Yotam Ottolenghi is a chef, restaurateur and food writer. He is the co-owner of six restaurants and delis in London, as well as the author of 8 books and has a weekly recipe column in The Guardian. He currently lives in North London with his partner and two sons. (Note: if you want to read more about Yotam, do read this interview in The New Yorker. It isn’t new, it’s from 2012, but it is fascinating). Here he tells us about his new book Flavour (published 3rd September 2020 by Ebury Press) co-authored with Ixta Belfrage (note: do follow Ixta on Instagram for a super inspiring recipe videos), how to get kids interested in new foods, his favourite cookbooks and essential cupboard ingredients, plus his top tipple.
Please can you tell us how your new book Flavour came about? How did you come to collaborate with Ixta? What made you decide to do only vegetables?
There have been plans for another vegetable-focused book in the Plenty series for a while, and this seemed like the right time to showcase the wonderful recipes that have been coming out of the test kitchen for the 4 years that Ixta (below) has been working there. Ixta’s heritage, which includes Mexico, Brazil and Italy feature heavily in the book, as well as her deep understanding of Asian ingredients.
In Flavour, you list 20 essential cupboard ingredients. What are your top 5?
Miso, rose harissa, cascabel chillies, black lime and black garlic.
Any tips for getting children interested in food/trying out new dishes?
Put different foods in front of them but don’t get stressed if they are not into them straight away. They need time and they will sense how important it is for you as a parent which will only make them resist. Kids like things broken into separate components, so, from my experience, better not add too many things to one dish. My boys eat cucumbers, carrots and peppers, but not all mixed up.
What are your top cookbooks? Old and new?
Which top 3 Instagram accounts do you like to follow?
Where is your dream holiday location/which hotel?
I’ve never been to Mexico and that’s definitely next on my list- specifically the Yucatan. I’ve heard that Azulik Hotel, near the Si’an Kan biosphere is wonderful.
We have a sweet tooth and loved the book Sweet. What is your favourite sweet treat?
Nougat, always! With well toasted nuts.
You have a hectic schedule, how do you relax?
Are you still doing Pilates? Do you go to a class or follow an online class?
I try to do pilates at least twice a week. Over lockdown this has been on zoom which, I have to say, I really enjoy.
What is your favourite local restaurant near where you live?
Phoenix Palace near Baker street for dim sum.
Top tipple? And top bar to have it?
I don’t go out to bars, really. But I love my G&T’s. I have recently fallen for Jawbox gin from Northern Ireland.
What’s the one kitchen gadget that you wouldn’t want to part with?
Spice grinder. Certain spices, like star anise, are very difficult to process without.
Please can you tell us which are your top 2 recipes from the book Flavour and why?
Sweet and sour sprouts with chestnuts and grapes – because it’s a wonderful celebration of unexpected flavours – sweet, sour, salty and smokey and the Spicy mushroom lasagne, which combines fresh and dried mushrooms to create a spectacularly ‘meaty’ and comforting dish. (Note: you can try this dish for yourself with the recipe here).
We are also giving away a copy of the book Flavour to one lucky reader in our prize draw. For all the details to enter plus the recipe for Spicy Mushroom Lasagne from the book, please click here.