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4 Ways to Enjoy Vegetables More According to Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi is a chef, and writer who is best known for awesome vegetarian cooking. We explore the principles he has developed for making a great vegetarian dish.

Roasted vegetables on an oven tray

Why Yotam Ottolenghi's Vegetable Recipes are So Good?

Yotam Ottolenghi is an award-winning chef and writer who has published a series of cookbooks featuring vegetarian and vegan dishes. Yotam's recipe books are a feast for the eyes, and his recipes are well-loved by people who want to up their vegetable cooking game.

Yotam uses a variety of vegetables and cooking methods to really bring out the best in his dishes, which is why his recipes are so tasty. He believes that cooking is about more than just the food; it's about the experiences it brings with it.

Let's look at some tips and veggie principles Yotam uses in his cookbooks to help boost our own veggie dishes. These don't have to be used at once, nor should they, but more as inspiration to try something new and different when cooking with vegetables. 

1. Try Cooking Vegetables in Different Ways

In Flavour, Yotam highlights how cooking vegetables in different ways will give you more variety and flavours. He creates dishes using many cooking methods like charing, browning, infusing even aging the vegetables. 

But that's not all. In Plenty More, Yotam uses many other vegetable techniques cooking as tossing, mashing, frying, baking, and roasting. It feels almost limitless. He also suggests some other methods such as grilling or steaming vegetables. Let's look at a couple of these not so obvious veggie cooking methods.

Charing: This technique involves cooking the vegetables in a dry pan over high heat without any oil or fat until they start to brown and caramelize.

Browning: This technique is similar to charing. It also includes adding some butter or oil to the pan before adding the vegetables.

Tossing: This technique involves tossing the vegetables in a hot pan with oil or butter until they are cooked through, then seasoning them with salt and pepper

Infusing: Like making a cup of tea, herbs, spices, and other ingredients might be added to an oil or liquid added to low heat to infuse their flavours. 

Aging: Lucky for us, Yotam refers to aging as using ingredients that the producer has already aged, like cheeses and other fermented products. Phew. But these ingredients in cooking can really make a massive difference to their flavour. 


2. Play with Texture and Crunchiness

In his cookbook "Plenty More," Yotam describes his experiences of learning to cook vegetables until they became the real hero of a dish, much like meat typically is. 

He does this by playing with layers of flavour, texture and crunchiness. He'll use the various cooking methods previously described and then work with ingredients like nuts, seeds, grains, or cheese to add texture. This process of food play would involve doing things that we may not usually think would work, like roasting a lemon or braising lettuce for a dish.



3. Add Condiments and Other 'Flavour Bombs' to Elevate the Taste of Vegetables

One of the most essential things Yotam does is create "flavour bombs", condiments that add flavour to his vegetable dishes. While you can make these from scratch, Yotam suggests that these can also be store-bought. Pickles, salsa, garlic oil, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, etc. Yotam draws a lot of inspiration from condiments from parts of asian and middle-eastern cuisines. 

Yotam likes adding these 'flavour bombs' or condiments to vegetables to make them taste better. Why not give something similar a try next time you cook with vegetables. 

4. Add a Hit of Umami

Umami is the fifth taste globally, and it is often described as a meaty or savoury taste. It is found in many vegetarian foods, such as tomatoes and soy sauce.

The word umami was coined by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda from the Japanese term "umai", which means "delicious" or "savoury."

Yotam explains how to make vegetarian dishes with umami flavour by including ingredients like mushrooms, onion, garlic, and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds.

My husband just made curried vegetables the other day. He added some curry powder, chilli, paprika and coconut milk to some pre-fried potatoes, onion and zucchini. It was so so good! In fact, I asked why he'd not cooked that unique dish before in our last 18 years of marriage, haha. But rest assured, you can put the delicious flavour of those curry potatoes down to umami! 


Photo credits: Dolphy-tv, Samantha Hurley


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