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I'm a big fan of the vegetarian cookery writer Rose Elliott, and I own several of her books. She has been writing best selling books for decades - more than 50 titles in all, which means that quite a few filter through in to charity shops and second hand bookshops given time. So I was able to buy a used copy of her "Vegetarian Supercook" just after Christmas, for £1.
. HOW IS THIS BOOK DIFFERENT FROM THE AUTHORS OTHER TITLES?
In her introduction, the author says she wanted this book to be different from other vegetarian cookbooks in the sense of being more useful. She conducted a straw poll of vegetarians to find out what recipes they felt were lacking in other books. This seems a sensible idea, and I hope more authors give this some thought! The results showed that there was a need for more vegetarian entertaining, BBQ, quick supper and low fat recipes, all of which have been incorporated into this volume. I agree that these areas are less well covered in veggie cookbooks in general, but I was also happy to see general main course ideas have made it in too. One of the chapters also deals with twists on classic vegetarian meals/snacks, such as lasagne and hummus.
Worth noting is the fact that I have noticed that a few recipes from this book are also included in the author's Classic Vegetarian Cookbook. Having both books though, I still feel that there is more than enough original content in each to justify having the two.
. GENERAL INFORMATION INCLUDED.
This isn't one of those books that begins with a lengthy section giving basic cookery advice. After the short introduction, it launches straight into the recipes. I like this because once you have several recipe books, the general advice chapters in books tend to be a bit repetitive. If you are an absolute beginner, you may miss the fact that explainations of cookery terms aren't included, but this information is easy to find elsewhere. There is a handy guide to some of the more unusual ingredients used though. However, most of the recipes can be made from what I would call standard vegetarian store cupboard ingredients such as beans, and lentils.
There are plenty of colour photos, but not one for each recipe which is slightly disappointing as the ones that are there make the food look so good and colourful.
. RANGE OF RECIPES
Most of the dishes I would call main meal ideas although there are some starters, cakes and desserts. I have found that there is a good mix of quicker to make suggestions such as frittata, and more complex dishes, such as those within the dinner party section. The latter section is still useful even if you don't plan on doing any formal entertaining, as I have used the recipes for regular meals when I have a bit more time to devote to their preparation, and I want to make something special. The "no time to cook " section has meals ideas that cook in 15-30 minutes, with preparation taking a silmilar amount of time. Crucially the timings are actually accurate, and are clearly highlighted at the start of each recipe, so you can reliably find something to fit the time you have available.
I like the fact the recipes are not all heavily based around cheese, which is a problem I often encounter in vegetarian cookbooks. I love cheese, but as it isn't the lowest fat food around, I limit my consumption. So I was impressed to find more than 30 recipes that were vegan, all clearly marked with a V printed in a circle. I have found this really helpful when looking for new ideas for meals to make for my vegan friends and family members. At the back of the book there is a guide to "veganising" some of the other recipes too, with a list of suggestions for what to substitute for dairy ingredients. This list is quite obvious in one way, eg use vegan cream in place of dairy cream, but I remember when I didn't realise all those alternatives existed, so it does at least let you know what is available.
There is also a wide range of flavours used, and not too many pasta dishes at the exclusion of everything else. My favourites recipes so far have been a mango, cardamon and pistachio fool that is simplicity itself, a white chocolate ice cream that tasted fantastic with the last of my frozen blackberry crop, and some tasty black bean cakes, served with a lemon mayonaise. The lentil shephards pie is also delicious, although I first came across that in the other Rose Elliot book I mentioned above.
. WOULD I RECOMMEND THE BOOK?
I would, because it has a good selection of recipe ideas, using lots of different flavours and ingredients. Most of the seem fresh and original, so it would be a good companion to the sort of vegetarian recipe book that includes the "standard" recipes such as nut roast and tomato pasta. On balance I would say there are probably more special occasion dishes than everyday ones, but the quick to cook chapter does help to balance things out. I have always found Rose Elliot's books to be reliable and accurate and this is no exception, so whatever you do choose to make should at least work!
My paperback edition is available on Amazon for £9.09 for a new copy at the time of looking - the cover price is £12.99. There are also many used copies available from market place sellers too. This was previously published as a hardback, which is no longer available new, but seems the cheapest option for a used copy.