Monday, 1 August 2016

Cookbook Review: Veganomicon

If I had to pick my favourite recipe book author, Isa Chandra Moskowitz would be up there (although I think Anna Jones would be my number 1). I own four of her books (Isa Does It, Veganomicon, Appetite for Reduction and Vegan with a Vengeance) and some of my favourite vegan recipes come from those pages.

I plan to review all of those books over the next few months, but I decided to start with Veganomicon because, before I started to review it, I used it the least.

But the book is a cult favourite, so I thought I'd challenge myself to cook from this one first.

First impressions

First impressions is urgh, I really hate the layout of this book! The first chapter is "snacks, appetisers, little meals, dips and spreads." This is not a great first impression for me! How often do I make appetisers? Then the following chapters are brunch, salads and dressing, and sammiches. I rarely make a vegan brunch (I'm going to be honest, my brunch contains eggs 95% of the time) and I don't really eat sandwiches. Okay, salads I do love, but from a first impressions perspective, there just isn't enough in the early chapters to inspire me.

Next up is "mix and match" which is a nice idea - recipes meant to be combined to make a meal. There are four parts - vegetables, grains, beans and tofu and tempeh, with recommendations of which to put together. While I like this idea, it also stresses me out. I'm not inclined to make a three-part recipe at 6pm when I get home from work.

Later in the book you get One Pot Meals  and Casseroles which are much more up my street, but from a first impression perspective I felt quite "meh." There aren't photos to accompany the recipes, just a central section with a few photos, and I really appreciate the glossy photos in Isa Does It.

However, feeling a bit lost, I had a look online to see what other people were saying about Veganomicon, and which recipes were worth giving a try. Plus when I went through properly with my trusty post-it notes to find recipes I wanted to make, I ended up filling almost 3 of them, which is about 35 recipes. So that's not bad going. I also really appreciated reading up on the most popular recipes - I often find there are recipes I would never have considered that are real fan favourites.

So here's what I made...

Samosa-stuffed potatoes
Okay, you got me, I actually made these months ago, but they're on our regular rotation list (not that we often have the same thing twice in our house...). I've made these at least twice because they are amazing, and usually serve them with the spinach and tomatoes (below) and lots of mango chutney. These are under the appetisers section (although Isa recommends serving them with the spinach and tomatoes, and serving a whole potato each to make them a full meal), and I'm glad I gave that a flick through because, like I said, I rarely make appetisers so I could easily have missed these. Super easy, very tasty and once the potatoes have cooked, quick to throw together.

Chickpea romesco with saffron garlic rice
This is a combination recommended in the "mix and match" section and a fan favourite. I'd actually never had romesco before (although Googlet tells me it's a Spanish sauce traditionally served with fish and it's starting to ring a bell, but that definitely wasn't on my mind when I made this), so I can't vouch for it's authenticity, but I thought this was really tasty and would even serve it to guests (the highest compliment I can give anything!). I added steamed broccoli and a squeeze of lemon juice. An easy, delicious store-cupboard dinner.

Chickpea cutlets
I like something "meat-esque" to go with my Sunday roast, mostly because I like to smother it in gravy, and these cutlets were recommended as a quicker alternative to making seitan. I do have a seitan recipe that I adore, but I admit it's not a quick recipe, and I always end up with a boatload to use up. These were easy to make, but I couldn't get them thin enough and ended up overcooking them. They were a bit dry and chewy (but this could be because I overcooked them!) but went well with Sunday roast. However I found they went a bit soggy after a few days, so I'm not sure I'd make them again.

Spaghetti and beanballs
These were a huge success in our house! I had mine with courgette noodles and Phil had spaghetti, and we topped them with vegan parmesan from Minimalist Baker. I chose to bake them and then added them to the sauce at the end, and they did fall apart a bit, but that didn't take away from them at all. Quick, tasty and Phil said "you could serve these to guests!" so maybe I will sometime! We had the leftover bean balls and sauce the following night as "beanball subs" as Isa recommends, but we didn't make the pine nut cheese, so I don't think that counts as another recipe from the book!


Mushroom walnut pate
Here's an appetiser I actually did make! I said I don't have much of a reason to make apppetisers, and I normally don't, but a few weeks ago my friend Riven came over for tea so I made the Mushroom-walnut pate and served it with some black pepper crackers. It was absolutely delicious! Really quick and easy and tastes way better than the sum of its parts. Would definitely recommend it if you have guests over!

Portobello salad with spicy mustard dressing
An easy, tasty summer dinner. Not the quickest in the world due to marinating time, but so worth it for the delicious mushrooms. Loved the tasty dressing too. 

Curried tofu, tamarind lentils and spinach and tomatoes
I made this as part of a little Indian feast for my friend Eve and I last weekend. I pressed the tofu before marinating and after baking the texture was perfect - it worked wonderfully as part of a meal with the tasty taramind lentils. The spinach and tomatoes have been a favourite accompaniment to Indian dishes for a while and worked perfectly here. Really enjoyed this, and everything reheated well for leftovers the next day, too.

Black bean burgers
I've mentioned several times that I have a difficult time making veggie burgers,but I'd heard these described as the "best ever black bean burger" so I had to give them a try. Conclusion? They were okay. Bizarrely lacking in salt which really improved them, but I definitely have better black bean burger recipes.

Lentil cauliflower curry
We eat curry a lot so I am always on the lookout for new curry recipes. This seemed to take a really long time (over an hour in total) and was okay, but I have much better curry recipes. I don't think I'd make this again.

So in conclusion, a good book, but not my favourite. There are definitely a few recipes I'll make again (chickpea romesco, bean balls, tofu, pate) and quite a few I won't (bean burgers, curry, cutlets) but I think overall I've actually had more successes than failures. There are loads more recipes I want to try from this book, so reviewing it has definitely challenged me to look at this book again!

Charlotte x

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