Maria Elia is a chef who has graced our small screens and headed restaurant kitchens, and she has also penned several delightful cookbooks. Maria isn’t a vegetarian evangelist but The Modern Vegetarian reflects her passion for flavourful food and in this case those dishes just happen to be sans meat.
We know we should all eat more of them – vegetables, that is – but we want meals that are delicious and tempting rather than just being healthy and nutritious. We want to savour food rather than having a ‘dose’ of dinner. Gone are the days of over-worthy dishes appealing to those clad in tie-dye, sandals and likely owning a bandana-wearing dog that would also be vegetarian. Maria presents us with recipes that will become regulars on your table.
There are more than 120 recipes here along with striking photography by Jonathan Gregson. It’s an attractive book that will enable you to make the best of fresh seasonal produce. Yes, healthy vegetables but also economic and that’s more of a consideration than ever. There are smart dishes with which to impress dinner party guests and others that are more for an evening in the company of the TV. Rosemary Popcorn could be your snack of choice for the next showing of ‘The Sound of Music’. Well, Christmas is just around the corner.
Talking of the festive season, I have been rather taken with the prospect of Christmas Pudding Brulée with Caramelised Blood Oranges. It’s two recipes in one as Maria suggests that the oranges work well just garnished with some crème fraîche. The brulée element makes good use of left-over pud, and there is bound to be some of that.
Following that sweet note the Honey Dough with Greek Yogurt Mascarpone Cream is a must-try. These doughnut-like treats have more a cake texture than that of bread; it has plain flour with both bicarbonate of soda and baking powder for lift. These would be a delight as part of an exotic afternoon tea.
Beetroot has long been an underutilised vegetable but it is enjoying something of a revival. Maria delves into her Greek heritage to bring us Beetroot Keftedes. These are basically meatballs having the meat replaced by feta cheese and beetroot. They can be eaten hot or cold and would make a lovely addition to a meze or tapas spread.
There are also exotic flavours here. Ginger Beer-Battered Stuffed Tofu with Asian Mushy Peas is exciting. Tofu always needs help: it’s a bland and boring article when unadorned but this recipe allows it to soak up flavours. The assembled dish looks enticing and is a tapestry of flavour and texture. A must-try.
The Modern Vegetarian – Food adventures for the contemporary palate is a true contender for that much vaunted phrase ‘something for everybody’ but it is indeed a book to encourage even the most dedicated carnivore to delve into its pages and turn up recipes that they will cook again and again. Great value for money.
The Modern Vegetarian – Food adventures for the contemporary palate
Author: Maria Elia
Published by: Kyle Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018