the reader to take something away with them – a new understanding of a cuisine, an introduction to new ingredients or a way of refining your skill in the kitchen. Extra Good Things does all this by putting an outcome at the forefront of every recipe. The book is all the better for it. Your cooking will be too.
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book: Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things by Yotam Ottolenghi, Noor Murad et al
£25, Ebury Press
Review written by Nick Dodd a Leeds-based pianist, teacher and writer. Contact him at www.yorkshirepiano.co.uk