Two of my favorite cookbooks that create delicious food memories

As a personal chef with an english literature degree in the works, it is time to recommend some of my favorite cookbooks and provide recipes that I enjoy creating for clients and friends. As well as the four books I will discuss in the next two blogs, there are numerous others that I enjoy cooking from. Amongst those are the obvious cookbooks that most home cooks I come across in LA seem to possess – The Barefoot Contessa, Jamie Oliver, Marcella Hazan and Mark Bittan (whose book I rarely use) books.

My favorite cookbook for last year was “OTTOLENGHI the cookbook”

OTTOLENGHI the cookbook

The chefs who wrote the book are Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. They are partners both romantically and in business. Ottolenghi is Israeli and Tamimi is Palestinian. Their delicious creations have a middle eastern flair with a european twist. Everything I cook from their book has been greeted with enthusiasm and awe because of their inspirational combination of ingredients. Even though their cookbook isn’t vegetarian, they do write vegetarian recipes in The Guardian on a regular basis. They currently have four restaurants in London, which I would consider calling cafe and marketplaces. If you are interested in reading about these two inspiring chefs please check out their website:

I am not a big meat eater, all my other books will cover fish and vegetable dishes, therefore I decided to include a red meat recipe from Ottolenghi that my clients love. I have attached this recipe straight from their British website, so please excuse the British measurements etc.

Sweet and spicy beef and pork pie

Sweet and spicy beef and pork pie
Serves 6-8
550g shortcrust pastry
Vegetable oil for brushing the tin
50g pine nuts
8 tbsp olive oil
400g mince beef
400g sausage meat
3 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 tbsp dried mint
2 tsp ground allspice (pimento)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper or dried chilli flakes
2 onions, thinly sliced
7 free-range eggs
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. I buy a pre-made deep pan gluten free pie crust from whole foods.

2. Bake the crust as directed on the packet. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

3. Whilst baking the pie crust you can toast the pine nuts. Scatter them on a separate tray and leave in the oven for 8 minutes or until they go golden.

4. To make the filling, heat up half the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan. Add the beef, break it down with a fork and cook it on a high flame for a few minutes to get some colour. Add the pork meat, mix well with your fork and keep on cooking on medium heat for 15 minutes or until golden. Stir in the tomato purée and sugar and cook for another 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, mint and all the spices. Cook for a further 10 minutes over low heat.

5. In the meantime, fry the onions in a separate pan with the remaining olive oil until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drain out most of the oil and add the onion to the cooked meat. Also add the pine nuts and taste for salt and pepper.

6. Heat the oven to 190ºC/Gas mark 5. To assemble the tart, spoon half of the hot meat mix into the pastry case. Make some shallow holes in the mixture, break 3 eggs, one by one, and pour them into the holes. Using a wooden spoon, stir the eggs gently in the meat – just enough to disperse them a little, while keeping areas with more egg and maintaining some distinction between white and yolk. Spoon the rest of the meat on top, create some gaps and holes in it and break in the rest of the eggs dispersing them as before.

7. Put the pie in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the eggs are set. If the top begins to darken cover it with foil for the remaining cooking period.

8. Once ready, remove from the oven, break off the excess pastry with your hands and take the pie out of its tine. Serve hot or warm, garnished with parsley.

I hope you get as much pleasure out of their recipes as I do. Only the middle eastern countries know how to sweeten red meat dishes with a subtle flavor that makes the dishes so unique.

My second cookbook choice is “The Voluptuous Vegan” by Myra Kornfeld

The Voluptuous Vegan

This cookbook is the most creative and inspiring vegan cookbook available on the planet. My clients and friends that have sampled these arduous recipes I create from the book are equally impressed. If the recipes weren’t so arduous I am sure I could convert many of you into vegans. I love how Kornfeld doesn’t make meals that substitute meat favorites, instead she makes creations that celebrate vegetables. When I go to a vegan or vegetarian household to cook for the first time, I always impress my client with Kornfeld’s Paella menu. I make three of the dishes that combine together, but leave out her sauteed cherry tomoatoes. The three dishes that I create are Paella, roasted tomato sauce and tofu-roasted garlic aioli. Due to time constraints on the job I have slightly adapted her recipes to accommodate my time famine.

VV's Paella with roasted tomato sauce & tofu-roasted garlic aioli

A brief description of how I create the dish ( I can’t publish the recipe because it hasn’t already been published on the web):
Firstly I get out my roasting pan and add the chickpeas, cauliflower florets, the tempeh (that has been soaked in shoyu, sesame oil and paprika for 10 minutes), cut up tomatoes that have been deseeded so that I don’t have to put them through a seive later, whole garlic wrapped in tin foil with oil and salt,thinly sliced onion and 5 unpeeled garlic cloves with sprigs of thyme. All these different assortments are kept in their own separate areas of the pan and I add olive oil. Put in a heated 375 oven for at least 30 minutes. The saffron rice and vegetable portion of the recipe I make as Kornfeld recommends in her book. I don’t add the jalapenos to the tomato sauce and usually use less garlic in her recipes. In my opinion she is heavy handed with her spices.
I hope you buy her book and get as much pleasure as I do creating her vegan meal combinations – a true genius. Tomorrow I will review another 2 favorites