Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Cookbook Review: Roasting Tin Around the World

Here we are, Roasting Tin book number 4!

I promise I won't bang on about the Roasting Tin books any more (you can get alllll my fangirling here) because let's face it, I've done it enough times. You know I love these books.

I was super excited for this one though as I love trying new things and unusual recipes, and I knew there would be loads of things I'd never made before, and many I'd never even heard of.

So, what did I think?

First Impressions

My first impression of Around the World were actually similar to my initial impression of Quick - a lot of meat and fish recipes! I'd heard 2/3 of the book was veggie or vegan, but I counted 37 veggie recipes out of a book of 75 recipes, so roughly 50% (perhaps more veggie recipes are being saved for another Green book?! PLEASE?!?!!!!). So my first impression was that I was a tiny bit disappointed, but this soon dissipated.

Once I'd properly been through the book, I found 31 vegetarian dishes I wanted to make, plus plenty of recipes that would be easy to make veggie.

The layout of this book is quite different from the other books, as it's organised by continent or region - South American, Asian, European etc. which makes a lot of sense given the context of the book, but it's something to keep in mind if you're used to a classic "desserts at the back" book. On that note, not many desserts in this one if that's something you're interested in (I think I've made maybe two Roasting Tin book desserts ever so it didn't bother me at all).

As with all the other books it's, of course, absolutely beautiful. The styling and photography is lovely, the instructions are all clear and the timings are included in every recipe, as well as serving size.

Of course, with a book called Roasting Tin Around the World there are some recipes that include "unusual" ingredients (eg. probably not something you're going to be able to get in your local Aldi), but I didn't find this as much of a problem as I'd expected (so far I've only bought one ingredient online for this book, but do have a fairly well-stocked kitchen of international ingredients).

I love the variety of recipes in this book and I was super excited to get stuck in!

Here's what I made...

Slow Roasted Peppers with Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Beans

I was very fortunate to be given a sneak-peek of this book about 2 weeks before publication, and this was one of the preview recipes which really caught my eye. I already had some home cooked butter beans (from making the brothy beans from Lukas Volger's Start Simple) so I combined those with a can of cannellini beans.

This is a classic Roasting Tin recipe - the kind of formula I know and love. Minimal prep, a long slow cook and a delicious result.

We had this with salad and big chunks of homemade bread and it was absolutely delicious. The suggestion to pile it onto the bread was particularly lovely - like a big chunky bruschetta. I will definitely be making this one again, especially as a summery light supper or a dinner party starter.

Roasted Carrot, Courgette and Bulgur with Pistachio and Mint

I made this as a bit of a side dish to go alongside some giant beans and feta, and hadn't expected it to end up being the star of the meal.

I'd accidentally, coincidentally, picked up a bag of pistachios a few weeks ago mistaking them for cashews, and I'd been wondering what I was going to do with them as they're not something I usually buy. Luckily this recipe appeared!

I cannot tell you how delicious this is. I can see this being a regular in my lunchbox as the leftovers are just as good cold and it's so full of flavour! The pistachios were a bit of a pain to shell, and I accidentally got dates which had their stones left in, but this would definitely work with different fruit and nuts (cashews! almonds! dried apricots! cranberries!). I cannot wait to make this again.

Kale Mac and Cheese

Right as I went through the book and I saw the America chapter, I said to Phil "oooh I wonder if she's got a mac and cheese in here! She's never done a mac and cheese before!" and lo and behold, there was a mac and cheese recipe!

With one downfall - it had bacon on top.

I was super disappointed by this and I wondered what the bacon added to the mac and cheese which I might miss out on by not adding it.

Nevertheless, I prevailed, with two roasting tins (so Phil could have his with bacon).

Mac and cheese is one of our favourite Sunday night dinners - my favourite recipe is Nigella's sweet potato mac and cheese, and Phil's is the one from Miss South's Slow Cooked (however we do prefer to finish it off in the oven if we can).

I'm used to Nigella's recipe taking quite a lot of prep (the sweet potatos, the roux) and Miss South's containing both a can of evaporated milk and an obscene amount of cheese. This recipe, however, is simply creme fraiche and cheese mixed with mustard. No roux, no bechamel. The prep probably took 15 minutes max.

I honestly wasn't sure if it was going to be a bit bland, or creamy not cheesy, or worst of all, a curdled mess. But no, not at all. It was AMAZING!

We've even made this twice!

I asked Phil last week if there was anything in particular he fancied for dinner and he straight away said "that mac and cheese". Making a recipe twice in a few weeks is a real rarity in this house (I cooked a recipe the other day I hadn't made "for a while" and it turned out the last time I made it was over two years ago...). This time I happened to have some shredded mozzarella in the fridge from homemade pizza, so I did half mozzarella/half cheese for extra stringy factor.

As I was putting this in the oven for the second time, I said to Phil, except for Nigella's mac and cheese (which I have to admit is my ultimate favourite), I don't know if we'll ever make another mac and cheese again.

And I can't be more positive than that!

All-in-one Brazilian black beans and rice with avocado and radish salsa

I was really excited for this one because it involved a lot of things I love!

I'd ran out of canned black beans, but had some dried ones so I used my Instant Pot to cook them first, however it meant I kind of had to guess the quantities - it was hard to get a good idea online what weight of dried beans would equal the equivalent of a can of cooked beans.

I couldn't get shallots so I subbed white onion, and my coriander had gone all slimy and gross so I had to skip most of that so I did extra radishes instead. 

With the additional steps involved in soaking and cooking the beans, I found myself a bit knackered by the time this went in the oven! There was quite a bit of prep with the beans, greens, onions and rice, plus loads of chopping to make the salsa, but in true roasting tin style once everything is in the oven you get a nice 30 minute rest.

I don't think the lack of coriander helped, but the salsa didn't feel much like a salsa, and I didn't understand why it required so much oil along with the already-oily avocadoes.

I'm always a bit stressed about cooking rice in the oven, even though Rukmini has never once let me down, so I think I added a bit too much stock to compensate and subsequently ruined this dish. Extra stock, plus a lack or coriander, plus two not-very-juicy limes meant my version of this recipe was probably quite far removed from the original, so I blame myself that this came out pretty bland! It perked up with some extra lemon juice and salt, but I was really disappointed.

I'd been really excited for this one and I'm torn between wanting to make it again and doing it properly and calling it a loss.

Indonesian style aubergines and potatoes with garlic and chilli

I was really excited about this as I saw it as an opportunity to get Phil to eat aubergine seeing as it was mostly potatoes anyway (or at least this was what I told him). I was a bit nervous about the heat of the paste but went for two chillies - I needn't have worried, it was perfect. 

I really loved this and found it super filling with rice, but unsurprisingly, thanks to the aubergine, it wasn't Phil's favourite so I probably won't make this again.

Indonesian coconut rice, crispy chilli tofu and peanut sambal

I was super, super excited for this. Coconut rice, crispy tofu AND a peanut sauce? This sounded right up my street!

I halved this for a Saturday night - which I later regretted as it was so delicious!

I pressed my tofu for a few hours before in my tofu press (side note - if you eat tofu basically ever, I cannot recommend a tofu press more. I don't cook tofu without pressing it first and it makes such a difference, and a press is so much easier than stacking up loads of books and tins on top. Plus it's way easier to press overnight as you can just pop the press in the fridge), but I struggled to mix everything together while still trying to keep the tofu on top.

The first thing Phil said when he tasted this was "wow." It was so good! The tofu was soft but crisp (I might coat it in cornflour next time for maximum crispness), the peanut sauce was amazing and the coconut rice was really tasty. It's also really filling with the tofu and the peanut sauce.

This is definitely one of the best things I've made from Roasting Tin Around the World. I'm definitely making it again! The only changes I'd make is I probably wouldn't bother with the lemongrass in the rice as, while it was lovely, it's not something I tend to use very often.

Korean-style aubergines with spring onions and sesame rice

I promise I didn't force aubergines on my long-suffering husband again - I made this for myself when we decided to have separate #tinlads dinners (see below). 

I managed to get the requisite Korean chilli flakes from ebay and they took about a week to arrive. However, I learned while making this recipe that it's really hard to weigh chilli flakes, especially when you're halving a recipe and only need 7 grams. As a result this was very spicy! 

My aubergines didn't seem quite cooked enough after half an hour so I gave them another 10 minutes uncovered once the rice was done.

This was really delicious but really spicy! I'm generally pretty okay with heat but it's probably for the best I didn't serve this to Phil - I did have to have a glass of milk after!

I probably wouldn't make this again but I definitely want to make more Korean recipes now I have the flakes to hand!

Roast potatoes, chorizo, onion and sour cream

No, I haven't suddenly abandoned 19 years of vegetarianism - Phil made this while I had my aforementioned aubergines. We joked this was the kind of recipe Phil would make up himself - he's on a real chorizo kick right now and who doesn't love potatoes?

He struggled to get this to fit all on one layer of the tin and we found the onions we catching after about 20 minutes and needed a bit of a stir while everything else carried on cooking.

Phil's review is that this was "very easy" "nice" "less faffy than other recipes and [he] would make it again if [he] had 50 minutes". However he did say the only real flavour is from the chorizo so it would have been nice with some extra spices (we also didn't have any fresh coriander, which the recipe suggests adding).

For reference, he did a full portion to serve 4 and ate half, so keep that in mind if you like bigger portions!

Roasted spiced mushrooms and paneer with squash, pomegranate and mango

Paneer is one of my favourite foods so I was super excited for this!

I hate cutting up fruit, so I used a pack of cubed mango and a pack of pomegranate seeds for the salsa, plus a whole pack of coriander.

We both really loved this, and had it over two nights - with naan the first night and with the pilau (below) the next night. 

I have to make a special trip to Sainsburys to get paneer and I definitely have other paneer recipes I'd make before this one, but it was really tasty. Phil wasn't super bothered about the mango and pomegranate salsa though so I wouldn't bother with that again but I know it would be lovely without it.

All-in-one pilau rice with mushrooms and saffron

I saw Mini make this on her Instagram and it just looked so easy I had to try it.

Super easy, delicious and straightforward - even though I did burn the nuts a bit!

I'd definitely make this again as a side dish.

Spiced paneer with potatoes, peas and tomato

This is a proper classic "chuck everything in the tin" job which I love. 

This is super delicious as a dry, tasty curry which we had with my favourite Meera Sodha green beans.

I was way less excited about this paneer dish compared to the other one but this was by far my favourite of the two.

Rocky Road with peanuts, marshmallows and chocolate

This just says "serves many many many people" but obviously we can't share right now so much to Phil's dismay, we decided to halve this. It's super easy - melt chocolate and butter, stir in marshmallows, biscuits and peanuts and save some to sprinkle on top. Bake for 15 minutes, rest, cut up, chill. 

I was on the phone for most of making this so Phil took over. I thought the tin he'd chosen was a bit wide at first and thought the bars would be too thin but actually it was perfect. It did take a while to cool enough to cut (it was still quite soft when we cut into it) and we left it in the fridge for quite a few hours before cutting it up properly.

We got about 20 decent sized pieces so I've chucked some in the freezer for future treats which will be a lovely surprise!

Phil said the dark chocolate was a bit much for him, even with the sweetness of the marshmallows and digestives (he's not a big dark chocolate fan, whereas I love it), so next time we might try a less-dark dark chocolate (Mini recommends at least 70%) or a mix of dark and milk chocolate.

The texture however was perfect, and even as a person who hates marshmallows I really loved them in this! S'mores are the only way I've ever enjoyed marshmallows and she's spot on with the s'mores-like taste to these. Definitely making again!

Roasted squash, crispy lentils, pomegranate and dukkah

I love that in the intro to this recipe Rukmini says "if you're used to making Ottolenghi dishes you probably already have some pomegranate molasses in the cupboard". It's like she was talking right to me! I love all the ingredients in this and was really excited to try it!

The result? Genuinely one of my favourite ever Roasting Tin dishes. The flavours here are just magnificent - pomegranate! Dukkah! Mint! Yoghurt!. There's just so much going on here and it's all delicious. If I was served this in a restaurant I'd be thrilled.

It's not clear if this is a stand-alone dish or if it needs any sides. I made it for myself for dinner one night and for leftovers for a few days. For dinner I had it alongside a pitta, and found it's plenty enough for lunch alone, though it can be made more substantial with some cous cous alongside.

I've got another portion left for lunch tomorrow, but if I'm not sick of it by then I'm making it again next week!

Final thoughts

The Roasting Tin Around the World is, unsurprisingly, another absolute banger from Rukmini Iyer. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to expand their repertoire and try some new cuisines. However, saying this, I found the book very accessible, and of course, everything in thrown in a tin so there are no complicated cooking techniques, so it would definitely be, like all the Roasting Tin books, a brilliant book for beginner cooks.

I absolutely love the variety of recipes in this book which I think the recipes I cooked really demonstrates - from Indonesian and Korean dishes which I am not as familiar with, to my old favourite Indian and Middle Eastern recipes, to classic mac and cheese, there is just such a range and variety in this book which makes it completely different from many of my other recipe books with centre on a particular cuisine or feature a lot of recipes I've seen many times before.

This is such a perfect addition to the Roasting Tin series. I cannot wait to see what Rukmini does next!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

My Favourite Vegetarian Recipe Books

So I found out on Monday that this week is National Vegetarian Week, so what better time to post about my favourite vegetarian recipe books? (Especially as this post idea has been on my list for actually years).

I've been a vegetarian now for nearly two decades (whattttt) and my introduction to vegetarian cooking came thanks to the vegetarian student cookbooks I took with me to university (shoutout to Beyond Baked Beans Veggie, Vegetarian Nosh for students and the pink-and-green student cookbook).

Like most vegetarians, especially students, I made a lot of veggie curries, quorn bolognese and, when I got super fancy, veggie moussaka. 

I think my love (fine, obsession) with recipe books started around the time I moved in with Phil in early 2015. I have clear memories of moving into our flat with maybe 20 recipes books and by the time we moved into our house in mid-2017 I reckon I had at least 40! (Remember when I thought this was a lot of cookbooks?!)

My collection of recipe books now stands at probably close to 100 (okay fine it's more than likely over 100), and it's always growing (I proudly told Phil last week "I only have three cookbooks preordered for the rest of the year!"), but as much as I love acquiring and exploring new recipe books, I always have my favourites.

These are the books I come back to time after time, my desert-island books, the ones covered in sauce and crumbs and post it notes. These are the books that contain recipes I can almost make with my eyes closed. These are the ones I'd buy for anyone - people starting out as vegetarians, people who want to eat less meat, people who just like delicious food.

When it comes to recipe books, I like books I can cook from after a busy day at work, but I do like a bit of aspiration. I like plenty of quick and easy meals for midwek, but also a handful of recipes I could spend a Sunday afternoon on, or something I'd be proud to serve to friends.

I like to curl up with a recipe book for inspiration. I like to find recipes I've never made before, or even heard of. But I also want a book that isn't preachy, doesn't exclude me from the club for not milking my own almonds, and doesn't constantly moralise about food. And I definitely do not want a diet book.

When it came to writing about favourites, I didn't even need to think about it or look at my shelves. It was so obvious to me which my absolute favourites were, and it's for that reason too that there are 4 and not 5. (Five is a much nicer number than 4 in this context. But I realised that it wasn't fair on my absolute favourites to elevate any other books to their level.)

So as well as my top 4 absolute favourites, I also did an honourable mention section, featuring 7 of my other well-used vegetarian books.

So without any further ado (because that was a lot of ado), my absolute, desert-island, all-time-favourite vegetarian recipe books:

Edit: I've linked to quite a lot of older posts in this post and I'm having issues with some old images not loading which I'm in the middle of sorting, so apologies for that!

A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones

I remember buying this book when Phil and I hadn't long since moved to our flat. A friend had blogged about it and I'd ordered it before I'd even finished reading the post. I remember grabbing a pack of post it notes and sticking one to the corner of every recipe I wanted to make. By the time I was done the book was covered.

This is one of my favourite books I own. I have so many memories of making dishes from it, and there are so many things I've made more times than I could possibly count. I've actually written about it before - back in 2015.

I've made the dahl with sweet potatoes so many times I can taste it. I've made it for friends, family, for just Phil and I. I've tweaked it, added to it, made it my own. I haven't once made the accompanying coconut chutney (there's always at least 2 jars of mango in my house). It feels truly mine now I've made it so many times. The cassoulet too is almost Twitter famous - I remember being so proud making this for my Mum the first time she came over for dinner at our flat. The brown rice pilaf is one of my favourite end-of-the-week-need-to-go-food-shopping magical meals which is somehow so so so much more than the sum of its parts (we like it topped with a fried egg and spring greens), and I always have the ingredients in for the sweet potato quesadillas on a lazy Friday night after a long week (I highly recommend adding feta). OH and the ricotta, thyme and sweet potato bake is amazing too - a delicious centrepiece for a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Yes, there are some weird ingredients at times and yes, she was trained by Jamie Oliver, but I promise you there isn't one "loadsa veg" or any other horrible prefix to a recipe title. And please don't be put off the "recipes that will make you feel amazing" subtitle *eyeroll*.

There are also 200 recipes in here - I couldn't believe how many things I've never gotten around to making (I made the ribolitta for the first time a few months ago and it is amazing). So if you're not into raw brownies, you might be into popcorn tacos. Or if you don't fancy a curry, how about a burger?

Finally, while I would recommend this to anyone - vegetarian or vegan, someone who wants to eat more vegetarian food, person who just likes good food - it does steer clear of the classic veggie recipe tropes - there's no lacklustre lentil lasagne, or bland mushroom risotto or yet another spinach and ricotta cannelloni. They are veggie meals where they meat doesn't feel replaced - it just isn't invited to the party.

So just go buy this book. And make the dahl first.

A Modern Way to Cook - Anna Jones

Oh did you think I was done talking about Anna Jones? (ps. She also has a brilliant Guardian column if you want more of her recipes!)

Her follow up to A Modern Way to Eat, A Modern Way To Cook, came out in 2015. Which was great for me because I'd barely worked my way through the first book when the second came out.

I have to admit, I haven't cooked from this quite as much as the original, but what I love about this book is that it's split into sections by cooking time - one of my issues with AMWTE was the lack of cooking times - so you don't accidentally start making a meal that takes three hours when you've just gotten home from work late.

While there are a few recipes from this book I really love, there is only one recipe that I want to talk about. I think I've probably made this more times than anything else. It's one of those recipes that feels hugely significant and sentimental. I've made it for family and friends, passed the recipe over to so many people. Phil says it's his favourite thing I ever make, and it was the first meal I ever made in our house.

I am, of course, talking about the kale, tomato and lemon magic one pot spaghetti.

I know now that loads of people have mastered the all-in-one pasta, but at the time this was revolutionary. The pasta cooking IN THE SAME POT as the sauce?! What it is this witchcraft?!!! And the thing is I could easily have turned the page on this recipe - lemon and kale spaghetti just doesn't sound all that exciting does it? Plus at the time I wasn't that into pasta and when I was, it had to be covered in some kind of tomato-based sauce.

While this recipe didn't exactly "go viral" (though it definitely should), I feel like it was other people on Twitter who urged me to make it. And the rest, as they say, is history.

There are absolutely loads of other brilliant recipes in this book, but for this recipe alone, A Modern Way to Cook makes my top 4.

The Green Roasting Tin - Rukmini Iyer

Guys, you don't need me to talk more about The Green Roasting Tin. Just go read this post.

I'm torn between this and A Modern Way to Eat as my ultimate MVP and you know what I don't have to choose because they're both amazing.

Shout out to the baked gnocchi (don't make me choose between the ricotta and rosemary one and the butternut and mushroom one), gado gado, sweet potato polenta, dal, ratatouille and leek and puy lentil gratin.

Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking

I actually blogged about this book wayyyyy back in 2016. I wonder if I knew then how much I'd use this book now.

It's not even that I've cooked loads of recipes from it - it's just that it contains two of my absolute most-made recipes, which are in turn, two of the best versions of two veggie classics.

One is the super-thick three bean chilli. I've made a load of veggie chilli in my life, and this is my favourite. I love how thick it is, I love all the veg, I love all the beans, I love the sweet-spiciness of it (the reason most of the recipes in this book are great is because basically every one contains like, a tablespoon of sugar and I'm okay with it). I make it with rice, I shove it in jacket potatoes, I use it as a base for burrito bowls. It's my absolute go-to chilli, I always have all the ingredients in and it's infinitely adaptable.

Two is the tomato and lentil ragu, which is my go-to veggie bolognese. Again, it's sweet and a little spicy and full of chunky lentils. I've eaten a lot of disappointing veggie bolognese in my life and I tell you, this is not one of them.

Also shout out to the house salad which I have adopted as my own, the chickpea tabbouleh (delicious!) and the chickpea masala (one of my favourite chickpea curries).

Honourable mentions

I can't sit here with 100+ recipe books and only give you my top 4 favourites now can I? Here are my other highly recommended veggie recipe books:

  • Keep it Vegan by Aine Carlin
Contains my other favourite dal, my favourite tagine and one of my favourite people-over-for-dinner meals, pea and mint risotto. Full review here.

  • Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor
The veggie enchiladas are my fave, and I love the sweet potato and feta scramble. Full review here.

  • East by Meera Sodha
We make the egg fried rice from this book at least once a month, the honey-miso tofu is incredible and I love the sun house chilli eggs for a weekend brunch. I have so much still to make from this but it's really expanded my repertoire. Full review here.

  • Bosh and Bish Bash Bosh, both by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby
Excuse the ridiculous names - these vegan recipe books have some brilliant recipes. They are very Jamie Oliver circa 2005 which I find really grating, so if you're the same just read the recipes and skip the intros. From the original Bosh, the korma, veggie kebabs and sweet and sour tofu are amazing (full review here). From Bish Bash Bosh I love the singapore noodles and Vietnamese tofu (full review here).

  • Isa Does it by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
This is a bit of a vegan classic (I actually prefer it over her cult classic, Veganomicon), and one of the first vegan books I ever bought. I've had it for so long I don't even know where I got it from. The kale salad with lentils and butternut squash is incredible (and infinitely adaptable so long as you keep that delicious dressing and crispy kale) and I love the Tamale Shepherd's Pie on a Sunday. A real classic.

  • Start Simple by Lukas Volger
This is a new addition so it's too early to tell yet whether it will become a classic, but the peanut butter and greens sandwich and the veggie carbonara are absolutely game changers. I'm looking forward to cooking from this more. Full review here.

Do you have any favourites that I might have missed? Let me know on Twitter!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Cookbook Review: Start Simple by Lukas Volger

Some recipe book purchases take a while. I dither, I add them to wishlists, baskets, Birthday lists. Endless justification and some guilt along the way.

Others are easy. Meant to be. 

This is one of the latter.

My main criteria for buying a new book is usually the following:

  • a) is it entirely vegetarian and 
  • b) do I not have anything similar? (this stops me buying literally dozens of vegetarian Indian books, of which I already have many!). 
I also prefer books which I can cook from on a busy Monday after a long day at work (as much as I love my "for best" books, they are definitely much less used).

What made this book appeal to me initially was not only that it was entirely vegetarian (tick!) but the focus on 12 simple ingredients, and for each ingredient, a selection of recipes using them. It also helped that many of these ingredients are things I buy every week or always have in - including chapters on greens, beans, tofu, tortillas, sweet potatoes and mushrooms which are nearly always on my shopping list.

So it was a strong start even before purchase.

First Impressions

I'm a member of Eat Your Books (a service I am planning to write a blog post about because I dithered about joining for years before I actually signed up!) and around the time I ordered this book it had recently been indexed which meant I could have a look at the recipes that were inside it before the book arrived.

I really liked the variety of dishes even using the same ingredients and I quickly had a long list of recipes to try!

When it arrived, my first impression was that it was a really beautiful book. The little jacket cover was such a nice touch - so much so I was sad to take it to look inside!

One of my first realisations about the book was how perfect it was for lockdown cooking - loads of recipes involved storecupboard essentials, and the premise of "one ingredient, multiple meals" works perfectly if, like most people, you're trying to do as few food shops as possible and eke out as many meals as you can from what you already have in.

I loved reading through this and bookmarking recipes to make. There were so many things I wanted to try and many recipes seemed pretty flexible and made it easy to substitute ingredients (especially helpful right now!) and I was really, really excited to cook from it. I was quietly confident it would be a winner.

And here's what I made...

Peanut Butter and Greens sandwich

I actually wrote about this here, as I found the recipe online as I was waiting for the book to arrive. The marinated greens are a really straightforward recipe which are used throughout the "bunch of greens" section, and I've made them quite a few times since. 

I knew I would love this but I don't think I realised quite how much I would love it - I've eaten it three times over the last few weeks! Once I have a bag of spring greens or kale (something I buy pretty much every week), all I need is a few spring onions (which I'm currently growing from scraps), and everything else is storecupboard essentials (peanut butter, sriracha, bread and olive oil/butter).

I've had this twice for lunch, and even had it for breakfast. The flavours just work perfectly. It's like a satay sandwich, and the greens and spring onion give it a delicious texture and crunch. A strong start for this book!

Miso-maple tofu with melted onions

We eat tofu quite a lot and I always have a few half-blocks in the freezer for quick recipes like this. This recipe serves 4 so I halved it for the two of us because I only defrosted half a block of tofu, but I'm not sure if I should have kept the full quantities of sauce and onions for a less-dry dish.

This is pretty classic tofu recipe with miso, but the onions were a nice addition. I will say mine were definitely more crispy than melty - the recipe advises 30 minutes in the oven but I could smell mine catching after 20.

This was tasty and easy, and a good storecupboard option. I'm not sure it's my favourite go-to tofu option but I like the fact I could make it again easily without going shopping.

Carbonara with Marinated Green and Fried Capers

I really, really, really hate cream. I've said it before, I'll say it again. I hate it. And I also generally really hate creamy sauces (cheesy? Fine. But most creamy sauces are a no from me). Now I know carbonara traditionally doesn't contain cream, but a lot of recipes include it. And they also usually contain meat. So for me, carbonara is not something I'm interested in ever.

But I am married to a man who LOVES carbonara. Carbonara is a meal Phil regularly makes when I'm out or away (which obviously is non-existent at the moment!), so this one was for Phil.

This actually supposedly serves 3-4 but I looked at how much spaghetti was allowed and was like, erm, this is how much I would do for two of us, and I am very glad I didn't halve it!

I've actually never ever made carbonara before, so all of this was new. I made the marinated greens first (this time I used kale), but the whole thing came together really quickly with all storecupboard ingredients.

And it was soooooo delicious! Phil especially loved it. The little pops of caper were tangy and salty and I think helped to replicate that "meat-y" flavour (I mean I'm kind of making this up because I have no idea because I don't eat meat). This was a real winner. I'm already looking forward to making this again.

A Stovetop Lasagne

Lasagne is my nemesis. I tried to make one a few weeks ago - I had a portion of my favourite lentil bolgnese ready and I made a fresh bechamel from scratch. I was so excited popping it in the oven, and impatiently waited for delicious tomatoe-y, cheese-y veggie lasagne. Until I pulled it out of the oven. Bechamel = gone. Pasta = raw and gummy and crunchy. Lasagne = disgusting.

And this isn't the only time. I just can't make lasagne. It always comes out gummy and dry and crunchy.

So, I decided, maybe stovetop lasagne is the answer.

There are a few recommendations of "base" recipes to make for the lasagne filling - I made a batch of the roasted mushrooms and half of the roasted mashed butternut squash (the lasagne is in the Butternut Squash chapter, so this felt appropriate. Obviously it takes a while to roast a squash so you need to keep this in mind when making this recipe!).

I thought I'd be making both a white sauce and a red sauce when the recipe started with a roux, but instead it's a roux-based tomato sauce which I hadn't made before. It's pretty easy and straightforward to make.

Next was the pasta, which after my previous disasters, I was convinced wouldn't cook properly. Even in quite a big pan it's quite hard to add three layers of pasta evenly while pushing it under the surface of the sauce and I was convinced it would be raw. Instead, the opposite happened - I actually burned some of the pasta on the bottom of the pan! (It's fine I totally styled it out by pretending it's like the crispy top of a baked lasagne.)

And it was so so delicious! Much more saucy and cheesy than a regular lasagne - it naturally lacks structural integrity (although it does firm up the next day) so it does feel a bit more like a bowl of pasta than a lasagne. I would definitely make it again, however, I felt the butternut squash was a bit lost and not quite worth the effort, so next time I'd either not bother at all with it, or add another filling. A real winner!

Lentil Skillet Bake with Spinach, Tomatoes and Eggs

This is a bit like a Roasting Tin recipe except you start it on the hob. I don't have an oven-safe skillet so I had to move everything to a tray - which is fine, but it isn't super clear in the recipe.

There's a "trick" to caramelising onions quickly according to the recipe, but mine ended up burned so I didn't quite get that right!

We had this with pitta and houmous and it didn't make loads - Phil had to have two pittas - so it was a good indicator that portion sizes are small in this book.

My first not-quite-successful recipe from this book - not sure I'd make this again.

Garlic-sesame kale and avocado salad

In one of the reviews I read for this book someone wrote "it's worth the price of the book for the avocado and kale salad alone", which was good enough a review as any for me!

I looooove kale salads and of course, avocado, because I am nothing if not a basic millennial. 

It's not super clear if this is a side (I mean I hope it is otherwise the serving would have been a serving for ants) so we had this alongside leftover stovetop lasagne,

It's so easy, so delicious - like guacamole salad! I am definitely going to be picking up extra kale and avocados to make this as a side salad more often!

Baked Squash risotto

I used the other half of my butternut squash to make this baked risotto - very Roasting Tin style! I grated the butternut squash in the food processor because butternut squashes are bad enough to cut, let along grate.

I halved this to serve 2 (and checked how much rice I normally do for risotto to make sure I didn't end up with tiny portions!) but was a bit worried the rice wouldn't cook properly.

I'm still confused about the recipe asking for 4 cups of water, requiring you add 2.5 cups and then never telling you what to do with the remaining 1.5 cups, and I'm still not entirely sure what I was meant to do with the spinach (see picture), but this was pretty tasty and Phil in particular loved it. I tend to make risotto in my Instant Pot (see this post) but this was another good option.

Brothy Beans

Around the time I got this book, Bon Appetit did a post about "brothy beans" and an accompanying video and I was really excited to make them. I decided to do a half portion, so I soaked my butter beans in the morning ready to make in the afternoon.

I had Carla's video on to accompany me while making these beans, though I didn't add any extra flavourings as I wanted to make the recipe with the polenta and greens (below). I added the salt, and then on Carla's suggestion, a bit more, and checked them every half an hour.

After an hour they were done but veryyyyyy salty. Carla's video had led me to believe there was basically no such thing as over-salting your beans (she adds salt by the handful in the video) but apparently, if you half a recipe but forget to halve the salt, and then add extra salt, you end up with pretty salty beans...

(I want to add this is 100% my fault and nothing to do with Lukas' recipe!)

However, I totally saved them...

Spicy Beans and Greens over Polenta

So, salty beans and broth ready, I made the polenta and greens. I've noticed a few times when cooking American polenta recipes that polenta in the US is definitely different from the stuff we get here in the UK, as this recipe said to simmer for 15 minutes and mine was definitely done after 5.

I used some frozen spinach as the greens and added the harissa and garlic and served up the beans atop the polenta with the greens, surrounded by broth.

And it was... salty. Very salty. So salty in fact that I kind of panicked. Had I completely ruined my beans and therefore my dinner? 

Fortunately, the blandness of the polenta is perfect if you've accidentally oversalted your beans, and once everything was mixed in, it didn't taste too salty at all, but I was already pretty scarred from the experience. While this was tasty, I wouldn't make it again.


I actually wasn't planning to cook from this book again after the beans and polenta, but I'd intentionally saved a couple of portions of the beans and broth to eat through the week and realised I was going to have to water them down quite a bit to be edible, so I decided to make soup. I searched my Eat Your Books account for recipes I had for bean and greens soup, and as luck would have it, there was a ribolitta recipe in this book!

It ended up being absolutely perfect for my needs. I had beans and broth, a couple of bendy carrots, some leftover marinated greens and some homemade bread which was starting to go stale. I didn't have any celery but I threw in a few mushrooms that needed using up, as well as the rest of the ingredients.

And this was sooooooo delicious! I'm so glad I made it because it's been getting better every day for lunch this week. With the saltiness of the bean broth and my extra portions of greens I was able to water this down quite a bit to get 4 good portions (I'd initially halved the recipe) and while I went a little off-piste, I think I can definitely thank Lukas for the flavours and the inspiration. I would definitely make this again when I next need to clear out the fridge.

Final thoughts

This is an absolutely brilliant book which I cannot recommend more.

It's perfect for the veggie in your life, but I also think it would be an excellent purchase for meat-eaters looking to eat more plant-based, as it makes vegetarian cooking easy and not at all overwhelming.

Like I said in the intro too, it's also a great choice for lockdown cooking. The multiple options for each ingredient mean you can buy a big box of mushrooms or a butternut squash or greens and know you have loads of options for how to use them. Lukas talks about the book being ideal for people who don't meal plan as once you have the main ingredients you can just grab whatever you need depending on which recipe you fancy, but it also works perfectly for people who meal plan, as you can plan your week around the individual ingredients without getting bored. It's also perfect for batch cooking, especially things like the brothy beans and marinated greens.

I know this is going to be a book I turn to over and over again and take inspiration from - I've already made the peanut butter and greens sandwich three times, and I really fancy that carbonara again!

Let me know if you give this book a try!

Charlotte x