Monday, October 12, 2009

City Mouse -- Country Mouse

It’s no secret that I am not a city mouse. They are crowded and I feel out of place in cities. I definitely feel at home in small towns, and although I occasionally complain about the lack of fun in Townsville, I do love living here (if anything, it's a little too big).

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.

It also went well paired with a dhal burger, Cumin Fried Potatoes from La Dolce Vegan, and another veggie salad.

Chocolate-Chipotle Chilli was a delicious Friday night meal. A lot of ingredients (this isn’t even all of them)...

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.


VeggieGirl said...

I prefer the city too ;)

LOOOOVE Dynise's new cookbook!!! So glad that you're impressed with it as well.

DJ said...

Yeah, I think I'm really gonna love the sandwich mousse - or rather, my daughter will! (n_n)
I was born and raised in Manchester but it took me no time at all to acclimatise to living in the sticks in Scotland. Now I'd never go back!!

Amey said...

oh, great! it's nice to see some pictures and reviews from UV. I can't wait to get my copy... but I"m waiting for the local bookstore instead of ordering online. Right now, I just woke up, and those muffins sound delicious.

:) said...

I can't wait to get this cookbook!

Vaala said...

Everything looks so delicious especially the Chocolate-Chipotle Chilli. Very tempted to get the book now!

I guess I'm not fussed where I live as long as I have a cool park nearby and am not too far from the bush or the sea. Guess that's not too hard round here!

Kati said...

I haven't been able to put the book down since I got it...and you've managed to make recipes I didn't even see yet! Exciting, for sure.

Gina said...

Ohh, how did I miss this post!! This is the first review I've read of this book, although I did hear it was coming out. This is definitely one I want to pick up!! Everything looks so yummy :)

Gina said...

Hey country mouse :) Love the deadlift question. I would have emailed you but...I don't have your email! Anyway, the reverse grip is often used on a deadlift because it is stronger and easier to hold your grip. You can use an overhand grip too, but I usually use a reverse grip because I do find it easier to grip the bar. Overhand, my hands slide a little. You can also use straps, but I don't really like them. The downside to using the reverse grip is that your body isn't working completely evenly. So, if you are doing the reverse grip, you should switch your hands each set.

Susan said...

Everything looks delicious - I love hearing about new cookbooks!

I have to say though - I am a city princess to the core. ;) I like to live in the suburbs though. My three years in Wagga were a trial. I was so glad to go to Sydney afterwards to soothe away the ruralness with some lovely city living. Now I'm back in Brisbane, which is smaller than Sydney but still gives me the city vibe I need! I know, tragic. ;)

BrisVegan said...

The UV book looks great. I love her blog, so it was on my list of books to check out.

I'm with Susan. I'm a city girl too. I grew up in Toowoomba, which is a rural town to the west of Brisbane of about the same size as Townsville, also with a Uni and army base. However, I much prefer Brisbane and enjoy visiting Sydney and Melbourne. I like littler places to visit, but I would go stir crazy trying to live there. It's ironic, because I am actually quite suburban and boring!

urban vegan said...

Wow--you've been cooking up a storm, in spite of how busy you are. I'm so glad you like the book!