Cookbook Challenge Week Seven: 500 Vegan Recipes

After gushing about Joni and Celine in my last post about their most recent book, this weeks challenge involved their previous tome of a book, 500 Vegan Recipes. This is one massive cookbook! With 20 different chapters to choose from, there’s just about every kind of dish you could think of (and plenty that you would never have thought of), and a book that has seven chapters dedicated solely to baked goods is definitely my kind of book. There’s really a recipe for everybody, if you’re a newbie cook, there are a lot of quick and straight forward recipes or if you’re the type of person who spends most of their free time in the kitchen there are so many intriguing and creative flavour combinations to choose from (Crispy Coconut Tempeh Nuggets anyone?).

I heard a couple people mention how much they loved the Cauliflower Pasta Crisp so I figured I’d give it a try. I didn’t think the sauce would be as thick and creamy as it was since the base is made from cauliflower and soymilk, but holy hell was this stuff velvety. As great as the consistency was I was disappointed to find that the flavour was definitely lacking, there are a few spices added but I felt the flavour was pretty bland and would benefit from upping the spices or throwing in some nooch. This pasta bake is covered with a breadcrumb topping, now THAT had flavour! The topping was so tasty I’d seriously consider sprinkling it over other random pasta dishes, kind of like parmesan (the vegan variety of course :)). I was little iffy about adding the lemon zest that was called for but I wouldn’t recommend leaving it out, it really brings all the flavours together.

To go with the pasta I wanted to try something green and I love brussels sprouts! I know there are a lot of people out there who will screw up their face a the sheer sight of these little green morsels and all I can tell you is to get over it! Put the memory of overly boiled flavourless sprouts from your youth out of your mind, there are so many delicious ways you can cook brussels sprouts and boiling sure as hell isn’t one of them. In theory the Garlic and Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts should have been one of these great recipes but sadly, due to wonky measurements, it was not. First of all, although this is pretty minor, the recipe doesn’t say to cut the brussels sprouts, I cut mine anyway since I really like to coat as much surface area as I can, secondly, the flavour combinations in the marinade (sauce?) were great, but it made way too much. The recipe uses a weight measurement for the sprouts and I weighed them out with my kitchen scale to make sure I got it right, but this marinade is probable double the amount that you need and when I poured it all out onto the pan and baked, all the extra sauce basically boiled the brussels sprouts, blah. With a few alterations, this could make for a great side.

The Fig Lentil Soup sounded too interesting not to try, especially since I just happen to have some chestnuts sitting in my freezer from Christmas. The ingredients for this recipe were really interesting and nothing my little head would ever have thought of combining, you’ve got figs, chestnuts, wine, lentils, some rosemary and a tomatoey base (among other things). I know I’m not normally a fan of soups or stews that use a lot of tomatoes but this actually worked really well, the sweetness of the tomatoes went really well with the sweetness of the fig mixture and it had a nice savoury undertone. One major plus was that it calls for dried figs, as great as fresh ones are I’ve only come across them once in the entire 27 years of been on this planet, I know I could probable find them if I looked harder but I don’t have that much energy. In the recipe she says to quarter the figs but I found that once they absorbed the stock they plumped up to be pretty big, so I would recommend cutting them up smaller, unless you like putting large things in your mouth (hehe). If your on the fence about this one due to the unusual ingredients, I would really suggest giving it a try, it was a nice, hearty, bread dippin’ soup with a really great flavour.

The Veggie Curry Feast is a really quick, simple dish to make and is chock full of veggies, something I feel I’ve been lacking a bit lately. The sauce is basically made from combining coconut milk and cooked cauliflower, you’re supposed to let the cauliflower simmer in the milk until it’s softened and then mash it, as you can tell from my picture there doesn’t seem to be much of a sauce, this is because I’m a lazy ass, I mashed the cauliflower a little bit but then gave up since I was hungry and wanted instant gratification. Needless to say even without a creamy sauce this was pretty good, the recipe doesn’t call for it but I added just a little bit of spice which was great mixed with all the other delicious flavours. I looooove chickpeas, so of course I thought they went really well with this dish, plus the veggies are cooked just until tender, so you don’t wind up with any of that mushy gross stuff. This would be awesome over rice but I wanted to try out one more recipe this week, so instead I made Ginger Curry Potatoes.

I would say this recipe is really easy, but oh man was it time consuming! It seriously wasn’t meant to be, the recipe doesn’t state how long it’s actually supposed to take but I would think it wouldn’t take much longer then 20 to 30 minutes. I used baby yukon potatoes and cut them into little wedges, cooked for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown then added in the curry mixture and cooked until that was gone, kept cooking, kept cooking, added in some extra broth, kept cooking, added in some more broth, kept cooking, it was like the damn things didn’t want to soften! Finally the smallest slices were cooked through and I just gave up, so I ended up with a nice few cooked potatoes and a few crunchy ones. The recipe calls for green curry paste and silly me again purchased the Thai Kitchen brand, I really should have gone and bought some good stuff but I just didn’t have the time. With a stronger flavoured curry paste these potatoes would have been much better but using the bland paste that I had they were just ok, if you use the TK brand I would recommend adding in an additional tablespoon just to help up the flavour a bit more.

I read through other people’s reviews for this weeks challenge and it looks as though there have been a lot of hits and a lot of misses with 500 Vegan Recipes. On the plus side I have heard nothing but good things about the baking and dessert chapters but there seems to be some typos with measurements in some of the dinner items, I can’t really confirm this but it happens every now and then with cookbooks. If you’re interested in this book I wouldn’t let that deter you, there are some really great recipes and in a book of 500 recipes you really can’t expect to love them all. If you’re still not so sure, it’s always available at the library, so give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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