Although I am not a vegetarian myself I really enjoy cooking meat-free meals becauseI love the different flavours you can get from cooking vegetables and the different ways they can be utilised to make something which doesn’t miss meat. It was my boyfriend who first got me into this way of thinking whilst at university as he didn’t want to be spending loads of money on chicken or beef mince. At first I wasn’t convinced that you could cook a substantial meal which didn’t contain meat but how wrong I was! Some of my favourite meals are ones that don’t contain meat and because of this I also like to kid myself that they are healthier too, whether this is true…Anyway, this is a run down of the three books I turn to when I would like a meat-free meal/want to eat something healthy. Interestingly none of the authors of these books are vegetarian but their use of ingredients and flavour combinations are just fantastic; they always come up with surprising ways to use a vegetable in a way you would never think would work.
1. River Cottage Veg: Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Hugh’s take on vegetarian cooking is to make the vegetable the star of the dish and not replace meat with any meat-free substitutes which means you do not in any way miss meat in these dishes. Vegis suitable for both vegans and vegetarians as there is not a heavy reliance on dairy products or eggs either making a lot of these recipes really healthy. I always feel that when I am cooking something from this book I am making something packed full of nutritious goodness. There is something for every craving in Veg as it is split into comfort food, raw, soups, dough, pasta and rice, tapas, roast and grill and sides. My personal favourites are:pinto bean chilli, North African stew, roasted parsnip, puy lentil and watercress salad, porotos granados and Cambodian wedding day dip.
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Yotam’s take on vegetarian cooking drawers on his diverse culinary heritage, mainly European and Middle Eastern, and a wide spectrum of ingredients to create interesting and unusual dishes. Each recipe centres around a specific fresh, seasonal vegetable as reflected in the chapter titles; roots, onions, mushrooms, squashes, capsicums, brassica, tomatoes and greens. This is my favourite book to refer to when I want to use a less well known ingredient. Can’t stop cooking: black pepper tofu, shakshuka, burnt aubergine dip, quesadillas, mee goreng and spiced red lentils.
Kitchen Diaries Part Two by Nigel Slater
This is not a vegetarian cook book per se but Nigel often cooks vegetarian dishes and this book is evidence of that. A lot of the recipes which use meat in this diary-style recipe book could also be adapted to meat-free versions. These simple recipes use few ingredients, the flavours of which are enhanced by simple cooking techniques such as stews and soups. All the recipes are homely, inviting and warm and much like Hugh the vegetables are placed in the centre of the dish making the most of their flavours. Don’t miss: mushroom and spelt stew, butter beans with mustard ketchup, spring onion omelette, sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi and aubergine and bean hotpot.
Also worth checking out: A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones, 101 Cookbooks and Veggiestan by Sally Butcher.