As the culture editor at marie claire, I read dozens of books every year. I'm a sucker for straight-talking self-help guides and empowering memoirs, and I've read more money management books than my bank balance would have you believe, but there is only one book that’s actually changed my life.
That book is Ottolenghi SIMPLE by Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi, which features “130 brilliantly simple recipes that contain all the inventive elements and flavour combinations that Ottolenghi is loved for, but with minimal hassle and maximum joy.”
Since picking up the bible-like cookbook a few months ago, I’ve become nothing short of a master chef.
Let me explain why this is such a big deal: I cannot cook.
My culinary skills (or lack there of) are a running joke in my family. I once burnt a serving of Alfredo packet pasta, which has a total of three ingredients.
If my boyfriend isn’t home and hasn’t pre-prepared dinner for me to heat up in the microwave (rude), I’ll have cheese on crackers. You can’t burn cheese on crackers.
My sister-in-law buys us cookbooks every Christmas: 65 Slow Cooker Recipes With Six Ingredients Or Less, 30-Minute Meals, Cooking For Dummies. I've never read any of them (sorry, Tess).
Ottolenghi SIMPLE is the opposite: I haven’t put it down since I got it. I’ve spent hours flicking through the chicly photographed, beautifully styled dishes, planning meals and writing out ingredient lists for our weekly shop.
There are two things that set Ottolenghi SIMPLE apart from other “easy” cookbooks. Firstly, its style: so minimal and crisp. And secondly, its practicality: the recipes actually are simple (if I can cook them, anyone can).
In the last few weeks, I’ve made my way through eight recipes – a world record (for me).
I started with the ‘Stuffed courgettes with pine nut salsa,’ devoured the ‘Pea za’atar and feta fritters’ and have most recently tried the ‘Roasted butternut squash with lentils and dolcelatte.’ All were big hits.
My boyfriend said the ‘Pasta alla Norma’ was the best thing I’ve ever cooked, which isn’t that hard TBH, but I’ll still take it.
When I brought leftover ‘Curried egg and cauliflower salad’ to work for lunch, my colleagues refused to believe I'd cooked it.
Tonight I’m making the ‘Tomato and cucumber raita’ with green chilli salsa.
I’m truly a changed woman. And it’s all thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi, the acclaimed food writer who started out as a pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Capital restaurant in London and has gone on to write seven best-selling cookbooks and a food column for The Guardian called “The New Vegetarian.” Ottolenghi SIMPLE is a nod to his first cookbook Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and his namesake restaurant chain, and it’s become an instant hit in Australia.
In exciting news, Ottolenghi is coming down under for a book tour this month. In less exciting news, most of the events have already sold out. You can still nab a seat at his Tassie talks here, though.
I missed out on tickets to the Sydney Opera House talk hosted by Adam Liaw, so I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank Ottolenghi. Yotam, you have changed my life and made it so much tastier, thank you. Forever grateful, Alley.
Ottolenghi SIMPLE by Yotam Ottolenghi (Penguin, $49.99) is out now.