The book I’ve been looking forward to most so far this year has just started being serialised in the Guardian today. It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi who founded two exceptional London restaurants and is simply called Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. l love Ottolenghi's food - it’s so generous and big-flavoured, piled high on bright, colourful platters - you can't fail to be tempted by it. It also lends itself perfectly to entertaining for large numbers at home.
Char-grilled asparagus, courgettes and manouri
Manouri, Yotam explains, is a Greek semi-soft cheese - you could substitute goats cheese or halloumi. Normally the asparagus would be the dominant flavour but the vegetables are dressed with a very rich home-made basil oil (which I can't wait to make) that makes me think that a dry Italian white such as a Gavi di Gavi or a Soave would be a better option.
Radish and broad bean salad
Another fresh-tasting salad with a very punchy dressing made from tahini paste, lemon juice and garlic. The salad also has a lot of lemon juice and some preserved lemon in it which makes for a lot of acidity so I’m not sure you need wine on top of all that. Personally I’d be drinking this with sparkling water or fresh fruit juice and water mixed (pomegranate would be nice) but if you’re serving it to friends you will probably want a bottle to pour. The best bet, I think would be a dry French or Spanish rosé.
Seafood, fennel and lime salad
An exotic seafood and fennel salad, seasoned with garlic lime and chilli. I think I’d go for a classic seafood white such as a Picpoul de Pinet or Albariño with this. Or even a Greek Assyrtiko.
An Egyptian dish of rice and lentils topped with fried onions and a spicy, sharp tomato sauce. Lentils normally lead to red wine but there’s quite a lot of chilli heat and vinegar in the sauce that makes it a slightly tricky dish to match. If you do go for red I’d make it a rustic one without too much obvious oak, something like a Côtes du Rhône Villages. But I actually think you’d enjoy a beer better. A good pilsner, I’d suggest.
Harissa-marinated chicken with red grapefruit salad
Wow! Here you have everything. Hot chilli, bitter/acid grapefruit and a sweet and sour dressing of grapefruit, lemon juice and maple syrup. The only thing I can think of that would work wine-wise is a big fruity ros - something like Charlie Melton’s Rosé of Virginia from southern Australia or an Argentinian or Californian Syrah rosé. Whatever you do you don’t want tannin. Otherwise I think you’d be looking at something like a pitcher cocktail - something like a Seabreeze (vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice).
Macadamia and white chocolate brownies
Interesting that Yotam has put coffee in these brownies. I’d be looking at coffee too - an espresso or black Americano - to counteract the intense sweetness but that’s probably because I haven’t got a sweet tooth. Cold milk is great with brownies too.