Random reviews

Is this the world's most annoying cookbook?

Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

This book got up my nose right from the Introduction.  Discussing the origins of his magazine column in The Guardian, the author claims that 'Ottolenghi', his modestly-named restaurant, "had become famous for what we did with vegetables and grains, for the freshness and originality of our salads (read: my salads), and it only made sense to ask me to share this". 

I think that 'What a tosser' is an entirely appropriate reaction to such boasting about salads.

So then we move on to the recipes. I have tried to make several of these.  Observations:
- Such a pain to find "marinate for at least 60 minutes" sneaked in to the small print.  Does he think we have all day to cook his stuff?  
- A phenomenal number of different ingredients.  25 just to make leek fritters - why such complexity?
- Must he be so specific about amounts? What is 30 grams of basil, for God's sake - a handful, a tablespoon, a bucket?  Does he really think we can be bothered to weigh basil?
- Biggest crime by far: the obscure ingredients.  Trying to use up some spare courgettes, I turned to his courgette salad.  But this requires cob nuts (or substitute with shredded coconut, thanks a lot), hazelnut oil, and purple basil leaves.  What is he thinking of?  I live in central London and I can't get hold of this stuff.  How is anyone else going to cope?
- Turn to another recipe, for marinated buffalo mozarella.  Ok, got all that stuff; hang on, except for rapeseed oil.  Rapeseed oil?  What is he thinking of?  Why is it needed, for a minor variation on an Italian salad?

Just about every page in this book either asks for ingredients that nobody will have at home (tamarind pulp!), or are impossible to buy (verjus! Dried Iranian lime!). The recipes are extremely fiddly and time-consuming.  And after all that, the results are pretty ordinary. 
Compare and contrast the River Cafe's great cookbooks.  These can be annoying at times (famously calling for "6 lemons, the freshest possible" in one recipe) but they are clear, simple, and the food tastes good.

Worst of all, the author is such a bighead.  On page 38, someone who cooked his garlic tart (and who perhaps is financially dependent on him) calls it 'the most delicious recipe in the world', to which Ottolenghi says "What else can I add?"  Since you ask, how about 'Sorry for being so up myself?'

* * * * * * *

What's wrong with this picture?

One Day.  Screenplay by David Nicholls

This film is good enough that you don't notice the oddities until well after leaving the cinema. 

- Why all the scenes of Anne Hathaway in a swimming pool?  This breaks the Holywood rule that everything in a film should mean something - for example, when you see a gun in scene 1, you know it will be fired at some point.  So - is she going to drown later on?  Will she meet a new lover at the pool?  No.  My guess is that someone thought we regularly needed to see the star in a bathing costume - not a bad idea, but pointless for the story.
- We see a lot of Jim Sturgess's parents.  But where are hers?  She might as well be an orphan for all we know.  She is often lonely and sad, but never turns to her folks.  Why not?
- Ditto her friends.  Where are they?  She is a personable creature - surely she would have a bunch of mates, and close friends (some of whom would tell her not to waste her time with the shagger J.S.)
- The reviews all talk about her being working class, but there is zero information about this in the film.  In fact the only hint is in the other direction, when she says "My dad has a fax machine in his office".
- And how come such an otherwise feisty woman is so willing to forgive the fact that he's been out sowing his oats while she's been pining away for him?
- Where are all her boyfriends, while J.S. is playing the field?  Why did she only get together with the loser comedian? This film is a bit too reliant on the old cliche 'Dowdy girl takes off her glasses and is suddenly revealed to be beautiful'.  Those huge thick specs she wears at the start are certainly designed to uglify, but there is no doubt such a stunner would have had the lads flocking around her like Yorkshiremen around a hot pie.

So it turns out that it's a film about a bloke and his world, not a film about a couple.  But as a saving grace, it is quite funny.

* * * * * * *