Ottolenghi’s New Recipes Are Packed With ‘Flavor’

Nov. 13, 2020


Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of The CJR.

One of the world’s most celebrated chefs has a new cookbook. Israeli restaurateur and author Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, Flavor, is quite the culinary sensation.

He teamed up with Ixta Belfrage, the co-author of Flavor, to create a truly original collection of plant-based recipes.

Ottolenghi writes in the book’s introduction that his goal was to find new ways to “ramp up” the flavour of fresh vegetables. “It’s about creating flavour bombs, especially designed for vegetables.”

He says the recipes are about appreciating the character of a particular vegetable and understanding how to prepare and pair it with other ingredients to create layers of flavour and complexity.

The recipes are a departure from Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern dishes. He incorporates quick pickling and a host of Asian spices and herbs. Each recipe looks more delicious than the next and the photographs are terrific.

Of the 100 recipes in the book, 45 are vegan, while another 17 can easily be “veganized,” as Ottolenghi puts it, explaining that he gives many vegan alternatives to various ingredients that are animal products.

Ottolenghi says Belfrage, his co-author, is able to put “together an unusual set of components, effortlessly creating a totally new masterpiece.”

The recipes I’ve chosen look interesting and are very flavourful. While they do involve several steps, you can also make parts of the recipes. 

For instance, Roasted And Pickled Celery Root with Sweet Chili Dressing has three components, You roast the celery root, and roast it again with a sweet chili dressing. The dish is then topped with pickled celery root. You can prepare and enjoy the roasted celery root without the additional sauce and/or pickled topping.

The other recipe, Stuffed Eggplant with Curry and Coconut Dal, is East-Asian inspired. The Dal recipe can be used alone or with other vegetables, says Ottolenghi.


1 large (2 lb or 900 g) celery root, scrubbed clean with hairy roots discarded; no need to peel
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
1½ tsp flaked sea salt
Extra oil for brushing

Preheat the oven 375°F (170°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pierce the celery root all over, about 40 times with a fork and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Mix the oil and salt in a bowl and rub it generously over the celery root. 

Roast for a minimum of 2¼ – 2¾ hours, depending on the size of the celery root, basting with oil every 20 minutes or so, until the celery root is deeply brown and soft all the way through and oozes “a celery- root caramel” or juice.

Let the celery root rest for 15 minutes or so, then cut it into wedges, brushing each side with oil and the “caramel” left on the baking sheet.


Pickled Celery Root

1 medium celery root, trimmed, peeled, and cut into thin 2½-inch (6cm) long batons, about 4 cups (1 L)
3 celery stalks, cut into thin 2½-inch-(6cm) long batons, about 1 cup (250 ml)
2 garlic cloves, skin on, crushed with the side of a knife
3 limes: finely shave the peel to get 6 strips, then juice to get ¼ cup (60ml) 
½ cup plus 3 tbsp (150 ml) rice vinegar
1½ tsp (8 ml) flaked sea salt

Sweet Chili Dressing

½ cup (120 ml) sunflower oil 
5 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
3 red chilis, finely sliced into rounds, about 1/3 cup (80 ml)
2 whole star anise
4½ tsp (23 ml) white or black sesame seeds, or a mixture of both, well toasted
7½ tsp (40 ml) maple syrup
1 tbsp (15 ml) rice vinegar
¼ cup (60ml) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped chives

Prepared Roasted Celery Root

1 whole roasted celery root (see recipe above) cut into 8 wedges 
Flaked sea salt
2 green onions, finely sliced at an angle
¼ cup (60 ml) Thai basil leaves
Additional olive oil for brushing 
Additional maple syrup or honey for brushing 

Pickled Celery Root: In a large bowl, combine the celery root batons, celery, garlic, lime peel, lime juice, vinegar, and salt. Set aside for 2 hours, stirring now and then. (The recipe can be divided in half and the other half of the celery root can be roasted.) The pickled celery keeps for three days in the fridge. 

Dressing: Heat the sunflower oil in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Once very hot, add the garlic, chilis, and star anise and fry for 2–2½ minutes, stirring to separate the garlic slices, until the garlic is crisp and pale golden (it will continue to colour after you take it out of the oil, so don’t take it too far). 

Strain the sauce through a sieve set on top of a small heatproof bowl to collect the oil. Set the fried chili and garlic aside. Remove 1/3 cup (80ml) of the aromatic oil and reserve for another recipe. Combine 7½ tsp (40 ml) of the remaining aromatic oil with the sesame seeds, maple syrup, vinegar, soy sauce, and chives. Stir to mix.

Baking the Roasted Celery Root in the Chili Sauce 

Preheat the oven to 425°F/200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the roasted celery root wedges on the prepared baking sheet, cut-side up. Make sure they’ve been brushed with their cooking oil and caramel (if not, brush with some olive oil and a little maple syrup or honey. 

Roast for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Arrange the wedges on a large platter and sprinkle with a little salt. Add the reserved fried chili and garlic to the dressing and spoon over and around the celery root. Top with 11/3 cups (350 ml) of the pickled celery root mixture (avoiding the pickling liquid). Garnish with the green onions and Thai basil. Serve immediately. Makes 2–4 servings.


3 large eggplants, stems removed, each eggplant cut lengthwise into 6 ¼-inch (½ cm) thick slices,
3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil 
Table salt and black pepper to taste

Coconut Dal

3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped, about 1¾ cups (450 ml)
1½ oz (45g) fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 red chilis, finely chopped
30 fresh curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp (5 ml) black mustard seeds (optional) 
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
½ tsp (3 ml) ground turmeric
2 tsp (10 ml) medium curry powder 
2 tsp (10 ml) tomato paste
½ cup (125 ml) dried red lentils
1 13½-oz (400 ml) can full-fat coconut milk 
2½ cups (625 ml) water
¾ tsp (4 ml) table salt
8 oz (220g) paneer (East-Asian, fresh white cheese) or extra-firm tofu, roughly grated
2 limes: finely zested to get 1 tsp (5 ml), then juice to get 2 tbsp (30 ml) 
1½ oz (45g) hot mango pickle, roughly chopped (optional) 
¼ cup (60 ml) cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more to serve 
Table salt
3½ oz (100 g) large (not baby) spinach leaves, stems removed, about 2 cups
(500 ml)
1 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
½ cup (125 ml) fresh cilantro 

Roast the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 425°F (200°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant slices with the olive oil, ¾ tsp (4 ml) salt, and a good grind of pepper. Spread the slices out on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the eggplant is softened and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

For the dal: Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots and fry for 8 minutes, until golden. Add the ginger, half the chili, and half the curry leaves (if using) and cook for 2 minutes, then add all the spices, tomato paste, and lentils. 

Stir for 1 minute, then add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the lentils are soft and the sauce is thick. Pour the dal into a 7-x 1-inch (28- x 18-cm) baking dish and set aside. 

Prepare the paneer or tofu: In a small bowl, toss together the paneer or tofu, lime zest, 1 tbsp of the lime juice, the mango pickle, if using, cilantro, and 1/3 tsp (1 ml) salt 

To assemble and bake: Place one spinach leaf on top of each slice of eggplant. Put 1 heaping tsp (5 ml) of the paneer or tofu mixture in the middle, then roll up the eggplant, from the thinner end at the top down to the thicker bottom end, so the filling is encased. Put the eggplant roll seam-side down in the lentil-dal sauce and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, spinach, and paneer. You should end up with about 18 rolls, all sitting snugly in the sauce. 

Press the rolls gently into the sauce, but not so far that they are submerged. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until the eggplant is golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Heat the 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil in a small pan on medium-high heat. Add the remaining chili and curry leaves ( if using) and fry for 1 minute, until the curry leaves are crisp and fragrant. Spoon over the eggplant rolls, drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp (15 ml) lime juice, and serve with cilantro sprinkled on top. Makes 4 servings.


Nov. 18, 11 a.m.: Make Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns in a virtual cooking workshop with Jen MacDonald, presented by the Bernard Betel Centre. To register:

Nov. 18, 1 p.m.: Fermenting & Foraging: in the Historical and Contemporary Ashkenazi Kitchen. A Panel Discussion with NYC chefs Jeremy Umansky and Ari Miller. Presented by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. To Register: i

Dec. 3, 5 p.m.: Cook Global Cuisine with Carolyn Tanner-Cohen, sponsored by Grandmothers Partnering with Africa, Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.: Latkes and Vodka Workshop with National food columnist and author, Bonnie Stern, and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. Virtual cooking demo for Latkes, cocktails and dessert. To register:

Let’s Do Brunch! Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s tastiest fall fundraiser, now in its 21 year. This initiative brings awareness to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.