After purchasing our own copy of Vegan Indulgence and recipe testing for Wrapped in Pastry, we were chuffed to be offered an advance copy of Leigh Drew's latest cookbook Veganissimo! Beautiful Vegan Food. While her previous publications are cute and compact, Veganissimo is a formidable and, yes, beautiful 200-page volume containing 120 recipes.
However, Veganissimo doesn't just mutiply the recipe content. Rather, Drew has crafted a well-rounded guide to cooking vegan food at home that should serve as a warm introduction to newbie vegans, the veg-curious and those that cook for them, without condescending to seasoned vegan cooks. She introduces the philosophy and debates around veganism gently and without judgement, and has collaborated with nutritionist Amanda Benham to outline the main nutritional considerations of a vegan diet. Early sections cover basics such as kitchen equipment, pantry staples, legumes, grains and replacements for meat, milk and eggs - all handy shortcuts for those who haven't seasoned a wok, discovered nutritional yeast or soaked their own chickpeas.
Of course, the bit I'm most keen on is the recipes. This book aims to deliver at any time and for most whims with sandwiches, soups, salads and sides, heartier main meals, brekkies and baked goods, condiments and desserts, drawing inspiration from a range of cooking traditions. Drew has clearly considered and marked low-fat, soy-free and gluten-free dishes and adaptations. I found Wrapped in Pastry to be labour-intensive, and noticed immediately that Veganissimo offers a variety of quick and simple ideas alongside the more elaborate creations. I really like that Drew has steered away from most processed mock meat and dairy products, calling on beans and nuts for her rich, savoury and creamy elements.
Top to bottom, left to right: cucumber and apple raita, baingan bharta, lemon and garlic dal, yeast-free cilantro and garlic naan, tandoori cauliflower cheese and chai coconut icecream.
Since we're not shy of elaborating ourselves, we tested out six Veganissimo recipes on friends last week. They were terrific! I was stunned by the yoghurty effect of cashews and lemon in the raita and the tandoori marinade, pleased by a new and nutritious cheese sauce, and foresee the dal becoming a regular winter fallback. Though they were stuffed with curry, I couldn't help noticing that our guests fairly licked their chai coconut icecream bowls clean.
I've only just touched on the Indian-inspired elements of the book and I'm looking forward to the rest. My wish list includes:
- a cashew-based tartar sauce
- gingered cheesecake bar cookies
- savoury potato waffles
- all five cheese recipes
- meatball subs
- potato gratin with a gomasio crust
- macaroni and cheese-stuffed butternut squash
- sizzling polenta gnocchi with sage, and
- sweet cheese borek with rum-soaked raisins.
In Veganissimo, Leigh Drew has delivered on an ambitious project - it's informative, should appeal to a broad veg-curious audience, and is just lovely to look at. (Did I mention that it's strewn with gorgeous colour photos and supported by a cheery and unobtrusive design?) Most importantly, she's backed it up with well-thought-out and tasty recipes that are within reach of the home cook. It's Veganomicon with an Aussie sensibility, though I noticed a wee U.S. slant in the book's language - here's hoping it finds success beyond our shores!
Leigh Drew is also releasing a couple Veganissimo recipes on her blog.
Veganissimo retails for $34.99. Look out for it at book stores and health food shops, or purchase a copy online from Arbon Publishing. We received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but the decision to review it and the words and opinions posted are our own.