The Piglet

Is Nopi a Cookbook Ahead of Its Time?

February 26, 2016

To accompany our very competitive, NCAA-style tournament of cookbooks, we asked you—our readers!—to get in on the fun and test and review 15 cookbooks dubbed Piglet Community Picks. Read on for some of our community's reactions to Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully—and keep up with all the reviews here.

As with most new art and music, repeated exposure to unique recipes dulls the shock of “newness.” Initially strange bedfellows ultimately turn into familiar and comforting old friends. I predict the flavors in Nopi will slowly penetrate my own cuisine and soon become routine—but I’m not there yet.

The hurdle most home cooks will have to overcome with this book is the willingness to trust the outcome of dishes with unusual combinations and not be bound by the fear that your investment will go sideways and leave you dissatisfied, or worse—hungry!

The book is a collection of signature dishes from the restaurant NOPI in London, run by Yotam Ottolenghi (of Jerusalem and Ottolenghi fame) and his chef, Ramael Scully. Ottolenghi is as deeply rooted in the culinary traditions of the Middle East as Scully is in the Far East, so each recipe is daring for its unlikely pairing of bold flavors of spices and fresh produce that span the ancient Silk Road.

The book itself is a beautiful ode to the luxuries of that bygone era—but with a modern twist. Taking cues from the restaurant’s interior, the book uses decadent materials sparingly, dipping the pages’ edges in gold gilt and encasing them in a warm, oatmeal-colored hard cover, which has just a touch more gold against rich black graphic of an iron pan. There is cooking required, after all.

Shop the Story

Inside, the design is crisp and elegant. Its simple layout of one page per recipe is complemented by photographs of each dish as it would be served, ensuring that the book is, if nothing else, one to display proudly and enjoy browsing.

It’s no surprise that it will be the sophisticated home cook who benefits most from the recipes within. Some beg an extra day or two of preparation. Others, like the Snake Bean and Peanut Achar or Braised Pig Cheeks, will require some research to even identify food items and where to source them. Thankfully, the authors recognize that not everyone has the same staples on hand and are generous with instruction for substitutions.

For these reasons—and mostly because the book is full of new (read: suspicious) pairings and techniques—NOPI won’t be my go-to guide for weekday family meals. Chicken Livers with Red Wine, Bacon, and Cherries on a Tuesday? Not likely. But the book will be the first I turn to the next time I want to make a more interesting meal. Now that I have made a long-roasted garlic sandwich from a sweet brioche loaf that was submerged in tarragon cream and baked, there’s no telling what the next loaf can become.

Until then, there is always Lima Bean Mash with Rosemary and Garlic for comfort, and a beauty of a cookbook to study.

What Other Testers Had to Say:

“What I love most about this cookbook is that each recipe is comprised of two or three components. Many of my favorite cookbooks might suggest a condiment or pairing, but with Nopi, it’s always collaboration.

For example, the Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic leaves you wondering if both sauces are necessary. Can it just be either/or? Turns out I was left with plenty of romesco and balsamic reduction for meals to follow, bringing subsequent pizzas, soups, pastas, and salads to life. I have been happily pushed to new technical and creative levels, and the results have made me eager to keep expanding my repertoire.

claire vee arr

Ottolenghi and Scully are professionals, yes, but they have the knowledge to democratize recipes without sacrificing flavor.

A standout was the Mixed Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Ricotta, and Capers recipe. The real excitement (prickly romanesco and multicolored cauliflower aside) was the creamy-­salty-­sweet aspects that repeated by way of the ricotta, raisins, and mustard in a way that was not the least bit repetitive. Make this dish right now.

Rebecca Firkser | Spices and Spatulas

Rebecca Firkser | Spices and Spatulas was kind enough to send along a list of ingredients she found useful to have in her pantry now that she’s been cooking through Nopi for over a month. Thank you, Rebecca!

  • Tahini
  • Miso paste
  • Sunflower oil
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Lentils
  • Ras el hanout
  • Sumac
  • Cardamom
  • Coriander seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Fresh ginger (store in the freezer for months)

The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • GigiB
  • luvcookbooks

Written by: stoneboulder


GigiB February 29, 2016
I would love to get my hands on this book. I do wish that the piglet would include critical information such as a picture for each recipe. I insist on that feature in my cookbooks - except for Mark Bittman (handy charts and alternate recipes make up for that) and Amanda Hesser's (an accompanying essay/ short story also make up for picture loss).
luvcookbooks February 27, 2016
Thank you for the beautifully written review. I thought I had all the Ottolenghi books I needed but evidently not. I like mixing in different reviews, too. It's fun to get nuggets from several people.