March 02, 2016

V is for Vegan: book review and recipe

 
V is for Vegan by Kerstin Rodgers, first published in 2015 in London by Quadrille Publishing Limited, is available in the U.S. as of March 1, 2016. It's filled with a collection of exotic and exciting international vegan recipes that range from easy to complex. 

The introduction provides a clear description of what vegans do and don't eat, and a brief history of veganism. The next 27 pages form a section called "Knowledge is Power," where you can find ingredient descriptions, and instructions for making many of the unusual "flavor-booster" ingredients that are required in various recipes. For example, there are recipes for vegan parmesan, preserved lemons, pink pickled onions, pickled green grapes, macadamia dukkah, baechu kimchi, candied zucchini strips, etc., plus directions for making staples like tofu, stock, cheese and nut milks. You can go to Amazon.com to 'look inside the book' to survey the chapter if you want to get a real taste for the breadth of information it contains.

Carrot, Pepper, & Lentil Tagine

The recipes are alluring, but maybe not for everyone. You probably wouldn't come home on a weekday and attempt to throw together one of the dinner recipes. Chances are great you will first have to hunt down ingredients, perhaps marinate or blend something ahead of time, plus you'll need to give yourself plenty of time to prep and cook the actual dish. Not everyone wants to open a coconut to make soup or curry, even if it's more authentic than opening a can of coconut milk. And a few of the recipes that I picked out to make based on their title or photo, contained ingredients I've never heard of. What, for example, is a glug of verjuice?

Carrot, Pepper, & Lentil Tagine

On the other hand, if you're looking for a selection of recipes for special occasions, you will find plenty to choose from in V is for Vegan. Chocolate Sichuan Pepper Fettuccine with Porcini & Black Olives, Three-Topping Polenta Party and Pizzette with Roast Pumpkin, Red Onion, & Sage beckon. Because my blog (and I) specialize in easier to prepare dishes, I tried to pick one of the more straightforward recipes to try, and selected Moroccan Carrot, Pepper, & Lentil Tagine. Even in this recipe there were unusual ingredients like ras el hanout and orange flower water, which we don't usually have on hand. I found  recipes for ras el hanout on the Internet, and chose one that contained 14 ingredients, all of which I had in my spice drawer. I also found a hack for the orange flower water. My husband made the dish, and he was in the kitchen for a long, long time, prepping and cooking. The finished dish was good, but not as fabulous as I was expecting, considering the amount of effort that went into preparing it. The next recipes I have picked out to try are Eggplant Baked With Miso Glaze, and Hibiscus Flowers in Blue Corn Enchiladas with Pickled Purple Cabbage. Don't they sound good? The eggplant recipe is Japanese, and fairly simple, while the enchiladas look a bit more complex. I just have to find dried hibiscus flowers!

Fava beans are BIG

I think my favorite section of the book may be the snack section. There are quite a few possibilities here, and one that caught my eye was Ful Medames Dip. I think I was attracted to the recipe because of a ful medames I enjoyed many years ago in a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. I always intended to recreate it but never did. The original dish was made with whole fava beans, and was not a dip, but the dip recipe was perfect.

Ful Medames

The recipe was easy to follow and the results were excellent — every bit as delicious as the one I remember. I liked the recipe for ful medames so much I requested permission to share it with you, and it appears after the review.

I think V is for Vegan would be best suited to adventurous cooks, both beginners and experienced, looking to explore, and learn to use, uncommon ingredients to create gourmet international dishes. There are simple recipes to be found, but the emphasis is on more exotic, colorful fare, and chances are good you will find yourself looking for unfamiliar ingredients.

A problem I encountered with the book was the somewhat difficult to read type — especially the fractional ingredient quantities, and notes at the beginning of recipes. The darker colors used as backgrounds on so many of the pages add to the reduced legibility. Also, some of the directions are a bit confusing and, in my experience, the cooking times can vary quite a bit from the the times given in the recipes.



Thanks to the publisher, Quadrille Publishing Limited, for allowing me to share the following delicious recipe:

Ful Medames Dip
“Ful” are dried fava beans, a legume made infamous by Hannibal the Cannibal. You can make this Egyptian dip with fresh or frozen fava beans too. Think of it as a funkier, sludgier hummus.
(Serves 4 to 6)
  • 1 scant cup [100 g] dried fava beans or 14-oz [400-g] can of fava beans
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra to garnish
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Handful of parsley
  1. If using dried beans, boil them in water for 30 to 40 minutes (no need to pre-soak), then drain. Otherwise, drain the can. 
  2. Add the beans, tahini, oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, and some salt to a food processor. Whizz to combine (or mash everything by hand).
  3. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle over more olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley. 
Andrea's Notes:
1. I used a can of organic, low salt fava beans, rinsed and drained. If you decide to cook dried beans, I suggest looking up recipes. I had originally planned to cook the beans and when I searched instructions, most of the recipes I consulted suggested soaking the beans — some for two days!
2. I use oil in cooking, but don't like to add it to dips that contain other high fat ingredients like tahini. I added one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of water instead of two tablespoons of oil, and drizzled about a teaspoon over the top of the finished dip, but I think you could omit the oil if you wanted to.
3. Out of sheer laziness I used dried parsley instead of going out in the rain to pick fresh. It wasn't bad, but I recommend fresh.

............................................................................................................

Kerstin Rogers is a chef, author, food and travel writer. V is for Vegan is her third book. She writes a blog called MsMarmiteLover where she shares her recipes and food knowledge. I have to warn you that the blog is not a vegan blog, but there is much to learn there.

V is for Vegan was sent to me without cost, for review. I didn't get paid to write the review and all opinions are my own. The post contains Amazon links. 

A selection of dips from V is for Vegan. Photo by Jan Baldwin, 2015. Quadrille Publishing Limited.

6 comments:

  1. Bravo! I'm dying to make that savory cake "iced" in phyllo dough, but I'm working up the nerve. Your review is helping.

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    1. I think I know which recipe you mean — and why it's giving you pause. It does look impressive. Maybe you should whip up a batch of Beet Pelmeni With Herb and Walnut Filling first. If you succeed, I think you'll have the confidence to try anything! I hope if you do make the phyllo dish, you'll post a photo!

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  2. It's simply astounding how many new vegan cookbooks are coming out these days- Everyday, it seems! I hadn't even heard of this one before, so I'm grateful you brought it to my attention. It sounds like one worth investigating further, especially for that candied zucchini. What a concept!

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    Replies
    1. It is pretty amazing to see how many there are. I'm supposed to be receiving yet another one though I'm beginning to wonder if it's lost. I hope the number of vegans is expanding as fast as the vegan items available for purchase!

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  3. Awesome to see another vegan cookbook. Although I have been frustrated in the past with trying to find exotic ingredients to try out a new recipe. Like you, I usually just go for the easier to find ingredients, easy to make recipes. The ful medames looks great and totally doable. :-)

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    1. I highly recommend the ful medames dip — it's so good. And although I could order many of the exotic ingredients online, I don't really want to collect a bunch of pricey bottles and jars of things to store in my shrinking kitchen. I did make a jar of ras el hanout which I hope I use again!

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