Book Review: Let Them Eat Vegan

I’d been doing so well on resisting buying any more cookbooks. I seem to have amassed a rather large number over the recent years since I’ve developed an interest in cooking, and as much as I love to have them, I don’t use them nearly enough, tending to get my inspiration from other blogs or restaurant menus.

All the same, I’ve been following Dreena’s blog, Plant-Powered Kitchen, where she’s been sharing recipes from her book “Let Them Eat Vegan”,  and reading write-ups elsewhere, and knew I couldn’t resist. I don’t feel one bit guilty about this purchase either, I only wish I’d got it sooner (it was published over a year ago in May 2012) as I know it’s going to be a book I come back to time and time again. There are a whopping 200 recipes to work through as well!

This is actually my first of Dreena’s books, although she has written 3 previously- The Everyday Vegan, Vive le Vegan! and Eat Drink & Be Vegan, all of which have been big hits. If you don’t know Dreena’s recipes they’re creative and satisfying, vegan of course, and based on wholefoods (no processed ingredients).

I’ve only made a few recipes so far but was keen to share my thoughts and encourage anyone who doesn’t have the book to get it! Even if you’re not vegan or even vegetarian this is a good book for you as there’s tonnes of advice and tips on how to get started on a vegan diet and a good range of easy, everyday recipes and more complicated, time-consuming ones.

Mediterranean Bean Burgers (Let Them Eat Vegan) Mediterranean Bean Burgers

These were very tasty indeed. I’ve not had much luck with veg burgers in the past. They either seem to crumble to pieces when I cook them or else they’re mushy in the middle. These have the perfect texture, based on kidney beans and oats, and are packed with Mediterranean flavour- oregano, olives and red pepper.

Oh, and I was pretty proud of myself for making my own burger buns too. It seems impossible to buy buns or wraps which aren’t full of chemical preservatives around these parts. I used this recipe from Holy Cow Vegan and they turned out really well, nice and fluffy with a good rise. Now I’ve learnt how easy it is to make my own burger buns I’m sure I’ll soon be trying all Dreena’s other burger recipes- there’s a whole chapter devoted to them!

Raw Strawberry Pie (Let Them Eat Vegan)

Raw Strawberry Pie

In the interest of a comprehensive review….I of course had to delve into the dessert chapter. These pretty little tarts are a mini version of Dreena’s Raw Strawberry Pie. I just divided the recipe to make a smaller amount and used tartlet shells.

I’m very familiar with raw desserts already and this one’s very simple. It’s also delicious and a bit lighter than most which can use a lot of nuts in the filling.

Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing (Let Them Eat Vegan)

Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing

This salad had been getting rave reviews and after trying it I could definitely see why. With kale as the base ingredient you can really add any other vegetables you like, although the apples and raisins listed really added to this I thought. The sweet curried almond dressing is what makes this really special though- I cleaned out my blender as best I could so as not to waste any of it. I did change it a little bit just because maple syrup is very expensive here so I usually save it for on pancakes/waffles! Instead I used dates which I can buy very cheaply in the international stores near me.

Here is my version if you’re interested:

Curried Almond Date Dressing:

1/4C Dates
3/4C Water
1/2C Almonds, soaked
2 1/2T Apple cider vinegar
1t Fresh grated ginger
1 Small clove of garlic
1/2 (heaping) t Salt
1/4t Curry powder
Black pepper
First blend together the dates and water in a high-power blender, until smooth and creamy. Add in all the other ingredients and blend again until very smooth. You may prefer a thinner dressing, if so, add more water.

I didn’t need all this for my salad but loved the leftovers as a dip (yes again….) for raw veggies.

Apple Hemp Pancakes (Let Them Eat Vegan)

Apple Hemp Pancakes

I adore pancakes and these are very yummy. They are made from spelt flour and are packed with nutritious hemp seeds and diced apples so you can feel good about eating them too.  With my new morning routine I can see I’ll be working my way through the “Breakfast Bites and Smoothies” chapter.

I’m particularly excited to get stuck into the “Proud to be Saucy and Dippy” chapter. You know how much I love a good dip! And the main dishes, including warming soups and stews, casseroles, tarts, one-pots and pasta are all going to make the move towards colder weather that bit more welcome.

As I mentioned, Dreena writes the blog plant-powered kitchen where she generously shares some of the recipes from her cookbooks as well as an abundance of useful information and cooking, nutrition and vegan parenting advice.

Do you have a copy of “Let Them Eat Vegan” or any of Dreena’s other books?  Which are your favourite recipes?

Radish, White Bean + Avocado Quinoa Salad

Poor radishes are definitely an under used vegetable in my kitchen. I’ve tended to think of them as Peter Rabbit food and un-enthusiastically eaten the few puny things I pulled out of the ground when I tried to grow them last year.  Seeing this beautiful bunch though, I immediately knew I needed to rethink my opinion on these baby roots, and certainly show them more respect than I had previously. Aren’t they pretty with their bright pink and little white tips? Especially when they’re still in a bunch with their leaves on.

Bunch of Radishes

It was one of those evenings when all ambitions to be good with meal-planning have gone out the window,  I’m sure familiar to everyone reading (or else you’re much more organized then me….). 7pm has rolled around already and you’ve done nothing about dinner preparations. Actually, I had already decided that I wanted something with white beans, soaked them overnight, set them to simmer earlier in the day…only to forget about them and end up with a pot of burned beans! Canned beans are perfect for such emergency situations!

I put on some quinoa to cook while I chopped up my radishes, washed and dried the radish tops, drained and rinsed the canned beans, quickly cooked up a few frozen green peas and whisked together a simple dressing. I spread out the quinoa to cool a little while finishing up watering the garden, picking up some fresh dill en route, then back to my kitchen where I mixed everything together, sliced some avocado for topping and voilà! A beautiful, no-fuss dinner was served.

Radish, White Bean + Avocado Quinoa Salad

Radish, White Bean + Avocado Quinoa Salad

(Inspired by A Couple Cooks)

For the salad:

1/2C Quinoa, uncooked OR 1 1/2 C Cooked quino
1/2 Can white beans, drained and rinsed OR 3/4C Cooked beans
1C Sliced radishes
1/2C Frozen peas (optional)
4-5 Sprigs of dill, roughly chopped

For the dressing:

1-2 Shallots, thinly sliced
1/2T Apple cider vinegar
1/2t Dijon mustard
1/2t Agave nectar
2T Lemon juice
1T Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

To serve:

Radish tops, julienned OR mild salad greens e.g. watercress/pea shoots
1 Medium Avocado, sliced thick

If you need to cook your quinoa, rinse well and drain. Place in a pot with 1C water and a large pinch of salt, bring to the boil and let simmer 10-15minutes, tightly covered, until water is all evaporated. When done leave to sit for a few minutes covered until completely dry. To cool, spread it out onto a plate or a flat dish while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Cook frozen peas if using, boil 2-3 minutes then rinse with cold water to keep them fresh. Set aside.

While quinoa is cooking/cooling put the sliced shallots in a little bowl with the apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes (this soaking them takes a little of the bite out of them). Whisk together remaining dressing ingredients.

In a large bowl mix together, quinoa, white beans, peas, dill and radishes. Pour over dressing, including shallots and their soaking vinegar and toss to combine. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve on a bed of salad greens and top with sliced avocado.

Serves 2

Radish, White Bean + Avocado Quinoa Salad

This kind of grain, bean, vegetable type of salad is ideal for quick meals and something I often make a larger quantity of and store in the fridge for lunches throughout the week. Add the avocado and salad greens fresh when serving.

How do you eat your radishes, if you like them?

Nut Kofte, Sweet Spiced Beet-Carrot Salad + Tzatziki

I’ve been to Istanbul for a short visit but would love to see more of that part of the world- beautiful architecture,  fascinating culture…and of course delicious food!

Middle-Eastern cuisine has been a favourite of mine for some time. If you ever find yourself in Oxford I highly recommend a meal at Al Shami. It’s a great Lebanese place, probably my favourite Oxford restaurant, and although not exclusively vegetarian, there’s a huge selection of vegan mezze on offer. Whenever we go we order as many dishes as we can squeeze onto the table and all share, that way we can try lots of different things. (N.b. I’ve now posted a review of the restaurant here)

Here’s my attempt to bring a little of the Middle-East into my own kitchen. My creations are no doubt far from authentic, but still tasty. I stumbled across a recipe for nut kofta kebabs over at Bit of the Good Stuff and they became the starting point for this meal, with just a bit of adaptation.

Nut Kofte, Sweet Spiced Beet-Carrot Salad + Tzatziki

To serve along with the kofte I went for a sweet spiced beetroot carrot salad, lemony courgettes, herbed wholegrain couscous and mint tzatziki- a tasty little feast.

Nut Kofte:

(Adapted from Bit of the Good Stuff)

1-2T Rapeseed oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 t Ground cumin
1t Ground coriander
1T Peanut butter
1-2t Sriracha hot sauce
salt + pepper
425g / 14oz Can Borlotti beans, rinsed + drained
1C Almond meal (whole almonds finely ground in a food processor)
1/2C Finely chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts + walnuts)
1/2-3/4C Wholemeal breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 180C/350F

Sauté onion in oil over medium heat for a few minutes until soft and fragrant, add garlic, spices, peanut butter and sriracha and and continue cooking another couple of minutes. Season to taste.

Pulse beans in food processor until mostly smooth, scrape into a bowl and add onion mixture, ground and chopped nuts, breadcrumbs as needed until you get a thick consistency, slightly sticky and not crumbly.

If you’ve got time stick the bowl in the fridge for an hour to firm up and help you shape the kofte. Using damp fingers shape the mixture into approx 14 ping-pong size balls. Lay on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until turning brown and crispy, flip kofte half-way through cooking time.

(Makes 14- Serves 4)

Nut Kofte, Sweet Spiced Beet-Carrot Salad + Tzatziki

This salad is a keeper, one I can see going well with a whole variety of dishes. It’s delicately spiced and a little tangy with tasty bursts of sweetness from the golden raisins in every mouthful.

Sweet Spiced Beet-Carrot Salad:

2-3C Grated Carrots
1-2C Grated Beetroot (I used a food processor to save time, although I think done by hand the shreds are a little nicer)
1/2C Golden Raisins or Currants
1/4t Sweet Paprika
1/4t Ground Cumin
1/4t Ground Cinnamon
Dash Cayenne
Salt + Pepper
2 1/2T Lemon Juice
2t Agave syrup
Fresh mint to garnish

Add the grated carrot and beetroot to a large bowl, along with the raisins. In a small bowl combine spices and seasoning and whisk in lemon and agave. Pour dressing over the salad and toss well. Leave to sit, covered, in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving for the best flavour. Garnish with mint.

I thought it would be nice to have something creamy and cooling to go with the slightly spiced dishes and my mint raita went perfectly here. I tried a similar recipe from “Veganomicon” a short while ago, which is a little different, using oregano + dill, but also very tasty. I liked the mint with this meal though.

This Recipe is being shared at Raw Food Thursdays
Cucumber Mint Raita:

1/4C Cashews, soaked for an hour, drained and rinsed
1c Cucumber, peeled + diced
2t Agave nectar
1t Apple cider vinegar
1/2 Clove garlic
1/2t Ground cumin
1/2t Salt
1t Lime juice
Dash of cayenne
1/4C Fresh mint, loosely packed

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender (except fresh mint), until smooth. Pulse in mint, leaving little flecks of green.

What’s your favourite cuisine? Although Middle-Eastern is one of mine I love trying dishes from all over the world- Indian, European, Asian, American…English is in fact one of the few I’m not a huge fan of!

If you try out any of these recipes, I’d love to hear what you think.

Chickpea Salad with Cucumber, Parsley + Sun-dried Tomatoes

Having cooked the remainder of my 3kg (!) bag of dried chickpeas for the various dishes I made for the picnic at the weekend, I had just enough cooked chickpeas left for another salad.

I packed this flavourful dish in a Tupperware to take with me baby-sitting last night and it was a nice light dinner along with a bowl of veggie soup the kids’ Mum had made- enjoyed in peace and quiet after the little ones were tucked up!

Chickpea Salad with Cucumber, Parsley + Sun-dried Tomatoes

Zingy and light, but satisfying, with a good range of textures.  Just what I like in a salad.

Chickpea Salad with Cucumber, Parsley + Sun-dried Tomatoes

Gather ingredients. Chop chop chop. Add your dressing. Mix it up.

Chickpea Salad with Cucumber, Parsley + Sun-dried Tomatoes

The flavour improves after a sit in the fridge for a couple of hours so prepare in advance if you can.

Chickpea Salad with Cucumber, Parsley + Sun-dried Tomatoes:

1 3/4 C Cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 Large cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped into thin slices
1/2 Red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 C Dry-Pack Sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water to rehydrate and thinly sliced
Bunch Parsley, roughly chopped (approx 1/3 C loosely packed)
Few Leaves Basil, julienned
2T Lemon Juice
1 T Olive Oil
Salt + Pepper

Serves 2-3 as a light meal