I’ve had quite a few vegetarian and vegan cookbooks sent to me lately, so I thought I’d do a post introducing them all to you. Some names may be familiar to you (Meat Free Monday, Áine Carlin, and Simon Rimmer for example), some possibly less so and a couple of them are unlike any cookbooks I’ve seen before. In no particular order, here they are:
Cooking for the Senses by Jennifer Peace Rhind & Gregor Law
You know when I just said ‘… unlike any cookbooks I’ve seen before’? Here’s one. Under the title, it says ‘Vegan Neurogastronomy’, which is helpfully explained in the preface as being the science behind the senses, which helps us to understand our individual likes and dislikes. This book merges the science of taste and flavour with the art of cooking and helps you to understand how the senses (taste, touch, smell, sound and sight) can help you to get the most out of your cooking.
There’s info on understanding taste and flavours, ingredients and food preparation, but if you’re not interested in the sciencey stuff and/or basics, you can skip the first hundred pages and go straight to the dozens of straightforward vegan recipes (most accompanied by photos), such as Ratatouille with Black Garlic, Saffron and Rosemary Focaccia, and Limoncello and Lime Baked Rice Pudding.
The Vegan Cook & Gardener by Piers Warren & Ella Bee Glendining
This book is part ‘how to grow stuff’ and part ‘how to cook the stuff you’ve grown’ and, whenever I see one of these books I get all excited and think, ‘yay, I’m going to grow all the things, then I’m going to eat all the things’. Then, what actually happens is I flick through it, never get around to growing anything and trot off down to the Little Tesco for a £1.10 frozen pizza instead.
This isn’t entirely true because a) I GREW STUFF THIS YEAR*; and b) if I existed solely on £1.10 frozen pizza from the Little Tesco, there wouldn’t be much point in me having a food blog.
Anyway, a book that’s mostly a cookbook isn’t going to go into deep detail about growing your own food but it has a lot of info about what to grow, when to grow it and how to store your homegrown produce. The accompanying recipes are simple and divided into months so, for example, you may be tempted in December to make swede, sweet potato and bean goulash, or apple and oat cookie cakes made with swedes and apples from your own garden or veg plot.
*I really did grow things. I grew lots of bell peppers, hundreds of chilli peppers, a beetroot, a few tomatoes, and about two years’ worth of runner beans. If you don’t believe me, there is photographic evidence on Instagram.
Hummus where the heart is by Dunja Gulin
Despite my devil-may-care-wild-and-free-reckless-spirit demeanour, I’m pretty old-school when it comes to food and prefer most of it unadulterated such as plain bagels/not cinnamon and raisin or onion, and plain hummus/not caramelised onion or even my beloved chilli which I usually put in everything. The only exception to this that immediately springs to mind is ice cream and I will happily tuck into any ice cream flavour within reason you care to give me, even mince pie flavour which I had and enjoyed many years ago in Brighton.
Still, if you like messing about with hummus (or houmous, or any of the other myriad ways of spelling it), then this is the book for you. Some examples of its hummusy contents are: spinach hummus, caramelized carrot hummus, and millet and hummus porridge. And just as I was giving up on there being a hummus-flavour ice cream, right at the back is a recipe for ice-cream cups containing hummus.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Meat Free Monday Campaign, which was launched by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney in 2009. I’ve been having meat-free Mondays (and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) since 1992 but the recipes in this book aren’t just for Mondays, they’re for… actually, I must confess I am mightily confused by the layout of this book. The recipes are categorised by season, then by week, so at first I thought, ‘aha, there must be 52 days of meal plans in here – one a week for a year’ and went to the winter section where I was met by week 1. I have no idea when winter officially starts or started but let’s pretend this coming Monday (3 December for those of you reading this in the future – hello people from the future!) is the first Monday in winter and therefore, on the menu is: cinnamon crepes for breakfast; olive, chicory and orange salad for a packed lunch; ale and puff pastry pie for lunch (if I had a job that meant leaving the house, I’d take a sicky that day so I could have a pie for lunch instead of a flipping orange salad); a side of parsnip gratin; spelt risotto with butternut squash, spinach, chestnuts and goat’s cheese for dinner; and a dessert of chocolate marzipan dates.
There are recipes from Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, as well as from celebrity and chef supporters of the Meat Free Monday campaign such as Skye Gingell, Giorgio Locatelli, Theo Randall, Yotam Ottolengthi, Kevin Spacey and Vivienne Westwood.
Simon Rimmer’s other cookbook – The Seasoned Vegetarian – was responsible for one of the first posts on this blog when I made his rice and mushroom parcel. I also made his white bean chilli which didn’t make the blog (I don’t know why, as I remember enjoying it and making it again – maybe I was making my own recipes by then and not just badly photographing what I’d made for my dinner then blogging about it).
I’m not sure why a meat eater would write vegetarian cookbooks but I suppose it’s not as bizarre as a vegetarian writing meat books and he seems a personable enough chap on Sunday Brunch so maybe meat eaters will see it and buy it because it’s by ‘that personable chap on Sunday Brunch’ not realising it’s a vegetarian cookbook and that’s why it’s called The Accidental Vegetarian?
I’m just rambling now though so I’ll shut up.
Deliciously Ella is a blogger and, boy, does it show in this book. There are pages and pages of her ramblings about her and her husband which should have stayed on her blog, if you ask me. Not that she did ask me, but hey ho. If you can get past the icky personal stuff (you know it’s going to be icky when she uses the word ‘journey’ to describe something other than train, road or air travel), there are 100 vegan recipes including smoky aubergine dip, giant peanut butter cups, and mushroom and chestnut sliders.
The recipes are accompanied by lots of photos of the dishes (and lots of arms, too – is it just me who doesn’t want to see limbs and/or hands in food photos? I just want to see the food, dammit!)
Whenever I go into The Works and have a look at the cookbook section, there are vegan cookbooks there by Áine Carlin. This is not a bad thing because a) her recipes are simple; b) she doesn’t bleat on about personal stuff throughout her book, using words and phrases like ‘journey’ and ’emotional roller coaster’; and c) books in The Works are cheap. These are all good things.
I made her rustic leek, potato and artichoke galette last week and very nice it was too and now I’m tempted by her red pepper and hummus muffins, and the curried chickpea and pine nut pasties.
Also, there are no photos of her or her husband’s hands or arms in the book. Yay for limbless photos.
This cookbook from The Australian Women’s Weekly is huge – it’s as big as Australia itself. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration but it is big and reminds me of the big hefty hardback cookbooks my mum used to have. Thinking back to then, now I’m wondering why – if my mum had big hefty hardback cookbooks – my diet as a child consisted mostly of Findus Crispy Pancakes and Bird’s Eye Cod in Parsley Sauce? Anyway, back to the Vegan Kitchen. As I said, this is a big book and contains over 130 ‘wholefood recipes for a plant-based diet’, such as Italian ‘cheesy’ moxballs (requiring you to make moxarella – a vegan substitute for mozarella), sumac roasted eggplant with orange turmeric yoghurt, and raw choc-peanut cake.
As this is an Australian book, along with the food pics, there are photos of smiley suntanned girls who look like they’ve stepped straight from the set of Neighbours or Home and Away. There are also pics of pineapples, bananas and palm trees to further push the ‘it’s always tropical and sunny here’ vibe, which does nothing to improve my mood while I sit here in a drizzly, windy British seaside town at the end of November counting down the days until the sun comes back or I die, whichever comes first.
The subtitle on this book is ‘seasonal plant based recipes for meals, drinks, crafts, body & home care’ which gives you the hint it’s not a bog-standard book of recipes. There are plenty of photo-accompanied recipes such as Persian rhubarb stew, leek and czar bean savoury crumble, and sun-dried tomato and bean pâté, along with instructions for making flavoured salts, herb-infused sugars, foraged herbal teas and even a section on crafts such as herbal fizzy toilet bombs, hairbrush cleaning kit, and beetroot lip gloss. There are also face masks and body scrubs and all kinds of things to keep the home crafter happy. Sod the food, I’m going to give making my own herbal bath bombs a go.
This book is neat, compact and has illustrations of ingredients, rather than full-colour professionally-styled poncy photos but that doesn’t mean it looks cheap – far from it. According to the blurb on the back, it’s aimed at the youth – college students, young adults leaving home, or just teenagers in general.
Along with recipes such as pea and potato masala, spicy kidney bean soup, and peanut butter cookies, is a section at the back entitled ‘Setting the Table’ which explains how to – um – set a table with plates and knives and forks and glasses and bowls and napkins and a bread basket. Either things have changed for young people since my day when we ate straight out of the saucepan and didn’t bother with plates, or this book is aimed at young people at Eton. Hmm, now there’s an idea for a student cookbook – ‘Eating at Eton’. Remember where you heard it first.
Another book from as-seen-on-TV’s-Masterchef Jackie Kearney – this time one that’s all about faux fish and mock meat, which I luuuuuuuuurve and to hell with the naysayers. The recipes use a variety of ingredients such as seitan (homemade and shop bought), tofu and hearts of palm and, I’m not going to lie, these recipes are long and involved but I made the fish fingers and they were fab, although I’ll stick to using the Vivera Fish Goujons or Fish Burgers (which are flipping goddamn amazing and don’t involve dicking around with aquafaba and hearts of palm) in the future because I’m lazy. I will be trying more of her recipes though when I get around to buying some more vital wheat gluten and the more mock meat cookbooks the better, I say.
*These cookbooks were sent to me by the relevant publishers and the links to Amazon are affiliate links which will earn me a teeny tiny commission should you click on them and buy the book.
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