Author: Dunja GulinPublisher: Ryland Peters & Small (2014)
My family, like so many these days, is a mixed bag of backgrounds, traditions, habits and – not the least – diets. The “man of the house” (who is the only man in the house!) is a true omnivore. He loves almost every fruit or vegetable out there, but is hard pressed to call a plate of animal-free food a “meal” no matter how hearty it is. My (not so) little sister would happily live off pancakes and pasta every day, but for my mom and I vegetable-based main dishes are the rule rather than the exception. Neither of us are “true” vegetarians (we both eat fish, and she eats meat in small amounts), but we are not opposed to vegan food as the bulk of our dining routine. Part nutritional, part economical and part sustainable, a totally vegan diet can also be completely delicious, varied and manage to fill any craving you might have. Dunja Gulin, author of The Vegan Baker, sets out to prove this very fact in her cookbook The Vegan Pantry: More Than 60 Delicious Recipes for Modern Vegan Food.
Without manifesto, pomp or harassment as to the “evils” of a meat-inclusive diet, Vegan Pantry is precisely the same style as any other cookbook in terms of it’s organization and language. Shying away from overly processed meat and cheese analogues, Gulin shows how vegetables, whole grains and legumes can form delicious and filling frameworks for a variety of meals – including comfort fare such as Lentil Moussaka (p. 61), elegant Polenta Tarte Flambee (p. 65) and even a hearty Goulash (p. 53). Many of the recipes in this book are gluten-free as well, giving this book an added bonus for people cooking for mixed company. It’s hard to believe that any of the dishes are missing anything – and truly, they aren’t, since the choice to live any sort of dietary lifestyle is one that should be filled with enjoyment, not focused on sacrifice.
Of course, healthy (or “alternative”) food doesn’t always look too gourmet – but William Reavell does the recipes in Vegan Pantry justice with his stunning, full-colour photographs. Even tofu-phobics will crave a colourful Tofu Scramble (p. 35) or Curry (p. 49), and the Vegan Caesar Salad (p. 93) looks decadent enough to make anyone crave a bowl of greens. I can’t promise that every dish that came out of my kitchen while cooking through this book looked as spectacular, but then again, the taste had me coming back for more!
He major stumbling block that most would-be vegan cooks face is the sheer amount of time that most whole-food preparations take. Vegan Pantry is not immune to this, unfortunately, as many of Gulin’s recipes require advance soaking, grinding, chopping or even secondary recipe preparations before a relatively brief “final assembly”. While I would never discount the book entirely based on that detail alone, some simpler and more approachable items would benefit busy households or working parents who are considering this lifestyle.
I thoroughly enjoyed making and tasting a host of things from Vegan Pantry, including the Pure Energy Bars (p. 39) and the Strong Flavoured Tomato Sauce (p. 99). The Gooey Chocolate Cookies (p. 127) are on my must-make list as well without question, since even with the time constraints they look decadent enough to eat off the page. The success of everything I’ve made so far also gives me confidence that more complex projects will turn out equally well. One of the major “pluses” of Gulin’s recipes is that most of them make fantastic leftovers (or freezer meals) as well. He filling in the Soft-Shell Veggie Tacos (p. 62) lasts a week in the fridge and is divine mixed with rice or pasta, as well as being reheated in its original “taco” form. The deserts themselves last in the fridge or freezer too, and if they aren’t gobbled up the second they’re served, a serving makes a fabulous snack or weeknight treat.
Whether you’re a long-term plant based foodie, or simply trying out a few meat-free menus during the week, you’re sure to find something to tempt you in Dunja Gulin’s The Vegan Pantry: More Than 60 Delicious Recipes for Modern Vegan Food. From breakfast to dessert, delicious, nutritious and relatively simple meals are just a page-turn away.