Eating a great, flavourful and totally rockin’ vegetarian diet has never been easier. Every week more excellent cookbooks get released, catering to that growing number of us who leave animal products off our plates, from occasional Meatless Monday adherents to full-on vegans and raw foodies.
As a ten-year vegetarian, I’m sharing seven of my favourite veggie cookbooks from the Cockburn Libraries’ impressive collection – some new discoveries, some old favourites, all completely mouthwatering.
Being veg since I was 19 hasn’t all been plain sailing: have you ever flipped through a standard, buy-it-in-the-newsagent Vegetarian Cookbook? Limp stir-fry, bland curry, some kind of squidgy veggie burger, soup, soup, salad, soup… Blech! And unless you’re lucky enough to grow up in a household that caters to your dietary choices, you’ll most likely be stuck eating side dishes and that one pasta salad your Nanna makes (remember to pick out the tuna…) until you bite the bullet and learn to cook for yourself. Which is where these bad boys come in.
Some things you should know about me/vegetarianism before you read on:
- ‘spinach and ricotta’ is a swear word in my house – get in the sea with your unimaginative pastry choices and prepare to actually enjoy, not just endure, your food
- As we’re the meat-eating capital of the world, I’ve never found a good Aussie vegan or veggie cookbook (much like eating out at restaurants – what a nightmare!)
- vegan cookbooks absolutely blow vegetarian ones out of the water – veggie cookbooks end up relying heavily on cheese, cream, and eggs, or else fall back on the standard (and snooze-inducing) stir fry over and over again, but vegans by definition have to be much more inventive and adventurous
All set? All right then, in ascending order, the best veggie cookbooks you can get at your libraries are…
7. Made in India / Meera Sodha – bottom billed because it’s not actually a veggie cookbook, it just has one of the best veggie sections in any omnivore cookbook I’ve ever found. Sodha’s Indian/African/British heritage gives her recipes a fun multicultural flavour, but more to the point, EVERY recipe is incredible: rich, tasty, and adventurous. Try the Pav Bhaji for juicy, savoury handheld goodness, or if you’re a garlic freak like me, the 100-clove garlic curry is a must.
6. Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Cookbook / Suzy Spoon – The only Aussie cookbook to make the grade in my house, Suzy warrants a mention because she understands that just because you give up meat doesn’t mean you don’t like meat-centric food. Replacements like tofu, tempeh, and seitan (get a handle on these and your veg life will never be the same again) abound in her dishes and they really hit the spot. My favourite was the Butter ‘chicken’ (Seitan Makhani), which you have to try to believe.
5. Southern Vegetarian / Justin Burks & Amy Lawrence – this is proper flashy American food, unashamedly rich, and one of the only veg cookbooks where I approve of (aka get on my knees and thank the veggie gods for) the use of eggs and dairy. I double-dare you to make the Mushroom Meatballs, serve them to your carnivorous, steak-chomping grandpa, and see if he notices the difference. Also, and I’m only going to say this once, Sweet Potato TOASTER PANCAKES. That’s all.
4. My new roots / Sarah Britton – if you’ve never heard of My New Roots, you’re missing out. The stellar blog of the same name has been my go-to for properly healthy, transcendentally delicious veg food for many years now. Summer wouldn’t be the same without Raw Tacos, and her wintery Butternut Mac & Cheese is to die for.
3. Veganomicon / Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero – The place where it all began for me, and the book I can go back to over and over for old favourites and new discoveries. It was the first time I realised that meatless cooking didn’t have to be lacking in anything, and could actually be a damn sight finer than the food I grew up with. Go-to weeknight dinners aren’t complete without Spicy Tempeh Broccoli Rabe, and a Sunday lunch is made infintely better with the addition of savoury, chewy Chickpea Cutlets.
2. Plenty / Yotam Ottolenghi – No real surprise here; Ottolenghi’s a legend in the veg community, though he does, in my opinion, rely too often on dairy products, particularly in his newer book (Plenty More), which I didn’t like at all. But this, his original vegetarian book, is impressive, and on constant rotation at my place. Favourites include the gorgeously light, zesty, creamy Crunchy Papardelle and the fragrant and hearty Ultimate Winter Couscous.
1. Isa Does It / Isa Chandra Moskowitz – Isa is the undisputed queen of every self-respecting vegan kitchen (my own included), and though I love eggs from my backyard chickens and the occasional cheese indulgence, I would happily live entirely vegan if every cookbook were this good. I can safely say I have cooked every recipe from this one, and I have only disliked ONE (Lentilaroni: don’t ask). Gun to my head, if I had to pick favourites, I’d direct you to the Bistro Beet Burgers and the ridiculously simple and incredibly tasty Chana Saag, and for knee-tremblingly delicious bonus points, Chipotle Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussel Sprouts from her blog.
So, talk at me, fellow veggies! What are your favourite cookbooks? How long have you been suffering at the hands of the dreaded spinach-ricotta monster? And am I all wrong about Aussie cookbooks?
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