Friday, March 25, 2016

V is for Vegan Cookbook

Full disclosure: when I was offered a copy of V is for Vegan by Kerstin Rodgers for review, I was under the mistaken impression that the beautiful, hardcover tome was a book about veganism, not a vegan cookbook. So, while I was immediately impressed by the design, I'll admit I was slightly disappointed; I haven't been cooking much these days and I've been just fine with that- until I opened the book.


The book starts off briefly explaining a vegan diet, but quickly goes into specifics about what is/can be non-vegan about everything from meat/dairy/eggs/fish to gelatin/honey, and even alcohol, cosmetics, and clothes. Color me impressed. Next up is a significant section on ingredients and basics and then, when you delve into the crux of the book, there are seriously impressive savory creations that I, personally, have never seen/ heard of/ imagined- showcased in stunning color photos. I was intimidated, to be sure, until Andrea's Easy Vegan Cooking reviewed and bolstered my courage enough to dive in and at least create a shopping list.


I finally found myself with a day at home and planned a full menu straight from V is for Vegan:
To start, Black Cat Pancakes with Bananas, Cinnamon, and Maple Syrup- a recipe from Carole Stapleton, chef at the Black Cat. VifV isn't a collection of other people's recipes; it was just a coincidence that I chose this ode.


Pancakes are one of the most crowd-pleasing breakfasts you can pull together easily and with staples usually found in your kitchen, so I couldn't understand why anyone would develop a recipe for them that requires a food processor and stand mixer. In addition, there was a little weirdness and pretension in the recipe from my perspective. For instance, what is a heaping tablespoon of sparkling water? Don't gravity and physics (I don't know; I'm not a scientist!) prohibit liquid from "heaping"? This recipe also includes a note- presumably from the author, about having substituted sparkling elderflower drink in place of water. Is this a British thing, or are there others out there who would likely have sparkling elderflower drink hanging around instead of plain old seltzer? Normally substitution notes are for things you'd actually have in place of more unusual things- such as purple scallions, which are called for in another VifV recipe, but I digress.


Thankfully, these things failed to phase me once I realized that the pancakes- double batch natch, were terrific. They were the absolute fluffiest I've ever made and- aside from the kitchen gadgetry, achieved seemingly without effort. Every single pancake fluffed up- including the first. And I didn't even have to tamper down the cakes to ensure they cooked all the way through- they just did: quickly and somewhat miraculously. Because the recipe didn't call for any added accouterments, I didn't add chocolate chips- which was difficult for me. It turned out they didn't need it! Just a sprinkle of cinnamon (none in the recipe) and a boatload of maple syrup and they were perfection. A note about that boatload: these pancakes are a veritable syrup sponge. After all, isn't that what pancakes are meant to be- a vehicle by which to transport syrup into your mouth? Bravo. But then something weird happened. I realized that although I had doubled all of the other ingredients in the recipe, I'd forgotten to double the flour. I was positive, but- as a test, I made them again the following week: a single batch exactly as directed. The batter was so thick that it looked like I was making a loaf of bread, not pancakes. They didn't cook nearly as well or as quickly and ultimately tasted very tough. When I repeated my initial mistake of doubling the batch- everything except the flour, they were perfect again. So my first permanent notes in the book were born.


For lunch I chose the Sweet Potato & Coconut South Seas Soup. It was extraordinarily straightforward, save for no indication of total cooking time or direction on pot size. The finished result was gorgeous, but exceedingly rich- almost to the point of being inedible. As leftovers, I added 2 cups of broth, more veggies, a handful of cashews, and served over Jasmine rice. It was extremely well-received by VM, who dubbed it "one of the best things" I've ever made. She was still talking about it the next day. Again, lots of notes so that I can be sure to recreate the dish I want in future.

Dinner was a no-brainer. After cooking 2/3 meals for the day I bypassed the exquisitely appealing Artichoke, Potato, Spinach &  Tofu B'stlla with Poppy Seeds & Rose Petals for the Pizzette with Roast Pumpkin, Red Onion, & Sage, which is more my speed.

There was, again, some weirdness and pretension followed by a terrific meal. Why would I have to proof my yeast in a pitcher when any old bowl will do? How do I roast minced garlic on a baking sheet with squash and onions without it burning to oblivion? Moreover, how to I transfer said minced garlic to the pizzette? As noted by Vegansaurus, the recipe directions in VifV often leave a lot to be desired. My pizza had to cook three times as long as indicated in order for the dough to be cooked through. And, before you say it, I do use an oven thermometer- so don't even go there.

All in all the recipes have their hearts in the right places, but they seem to need a little TLC. It's frustrating while you're cooking, but by the time you're eating it you totally forget how annoying it was. Kind of like childbirth? I'd definitely recommend this book, but be aware that a little finesse will be in order.


  1. I think some Pancake recipes call for a little seltzer water for fluffiness, but I never felt like buying a whole bottle of seltzer just for a few tablespoons. The Soup and Pizzette look super gourmet. I think 89 needs a highchair to watch you cook.

  2. The comment about the heaping spoon of water made me cackle. I can assure you that physics doesn't work differently in the UK, where said cookbook author hails from. Sounds an interesting book, but have seen other non convinced reviews, so I'll give this one a miss. Glad to see how the recipes turned out!

  3. Lol at how your pup 89 was staring at the big stack of pancakes. :)

  4. I think your review is so accurate — lots of good things mixed with confusing ones. I tried to convey the mix in my review, and I hope I made my experience clear. I love the idea of "a heaping tablespoon of seltzer!" It's right up there with "a glug of verjuice." For those willing to seek out ingredients and add their own expertise into the mix, there can be some good eating to be had — certainly different from what you usually find in cookbooks.

  5. Oooh that soup and pizza look fantastic! I'm not a pancake person really but they do look wonderful as well.
    At this point i probably have enough cookbooks, and certainly more than enough confusion in my life but this looks nice.

  6. ha ha, I love that picture of your doggie's little tongue. I'll admit, I also received a review copy of this book -- but I haven't been inspired to dive into it, based on the fussiness of the recipes and how complicated they look. Maybe you and Andrea will co-inspire me!


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