Miriam Sorrell’s Mouthwatering Vegan: Over 130 Irresistible Recipes for Everyone is 1/3 cup enticing, 1/3 cup sophisticated, and 1/3 cup inspirational.
And it never hurts to have a blurb from Sir Paul McCartney: “In a world where more and more people are considering a meat-free diet this book provides many tasty recipes, and shows people who are worried about the difficulties involved in switching diets just how easy it is.”
But Miriam Sorrell’s introduction is not directed towards the cook who has decided to go meat-free. She was once a meat-eater, and was a vegetarian for many years, before she turned vegan.
“I’m fascinated by food and I love stretching the boundaries to explore new territories beyond the obvious,” she writes in her introduction. “After trying a few of my recipes, you’ll realize that eating vegan needn’t mean sacrificing flavor or beautiful presentation, or missing out on the joys of creative cooking and delicious eating.”
The book opens with a short summary of Vegan Nutrition and a list of suggestions with which you could choose to stock your Vegan Pantry.
The recipes are grouped according to type, beginning with “Breakfast, Juices & Smoothies” and ending with “Desserts, Cakes & Treats” (a section more than twice the length of the first, which I wholemouthedly approve of).
At least every second page has a full-colour photograph which complements the recipe appearing alongside. The photographs are often intense close-ups of the featured recipe, and are taken by the author herself.
(When the shot is from a wider angle, the dishes and glassware is much nicer than mine; but the food looks so sumptuous that I hardly have a moment to feel the inferiority of my kitchen.)
The ingredient lists are in a smaller font than the instructions and appear on the inner portion of the page; this is not a cookbook I would consider taking to the market with me, rather I would make a list.
Descriptions are limited to a couple of sentences; the bulk of the text is devoted to instructions, which are quite detailed and which include information that some other cookbooks choose to include in the header of the recipe.
(For instance, the instructions for the Blackberry Muffins include the first step of preheating the oven, and the eighth step of putting on the kettle for a pot of tea!)
Measurements are presented in imperial first and metric in parentheses and are numerical only (no handfuls here, though, sometimes, a few drops of something).
The recipes are sometimes rather complex. Although Sir Paul McCartney heralds this cookbook as a means of proving how simple it is to cook vegan food, I’m not convinced this is an ideal introduction for ease, unless the cook is experienced and the only new element is the question of choosing vegan ingredients.
The burger recipe I tried had 19 ingredients listed and the instructions spanned more than a page. Mind you, the ingredients are all commonly stocked in our kitchen, and the 19 included salt and flour for dusting, but that’s no small task.
Strangely enough, more than one recipe calls for instant mashed potatoes, which I would never expect to find listed in any cookbook, let alone a vegan cookbook. There are occasionally suggestions to include other prepared foods where a whole-food would do. In this instance, the option for the instant potatoes is a single medium potato. (Yes, please) Another recipe called for a particular quantity of prepared ground meat substitute or another quantity of ground TVP.
A few recipes call for either a store-bought vegan choose (Daiya is the one that everyone I know seems to prefer, but perhaps you have another favourite I could try in Canada) or suggest one of the recipes found in the final section of Mouthwatering Vegan, “Decadent Cheeses and Dairy Alternatives”.
Admittedly, I have not tried a single recipe from this section. But I have tried many other similar recipes in other cookbooks and never been satisfied. (Well, okay, I did eventually succeed at making my own almond milk, but never so successfully that I would think of relying solely on homemade.)
These, however, truly sound not only plausible but delicious. This is my pre-arranged food-related resolution for 2014. From a cashew-nut based “milk” to a mature (not aged!) cheddar, I am truly excited about this chapter. (I hope this doesn’t sound like cheating to laud this without an attempt, but if you, like me, have a series of mostly-failures on this score behind you, you will understand the commitment required to try again, even solely in terms of the cost of ingredients, and the fact that I even want to entertain the possibility is an indication of just how good the recipes sound.)
[Decadent Cheeses and Dairy Alternatives include: Happy Milk, Mayo from the Heavens, Vegan Mozzarella, Mild Cheddar ‘Cheese’, Mature Cheddar ‘Cheese’ Beta Feta, Swiss Vegan Fondue, Nutty Parmesan, Béchamel Sauce.]
Following this final segment of recipes is a chapter entitled “Why Vegan”. Had this section appeared at the beginning of the cookbook, I would have expected the McCartney quote. “When we eat, we absorb the entirety of what we eat. Whether it is an animal- or plant-based product, the quality of food is determined by the conditions in which it was reared or grown.”
Placing these reflections at the end of the cookbook, after people have had the opportunity to explore the wide variety of recipes, creates a welcoming tone while emphasizing the need for each of us to take responsibility for educating ourselves about our food choices.
Following this segment is a single index, which includes both recipe names and foodstuffs. (The type is a little small, but bolded, which is nice.)
Here are the recipes sampled:
My Greek Family Tree Hummus (25)
Zesty Cauliflower with Garlic and Basil (43)
Best-Ever Winter Soup (61)
Cherry Tomato Soup (62)
Spaghetti with Spinach and Mushrooms (87)
Nutty Red Kidney Bean and Quinoa Burgers (110)
Sweet Potato Fusion Curry (136)
Chili con “Carne” (150-1)
Hot Apple and Chocolate Crumble (224-5)
Double Chocolate Coke Cake (237-9)
After Late Dinner Mints (244)
The recipes did not require any substitutions (save the options for store-bought/whole foods mentioned above) and were to the taste of all family members.
The desserts were particularly lauded, which isn’t unexpected in our family, but you might think any variation on the traditional apple crumble would be dull and boring in these parts, and this one received top marks from all eaters.
(Some veggie cookbooks go a little light on the garlic for our taste, but these recipes call for multiple cloves – perfect!)
If you’re looking for more? Check out mouthwateringvegan.com and enjoy!
Note: This is the second of a series of posts in my new Friday Fugue, which will focus on a series of books working towards A Fainter Footprint (on the Earth).