Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 4, 2023

Flavour (2020) by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage

The first thing to note is that Yotam’s Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook Flavour is not, despite his name being the only one on the front cover, the sole author.  One of the world’s best-known celebrity chefs, YO needs no introduction, and you can browse his website here. But Ixta Belfrage, OTOH has transitioned from ‘member of the Ottolenghi test kitchen team’ to co-author.  Thanks to her Latin American heritage, a childhood in Italy and her years in Ottolenghi’s kitchen, she has an eclectic approach to cooking, which you can see from some of her recipes at The Guardian. (And, BTW, she lived in Australia for three years, and was no doubt influenced by our eclectic cuisine as well.)

The cookbook, a generous 300+ pages with full colour photography for every recipe, is about technique.  While vegetables take centre stage, it’s not a strict vegetarian or vegan cookbook.  In the Introduction, YO explains his flexitarian approach which is intended to appeal to the widest group of vegetable lovers possible.

My own approach to vegetables has always been pragmatic and inclusive.  If you want to win more people over to the veg camp, there is no worse way to go about it than demand that they go cold turkey (excuse the pun.) If an animal-based aromatic ingredient (we are not talking prime cuts of meat here or a bluefin tuna steak) does an outstanding job at ‘helping’ a vegetable taste particularly delicious, I will definitely use it for the benefit of those who are happy to eat it.  At the same time, I will also offer various alternatives to animal products (and dairy products, whenever I can) so that everyone can join in.

This flexitarian approach to cooking and eating acknowledges the diversity of the people we are and the variety of choices we make.  From the 100 recipes in the book, 45 are strictly vegan and another 17 are easily ‘veganised’. (p.9)

The Introduction is followed by Flavour’s 20 Ingredients.  You don’t have to have them all, and you reproduce many of the recipes without them, but they capture the essence of this book, its particular spirit.  These ingredients include various chillis, exotics such as black garlic and black limes, a type of flour called ‘masa harina‘ (used to make many Latino dishes), hibiscus flowers and Shaoxing (a wine fermented from rice).  He’s very particular about the brand of butter beans to buy, and enthusiasts who don’t care about food miles can get them delivered to Australia from here.

After that, the book is divided into three sections: Process, Pairing and Produce.

PROCESS is about enhancing flavour with charring, browning, infusing and ageing. There’s quite a lot of yada yada about these four processes, which is worth reading but not reproducing here.  It’s covered adequately here anyway.  Enticing do-able recipes include:


  • Calvin’s grilled peaches and runner beans.  It’s made with goat’s cheese, almonds, honey and mint and could be served with any number of proteins as a main. You can see what it looks like here.
  • Iceberg wedges with Smoky Aubergine Cream. After a lacklustre year in 2022, the eggplants are earning their place in the vegie patch, and this Aubergine Cream made with yoghurt, lemon juice and mustard looks amazing.  I fancy it with tuna.
  • Hasselback Beetroot with Lime Leaf Butter: You can find the recipe here, but for me, it’s the Lime Leaf Butter that’s pure genius. We have a Kaffir lime tree, which The Spouse uses to cook a very nice Vietnamese chicken dish, but I reckon the addition of the Lime Leaf Butter would make it sublime. (Yeah, not very Vietnamese, but still…)


  • Curried carrot mash with Brown Butter? yes please.
  • Lime and Coconut Potato Gratin. This is suggested as an alternative Christmas recipe here.


  • Also notable is the Pappa al Pomodoro with Lime and Mustard Seeds. It bothers me that so many people on limited budgets don’t know how to cook cheap meals.  This is basically pasta with over-ripe tomatoes and stale bread.  You can skip the lime and the curry leaves, even the chilli and the mustard seeds if you have to, and it will still be a great meal. Recipe here.

Ageing (using ingredients that have already aged, eg. fermented)

PAIRING is about combining sweetness, fat, acidity and chilli heat. Again there is lots of yada yada, but it’s interesting to read — and it all makes perfect sense.


  • Sweet potato in tomato, lime and cardamom sauce.  It looks divine, and can be paired with chickpeas, tofu. fish or chicken.
  • Butternut, orange and sage galette.  (Recipe here.) Pumpkins have failed to materialise in our garden this year.  We’ve never planted them, they’ve always just seeded themselves from the compost.  So it’s been a bit of a surprise to see that it would cost $9 to buy the pumpkin for this recipe. But it would still be a cheap, filling and nutritious meal.
  • Giant Couscous and Pumpkin with Tomato and Star Anise Sauce. (Here.) I reckon the prep for this could easily be done in the air fryer.
  • One-pan Orecchiette Puttanesca: a super cheap meal.  Yes, there are ingredients like capers and fancy olives, but it’s basically chick peas, pasta and tomatoes, and you can omit the spices or herbs if you have to. Recipe here.


  • Mafalda and Roasted Butternut in Warm Yoghurt Sauce: another super cheap meal. You don’t have to have Mafalda, any pasta will do. Recipe here.
  • Stuffed Aubergine in curry and coconut dal. Recipe here.
  • Tomato salad with lime and cardamom yoghurt. It has goats cheese and mint in it too.


  • Roasted carrot salad with chamoy. Chamoy is made with apricots, maple syrup, lime juice, garlic and chilli.
  • Mashed sweet potatoes with yoghurt and lime.
  • Chaat masala potatoes with yoghurt and tamarind, recipe here.

Chilli Heat

  • Saffron tagliatelle with ricotta and crispy chipotle shallots, recipe here.
  • Portobello steaks (mushrooms) and butter bean mash,  recipe here.

PRODUCE These are foods that have the capacity to carry a dish through their sheer ‘oomph’ and depth of flavour, or the interesting textual contrast they bring. Ottolenghi names these as:


  • Spicy mushroom lasagne (recipe here)

Alliums (onions & garlic):

  • Aubergine with herbs and crispy garlic. (BTW The air fryer is brilliant for roasting eggplants with half the fuss. And did you know that you can roast a head of garlic in 15 minutes by cutting off the tops, drizzling it with olive oil, wrapping it in foil and zapping it in the air fryer?)

Nuts and seeds:

  • Spicy roast potatoes with tahini and soy, recipe here.

Sugar, fruit and booze: I don’t think desserts are Ottolenghi’s strength, but these are standouts.

  • Poached apricots with pistachio and amaretti mascarpone, recipe here.
  • Watermelon and strawberry sorbet, it has lime and lime leaves in it too, recipe here.
  • Coconut ice cream with lychee and passion fruit, it uses aquafaba so this is suitable for vegans, recipe here
  • Max and Flynn’s Lemon Sorbet, I’ll probably reduce the number of hibiscus tea bags because I’m not super keen on their flavour in tea. Recipe here.

A feature that I like in this cookbook is in Meal Suggestions and Feasts at the back.

There’s a list of recipes grouped in practicalities:

  • in one pan, ready in 20 minute or less;
  • ready in an hour;
  • low-effort/high impact meals;
  • low-effort/high impact sides; and
  • make-ahead meals.

Under Feasts, there’s:

  • Brunch spread;
  • Rovi spread;
  • Three-course meals;
  • Korma Feast;
  • Mexican Feast;
  • East Asian Feast;
  • Festive Spreads;
  • Sunday roast;
  • Outdoor Summer Feast;
  • Mezze; and
  • Dips.

There’s a comprehensive index, Acknowledgements; and a code to access an App for your phone or iPad. There are also two ribbons to keep your place, which is such a good idea with a recipe book where you are often making two recipes at once.

The question is, since Ottolenghi is so generous with sharing his recipes at his website and at The Guardian, do you need to buy the book.  My answer, if you are a keen cook, is yes.  Apart from the pleasure of browsing to see what you might cook, it’s much easier to follow a recipe with a clear, easy-to-read layout in a well-designed book.  My only complaint is that the font for the ingredients is a bit small, but that’s because my eyesight isn’t great.

Authors: Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, with Tara Wigley
Title: Flavour
Photography by Jonathan Lovekin
Publisher: Ebury Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2020
ISBN: 9781785038938, hbk., 317 pages
Review copy courtesy of Bloomsbury Australia


  1. What a wonderful review, Lisa. Just ordered it.


  2. Nom. The vegan options sound good and I just looked at some of the linked recipes and I’m keen…


  3. Sounds great … have always loved vegetables (more than fruit) so I love trying new vegetable recipes. Trouble is, I don’t love buying cookbooks anymore (and particularly not as I’m downsizing). But, I like to support chefs, so I’d love a YO app. I use a recipe app a lot for my own recipes and for downloading recipes from taste, recipe.tin, etc, but I’d like to support these chefs who work so hard to create great dishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Spouse uses an App, I think it’s called Paprika. It’s partly a recipe finder too, but it can download recipes from the web.
      Me, I am so Last Century, I have a plain black unlined A4 book, where I list the recipes I like from our collection, grouped by entree, main, etc. And I have a looseleaf folder of some that people have given me, or I’ve found online, filed by the usual cookbook categories.
      He would be lost if the technology changed, and I would be lost if I didn’t have my actual cookbooks!


      • Paprika is the one I use too. It replaced a previous one that closed and they referred us to Paprika to which I was able to export the recipes I’d already saved. I like that you can manually enter recipes or import find from the web. I only add tried recipes to it. I love that I have my recipes with me when I’m away, and I can easily share recipes from it.

        BUT, you know, I’ve been collecting recpis since the 60s, like you I’m sure, so I have a lot of legacy systems, including the ones you describe – file systems, books, loose-leaf folders (eg a special Christmas one.) I even had a catalogue card system in which I indexed years of Australian Gourmet – all that finally went in the last couple of years.

        There is a service called Eat Your (or is it) My Book which indexes cookbooks but you need to subscribe and when I looked at it years ago it didn’t hdex a lot of the books I have.


        • I tried that indexing service too, and like you, found that it didn’t have Australian cookbooks or my legacy cookbooks. I signed up (i.e. paid) because after I’d enquired first, they told me I could add my own books (the way I do at Goodreads) but the amount of work was ginormous. Simply not do-able, I would have spent half my life building their data base for them. As you can imagine, I was cross.
          At the end of the day, the recipes I really like are memorable to me, and I don’t need to type ‘eggplant’ into some program to know that I’m going to make ratatouille or baba ghanoush with it. If I make it all the time e.g. ratatouille, I don’t need a recipe any more, and if I don’t make it often, I just need to know which cookbook has my favourite recipe in it. (My Black Book). If I’m in the mood to try something new with that eggplant, I’ll browse my Mediterranean cookbooks for inspo, which is a pleasure in itself!
          I don’t think domestic cooks need to make such a big deal of our cooking. I don’t have a Nana’s Cookbook, but that idea works: making sure you can easily access what you really want and *must not lose* in whatever way works for you.


          • Yes, that’s what I thought about the service though I don’t think I even paid when I saw what it was about ie users entering in their books. I’d rather volunteer my time on Wikipedia or Trove!

            And yes re favourite recipes … but I do often search for new ways of doing things because of what’s in my fridge and cupboards!

            Liked by 1 person

    • As far as I know, there is no YO app but he does have an online. I’ve had an account for quite a few years now. I’ve put a link to it on my phone so I can plan meals when I am out and about, screenshot ingredients for shopping etc. But like Lisa, I still like laying the book out on the bench to actcually cook from.
      The only problem I have is that I almost never read the recipe in full before starting #badhabit. The number of times I have missed the ‘now rest for an hour’ embedded in the second last paragraph!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha ha, we see the contestants do that time and again on Masterchef!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m in good company then! Next time I do it I can say to Mr Books I’m in training for MasterChef 😂😂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds pretty good… but lately, I’ve needed recipes for one rather than a whole family.


    • That is so tricky, I know. I’ve had that experience myself and its devastating. One of my friends is currently grappling with that, after a lifetime of cooking for two. It’s not just that most recipes are for four, not one; it’s also the loss of purpose. It can feel lonely to cook when you’re not sharing the food with someone.
      I don’t know if it’s still available, but I found Delia Smith’s One is Fun! useful. It does have a few of those batch-cooking substitutes for reduced-portion recipes, but mostly they are genuine recipes for one. (I just searched at Books for Cooks ( and they have a copy there. It may also be available at your library, or at AbeBooks. I liked it because it addressed the psychological difficulties, of feeling that it’s not worth the effort for just one. That’s a self-imposed version, IMO, of believing that a woman is nothing without a man, and we should never fall victim to it. We should, I believe, continue to lay the table, pour a glass of wine, and savour a well-cooked meal, a meal cooked for ourselves because we are worth it.
      PS The Guardian must be channelling this conversation, they’ve just published this article on Eating Solo:

      Liked by 1 person

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