I do rather worry when I am presented with a vegetarian cookbook. So many of them in the past have been unappealing to all but the most committed vegetarian. Those folk who were at Glastonbury the first time around, wore multi-coloured, ill-fitting, voluminous knitted jumpers and were still in sandals in January.
Thank goodness for the new trend in vegetarian food. We can now eat well and not notice the absence of meat. Beige has been replaced by vibrant colour. The sense of “this must be doing me good” has been replaced by exclamations of “this is so good that it CAN’T be doing me good”. Terre A Terre – The Vegetarian Cookbook is a stunning example of what the best vegetarian cookbook should be. The kind of book that graces the shelves of those of us who are still tempted by a bacon sandwich.
This is a volume gorgeously illustrated by the photographs of Lisa Barber. The food styling is stunning but consider it merely serving suggestions, just as they say of the pictures on those packets of frozen cod. You are not expected to become a chef. Look at the recipes and consider how you would like to eat these dishes… but do eat these dishes.
It’s a rollicking good read. The authors, Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor (they have a restaurant in Brighton of the same name), have written a cookbook full of wit and passion. The food is enticing and truly original. There are exotic flavours and fresh tastes. There are amusing departures from traditional dishes and a good few culinary revelations. The section headings bring a smile and have encouraged me to take up cartooning. Black Bean and Cellophane Frisbee sounds almost Simpson-esque.
It’s a Quacker is a cheering composition of soda bread, celeriac soup with boiled duck eggs perched on wilted spinach. Each of the components could be presented with many other dishes. Here they are assembled to make a light lunch but the eggs could be served with any bread, the soup could be a starter for a more substantial meal and the soda bread goes with everything but dessert.
And talking of desserts, these are amazing. I see many cookbooks that are filled with nothing but afters and there has been much to tempt me, but the puds here are in a class of their own. These have provoked outbursts of “oooh, have a look at this” and “damn the diet”.
A real winner is Boiled Eggs and Chubby Soldiers. Doesn’t sound like a dessert although the word Chubby gives a clue. Think cream. Think passion fruit curd. Think pineapple soldiers. (For non-British readers I should explain that soldiers in this context are batons of fruit for dipping.) Assemble so that the curd represents the egg yolk, the cream the dome of the egg and the pineapple acts as your morning toast. Sophisticated enough for the most culinarily discerning adult but the kids will love it as well.
Terre A Terre – The Vegetarian Cookbook is a thoroughly engaging book. It’s full of surprises. It offers delightful recipes and will change attitudes to non-meat cooking. One of the best of this year’s crop of cookbooks.
Cookbook review: Terre A Terre – The Vegetarian Cookbook
Authors: Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor
Published by: Absolute Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018