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FoodThe Croft2023

Cookbook Review: 'Shelf Love' by Ottolenghi Test Kitchen

We are back again with another cookbook review! This time, Sofia provides us with her thoughts on the 'Shelf Love' cookbook by the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

By Sofia Webster, First Year Geography

The Croft Magazine// Yotam Ottolenghi is one of those chefs that just never fails to disappoint with his recipes. His cookbook is truly the epitome of the idea that taking that extra care and effort when cooking a meal always yields you the most fantastic results. As someone with Mediterranean heritage, something about his recipes has always felt like home to me since he uses Middle Eastern ingredients and spices, whilst also making fantastic recipes for those that are not familiar with the Mediterranean cuisine.

In 2021, I was incredibly excited for the recipes of his cookbook OTK Shelf Love (2021) when hearing about its release since it is written around a completely new concept. The basis of the cookbook (which is now his 2nd most recent release) was the beginning of a new series – Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, essentially shining a light on the magic of experimental cooking. This now features their most recent book – OTK: Extra Good Things (2022). Through YouTube videos they release, including demonstrations of the OTK recipes, they mention how they (Yotam Ottolenghi and his colleague Noor Murad) wanted to champion ingredients they know and love in a creative and exciting way. ‘Experimental’ is definitely the perfect way to describe this book, as not only have Ottolenghi and Murad tested new combinations and ingredients when compiling this book, they also encouraged fellow home cooks to experiment themselves with the large note section near the index and some lines in each recipe for cooks to add their own tweaks and make each recipe their own.

I have cooked various recipes from the book, each from different sections throughout the book – That one shelf in the back of your pantry, Your veg box, Who does the dishes, Fridge raid, The freezer is your friend and At the very end. Each of the recipes I tried out created the tastiest food, and although some were definitely a step up in terms of difficulty, when you have that extra 20 minutes to put together a dish, that extra time and care really shows in the final product. Further to this, there was an impressive collection of recipes that cater for vegetarians and vegans, particularly in the Your veg box chapter.

ⓒ Sofia Webster- M.E. Mac and Cheese

This was particularly the case for the recipe M.E mac and cheese which I tried. This was essentially a middle eastern take on the classic mac and cheese which used ground turmeric, cumin seeds and feta in the cheese mixture as well as crispy onions and a homemade zaatar pesto as a topping. I would without a doubt give it a 10/10 however my only concerns would be that when you are pressed for time, this recipe may not appear as appealing as the classic since it does take those extra few minutes (although it was completely worth it in my opinion).

The choco-flan from the At the very end chapter is one of my favourite desserts for a dinner party. The recipe is a twist on the traditional Mexican dessert and has quickly become one of my (as well as the rest of my family) favourites for special occasions. Despite the fact that I bake quite often, I think this recipe is fairly straight forward as it is complete and looks very impressive without the several extra hours for the steps of decorating it or making icing.

ⓒ Sofia Webster- Chocoflan

Another one of my favourites from OTK Shelf Love are the warming butter beans with tomato, chilli and garlic – the perfect comfort food for a warm, winter evening. This is a very easy recipe to whip up, the only restraint is needing a couple of hours on your side, however the stovetop does all the hard work for you and makes for a comforting yet nourishing meal. I really loved this recipe as I noticed immediately that it was a spin on the traditional Greek dish ‘gigandes’ – butter beans stewed in a tomato sauce, which I have grown up with and absolutely love.

My only criticism of the book is that a handful of the ingredients most prominently featured, I have found to be quite hard to source and not as affordable as other supermarket staples. Despite this, if presented with the opportunity, I would really recommend pulling up a recipe from this book and giving it a try, as it really is experimental cooking at its finest.

Featured image by Sofia Webster

What's your favourite cookbook?