Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat

The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat
Authors: Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery
Publisher: Ryland, Peters and Small (2013)

When it comes to homemade meals, a well-stocked pantry and a bunch of go-to recipes are essential. Nobody wants to have to run out to the store for a missing ingredient, especially when it comes to cooking for guests. When you eat a vegetarian diet, cooking for mixed company often brings a level of concern and “in-jest” (but still occasionally hurtful) jibes about the lifestyle. How can your meals possibly be tasty and filling? You must be anemic without having meat on your plate. Your muscles will waste away – you need more protein! On the other hand, if you have a meat eating family and are expecting vegetarians at a dinner party, what to cook can be equally stressful and overly puzzling – without meat at the centre of the table, what is possibly left? Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery create stunning, healthy, hearty and delicious answers to these dilemmas in their book The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat.

Vegetarian Pantry covers every meal of the day – from Breakfast (p. 12) to Sweet Treats (p.118). The authors also include small sections for Small Bites (p. 28) and Dips, Salsas and Sauces (p. 50), which are indispensible for parties and light lunches. The book also offers a “quick-n-dirty” primer on a healthy vegetarian diet and a list of “good-to haves” in the kitchen for making delicious meals. The Well-Stocked Vegetarian Pantry (p. 10) also includes some handy tips for storing your ingredients, which is worth a read for any cook. No resource page is provided, but since most of the recipes call for easy-to-find ingredients this isn’t much of an issue. As if the names of recipes like Individual Baked Cheesecakes with Salted Honey Walnuts (p. 115) weren’t enough to send you racing to the kitchen, William Reavell lends his talent to Vegetarian Pantry, creating stunning, full colour photos of the dishes.

One of the refreshing things about Vegetarian Pantry is that it isn’t a health-guru bible. While the majority of recipes are generally nutritious, sugar, cheese, fat and – gasp! – deep frying also pepper the pages. By including indulgences like this, the authors bring a more approachable feel to the diet for non-vegetarians, while reminding them that the lifestyle is not all beans, lettuce and tofu. The Breadcrumbed Halloumi Goujons (p. 44) is a fantastic example of excess, and I wouldn’t be opposed to sitting down for French Toast Stuffed with Bananas (p. 25) on a Sunday morning.

Banana-Apricot Muffins
Honey and Apricot Breakfast Muffins (p. 26)
I tried a few recipes from the pages of Vegetarian Pantry, and had mixed results. My first project, Honey and Apricot Breakfast Muffins (p. 26) was missing a touch of salt, and the bake time of 30-40 minutes would have led to dense pucks of charcoal in muffin wrappers had I let them get that far (I wound up pulling them out at 20 minutes, and even then they were a bit too “done”). The taste was okay, but the dense texture and incorrect directions crossed off a remake for this reader. The Spicy Tomato Ketchup (p. 64) and the Sweet Chili Jam (p. 66) fared much better in my kitchen, and while I kept a few jars for myself (delicious!), I also canned a batch of each for holiday gifting. I’m led to believe that the authors are definitely more attuned to savoury cooking than baking, which most readers will find more useful anyways given most baked items are vegetarian by default.

Vegetarian cooking doesn’t have to be boring, flavourless or a complicated chore. There are so many options available that everyone can enjoy a meal together without compromise and come away full and happy. While I’d look elsewhere for desserts, Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery’s The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat will certainly fill your plate with delicious, meat free fare.

Available on Amazon

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