I am a lover of cookbooks. Fortunately I used to live in the UK where cookbooks are reasonably priced so I built up a large collection. Since I moved back to Australia from the UK five years ago I have purchased about 3 books (other than from op shops) because the prices are simply too high. This compares with about 100 during the previous 5 years. Of course I was working and didn’t have expenses like children then but still when you can by a beautiful cookbook on Amazon for the equivalent of $30 you do find excuses for owning them a lot easier than when they cost closer to $50 -$100 (or more if its Stephanie Alexander…even Stephanie only costs $40 on Amazon).
Of the cookbooks I possess there are, I’m ashamed to admit, many that I don’t open but there are many that I do and these are my favourites to turn to for recipes that highlight vegetables.
- My absolute favourite cookbook of all time is a South Indian Vegetarian cookbook that was given to me on 22nd (or possibly 23rd) birthday by my then housemate and still good friend. The reason I loved it then is that it allowed me to access a whole lot of flavours I consumed while in India but had absolutely no idea how to recreate. The reason I love it now is that no matter what I grow in the garden there is usually a suitable cooking method in this book and the results are always delicious. The book is called Dakshin and it is by Chandra Padmanabhan. She has also written a follow-up called Southern Spice which also has great recipes but not the fabulous photos and presentation of its predecessor.
2. My next selection is a book called: Paradiso Seasons by Denis Cotter. Denis Cotter is an Irish chef who runs Cafe Paradiso a vegetarian restaurant in Cork. Whilst I have never visited the Cafe (or indeed Cork) I would love to if only to eat the sort of food he highlights here. Recipes with names like Pumpkin soup with lime and a coconut-peanut relish, Corn crusted aubergine Fritters with a tamarillo chutney, Chickpea, Leek and Rosemary Soup with a hot pepper salsa have all proved popular in my house – even with the more meat loving members. Broken down into seasons the book offers a variety of recipes that I have used for both; family meals and entertaining.
3. A New Book of Middle Eastern food by Claudia Roden is not a vegetarian cookbook but any book that has 3 different spinach recipes for filling savoury pastries (admitedly one of these includes calves livers) has to be included. Claudia Roden has written a number of books on Middle Eastern Cookery but I think this one is best if you want a no nonsense (there aren’t any pictures) reference for a Middle Eastern take on vegetables. For example there are 16 entries for spinach, 34 for eggplant and for those Southern Hemispherites currently drowning in a sea of apricots she includes 15 recipes. The book also includes historical and cultural aspects of eating in the Middle East and gives interesting background information about how each type of ingredient is used.
4. Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry is not solely about cooking vegetables either, instead it is a collection of her favourite recipes from the Middle East, Meditterranean and North Africa. What I like about this book is the abundant use of herbs and strong flavourings in many of the dishes. For instance a Greek Herb Pilaf with Prawns and Feta calls for onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes, a good-sized bunch of dill, a good sized bunch of parsley, plus a handful of mint as well as lemon juice and lemon wedges to serve. All the sort of things that if you have a productive kitchen garden you should (climate permitting) have in abundance but if you were to try and buy at a supermarket you would have to fork out a lot of money for vastly inferior produce. This book also includes one of my favourite vegetarian combinations of all time: Bulgar and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chilli Roast Tomatoes – If you have the book then definitely give it a try.
5. My last selection is also my most recent acquisition – Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. I am including it here, despite not having sampled many of its recipes as yet, simply because there are very few recipes here that I don’t want to try. There are also very few recipes here that don’t include vegetables I grow in my garden. But the thing that elevates this above other veggie centric offerings is the high esteem he holds Chard – a vegetable available year round just outside my back door.
And those are my Top 5 for cooking vegetables. Do you have any favourites, recommendations for me? I would love to find excuses for some more acquisitions…
As a follow up from last week, thankyou to everyone who commented on the kitchen gadgets – as per everyones instruction I will soon to go to the shops and purchase a salad spinner (and probably a Microplane). Santa may have to provide the remainder, I shall be on my best behaviour all year….
P.S: To see what The New Good Life has come up with for her Top 5 then click here.