We aren’t vegan or vegetarian, but we do like vegetables, and I enjoy reading cookbooks with vegetarian or vegan recipes. These three books were all published this year and are full of tasty and inspiring options to increase the animal-free content of our cooking.
1. My New Roots
The first one is My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season by Sarah Britton.
Queen of the whole food blog scene, Sarah Britton of the fabulous My New Roots blog fame published her cookbook earlier this year.
The recipes are organised seasonally, which is a bit different but OK once you get used to it. She has filled it with a range of different recipes including soups, sauces, salads, drinks and sweet treats, as well as a helpful introductory chapter with essential techniques and basic wholefood recipes.
I worked my way through many of the recipes and almost everything we tried was delicious, including the lentil salad (a very similar recipe appears on the My New Roots blog here), the white bean dip, and the roasted pumpkin salad with tangerine (or mandarin) tahini sauce, which I have made a few times since. One thing that didn’t really work for us was the banana bread granola – maybe I could tweak the recipe and turn it into a slice?
Our favourite was the Fully Loaded Breakfast Bars recipe with a secret ingredient: white beans. I made the Breakfast Bars as smaller sized biscuits and I was really happy to find a sweet treat recipe that passes the “my kids (and my mum) will actually eat this” test while at the same time not having any wheat, eggs, nuts or added refined sugar.
Some of the recipes call for ingredients you may not find in the average pantry (eg nutritional yeast) but most are quite accessible. The book isn’t enormous, but the contents seem carefully selected to cover a wide range of recipes.
I like the fact that rather than telling you what you shouldn’t eat, Sarah Britton’s book is full of delicious recipes you will want to enjoy and share, and they happen to be healthy. This book is going on the Christmas list.
Who will enjoy this book? Me! Plus, followers of Sarah Britton’s blog or anyone interested in a smart collection of delicious wholefood recipes
2. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen
Next on the list is At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin.
I think it is prudent to consider the credibility of the cook before relying on his or her recipes. In this case, Amy Chaplin has a lot of cooking credibility, having grown up in a whole foods haven as a child, spent many years as a chef in vegetarian restaurants and then as a private chef for glamorous high profile clients who speak highly of her and her food.
Also published in the UK and Australia in 2015, this is a big book full of recipes, ideas and resources. The book is in sections which are useful both for explaining whole food ingredients and showing how to use them well, and dotted throughout is Amy Chaplin’s helpful and well written text.
The most useful section for me was the one with ideas for daily use of whole foods. There are lots of really useful instructions and ideas to make this kind of cooking part of your everyday life. I was inspired to try making my own almond milk for the first time (it worked) and made Chaplin’s overnight oats for breakfast. The book gave me a few new ideas, such as adding fresh corn kernels near the end of the cooking time for polenta, then oven baking rather than frying the firm polenta pieces.
There is a beautiful chapter on lovely tarts with wheat free crusts – see an example of one on the Vogue Entertaining website here. The breakfast section is generous and inspiring and there is a whole chapter on sweet treats.
If I had one criticism of the book, it was perhaps because my household may not be in the target audience for some of the recipes – it isn’t really a family friendly, bulk cooking book, although many of the recipes could be adapted to suit. Some of the recipes I tried weren’t too popular with the kids. For example, the cauliflower and millet mash or the marinated beans were not well received by my average Aussie family, but I enjoyed them. Also, a quiet plea to food book publishers in the US: if you are distributing a cookbook in Australia, please consider providing metric conversions for the recipes.
Who will enjoy this book? Me! Also, a small household of adults looking for resources and ideas to introduce more whole foods into their daily eating, or those who are already in the groove of cooking with whole foods and want to be inspired by some lovely recipes for special vegetarian and vegan dishes. This beautiful book will not be out of place on display on your coffee table.
3. Peas and Parsnips – Vegan cooking for everyone
Don’t stop reading because of the word “vegan”! Peas and Parsnips: Vegan Cooking for Everyone by Lee Watson is actually a book with recipes for a whole lot of different foods. Much more casual in style to the Amy Chaplin book, Lee Watson’s book is also filled with information and ideas for the vegan ingredients he uses. As he says “There’s so much more to vegan cooking than tofu and rubber-like nut cutlets”
The book aims to equip you “with minimal fuss, and plenty of accessible ingredients, to make food that would satisfy both a fully-fledged vegan and someone new to the idea who is dipping their toe in the water.”
The UK based author has an engaging writing style, put to use in the book’s interesting background reading about vegetarianism and a chapter with a helpful guide to stocking the vegan larder.
Also published in 2015, Peas and Parsnips has a whole section of fabulous dressings and sauces (and metric measurements, yay!). I especially liked the sauce and dip section, and the “caesar-ish” salad with cashews was great.
One criticism: I have to admit an aversion to the recent trend in recipe books of including many, many photos of the author. A few images are OK to have a picture in our minds of this person cooking this food, but there is a sensible limit which may have been exceeded in this book.
Who will enjoy this book? Anyone happy to read a cheerful cook’s guide and who wants to have a range of tasty meat free recipes at the ready.
You can find more of Lee Watson’s recipes on his blog.