But, although I don’t feel at home in urban environments, I am in love with the new cookbook, The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes from Street Cart Favourites to Haute Cuisine. You may remember that I was a tester while Dynise was developing her cookbook, and I loved all of the recipes that I tried. Now the book is here. I’ve had it for just over a week and we’ve made seven recipes from it (only one of which I had tried during testing).
My first impression of the book—it’s pretty. The cover is colourful and eye-catching, and the layout feels sophisticated. The index is well-done (an important feature in cookbooks, if you ask me). The blurbs before each recipe are entertaining and give you an idea of who Dynise is, which I like. The intro material is also helpful without being verbose or prattling on for too long. We’ve taken Dynise’s advice to heart, particularly the bit encouraging experimentation with recipes. We have a hard time following recipes exactly at the best of times, and since we are in a decidedly un-urban environment we have a hard time finding certain ingredients—so we make do.
Now onto the food...
The first day we got this book, Andy made one of the recipes for dinner. The recipe was for Foil-Roasted Beets with Wasabi Vinaigrette, but we didn’t want to wait the hour that beets would take to roast whole, so we cut them up pre-roasting. This made the cooking process quicker without affecting the flavour at all. The wasabi vinaigrette was a surprisingly perfect companion to the slightly sweet, earthy beetroot. Best of all, this recipe was very easy to make, perfect for the end of a tiring week.
When we went sailing last weekend we wanted to try out one of the lunch recipes, and settled on Sandwich Mousse, with a few substitutions. Borlotti beans stood in for pink beans, but a splash of beetroot juice brightened up the colour. We also used roasted garlic instead of raw, and dill instead of the other herbs, because that’s what grows in our garden. This was a perfect sandwich filler, and it made enough for Sunday lunch plus a few sandwiches throughout the week. Andy liked it so much he’s requested it again for this week’s lunches.
A fantastic side dish from the cookbook is Couscous Mosaic. Full of flavour and simple to make, this recipe made enough to last a few dinners. First, we had it alongside eggplant schnitzels with onion gravy and a veggie salad.
But with only a few steps for the actual preparation. In place of chipotle, I used a mix of smoked paprika and cinnamon, and some mango-ginger hot sauce stood in for the chilli powder and tamarind. Simmered for a while, and topped with a dollop of guacamole this was declared by Andy to be the best chilli I’ve made. The chocolate gave it a deep, earthy darkness which was lightened up with the sweet corn, the chewy tvp and the black and kidney beans.
For Saturday breakfast, I turned to Better than Buttermilk Pancakes, using the suggested Banana Walnut variation. In batter form I was a little sceptical—the batter had a slightly squicky flavour I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I thought maybe the utter lack of sugar in the pancakes was to blame, but when they were cooked up I had no doubt that they were fantastic. I realised I was picking up on the taste of the uncooked soy bean flour, which I hate but which luckily goes away when cooked. These were perfect pancakes—thick but fluffy. Andy wasn’t impressed with the walnuts in the pancakes—too crunchy—but I thought they were great.
To go with hotdogs and baked beans, Andy whipped up a batch of focaccia, half roasted garlic and half avocado. We made the dough in the bread machine, which is very easy, and were very pleased with the results.
Finally, we like to keep muffins or cupcakes in the freezer to take to uni for morning tea throughout the week. I flipped through and settled on Ninja Ginga Bread, in cupcake form. This time, I used pumpkin puree in place of the apple sauce (which you can’t actually taste at all) and upped the cocoa powder instead of using espresso powder. We ate one warm from the oven, and it was very sophisticated, complex and spicy. I’m looking forward to eating them throughout the week.
All up, I’m so far very impressed with this cookbook. I love that the recipes don't rely too heavily on processed ingredients and mock meats (although they are in there, for the occasional treat). I can’t wait to try out some more.