Generally my food books fall into three categories:
1. Baking books, great for cakes and cookies, but not so hot for the ‘What should I make for dinner on this grey Tuesday with the half cabbage and off cuts of cheese in my fridge?’ debacle.
2. Ancient, foisty old tomes picked up at charity shops, bought out of curiosity and mocked for their datedness.
3. Books that I devour as though they were novels. The Nigella How to Eat and the Nigel Slater Real Food type of thing. Full of inspiration and interest, but somewhat lacking in the ‘recipes for the non-meat eater’ department.
From these three arenas I develop my ideas and recipes, blending, borrowing and bending. However, none of my books help in a perfectly direct way. None simply tell me what I should make when I am pushed for time and/or inspiration. Feeling as though I could do with a bit more of a helping hand some nights, I invested in Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian.
Now, this is the first cookbook that I have ever owned whose sole purpose is to provide everyday recipes for vegetarians (I do own the amazing Veggiestan, which I use often, but I’m not counting that as it is centered around being food from the Middle East with only secondary emphasis on lack of meat). There is something completely and utterly freeing knowing that I can open the book and eat the suggested meal with no tinkering at all. So that is what I did: the book flipped open to Paella.
Normally the reserve of fish-eaters, I had not eaten a paella since around 1998, aged 10 in the windiest restaurant in Spain. I was pleasantly surprised by the veggie result; tasty, interesting and now a regular in my kitchen. Just like that. The same can be said of all the dishes I have tried out of the book; not a dud in sight. That’s the thing with this book: it is packed full to brim with tasty, simple, quick veggie dishes. Just what I needed.
Now, this book may not get your heart racing. There are next-to-no glossy, stylized photos. There are few recipes that would win rounds of exclamations from a round table of Michelin starred chefs. If you have been cooking for years, do it almost professionally and think that homemade tortellini and ragu is a simple mid-week meal, then this book isn’t for you. But, for the rest of us, this is the perfect book for any veggie, be you newbie or oldie. What this book lacks in inspiration and excitement it more than makes up for with its ease, from sourcing the required ingredients to the cooking itself. I can’t really recommend this book highly enough as a veggie staple on the cooking book shelf.
Which cookery books do you swear by? Tried Rose Eliot’s New Complete Vegetarian? Any recipe recommendations from it?
P.S The paella featured in this post was actually made for me by Mr Py; another benefit of this recipe book is that he too enjoys using it!