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

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