Top positive review
39 of 40 people found this helpful
Interesting selection of recipes
on 31 May 2011
I was initially put off this book owing to the number of low star reviews but then I came across a copy in Waitrose and after spending a few minutes leafing through it resolved to buy it.
It is worth noting that the fly leaf states that the book was not written exclusively for vegetarians. I therefore don't really understand some of the criticisms leveled at this book, particularly with regard to the inclusion of a recipe for chicken stock, and the use of ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce (in any event there is a Vegetarian Society approved version). A vegetable stock recipe is also provided and the recipes themselves merely say 'stock' leaving it up to the cook to decide which is used. Similarly, many of the cheeses in recipes are not vegetarian friendly but we have the option to use veggie alternatives (he acknowledges this in the introduction and even mentions the name of a vegetarian substitute for Parmesan). Given that the intended audience isn't exclusively vegetarian I don't have a problem with any of this, even as a strict vegetarian of more than thirty five years standing.
I am also somewhat bemused by criticism that the recipes wouldn't provide enough protein if you cooked exclusively from this book. Really, how likely is it that someone would cook from just one cookbook and eat nothing else? In my view there is more than enough cheese, eggs, cream and so forth - if anything I would worry about the amount of saturated fats in the recipes rather than be concerned about inadequate nutrition or protein!
When flicking through the book before I bought it I was attracted to some of the more visually striking dishes, for example spinach mousse with Parmesan cream or beetroot jelly with dill & horseradish cream, which would be good dinner party fare. As it turned out there are also plenty of everyday dishes and for the most part the recipes are straightforward, with clear instructions, and don't require hours of preparation.
If I have a criticism, it is that many of the dishes are more in the line of light lunches/dinners or accompaniments. This doesn't bother me unduly as I have frequently used an accompanying vegetable dish which I am serving to my (non-vegetarian) family as the basis of my meal with the addition of rice or a salad to bulk it out. I also wasn't overly keen on the layout, with recipes set out in chapters by ingredient (or complementary ingredients) so that, for example, you have soups and salads dotted around the book. One other thing to watch is that the number of servings per recipe is not consistent - I sorted out the ingredients for one dish thinking it was for four people and wondered why I had too little only to discover the recipe was for two.
The recipes run the gamut from the plain, such as macaroni cheese or an excellent vegetarian chilli, to more sophisticated offerings. Here are my favourite recipes which I hope will give you sufficient information to decide if this book will be of interest: chilled avocado soup with tomatillo salsa; globe artichoke soup; cream of fennel soup with garlic butter; parsnip soup with masala cream - a nice variation on curried parsnip soup; chilled curried mint & cucumber soup; warm asparagus custards with tarragon vinaigrette; red pepper mousse with garlic toasts (a gorgeous summer starter); savoury cheese custards with cream & chives; broad bean stew with summer savory (which, as he suggests, works well spread over a slice of bruschetta); pimento & potato stew with jalapeno relish; a fabulous carrot salad with coriander & green chilli; celery & apple salad in a curry cream dressing; pea & potato samosas; leek & cheese pie; garlic, saffron & tomato quiche; potato pie with Beaufort cheese; thyme, onion & gruyere tart; pappardelle with artichokes & sage; squash ravioli with pine kernels, butter & sage; a really good dhal; baked barley pilaff with Provencal vegetables; grilled white polenta with fonduta; croustade d'oeuf 'Maintenon' (a bit of a faff to make but worth it - poached eggs in pastry with a mushroom duxelle and hollandaise sauce); a fantastic blueberry pie; orange brûlée.
Overall, I found this to be a useful addition to the kitchen bookshelves. In particular I have found it provides some interesting elements for both formal & informal dinner parties or celebration meals.