I don't buy too many cookbooks (and when I do, there's a one in/one out policy), but a couple of times a year I log on to Amazon.co.uk and indulge in the pleasure of ordering new British cookbooks. Why on earth would one want cookbooks from the land of supposedly bland, unimaginative food? Because they're anything but! Lately it seems that some of the most colorful, flavorful, and inspiring cookbooks are coming out of the multicultural UK. Here are three that I've made room for in my collection…
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi – Fans of Chef Yotam Ottolenghi's weekly Guardian column, The New Vegetarian, will recognize many of the dishes in this volume of Mediterranean-inspired recipes. Ottolenghi is not vegetarian, and neither is his restaurant. But he has a deep appreciation for fresh produce, inspired by his upbringing in Israel where he was "exposed to the multitude of vegetables, pulses and grains that are celebrated in the region's different cuisines." The book includes vibrantly spiced and textured dishes like Roasted butternut squash with sweet spices, lime and green chilli; Saffron cauliflower with sultanas (raisins) and green olives; Aubergine (eggplant) with buttermilk sauce and pomegranate seeds; Green pancakes with lime butter; and Fried butterbeans with feta, sorrel and sumac. This is one cookbook where I want and expect to make just about every recipe, cover to cover.
• Plenty, £11.96 at Amazon.co.uk
Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean by Silvena Rowe – Bulgarian-born Rowe follows up her previous cookbook, Feasts: Food For Sharing from Central and Eastern Europe, with an exploration of the Eastern Mediterranean, focusing on a "wonderful panorama of fruits, vegetables, meat and rice dishes" both ancient and modern. There are gorgeous meze dishes and salads featuring ingredients like sumac, pistachios, and pomegranate molasses; vegetarian-friendly bites of red lentil kofte and falafels made from chard and beets; fragrant dishes like Almond and Roasted Garlic Soup with Toasted Coconut and Slow-Cooked Lamb with Spring Onions, Cheries and Lemon; and condiments made from combining dried flowers and sea salt. And, like Plenty, this cookbook is photographed by Jonathan Lovekin, who gives everything an inviting, sumptuous air.
• Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume, £14.27 at Amazon.co.uk
Flavour: A World Of Beautiful Food by Vicky Bhogal – This cookbook came out last year, but I'm still constantly delighted by the stunning recipes and images. Flavour is infused with a sense of adventure and determination – not only to celebrate the diversity of global ingredients at our fingertips, but to really get the most out of them in day-to-day cooking. Drawing upon her Indian heritage, her multicultural experience in the city of London, and an "insatiable curiosity," Bhogal invents dishes like Chickpea Fritters with Beetroot, Buffalo Mozzarella and Pink Pepper; Red Snapper Brushed with Chipotle, Strawberry and Rosé; Courgettes (Zucchini) Stuffed with Coffee Rice and Oregano; and Mango Ice Sticks with Dipping Sugar. Throughout, Bhogal makes combining ingredients and flavors seem effortless and has a wonderful way of inspiring readers to experiment on their own.
• Flavour, £12.50 at Amazon.co.uk
(Images, clockwise from top left: Flavour, Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume, Flavour, Plenty, Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume, Plenty)