Friday, 7 June 2019

May's Cookery Book

This book has been sitting on my shelf, intimidating me, since I was given it for Christmas a couple of years ago. I don't know why I was reluctant to cook from it; perhaps is the incredibly long ingredients lists, the dishes I just knew the children would look at in horror (aubergine!), or the fact that it seemed like a book full of salads and sides, rather than meals. I'm delighted to report that I was wrong. I love this book, the follow up to Yotam Ottolengi's hugely successful Plenty, and have been busy making up for lost time. Plenty More is a collection of vegetable based recipes broken down (rather cleverly I thought) into styles of cooking - steamed, simmered, baked, cracked, mashed etc. 

The first two recipes I tried were salads, made on a Sunday to be taken to work with me for lunch during the week. I like these salads, because no-one eats them but me and so I can totally please myself with my choices.

First, we have Rice Salad with Nuts and Sour Cherries, except I omitted the almonds and, when I saw the price of sour cherries, swapped them for cranberries. It's an assembly job really, and while the recipe has a lot of stages and uses a lot of pans, it does not require much concentration. You cook - separately - wild and basmati rice and quinoa then set aside to cool. Next, toast some pine nuts then, when they're done use the same pan to fry sliced onions. You mix the whole lot together with chopped herbs, the cranberries, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and seasoning. (See what I meant about the long ingredients lists?!)

It was not quite the lunchbox heaven I'd hoped for, it just didn't have quite the punch of flavour I was anticipating, but it was tasty and I felt smug for not having a cheese sandwich every day.

Salad number two was a huge improvement, I mean it really was amazing. The title put me off a little initially - Mango and Curried Chickpea Salad - because, well, mango and chickpeas? Again, lots of ingredients, lots of pans, but actually very relaxing Sunday morning cooking. 

You are supposed to start by cooking the chickpeas but I just opened a can, drained them and put them in the bowl. Next, dry fry coriander, cumin and mustard seeds in a hot pan then grind them in a pestle and mortar, before adding curry powder and frying with lots of sliced onions before adding this to the chickpeas. 

Then you quickly boil, blanch, then fry cauliflower florets before adding them to the chickpeas and onions and spices. At this point, I could have quite happily just stood there at the kitchen worktop eating the whole lot out of the bowl. 

To this fabulous, smoky, earthy mixture you add zing: diced mango, chilli, coriander, lime juice and spinach.

The contrast between the spice and the fresh herbs and fruit is out of this world. Definitely one I will make again, but when I have time to potter in the kitchen in a leisurely fashion.

Last bank holiday weekend, I made posh beans of toast, otherwise know as Slow Cooked Chickpeas on Toast with Poached Egg. You cook the chickpeas for five hours. FIVE! This is why it's a bank holiday dish, although it's all slow cooking so it's actually a very easy dish to assemble.

This time I bought dried chickpeas, soaked them overnight then simmered them before putting them to one side. Next you blitz oil, onion, garlic, tomato puree, paprika, cayenne and a red pepper in the food processor before cooking for a few minutes. 

To this bright red mixture you add chopped tomatoes, water and the chickpeas and then just let it simmer away for five hours, with the lid off for the last hour.

I was hungry after three hours, so that's when I toasted the bread and poached the egg.

It's amazing, as you would expect.

Finally, an actual dinner that we made for the whole family: Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Oregano. It's a pasta bake, but a really, really good one. 

You fry aubergine, celery, carrot onion and garlic. 

To this you add the orzo and some tomato puree, followed by oregano, stock, mozzarella and parmesan.

Place sliced tomatoes on top and then bake.

I just loved the appearance of those tomatoes arranged on top. 

The kids were not impressed by the aubergine and I felt the vegetables could have done with a little more cooking time, but it was packed with flavour and the cheesy, tomatoey sauce was perfect comfort food. A win and definitely one to go back to. It reminded me how much I like orzo, and that I should cook it more, although next time I might try different vegetables. 

So that was May's choice. Today we've had hours of glorious rain and I can almost hear the garden breathing a sigh of relief. Wishing you all a happy and relaxing weekend. 


  1. Your photographs are just beautiful. Everything looks so nice and fresh. I wish I was a little more adventurous with my food choices!

  2. I know what you mean about the garden, I can almost hear it sighing happily out there. Well done on this month's dishes. I always think of Yottam Ottolenghi's recipes as things I'd like someone else to cook for me. They always look amazing. Have a good weeend. CJ xx

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed your May cookery book, it does sound like a lot of preparation and cooking time in the kitchen. It all look delicious and colourful though, Cathy x

  4. I absolutely love the book cover - it reminds me of the one my Mum was given in 1965 as a wedding present and which now is in my kitchen cupboard.
    The dishes all sound and look really good, too.

  5. This looks like the book for my toddler who would happily eat piles of chickpeas at every meal!
    Thanks for sharing, I've got lots of new ideas now! x

  6. Hello! It's my first time visiting your blog and I'm already enjoying reading some of your posts, especially this one, I was very interested in this book, and the recipes you prepared are the ones I would probably choose too, hahah.

  7. So very hungry after reading this...


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