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on 27 June 2009
A really excellent vegetarian cookbook that I fear will only appeal to a very limited minority - those who want to cook vegetarian food and have also got the talent, ability and desire to cook complex, sometimes difficult dishes using a large number of ingredients.

First off, it should be said that the recipes in this cookbook are really pretty remarkable.

Beautifully photographed, this book is a joy to read and I would happily leave it lying around on my coffee tables for everyone else to skim through with hungry appreciation.

Some of the recipes that particularly appealed to me were Watermelon Gazpacho in Thai Style; Lemongrass and Sweetcorn Soup with Creme Fraiche; Mushroom, Beetroot, Mozzarella with a Lentil Cartouche. I wasn't so keen on the idea of the Griddled Radicchio and Strawberry Risotto, but maybe it is amazing too. Hopefully this gives you a sense of the adventurous, exotic nature of the recipes in this cookbook!

With that said, personally I found the recipes so complex that I don't think I will be attempting to cook from this book often. They are the kind of food I would be absolutely delighted to be served in a restaurant, but which I probably wouldn't get around to preparing myself unless it's for a very special occasion where I want to wow my guests. For example, the opening dish of Carrot Pancakes with Houmous and a Feta Salad looks delicious but there are 36 separate components! Don't be put off - it's not that the recipes involve difficult techniques, and they are explained clearly and well. It's more the quantity of ingredients involved - just not things you would have hanging around in your kitchen cupboards. For me, getting all of the ingredients together would involve a lot of time and expense.

I am sure I will come back to this book a lot, but maybe more for inspiration and reading pleasure than for actual use. I'm not sure that I'm the type of cook it's intended for. I would actually recommend this to any vegetarian cook in any case, simply because it has such beautiful flavour ideas and makes for a great read. A brilliant cookbook - but make sure you are up to the challenge!
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on 8 July 2009
This is a very inventive and imaginative book, with some wonderfully original and mouth-watering ideas. The only criticism I would make is that many of the recipes are very complicated with lots of stages involved - it is definitely not in the "quick and easy / supper in 30 minutes" category !

Really I wish that somebody else would take the trouble to make these lovely recipes for me ! However I will certainly use this book when having a dinner-party or any time when I want to make an effort for a special occasion
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on 28 July 2010
I read more cookbooks, and magazines, than I cook from -- the unused Nigella's and Jamie's are numerous on my shelves -- but this one is truly a revelation.

The recipes are stunning. And unusual. I am eagerly awaiting the next book from Maria Elia.

I am not a vegetarian, but started making more of an effort for friends who are. I bought this book because it looked nice, and was new at the time. I have since bought uncountable copies for various friends -- some are vegetarians, some are accomplished cooks looking for new combinations, some are gardeners looking to use up their produce. It was the Butternut Squash Tagine that did it for me... it is one of the best things I have ever eaten. The couscous is stunning and not cooked in a way that I'm used to...

If you have ever bought a book from Skye Gyngell, Peter Gordon or even Gordon Ramsay or Gary Rhodes, you will identify with this book.

Contrary to other reviews here, and also in contrast to the chefs above, I do not find anything in the book complicated to cook. That said, it is not mindless cooking. You don't need to have particularly good skills, but you do need to plan ahead. The recipes are occassionally lengthy, or the ingredients are out of the normal comfort zone. It has made me pay better attention: watermelon juice is readily available in my neighborhood Tesco! I haven't yet bought fenugreek leaves, but don't think their absence is noted in the absolutely gorgeous Tomato and Coconut Curry (and it is a simple 30 minute supper...).

I have now cooked at length from the book and have found no faulty recipes. I have only found my friends to be somewhat stunned, coming out with comments like 'michelin star cooking'. I'm nowhere near that, and think Masterchef has a lot to answer for, but this book is great. I can't wait to try the Watermelon Gazpacho...

Sweetcorn soup, as simple as can be, and the Fennel and Coconut soup too... and the Puy Lentils... just stunning....
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on 5 October 2011
I own many vegetarian cookbooks, but this is the only one where I actually want to try all the recipes. In the two years I've had the book, I have tried more recipes than from any other cookbook I own.
Unlike some previous reviewers, I haven't found the techniques difficult at all. Many of the dishes are very simple ideas, but they pack in lots of flavour.
The author is clearly creative, adventurous and enthusiastic about food and experimenting. Some of the ingredients are a little unusual but not difficult to track down; some come up again and again (feta, watermelon, filo pastry), betraying Maria Elia's roots.
We have tried the watermelon gazpacho (delicious), watermelon, black bean and paneer curry, apple baklava with Turkish delight ice cream (superb), lavender syrup cake, tomato, feta and date baklava, baked feta on a watermelon slab, butternut squash tagine with couscous, white chocolate and lemon brownies (yum), lemongrass and ginger chocolate tart (subtle, rich flavours) and more.
If I have a criticism, it's that the recipes are written by someone who is instinctive about cooking and expects the reader to be as well, so she doesn't always spell everything out. She is brimming with ideas for variations, but I'm not always convinced that she has thought them through, or that the recipes have been thoroughly tested (cooking times especially). Some of them take quite a lot longer to make than she suggests; and watch out, sometimes they're very salty!
But overall, it's an inspiring book and I'm looking forward to cooking many more recipes. By comparison my older vegetarian cookbooks seem full of brown, dull, worthy food.
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on 28 April 2010
Maria Elias pays homage to the flavour of the humble vegetable in this good-looking book. One of my favourite things about the book is the way she builds the depth of vegetable flavours into her recipes, using the veg themselves. She pays great attention to the use of stock in many of the recipes, with a couple of stock recipes at the end, and sometimes making it on the run with the peelings of the main veg in a recipe. My favourite example of this is in the parsnip risotto, a dish perfect for cold weather comfort food.

As others have commented, many of the recipes are complicated and for special occasions only, but the chapter on side dishes has simpler ideas. Coconut basmati rice and braised broad beans with lemon and dill for example.

My favourite recipe so far is for carrot pancakes. As someone pointed out, the full recipe is for carrot pancakes with houmous and a feta salad, another complicated recipe which she describes as `perfect for a light lunch, snack or starter. It also makes great party canapes'. Well, it's too time consuming for all that, but the pancakes on their own are actually simple and really tasty - and highly recommended!
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on 20 June 2009
I have bought a LOT of vegetarian cookbooks and love cooking vegetarian food. This is a great addition to my collection. Wonderful spicy flavours and new ideas - not just a re-hash of old ideas as many vegetarian cookbooks (in particular) seem to be. Got the book and within the first two weeks or so have tried at least 10 dishes. I now turn to this on many occasions as it covers simple to cook weekday suppers as well as more complex dinner party dishes. I would recommend it to any aspiring and/or experienced vegetarian cook.
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on 7 February 2012
I've been searching for some Masterchef style vegetarian recipes for dinner parties and bought this book on the back of all the positive reviews. I'm a fairly competent home cook in that I can comfortably follow recipes and am beginning to experiment with substituting ingredients, etc.

I received the book on Friday and have so far tried the quinoa stuffed in savoy cabbage and the butternut tagine with couscous. Both were sublime, full of ingredients I hadn't used before and others I was convinced I didn't like (how wrong I was!)

They took a while to prepare and cook but with practise I can imagine working out which elements can be prepared at the same time. The quinoa dish for example has three separate elements before it goes in the oven which the recipe as written suggests preparing in sequence, rather than concurrently. I'm not sure if this is intentional but this is a minor quibble. They are dishes you actually want to take your time over the first time any way, and enjoy the process.

5 stars because I've finally found precisely the book I've been looking for for ages :)
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on 31 May 2009
I don't think I've ever picked up a cookery book and found quite so many recipes I immediately wanted to try. Simple and healthy but with unusual twists or taste combinations which make them stand out. We've just started growing our own fruit and veg and this book is going to be so useful by providing some interesting variety as we eat through the gluts of produce. Highly recommended.
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on 17 June 2009
There are some very good ideas and different slants in this book the recipes I have made have been superb and I look forward to future publications.
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on 25 July 2010
We have too many cook books, and quite a few of them just sit on the shelf.
This one however gets used and used and used. We keep finding great new recipes in it. Latest was the squash tagine with date couscous. superb!
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