With its gilt edges, handsome contemporary design, and complex recipes, NOPI: The Cookbook is as much a replica of the renowned London restaurant as it is a kitchen tool.
After establishing their Middle East-flavored delis in several London neighborhoods, Israeli-born Yotam Ottolenghi and his team — including the dynamic and creative chef Ramael Scully — decided it was time to open a “grown-up restaurant,” and Nopi, now a West End destination, is the result.
Ottolenghi states at the outset that NOPI is a restaurant cookbook with recipes that are worked on by a staff of professionals. As restaurant recipes, they call for many steps and ingredients, but to invite the adventurous home cook to try these rich and inventive dishes, Ottolenghi and Scully have adjusted and simplified many recipes while keeping their essence intact. The recipes are introduced with brief explanations that underline the flavorings and techniques that set the dishes off.
Nopi food is a riot of color and flavor that draw on a world of food traditions. In his previous cookbooks Ottolenghi brought his Middle Eastern upbringing to the table; now they are met by Scully’s polyglot background — Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, and Irish, all laced with copious dollops of butter. Examples of this blend are seen in such dishes as Spiced Buttermilk Cod with Urad Dal; Baby Carrots and Mung Beans with Smoked Labneh and Crisp Pita; Roasted Duck Breast with Hazelnut Beer Butter (no butter, however!), Red Quinoa, and Mushrooms; Sweet Potato Pancakes with Yogurt and Date Syrup. Ottolenghi has always had a lover’s hand with vegetables, enriching them with a vivid palette of flavors, and the sides and salads here show his flair. Many will make striking accompaniments to straightforward main dishes. The brief brunch and dessert sections also have some tempting and fresh choices.
Kosher cooks will have to pick their way carefully through Nopi and try some substitutes for the generous use of butter, but they will be rewarded with dishes that are practically unique in their approach to the world of flavors. The book is lavishly illustrated. Full-color illustrations, index, ingredient list, menu suggestions.
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.