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on 2 April 2011
As a vegan Texan living in the UK, I sorely missed Latin food. Terry's book really takes care of every possible craving I could have and creates a few new ones! I've easily made 1/3 of the recipes in the book. I've had it for less than a year and it's almost as stained with use as my other favourites that I've owned for years. I love this book so much, I even sent copies to my sister in Texas and my best friend in Newcastle.

My favourite recipes are the Drunken Beans with Seitan Chorizo paired with the Yellow Rice with Garlic (the best rice I've ever eaten in my life), Quick Red Posole with Beans, Swiss Chard with Raisins and Capers, Chimichurri Baked Tofu, pupusas, Cachapas (corn pancakes), tamales, Agua de Papelón, and Coconut Tres Leches Cake. In fact, apart from the plantains, I can't think of a single thing I've made from this book that I didn't love.

There are really just a few recipes that I want to make but can't because of lack of ingredients. However, most of what you can't get from health food shops can be purchased online - masa, chillies, annatto seeds, and spices from Lupe Pintos or Chilli Pepper Pete, vital wheat gluten (for the seitan - which has nothing to do with spelt) from Flourbin or Low Carb Megastore, nutritional yeast from Real Foods, Goodness Direct, or Vit-Shop, etc. So look around and experiment, and don't be put off by the unfamiliarity of it!
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on 3 April 2011
I love this book. It has been great for expanding my cooking repertoire. South American food is poorly represented in the UK, and until I bought this book my knowledge boiled down to either chilies or fajitas/enchiladas. This book has really started to open my eyes to a world of brilliant cuisine and there's not been a single dish I've tried from here that I haven't loved (even the plantains!)

Yes, some of the ingredients can be a little hard to track down on a cold Tuesday night after work, but either a little inventiveness and substitution, or a bit of forward thinking to stock your pantry, overcomes those problems. If you were to get completely stuck on locating an ingredient, then the world of the internet is there to help with substitutions and advice. I recently came across corn husks in a food store and can't wait to get working on some tamales!

Given the ingredients situation in the UK, unless you live close to a good ethnic food shop, this book isn't necessarily for someone who wants an easy no-brains-inspiration dinner when you're exhausted from work. If you're into cooking and get excited by new cuisines, ingredients, and ideas, and you don't mind a little forward thinking, experimenting and creativity to get round the occasional ingredient, I thoroughly recommend it.
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This book introduces us to the incredible tastes and diversity of Mexican influenced cooking, a cuisine often overlooked here in the UK. Like Veganomicon, this book features lots of useful hints and tips as Terry shares her wisdom on issues like explaining the various folding methods for burritos or showing you how to make authentic tortillas with masa harina. You can, of course, use shop bought ones but that takes away all the fun! My favourite recipes so far has been the tamales - sweet poato flavoured chipotle in adobo, wrapped in corn husks and then steamed. It's well worth hunting out all the authentic ingredients for this book but you won't be disappointed with the recipes using more accessible items. Definitely one of my favourite books of the year.
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on 1 January 2014
Venezuelan-American cookbook author Terry Hope Romero (Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook) makes Latin food vegan-friendly in Viva Vegan! This collection of 200 vegan recipes includes offerings from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. You'll find updated favorites like tostones and mofongo (Puerto Rico), stuffed arepas (Venezuela and Colombia), tamales and tortas (Mexico), ropa vieja (Cuba), ceviche (Peru), and more.

If you're new to vegan and / or Latin cuisine, fear not! Romero thoughtfully includes a primer on the vegan Latin pantry, along with numerous sidebars, suggested menus (The Buena Vegan Social Club, Colombian Colors, Buenos Aires Potluck, Sofrito So Good, etc.), and a quick-start shopping list (which can be printed at the author's website) that'll have you whipping up vegan delights with Latin flair in "sólo unos minutos" (okay, maybe un poco más for some of the recipes). Quirky Spanish phrases pepper the book; they may not be grammatically correct, but they're likely already familiar to non-Spanish speakers.

Recipes are straightforward and in easy-to-read typeface; recipe names are in all-caps red, while the ingredients and steps are supplemented with tips, uses, and variations. You'll find animal-free versions of staples like dulce de leche, chicharrones (instead of deep-fried pork rinds, Romero uses Chinese-style tofu; I would imagine that tofu skins would also crisp up nicely), masa dough (using vegan margarine and vegan shortening to replace the lard used in traditional tamales), and chorizo (there's an included recipe for seitan chorizo, but Field Roast makes a very good (and spicy) chipotle vegan sausage that could be substituted). If you don't live in a city with a large Hispanic population, some of the items such as guava paste, masa harina and cleaned corn husks for tamales, frozen yuca chunks, and aji panca paste may be difficult to find.

I loved the recipes I tried: the very Spanish Swiss chard with raisins and capers was fantastic! I substituted kale for the chard and golden raisins for the dark raisins and increased the fruit to ½ cup. Absolutely delicious! The oil crisps the garlic and coats the greens (I reduced the oil to 1 tablespoon), and the capers add a delightfully salty tang that contrasts beautifully with the raisins' sweetness.

My second attempt was the sweet and nutty roasted stuffed plantains. They were divine, filled with a sweet-salty combo of sea salt, brown sugar, and walnuts (I'm vegetarian, not vegan, so I used a sprinkle of queso fresco during the last few minutes of cooking). Make sure if you're roasting plantains (as opposed to frying, which works better with unripe green plantains) that their peels are almost completely black; if your plantains aren't fully ripe, they won't soften up as you bake them (lesson learned!).

Like most vegan cookbooks, Viva Vegan! relies heavily on soy and wheat meat substitutes, including tofu, TVP, soy creamer / soymilk and seitan. If you're allergic to soy or wheat, there are plenty of wonderful veggie and grain-based dishes like gallo pinto, red beans with Dominican-style sazón, potato-chickpea enchiladas, and spicy tortilla casserole with roasted poblanos that you can enjoy.

To help you wash down your newly-veganified Latin cuisine, the author provides recipes for sangria, michelada (ice-spiked beer, lime, salt and hot sauce), and the ubiquitous mojito. Sweet endings include pineapple-raisin sweet tamales (the fruit is worked into the dough), deep-fried churros con chocolate, and tropically-inspired gems such as majarete (sweet coconut corn pudding), dulce de batata, papaya-lime sorbet and sweet corn ice cream.

The verdict: Viva Vegan! is a great addition to any kitchen and a great way to add a little "sabor latino" to your next meal!

(Review copy courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books)
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To be honest, I found this book a little confusing. I admit that I have never tried to cook Latin American food before and was hoping to spice up my vegan repetoire but quite a lot of the ingredients can only be found online and my local big supermarkets had never heard of half the ingredients on my list; I still haven't found toasted manioc flour although I've found out it is made from cassava. I did find a couple of recipes that contained fairly 'normal' ingredients such as "Creamy Corn-Crusted Tempeh Pot Pie" and "Tangy Mojo Sauce".

There are lots of sauce and salsa recipes and a lot of seitan recipes.

It is not a book for the beginner that you can simply pick up and start cooking; I couldn't tell which recipes were starters or main courses (I apologise for showing my ignorance of Latin American cuisine) although there is a section at the back of the book which gives ideas for dinner parties. There is also a shopping list at the back of the book.

For newcomers like me to Latino cuisine I think the book would have benefited from photographs next to the recipes; there are only 16 photos in the middle of the book which are very colourful and look appetising but I think they should have been placed at the side of the recipes.

Edited to take comments into account - I have been vegetarian for several years but have only just taken the plunge into becomming vegan.I apologise for thinking Spelt was the same as seitan. Thank you for comments and putting me straight on this one. (I shouldn't rely on Wikkipedia for info!!))Perhaps we should bombard the big supermarkets with requests for more vegan products.
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