The Vegetarian Option Paperback – Illustrated, 2 Aug 2012
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"His last cookery book knocked Harry Potter off the top spot...now Simon Hopkinson has turned his attention from roast chicken to vegetables..... Absorbed, comforted, excited... Hopkinson delivers in his clear, unshowy, kindly prose." - The Times Magazine, 3rd October 2009 -- The Times Magazine, 3rd October 2009
"Packed with recipes for innovative vegetarian fare." - House & Garden October 2009
-- House & Garden October 2009
"A brilliant notion. It's vegetarian cooking but not in vegetarian spirit... these recipes work admirably without meat."
--Metro (London), 26th November 2009
Simple, Practical and Seasonal --the Guardian, 29/03/10
Full of practical recipes and mouthwatering dishes, this cookery book will become your life saver
--Prima, 1st June 2010 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Simon Hopkinson's first book Roast Chicken and Other Stories has been voted the Most Useful Cookery Book of All Time in a survey of food writers, chefs and restaurateurs in Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine. In 1978 he became the youngest chef to win an Egon Ronay star before moving to Hilaire on Old Brompton Road in London in 1983. His friendship with one particular customer, Terence Conran, finally led to the opening of Bibendum in 1987 where he worked as a chef until 1995 when he retired to concentrate on writing. His other bestselling books include Roast Chicken Second Helpings, Gammon and Spinach, The Conran Cookbook, The Prawn Cocktail Years and, most recently, The Good Cook.
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Top customer reviews
Luckily, so far I have found it very usable! The recipes I have tried have, without exception, come out just as they ought to, and you can buy almost everything you really need at Tesco. It's not like the Nigella books where I find that recipes are often structured around one hard-to-find ingredient. My favourite success was the pilaf rice, made by a method so surprisingly simple and fairly fast that I wondered whther it would really work. It made me proud - fluffy and dry and fragrant! As a chef, he seems to be keen on simple but innovative methods - hence the inclusion of gnocchi alla Romana, a milk and semolina gnocchi bake recipe, different to the kind we usually see in recipe books (though a legit gnocchi recipe all the same).
I am also pleased to see that Simon Hopkinson includes recipes to make up your own store-cupboard base ingredients or condiments, such as green paste, garlic butter, ginger syrup, sesame paste, a garlic creme fraiche puree, a masala paste and a curry "essence"... Very handy - you can make up large quantities and keep them for another time. Many of them are used in more than one recipe in the book. Don't be put off by the idea of making everything from scratch, though - I left out the green paste for the pilaf rice and added cardamom instead; it was still delicious, just different.
In terms of influences, the recipes range from traditional English, French, Greek, Italian, Indian, Chinese, and many more, as well as comfort food like macaroni and cheese. Lots of variety rather than the endless combinations of mushrooms, goats' cheese and sundried tomatoes which have taken over the vegetarian option in restaurants everywhere. The book is laid out by groups of ingredients, with an overview and tips at the start of each section.
Simon Hopkinson is not a vegetarian himself and it's not a book of pale substitutes, either - I would recommend this book to people no matter whether they eat meat or not; if anything, it will be really useful if you have vegetarian guests and want to make something that everyone can gladly enjoy together.
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.
This book considers a range of different types of dishes, categorised by ingredient: vegetables, herbs, pasta, pulses & grains, rice, eggs and fruit. There are some real basics - I'm not sure that we really need to have recipes for cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese - apart from being a bit bland these kind of dishes are somewhat passé.
There are plenty of more sophisticated and contemporary offerings though. There are some snacks or party food items, such as purple sprouting broccoli with sauce courchamps and cheese fried parsnip strips with romesco sauce. There are some dishes good for everyday meals such as soupe au pistou or puy lentil salad with piquant vegetable vinaigrette. And then there are some restaurant style items which could be presented as part of a sophisticated dinner party menu, for example tomato jelly with goat's cheese and basil, spinach mousse with Parmesan cream, and beetroot jelly with horseradish and dill cream.
Not an outstanding book overall, but it's a step in the right direction for encouraging us to create more meatless meals. I'll certainly be trying out a few of the recipes in here.
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I like all his books
Lost for an idea - just pick up one of his books
Down to earth and sometimes fancy - but nothing over the top