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Poetry Shelf Kitchen review: Ottolenghi FLAVOUR by Yotam Ottolengi and Ixta Belgfrage

Ottolenghi: FLAVOUR by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, with Tara Wigley, photography by Jonathan Lovekin, Ebury Press, 2020

Hasselback Beetroot with Lime Leaf Butter

Take eight medium beetroot and brush off the warm earth.

Hold in your hand and breathe in spring.

The garden is full of summer promise, Jacinda speaks of connections.

Breathe out a long winter of lockdowns and catastrophe.

Absorb the song of the tūī, Reb Fountain’s honeyed singing as you

Peel and slice the beetroot thinly, almost to the base, then salt and roast.

Smell the pungent aroma, the wind coming in from the coast.

Melt butter with fresh ginger, garlic, lime leaves, olive oil, and then infuse.

As you wait for the election results to come in, add lime juice.

You are on hold, nothing can be taken for granted, the votes are being counted.

You dream of fresh water and global kindness, our children fed.

You crush and slice, blitz and chop.

You mix kaffir lime leaves, fresh ginger, garlic, green chilli, coriander.

Season your salsa, then season with love and spring promises.

In a blue Temuka bowl, upon a smear of yoghurt (you’ve omitted the cream),

You place the beetroot glistening red.

You spoon over the melted butter strained of aromatics.

You sprinkle the salsa and a squeeze of lime, your early morning beach walks.

Take a moment and wait for your family to put down brushes and pens.

Make room for comfort, for the things that matter most.

You are back at Whangamata watching the sun come up on Level 1.

You are serving the flavour of a London kitchen in a Waitākere haven.

You are tasting the flavour of bridges, the salty with the sour.

Jacinda and her team are back in power talking of new ways of leading.

The kitchen is aglow with food and hope,

And you feel like a load has lifted and floated into the Tasman Sea.

Tomorrow you will cook spicy berbere ratatouille with coconut salsa.

The next day a butternut, orange and sage galette.

One day you might eat at Ottolenghi’s in London,

With Aotearoa flavours in your pockets, the chatterbox tūī in your ear.

Paula Green Election Day, Te Henga

Hasselback beetroot with lime leaf butter on my Temuka blue bowl (bought on a fabulous 2019 Storylines Tour)

Pretty much most rooms in our home have at least two shelves of cookbooks. Cooking and writing poems have gone hand in hand since my debut poetry collection Cookhouse in 1997. Reading other poetry books has taken my writing and relations with the world in different directions. The same goes for cookbooks – I cook both inside and outside my comfort zone, because my love of cookbooks has expanded what and how I cook. It is so very satisfying.

I have book clusters of national cuisines, methods, ingredients (seafood), eating choices (vegan, vegetarian) and, of course, much-loved writers. Yotam Ottolenghi is one such favourite. So his new book Flavour, written and developed along with Ixta Belfrage, is a cause for celebration. His previous two books, Plenty and Plenty More celebrate vegetables, with the second book exploring the way process can take a vegetable in any number of flavoursome directions. Yotam suggests Flavour is like a Plenty 3 as it celebrates the transformation of vegetables into flavour bombs. The book is divided into three sections: process, pairing and produce.

‘While making a delicious recipe can be simple, great cooking is never the result of one element in isolation – it is the interplay of different types of processes, pairings and produces.Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam’s cookbooks are an essential part of my kitchen, because his recipes are flavour-rich, the processes are easy, the end results both nutritious and delicious. The same applies to the team effort of Flavour. For me the recipes are to be made and savoured (I tag all the ones I am itching to cook), but also to be used as aides to my own culinary inventions. The 20 essential ingredients listed at the end of the introduction are flavour-bomb conductors. Not your usual crew (say tahini, pomegranate molasses, turmeric, balsamic and cider vinegars, horseradish, harissa, cumin, fresh oregano, lemon and dill etc). Maybe things have a inseasons as I have also been favouring chipotle chillies, miso, ground cardamom and tamarind paste lately (on the list), and I am now dead keen to track down black limes, jarred butter beans (!), hibiscus flowers, red bell pepper flakes, rose harissa for my pantry.

Walking on the beach this morning I was musing on the way food has been so important in Covid. In Aotearoa New Zealand we have been baking sour dough, planting seeds, making sweet treats. I learnt to make kombucha (highly recommended), upped my micro greens, learnt to make yoghurt. Food is a way of nourishing us physically, but also offers the utmost comfort in family settings (and with friends when we can do that). Food connects us to the people who generate crops and products for us, to our forbears who have handed down beloved ways of doing things. Yes, I believe tradition is as important as innovation and vice versa. Along with the pairings, processes and products, Yotam and Ixta’s nurturing food values are the pulsating heart of Flavour. I get goosebumps reading through the pages.

Food was a big part of my doctoral thesis where I explored the ink in the novels of C20 Italian women writers. I wanted to know what drove the writing pen – and food most definitely mattered. I am thinking of Yotam’s pairings and products, and the way each ingredient we pick up to slice or saute or steam, is imbued with our mood, our past experiences, the events of the day, our daydreams. An apple takes me so many places when I cut it into slender batons for a coleslaw. Put this word next to that word and you get sparks and hums; put this ingredient with that ingredient and the same thing happens. Poetry and cooking? A match made in heaven.

Flavour is a sumptuous mouth-watering addition to my cookbook collection – at the moment I am lugging it from kitchen table to the lounge to bedtime reading. I have a long list of things to cook – recipes that will be the starting points to new pairings and products. The book fills me with warmth and connections and hope. Bavissimo Yotam and Ixta. I love this collaboration so much. And I have to say my family and I thought the beetroot dish was sensational (as was the election result!). They said it was like being in a restaurant – and it was all a matter of product, pairings and process. A GLORIOUS recommendation from Poetry Shelf Kitchen.

Yotam Ottolenghi is the restaurateur and chef-patron of the four London-based Ottolenghi delis, as well as the NOPI and ROVI restaurants. He is the author of seven best-selling cookery books. Amongst several prizes, Ottolenghi SIMPLE won the National Book Award and was selected as best book of the year by the New York Times. Yotam has been a weekly columnist for the Saturday Guardian for over thirteen years and is a regular contributor to the New York Times. His commitment to the championing of vegetables, as well as ingredients once seen as ‘exotic’, has led to what some call ‘The Ottolenghi effect’. This is shorthand for the creation of a meal which is full of colour, flavour, bounty and sunshine. Yotam lives in London with his family. Website

Ixta Belfrage spent her youth dipping her fingers into mixing bowls in places as far-flung as Italy, Mexico and Brazil and so became an expert without a title. She began her culinary career proper at Ottolenghi’s NOPI restaurant, before moving to the Test Kitchen, where she has worked for Yotam Ottolenghi for four years, contributing to his columns in The Guardian and The New York Times. She lives in London, where she makes regular guest chef appearances in some of the city’s top restaurants. Flavour is her first book.

Penguin Books page

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Pip Adam named as Victoria University of Wellington Writer in Residence

Detail from photo by Ebony Lamb

This is very good news indeed! Congratulations from Poetry Shelf.

Pip Adam named as University Writer in Residence

Acclaimed novelist Dr Pip Adam has been appointed the Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) and Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence for 2021.

Celebrated for their formal daring and emotional rawness, Dr Adam’s books include a collection of stories Everything We Hoped For, and the novels I’m Working on a Building, The New Animals, and most recently Nothing to See.

Dr Adam gained an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from the University in 2007, and a PhD in 2012, and she received the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She was also the recipient of a 2012 Art Foundation New Generation award.

She is well-known nationally as a contributor to Jesse Mulligan’s show on Radio New Zealand, and as a creative writing teacher, book reviewer, and literary activist. Her popular podcast ‘Better Off Read’ features conversations with writers and artists.

While holding the residency, Dr Adam will work on a futuristic novel in which sound will be explored as a way of structuring the narrative.

Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, Professor Damien Wilkins, says, “Pip is already a major novelist. Her planned writing project extends her imaginative reach further still and promises to be an exciting addition to the national literature. It will be terrific to have Pip at the IIML.”

Commenting on the appointment, Dr Adam says, “I feel ridiculously grateful, excited and, unusually for me, a bit lost for words. I am looking forward to spending next year working in a building where so much exciting other work is going on. Communities are really important to my work and I can’t wait to be among the varied folk of the IIML. It is so great to have some space and time to write my new book.”

Dr Adam takes up the residency at the IIML in February 2021.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Poetry at Christchurch’s WORD Festival

WORD 2020 in Christchurch is a celebration of writers, books, thinks, talkers, journalists in Aotearoa. Honestly I haven’t dared look at the programme until today because I didn’t want to jinx heading south to participate in this festival.

This is a WONDERFUL feast and I can’t wait to go! Yes you can feast on words! Banquet on stories. Long lunch on poetry. Smorgasbord on ideas.

Take poetry for example. There is such a glorious range of poetry events from book launches to readings to a stand-up poetry quiz.

Check out book launches by Mohamed Hassan, Fiona Farrell, Tusiata Avia, Bernadette Hall and John Newton

You can listen to Bill Manhire in conversation with John Campbell (Wow).

You can go to New Zealand Poet Laureate David Eggleton’s poetry picks: Cilla McQueen, Kay McKenzie Cooke, James Norcliffe, Owen Marshall and Bernadatte Hall.

You can go to the Poetry Slam Finals.

The Canterbury Poets’ Collective poetry performances.

Go to Ray Shipley’s Late Night Poetry Hour: Mohamed Hassan, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Dominic Hoey, essa may ranapiri and more

My Wild Honey session where I will be in conversation with Morrin Rout plus readings by Cilla McQueen, Bernadette Hall, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Tusiata Avia, Jess Fiebig, Freya Daly Sadgrove and Frankie McMillan.

PLUS I am doing an interactive Poetry Playground interactive session for children.

So many great things in this programme but I can highly recommend:

The astonishing Witi Ihimaera with sublime musician Kingsley Spargo (saw a version at GOING WEST and wow!!).

Elizabeth Knox talking about her supremely good read The Absolute Book.

Eileen Merriman discussing her breathtaking YA novels.

Five writers writing a letter to Katherine Mansfield.

A Ralph Hotere session that includes Bill Manhire and Cilla McQueen.

The GALA night that might be sold out now.

The great debate.

Adventurous women.

The arrival of Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand

So many good things – and yes there are some clashes that will be tough on the day for me!

Congratulations WORD (esp Rachael King for designing this wide-roving programme). You can check out the WORD banquet here – do pop down to Christchurch for a long weekend and join us for an inspirational, heartwarming, mindfeeding occasion.

You can see the full programme here

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Poet Laureate news

This is excellent news!

New Zealand’s poet laureate, David Eggleton, will get more time to write and perform after compromised his two-year tenure as laureate.

Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa National Library of New Zealand has extended his term by an extra year to give Eggleton the ability to deliver live, on-site performances around the country.

“Due to the lockdown and social distancing requirements, we felt it only fair to offer Eggleton the opportunity of a third year,” Alexander Turnbull Library chief librarian Chris Szekely said.

While Eggleton’s “been delivering brilliantly through online channels… for someone who is known as an outstanding live-performance poet, it was particularly unfortunate that this aspect has been impacted by the pandemic,” Szekely said.

See more here at Stuff.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Cerys Fletcher’s ‘GERONI-MOA’


all the new thinking is about moa, cloning moa, bringing moa into civic square in one long line

each with shit to air (the criticism of the thin-shelled eggs, the misassembled

bones). all the new thinking is about

moa, stupid-big, signifying nothing & leaving

trails of pronged footprint & feather. a species is a tribute to its unlikely egg. oh

moa, there is lovemaking occurring beneath every chimney in the

nation. take it this way: you are the great revitaliser. everything i have ever said to you

i have said with a mouthful of small hopes. the meat of your birdbones once gripped

me incomprehensibly as you

navigated the long islands. your gift is a great bellow, followed by the turning over

of a full glass recycling bin. your presence here was not requested, it was

formulated. we wanted you back but we wanted you better. this time

stronger. now, you make it as far as the port

before you remember the peat bogs, the beaks, &

you come to a stop. everything i have ever loved i have loved

with a mouthful of small doubts. i am eating my lunch in civic

square & you are just another miracle. pick up

the bottles. quieten down. yesterday

i had an orgasm. moa, you are indignant. all the new thinking is about you, & yet

i have reason to believe i am the best thing that has ever lived.

Cerys Fletcher

Cerys Fletcher (she/her) is in her first year at Te Herenga Waka. She is in love. She can be found on instagram as @cerys_is_tired.

Cerys reads her poem in the latest Starling here

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Vaughan Rapatahana reviews Wild Honey with small interview – plus a plug for WORD!

Full review here

Vaughan Rapatahana has just a posted a terrific feature on Wild Honey on Jacket2. I am usually doing the reviewing and posting so felt nervous being on the other end of the critique. Especially when I am in a cycle of terrible doubt about what I do and write, the state of the planet, the covid issues, the political game playing at home and abroad, about whether people read things any more. I wake in the night and worry about this.

I felt incredibly moved and restored by Vaughan’s engagement with the book – by his acknowledgement that this was an important arrival in view of a history of women poets in the shadows, by his considered attention. I send a bouquet of thankfulness.

I am reminded that books are an important part of who we are – and that we must do everything in our power to create them, publish and circulate them, review them, celebrate them, even challenge them if needed. Read and talk about them. Gift them!

This paragraph in particular moved me so much – there are people in the world building houses of knowledge, peace, forging multiple connective links:

I am immediately reminded of the work of Hirini Melbourne and his concept of whare whakairo, or a carved meeting house, whereby everything in and about this construction fits into and lends support, stability and splendour to every other component. The parallels are manifest. Granted that I am transposing women poets into his words, however Melbourne’s description of te whare whakairo rings out as so similar to Green’s own kaupapa in Wild Honey, namely, “The whare whakairo is … a place of shelter and peace. It is a place where knowledge is stored and transmitted and where the links with one’s past are made tangible … [it] is a complex image of the essential continuity between the past and present …” (Melbourne, 1991). 

I also answered a few questions for the feature, after a run of wakeful nights with world and local worry, so my self-filter wasn’t on – I was answering from that secret-self-core that is private and wakes in the dark to dream, worry, invent and somehow find the truth.

Last year I did Wild Honey events throughout Aotearoa where women came and read, and I have never experienced anything like it. Such a strong feeling as younger and older writers made connections, different kinds of voices were heard together. I felt like I was holding something enormous that I created but that it got bigger than me as so many women told me what the book meant to them. It was overwhelming and it was wonderful.

I am due to do a Wild Honey event at the Word festival in Christchurch with a stunning group of women poets and I can’t wait. Come and say hello!

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: submissions now open for Oscen

‘Or do they? Humanity seeks purpose. We seek order, truth, belonging. In times past, we looked to myths and gods in order to explain the world to ourselves and to understand why we should continue to endure. In Joseph Campbell’s words: It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward. Myths and religion are often seen in the western world today as something that only irrational fools would believe in — we have now science, empiricism, the provable world. We cast off the narratives that hindered us. What more could be left? Yet we make new gods to fill their places even though we don’t label them as such. We look to ideologies and technologies and new narratives that are meant to hand down to us the irrevocable truth, meant to build for us strong social structures, meant to take us into the next era of greatness. There’s a tight feedback loop between the gods we believe in and the societies we create, writes Aaron Z. Lewis of his 2019 pantheon of gods, which is why we must take seriously the metaphors we believe by. 

So we want to know: what are the myths of today? How are they propelling us forward or holding us back? Have they changed from old, or is it that we’ve strayed from some true essence our ancestors knew? What purpose do they serve? What of the monsters, the supposed villains? Do they hold a clue in dismantling the binaries that our present narratives bind us to? What is the relationship between myth, reality, and subjectivity, and how do we tell? How do we retell? What are the personal stories that have saved you? What should the myths of tomorrow be? ‘

Full submission details for forthcoming issue of Oscen here