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The Flexible Vegetarian Hardcover – 7 Sep 2017
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From the Publisher
"Wonderfully versatile and tasty recipes you can choose to cook with or without meat or fish, to suit your companions, mood and budget." - Peter Gordon
Whether you’re an occasional meat-eater, a vegetarian who needs to cook for meat-eaters, or even a dedicated veggie, you’ll find something for you in this book filled with delicious and practical flexitarian recipes for every lifestyle from celebrated chef Jo Pratt. Choose between cooking each recipe as a completely vegetarian dish, or select to add one of the simple meat, chicken or fish additions, making them suitable for meat-free days and meat-eaters alike. From spiced poke to peashoot and asparagus gnudi, the range of international recipes spans the globe and are all quick, simple, well-balanced and packed with protein.
In this series -
- The Flexible Vegetarian
- The Flexible Pescatarian
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I must confess that I found the book rather disappointing. I found very little that I really wanted to cook and the flexitarian twist in some recipes is to remove e.g. vegetables or beans and replace them with meat or fish. This isn't useful if you are cooking for a combination of vegetarians and non-vegetarians which will be a pretty common situation - what you need are dishes which you can easily divide at the end and add meat/fish to part or serve meat/fish on the side. The core recipe is always vegetarian with the twist outlined in a small box at the end and I guess that in around half the recipes you will need to decide in advance whether you are going veggie or not because you need to add the non-veggie ingredients at an early stage in the recipe.
The book basically has six chapters of recipes - breakfast/brunch, soups/broths, small plates, big plates, dips & bits. As is usual, the breakfasts section more or less passes me by - I have neither the time nor the inclination to make smoked bean quesadillas or paneer corncakes, shakshuka or courgette fritters with smashed avocado and fried halloumi for breakfast, although the latter is a very nice lunch or dinner (when you have the 50 minutes to make the dish). The soups were a bit meh - corn chowder than could become seafood chowder (such a stretch!); spinach soup to which you can add anchovies,; or carrot, coconut and cardamom soup which really doesn't need prawns (the idea of it sounds really unappealing).
The small plates section involved several types of hummus, courgette fries, fried pickles and instructions on how to make a smashed bean, kale and tomato toast which the average five year old could manage without a recipe. The halloumi fries are nice as is the spiced cauliflower but these recipes are largely side dishes. The big plates just weren't inspiring or were things for which I have half a dozen recipes already - macaroni cheese (with the flexitarian suggestion of adding ham); mushroom, leek & chestnut pie; pearl barley & sweet potato stew; tart made using ready-rolled puff pastry which barely need a recipe; baked summer vegetables with beans. The smoky roots & brazil nut crumble was OK but again, to flex this one involved cutting down on the vegetables and adding in chicken.
For those who care about this, there is a photo of all, or at least nearly all, the recipes. Like many modern cookery books there are also too many images unrelated to food - trees & their leaves, piles of plates and most peculiarly and bafflingly a few shots at the beginning of roof tops and TV aerials at sunset, and the hall of a Victorian house.
If you are currently a meat eater looking to reduce your intake then this might be a useful book as it gives you options. If you are already vegetarian or in a mixed family the issues outlined above mean the book is of limited usefulness and it doesn't really offer lots of new ideas to make up for the other deficiencies.
In The Flexible Vegetarian all the recipes are vegetarian but each recipe has a "flexible" box which offers suggestions on how you can convert the dish for a meat or fish eater. I certainly want to eat more vegetarian food but am not yet ready to completely cut meat and fish from my diet, so I feel I'm in the target group for this book.
The chapters are - the flexible storecupboard; breakfast/brunch; soups/broths; small plates (can be served as a starter, light meal or side dish; big plates; dips/bits; perfectly cooked (5 simple meat and fish ideas if you're not used to non-vegetarian cooking, including roast chicken, steak and pulled pork.)
There are lots of appealing recipes, though some of it feels a little like when you go to a grill and choose the vegetarian option and get the choice to make it a more substantial meal by adding - grilled chicken breast. It is a book that I will cook from, though I don't think it's as family friendly as The Madhouse Cookbook (but that's not primarily who this book is aimed at). There are some simpler recipes, I've tried the roast beetroot soup (with parsnip and horseradish) tasty but too sweet for me even with the horseradish kick, next time I'd have some feta with it instead of the cream. Most recipes, though tempting, have ingredients that I'd have to add specially to my shopping list, if you're on a budget this might be something to bear in mind.
Overall - appealing vegetarian/flexitarian recipes from a cookery writer I trust, some of which are going to take more effort and planning. I think if you're looking for inspiration on how to cook for a vegetarian and non-vegetarian household - you will find some ideas here.