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I bought this book in the spring when I was in the happy position of having a large number of book tokens to spend. I have owned or borrowed a number of books by Rose Elliot over the years and I have come to associate her recipes with being relatively easy and well thought out. So I thought this book - Classic Vegetarian Recipes - would be a useful addition to my collection.
I think that Rose must be one of the most well established and prolific writers of vegetarian cookbooks. According to the blurb on this book, she has actually produced over 50 titles. This edition contains both new recipes and some that have previously been included in her older volumes . I will list these books at the end of this review. They don't include any that I have used myself so I'm not sure how much duplication there would be. So if you have any of these older titles, it is probably safest to have a look through a copy of this book before you buy. That way you can make sure that there are enough newer recipes for you.
The sub-title of this book is "75 signature dishes". The savoury recipes are organised into chapters covering soups and starters, everyday meals, and salads/ vegetable accompaniments. I think that most of the dishes are what I would call the "standard" dishes of vegetarian cooking eg stuffed peppers, falafel, and risottos. I don't think this is a shortcoming considering the book title includes the world "classic". I like experimenting with unusual ingredients and flavours but sometimes it is nice to go back to old favourites too, and this book is perfect for that. I may already have some of these recipes in other books but I always like to try Rose's version as I find they are often an improvement! For example, I love her vegetable shephards pie. I found it to be more filling with a better texture than the ones I used to make. The addition of smoked cheese adds a wonderful flavour and makes all the difference.
There is also a chapter catering for "special occasion" meals. I would not have included recipes such as lasagne or nut roast in this section myself, as I regard them as more everyday meals, but we all different. However, artichoke frittata or croustade of asparagus hollandaise are definitely recipes that I would only make on special occasions as they are more fiddly or expensive to prepare. I think that if you want to cook a lot of dinner-party style dishes, you may find the range of ideas here a bit limited as the chapter is short. I know that I personally tend to use other books for this as they tend to give me more inspiration in one place.
The side dishes are a mix of the predictable [ratatouille, roast potatoes] and the more unusual [courgette ribbons]. I think there is a versatile selection and I can find an ideal side for most meals from this section. I recommend the roast parsnip recipe in particular as it produces reliably crispy results. That is something I used to struggle with before!
The last chapter deals with puddings and cakes. I was disappointed with the small and unimaginative choice of recipes here, even considering the classic theme of the book. There are recipes for crumble, brownies and and cheesecake for example. The savoury recipes may be old favourites of vegetarian cooking but at least they come from a variety of cuisines and use a wide variety of flavours. I also expected to find more than 3 cake recipes. On balance though, many cake and dessert recipes are vegetarian anyway so I am happy for more space to go to savoury dishes.
ARE THE RECIPES EASY TO USE?
Yes, absolutely. I have found that they are easy to follow as the method is presented in numbered steps. All of the instruction are clear, and the ingredient lists don't include too many unusual ingredients although there are some. Spelt and gram flours for example. I haven't yet found I needed to use anything that I couldn't find in a larger supermarket. [The introduction also includes some brief notes on the type of foods used in the book which you may find useful if you are new to cooking.]
Overall, I think the recipes are very reliable. I have had no real failures out of approximately 20 dishes tried although the brownie recipe isn't the most chocolatey I have made.
ILLUSTRATIONS AND PRESENTATION
This book is a hardback with a smart pale purple cover. It also looks good on the inside. The majority of recipes are accompanied by a photo on the facing page. A few aren't illustrated at all but I still feel the book is attractive. The photos that are there are good quality and do the food justice. There have been several occasions when I have been just flicking through the book and found myself stopped by a dish that looked so good I had to make it!
I paid £10 exactly for this and I think this was good value. I would recommend the book for vegetarians looking for a good range of "everyday" meal ideas. I wouldn't recommend it to those who would find these kind of traditional recipes boring, as they do comprise the majority of the book. Also, those looking for a wide selection of sweet recipes may be disappointed as I don't think this is one of the book's strengths. It is available on Amazon at the time of looking for £7 for a new copy with free delivery. This makes it an even better buy and a good, inexpensive choice for a starter veggie cookbook.
As mentioned, some of the recipes have previously been published in one or more of the following books: The Supreme Vegetarian Cookbook Vegetarian Supercook Vegetarian Dishes of the World Veggie Chic Vegetarian Four Seasons The New Vegetarian Cookbook The Classic Vegetarian Cookbook Vegetarian Barbecues and Grills - All by Rose Elliot.
ISBN 978 060 062 1799 Published by Octopus Books/Hamlyn, 2011. Hardback but is the size of a typical paperback novel.
[This review may also appear at a later date on Dooyoo under my user name, and on vegetarianratesandreviews.blogspot with my permission]