Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Magwood on Books

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Reviewed: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Ebury Press

JerusalemIf you’re anywhere near a serious foodie you will have heard of the Ottolenghi deli/restaurants in London, owned by Israeli chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Opening in a tiny space in Notting Hill 10 years ago, the first Ottolenghi piled counters with dazzling, fresh Mediterranean dishes that had, and still does, people queuing down the street. Several more branches followed, and two cookbooks, Plenty and Ottolenghi.

“Fresh” has become such a hackneyed word in food writing. Every restaurant boasts its food is “freshly made” or “made with the freshest ingredients”. The Ottolenghi guys showed what fresh really means, glazing platters of emerald French beans and mangetout with nut oil and strewing them with orange and smoky roasted hazelnuts. They crusted tuna with pistachio nuts and served it up with pawpaw salsa, sent out biting soups of grilled aubergine and lemon, and marinated lamb in coriander and honey.

The outlets became famous for their baking, too, in particular their vast, bloated meringues and both books feature recipes for these and for such delights as parmesan and poppy biscuits and caramel and macadamia cheesecake.

Now this gifted duo has produced a third book: Jerusalem. In it they have gone back to their roots in this ancient, fascinating city, but what makes it especially interesting is that Yotam is Jewish and Sami is Palestinian, growing up on the other side of the city in the Arab quarter. They only met many years later, in London, but the fusion of their different childhoods has resulted in a spectacular collection of recipes. Many feature ingredients readily available here, like Slow Cooked Veal with prunes and leek, Burnt Aubergine with garlic, lemon & pomegranate seeds, or Roasted Sweet Potato with fresh figs. Others will have you hunting down such ingredients as chermoula paste, tahini and za’atar. As always, clear, bold flavours predominate, and mounds of fresh herbs.

The photographs of the food and the city are dazzling, with forays into the complicated history of its myriad communities. As Yotam writes: “It is more than 20 years since we left the city. Yet we still think of Jerusalem as our home because it defines us, whether we like it or not. Everything we taste and everything we cook is filtered through the prism of our childhood experiences: foods our mothers fed us, wild herbs picked on school trips, days spent in markets, the smell of the dry soil on a summer’s day, goats and sheep roaming the hills, fresh pittas with minced lamb, parsley, chopped liver, black figs, smoky chops, syrupy cakes, crumbly cookies. The list is endless.”

There is a South African connection to Ottolenghi: Danielle Postma, the proprietor of the fabulous Moema’s in Johannesburg, worked in the restaurants in London before returning to SA in a fit of homesickness. Reproducing her recipe for a sweet potato gratin in Ottolenghi – The Cookbook, the pair pay tribute to her warmth and her talent as a cook. But we in JHB know that!

Book details

» read article

Reviewed: The Agony Chef by Kate Sidley, Macmillan

The Agony ChefI’ve been lucky to sample fellow bookie Kate Sidley’s cooking – relaxed, unfussy and utterly delicious meals in her equally relaxed home. Here she takes on the persona of Delilah, witty Agony Chef who dispenses irreverent advice and admonitions along with great recipes. Here she is on comfort food: “No one is soothed by an asparagus foam topped with peach caviar within a chilli chocolate shell. We want bangers and mash!” She follows it with recipes for a satisfyingly squishy fish pie and Boozy Chocolate Mousse. She recommends baked potatoes bursting with bacon and cheese for 16-year-old waterpolo players who “eat like hippos.” Teenaged boys are, she notes, “just hormones with feet… they need lots of nutrients to power those hair follicles and sebaceous glands.”

I especially like Delilah’s view on parenting: “People are always blathering on about the importance of role models, but it’s all a myth. As you will know, if you watched Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous, the best way to turn out well-behaved children is to be wildly unpredictable yourself. It keeps them on their toes and provides a cautionary example.”

What to serve when your son kicks open the closet and brings his new “friend” home? When your fiancé invites his ex for dinner? When you have the mother of all hangovers? Trust Delilah: the advice is a giggle and the recipes are marvellous. Think Fennel, Pomegranate and Pine Nut Salad, Lovely Lemon Linguine and Sticky Pork Fillet. The Agony Chef is a delight.

Book details

eBook options – Download now!

» read article

Reviewed: Bitten. Sarah Graham, Struik

BittenI have been cooking out of this marvellous book for a month now and still haven’t run out of dishes I want to try, although I have the Whole Lemon Tart in my sights for a weekend lunch party.

Sarah Graham writes a great food blog called, a clean, colourful and inviting array of recipes, reviews and foodie chat. But if you don’t have time to log on, and don’t know what the hell to cook for dinner, just keep her book on the kitchen counter. She promises easy and fast, and she delivers: Coriander Pesto-baked Hake, “Why-he-married-me” Bacon Pasta, Spicy Moroccan Chickpea Salad. I regularly make the Spinach Tart studded with bacon and Peanut Sesame Chicken quickly became a staple in our house.

To simplify our lives Graham provides a choice of Meals for a Month, and suggestions of menus for weekend entertaining with tips on wines to accompany each dish.

As the great Franck Dangereux says in his Foreword: “Bitten. is the antithesis to intimidating food; you will enjoy feasting on these down-to-earth, happy-making recipes for feeding people you love.”

Book details

» read article

Reviewed: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain, Bloomsbury

Medium RawChef Anthony Bourdain slammed open the swing doors of professional kitchens to give us a view of what really goes on in restaurants. It was irresistible, written with knife-swinging gonzo panache, a birds-eye view of the deranged working conditions and the people who toiled in them: “wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts, and psychopaths,” as he memorably described his fellow chefs. We learned to never order fish on a Monday and stay away from bacteria-infested buffets.

The book catapulted Bourdain to celebrity and he has written other books since then and starred in a number of TV shows. Now he’s brought out a follow-up to Confidential called Medium Raw – a Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. The drugs are over, the gypsy earring’s gone and so is much of the glorious hair, but Bourdain is still as acerbic as ever, venting his wrath on any number of things that piss him off.

He takes the glib old hippie Alice Waters to task, calling her “Pol Pot in a muumuu”; he tears into celebrity chefs who can’t cook, eviscerates the idiocy of the Food Network and its star chef Sandra Lee “the hellspawn of Betty Crocker and Charles Manson”; smacks vegans around, but also cheap meat factories; and reserves some of his most lethal vitriol for “douchebag” restaurant critics.

But there are plenty of heroes in here too, and their extraordinary food. Korean-American chef David Chang, for instance, the Italian restaurant mogul Mario Batali and the British chef Fergus Henderson. And Bourdain writes of extraordinary meals in Hanoi and Borneo, a perfect prawn on a beach in Spain, a pain raisin in a tiny boulangerie in Paris. He’s still utterly irresistible.

Book details

» read article