When we turned veggie last year I was lost in the kitchen. I wasn’t quite sure what to cook and what constitutes a balanced vegetarian meal. I had to learn to cook all over again, as meat, carbs and two veg was no longer a quick dinner option.
My best companion on the beginning of the journey was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book Veg Ever Day! . He is not a vegetarian, but with this book he wants to encourage you to eat more vegetable dishes and save the meat for special occasions. Purely because it is not sustainable for all of us to eat meat 3 times a day every day. It also means that if you do eat meat, you can afford to buy the better kind with good animal welfare standards.
Hugh’s book was a great start, but I had to reach for ‘proper’ vegetarian cook books to widen my repertoire of dishes. Here’s a list of my 5 favourite cook books, plus a surprise bonus 6th book about unspeakable things, which happen to our food once it’s passed our mouths.
by Hugh Fearnley – Whittingstall
I love Hugh’s River Cottage series and I bought this book while we were still omnivores. Recipes are so appealing and imaginative that you certainly don’t feel like you are giving up something. They wonderfully showcase that omitting meat in your diet not only is not a sacrifice, but opens the door to creative combinations of flavours. Which is perfectly in line with Hugh’s mission statement ‘The object of the exercise is to persuade you to eat more vegetables. Many more vegetables. And I hope to do so not by shouting from a soapbox, but through sheer temptation.’.
There are 10 sections covering ‘Comfort food & feasts’, ‘Raw assemblies’, ‘Store-cupboard suppers’ and ‘Bready things’ among others. Recipes vary in complexity from chickpea pasta or poached egg on toast, to squash and fennel lasagne or aubergine parmigiana (my family’s favourite!). They all fit within easy to medium in terms of preparation, and could-not-be-better in terms of flavour. Each recipe is accompanied by a mouth-watering quality picture.
The beautiful presentation coupled with Hugh’s chatty and flowing style makes this a book you want to read from cover to cover and try every single recipe.
by Jenny Chandler
Beans and pulses used to be perceived as a bit of a hippy thing, not for ‘normal’ people to eat. Their image has changed now, as more and more of us become more health conscious. Beans and pulses are not only essential in a vegetarian and vegan diet, but they are also a great way for omnivores to have a break from fatty meats, while still packing a protein punch. Jenny’s book is not strictly vegetarian. There are a few recipes here in which meat is the main star, but the majority of dishes pays homage to the humble bean.
Apart from recipes there is a full guide to beans and pulses and advice on how to buy, store and cook them. If you have never cooked with beans (other than opening a can of baked beans and pouring it over your toast) this book will take you by the hand and gently show you what needs to be done.
I haven’t tried that many recipes yet, however the ones I have tried tasted as good as the beautiful pictures promise. That’s not to say that my culinary efforts looked as good as the pictures though…
My favourite recipe, and best lesson in trusting the chef, is ‘Squash, black bean and sweetcorn soup’. I nearly rebelled against cutting squash into huge 5 cm chunks, but I am glad I trusted the recipe. The squash was cooked, but had a wonderful crunch to it, which I found very refreshing, being used to eating only squishy roasted squash or mushy pureed squash soups.
by Rose Elliot
This is a big book. A veritable encyclopaedia. When you look at it it is hard to believe there are that many things you can do with vegetables. This book was first published in 1985 (2 years after I was born!), when being vegetarian was nowhere near as mainstream as it is now. It must have been a dream come true for those who chose not to eat meat.
The copy I have is a fully revised 2010 edition – back by public demand. There are lots of sections starting from Soups ( they are great to get your stomach warmed up before the main course), through ‘Sauces and relishes’, ‘Vegetables and nuts’ and ‘Flans and pies’, finishing with ‘Baking’ and ‘Bread and yeast cookery’. Vegetables have been placed in pride of place at every stage of the meal.
My, and my toddler’s, favourite recipe is Lentil croquets. Once I have tried them I prepared them three times in one week. Yes, they are that good.
Recipes are easy to follow and have no outlandish ingredients, nor do they require you to be a trained chef. It’s very much a family friendly cookbook.
by Myra Kornfeld
This is an American book, so be prepared and buy the measuring cups. Otherwise recalculating and weighing the ingredients will take away from the pleasure of cooking.
A big reason why I initially bought this book was the flexitarian approach it follows. I like that it takes flexible approach to recipes, and the few recipes which do have meat or fish, are easily adjustable to remove or replace it. This makes it a great book for families where some are omnivores, some pescaterian and some veggie or vegan. It should also present picky eaters with food they will happily eat.
Another big reason I bought this book is a recipe for Pupusas, which are essentially stuffed tortilla balls. I first heard about pupusas when one of the characters in Transparent TV series eulogised about them. Ever since then I wanted to try them. Sadly, I don’t seem to be able to buy the right flour anywhere. Masa harina (special corn flour, also used for tortillas) became my holy grail and I scour shop shelves and the internet in futile pursuit.
If you are new to cooking in general this book has a handy introductory section explaining what you need in a well stocked kitchen, where to store things and how to prepare various food items.
by Christine Ingram
Ok, so this is not a cookbook at all. It certainly is a foodbook though. I have included it in this selection, as when we became vegetarian I started using new ingredients. This book was very helpful in identifying what they are.
The wealth of knowledge on every possible food stuff is intimidating in a way. If I met someone who actually knew all this of the top of their head I would feel atom-small, considering my knowledge of food. Luckily this is a very down to earth, approachable sort of guide. And the multitude of pictures helps identification.
by Mary Roach
So this is the bonus book. It is not a cookbook, and I don’t think it could even be called a foodbook. This book will tell you all you want to know (and some you may not want to know) about what happens to food once it has crossed your lips. Mary Roach’s writing style is so amusing you will swallow all this information and have a few laughs to boot.
Thanks to this amusing book I learnt:
why do babies salivate?
does it matter if you chew your food?
how do we know what food will appeal to our pet cats and dogs?
what is the very common, but very chokeable food kids should avoid?
You are likely to be fascinated and surprised with a lot of the information imparted in this book, but do refrain from sharing this newly-found knowledge during a dinner party!
So here are my favourite vegetarian cookbooks. Have you got any you could not live without?
I have created a Pinterest board to keep all my favourite veggie recipes in one place. These recipes are also loved by Daddy and Little F. I have actually cooked these dishes, often on more than one occasion. If you follow my blog you will know that we do sometimes have bad dinners, so having a few full-proof recipes is handy.
PS. Links in this post are affiliate links, this means that if you make a purchase I will receive a small commission, but won’t pay anything extra. Income from affiliate links helps me keep on writing about all things green.