This month I have been testing recipes from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero and Weight Watchers Meat Free Meals. Here I will be reviewing Veganomicon – The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook!
This book is famous in the vegan world and is considered by many as a sort of “vegan bible”. Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are American vegan chefs who have written a number of cookbooks including (Vegan With A Vengeance), (Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World) and (Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar). They also write the blog (Post Punk Kitchen). This book was designed to be the ultimate vegan cookbook and contains 250 recipes broken down into a number of categories including snacks, brunch, salads, mix and match vegetables, grains, beans, tofu, soups, casseroles, pasta, breads, cookies and desserts. It also has a very large introduction and tips on how to cook vegetables, grains and beans. Veganomicon claims to be an “all-purpose” cookbook which includes both everyday meals and more extravagant ones. It also claims to be written with beginners in mind so the recipes should be very easy to follow. Above all the aim of the book is to “prove that vegan food doesn’t have to be repetitive, difficult or inaccessible”.
About the Icons
The book starts with an explanation of the icons used in the recipes. There is an icon for every purpose here! My favourites are:
Soy Free – So many vegans are starting to avoid soy as many people are intolerant to it and others just don’t want to become too reliant on it. Even now that vegan cooking is everywhere it is very difficult to avoid soy in the vegan world so it is nice to see that vegan chefs are taking it into consideration.
Gluten Free – Of course this is extremely important to me as a gluten intolerant vegan.
Under 45 Minutes – It’s nice to have a number of recipes which can be cooked after work and don’t need hours spending in the kitchen!
Supermarket Friendly – Yes I have discovered the joys of the wholefood shop. However when I first became vegan the amount of ingredients I couldn’t find in my local supermarket made following recipes very difficult. This is a brilliant icon so that beginners can join in too.
Stocking the Pantry, Kitchen Equipment and Cooking and Prepping Terminology
These three chapters are extremely helpful for a beginner vegan cook (and a more experienced one!). The pantry chapter includes tinned items, fridge items, herbs and spices and essential baking ingredients. It suggests a lot of vegan friendly brands too but unfortunately this isn’t much use for those of us in the UK. Apart from the named brands though this chapter is easily transferable to UK ingredients. The list is written in a very friendly and down to earth manner and also recommends budget foods which is extremely helpful! The kitchen equipment chapter is also brilliant for first time cooks. It actually made me want to make a few purchases myself! That cast iron skillet will be mine! The terminology section is another brilliant source for beginners. I had no idea what braising, broiling or deglazing was before I read this chapter!
Low Fat Cooking
Veganomicon makes no claims as a diet book and veganism is not always as healthy as omnivores may think. This chapter includes some excellent tips for lower fat cooking if you are that way inclined. It also includes a section on when you should not cook low fat!
How to Cook a Vegetable, Grain and Bean
These chapters may seem overly simplistic but have some good tips for beginners! The vegetable chapter had sections on grilling (it really made me want to grill!), roasting and steaming. It gave me a few ideas for things I’ve never tried such as roasting garlic and tomatoes. The grain chapter didn’t really teach me much I didn’t know but listed a large range of grains and how to cook them. It did make me want to try millet though. The bean chapter was about dried beans which I’ve never really tried because I prefer the lazier tinned beans. A good starting point for new vegans!
All in all the introduction is one of the most useful I’ve ever seen in a cookbook. It turns this book into a sort of vegan textbook!
Now… onto the recipes…
Snacks, Appetizers, Little Meals, Dips and Spreads
This chapter focuses on small meals which could be used for buffet tables, as part of a bigger meal or for lunches. One of the first recipes I tried from this book were the Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes which can be seen above. Other recipes I wanted to try were the Creole Stuffed Peppers, Walnut-Mushroom Pate and Sun-Dried Tomato dip. I’ll definitely be trying these in the future! You can see the review of the Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes here.
Sadly I never got to try any of the recipes in this chapter! I wanted to try the Diner Home Fries but never got around to it. This chapter is not very Coeliac friendly I’m afraid as it’s full of waffles, pancakes and crepes but if I wasn’t gluten free I’d definitely be trying the Chocolate Chip Brownie Waffles!
Salads and Dressings
This chapter fights against the idea that vegans live off lettuce leaves and carrots and with recipes like Pear and Endive Salad with Maple Candied Pecans it does a good job! I tried two recipes from this section. The first was one of my favourite recipes in ages, Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard dressing. The second was the Mediterranean Olive Oil and Lemon Vinaigrette from the Super Simple Dressings Section which I used to make the rice salad that can be seen above. There were many other recipes I was desperate to try though including Prospect Park Potato Salad and the Miso Tahini Salad Dressing.
Sadly since I gave up bread there was not a lot of room in this section for me. However for all you gluten eating vegans I highly recommend it! I’d love to give the Beanball Sub and the BBQ Seitan and Crispy Coleslaw Sandwich a go!
Mix and Match
This chapter argues for one of my favourite types of eating. Here readers are persuaded to mix and match side dishes of vegetables, grains, beans, tofu, tempeh and seitan to create one meal.
From the vegetable section I tried the Cornmeal Masala Roasted Brussels Sprouts and the Roasted Portobellos (pictured above). There were so many other recipes I was dying to try though including Baby Bok Choy with Crispy Shallots and Sesame Seeds, Herb-Scalloped Potatoes and Roasted Butternut Squash with Coriander Seeds. It is a brilliant section full of simple side dishes which help you to work through your vegetable rack!
I didn’t get around to trying anything from the bean section but the photo above shows my New Year dinner which did include the Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms!
Lastly I tried the Marinated Italian Tofu from the Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan section. This section contained some exciting looking recipes such as Tangerine Baked Tofu and Baked BBQ Tofu.
Strangely I never got around to trying any soups from Veganomicon. There are some nice looking recipes here though including Black Bean-Vegetable and Porcini Wild Rice.
Another chapter I never got around to trying anything from although I did have the Caramelised Onion-Butternut Roast with Chestnuts bookmarked!
One-Pot Meals and Stove-Top Specialties
This chapter had one of the recipes I will be remaking time and time again! The Tomato and Roasted Eggplant Stew with Chickpeas was absolutely amazing. I also tried the Lentils and Rice with Caramelised Onions which was nice but I had a few issues with as it didn’t really go as planned. I had to adjust the cooking time as well as the flavourings to make it taste less bland. You can read more about this here.
Pasta, Noodles and Risotto
This was not a very useable chapter for me as I tend to avoid pasta a bit. However I will get around to trying the Green Pea and Lemon Risotto with Roasted Red Peppers!
Sauces and Fillings
The Cheezy Sauce from this chapter was amazing. There are so many sauces in this chapter that I still want to try! The Almesan is calling out to me as is the Salsa Verde and the Mushroom Gravy. Simple sauces with simple ingredients.
Breads, Muffins and Scones
Sadly there are no gluten free recipes in this section at all. However when I’m more confident at gluten free baking I’d like to have a go at adapting some of them. The recipes that interested me the most were Home-Style Potato Rolls, Carrot Pineapple Sunshine Muffins and Maple and Brown Sugar Pinwheels. Yum.
Cookies and Bars/Desserts
Sadly the same goes for these chapters! Those Pistachio-Rose Water Cookies and Caramel-Apple-Spice Cupcakes are desperate to be adapted though!
I absolutely adore this book and it is a must for new vegans. The guide at the beginning is really informative and helpful and the recipes are fantastic. The only thing I found myself wishing for was more photos. There are some large glossy photos in the middle of the book but not only are these halfway through an unrelated recipe, they are not mentioned anywhere else in the book. It would be good if the recipe said something like “see photo on page…”. One of the things I love about this book are the comments that come before each recipe giving a bit of history and suggesting ways to serve the food. I love the way the whole book is written as well, as if they’re telling one of their friends how to cook. The recipes themselves were easy to follow and I rarely had any problems apart from the ones mentioned above.
I’d definitely recommend this cookbook to anyone and look forward to reviewing more books by the same authors!
Past Posts on Veganomicon
First Challenge Update – Tomato and Roasted Eggplant Stew with Chickpeas
Second Challenge Update – Mediterranean Olive Oil, Lemon and Herb Vinaigrette; Chickpea Quinoa Pilaf; Broccoli Polenta; Lentils and Rice with Caramelised Onions
Third Challenge Update – Marinated Italian Tofu, Cheezy Sauce, Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing