Today, I am delighted to feature a review of Veganissimo! Beautiful Vegan Food by Australian cook book author, Leigh Drew.
It is a dilemma faced by all individuals who eagerly open the cover of a new cook book for the first time: what should I cook first? This challenge is all the more pronounced if one is hungry at the time!
Ultimately, I chose two recipes from the Charming Cheeses, Pates, Dips, and Spreads chapter, as I had the ingredients readily available. To date, I have prepared 11 recipes from the pages of Veganissimo!, and several more are earmarked for imminent preparation.
Chive, Garlic and Walnut Spread
This spread is visually appealing and tasty. I am always interested in simple dishes that incorporate walnuts (and all of their omega-3 fatty acid goodness).
Although I used freshly-picked garlic chives from our herb garden in this recipe, I wouldn’t recommend that you do the same. The spicy garlic flavour of the chives aggressively competed with the mellow, sweet flavour of the roast garlic. Definitely use ‘regular’ chives as outlined in the recipe. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed the flavour of this dip, and I imagine that it would be a delicious substitute for pesto.
Chunky Beet Dip
This dip is scrumptious. It contains mint and oven-roasted beetroot (beets). I used freshly-picked mint from our herb garden.
The aroma of onion, garlic, vinegar, coconut sugar, salt, and white pepper bubbling on the stove is captivating. My husband, Mat, entered the kitchen at this point and proclaimed: ‘something smells alright out here’. Talk about an understatement! I particularly enjoyed this dip teamed with avocado on toast.
These muffins are superb! I decided to make this recipe to force myself out of my comfort zone. I usually overlook savoury muffin recipes, giving preference to sweet muffins. I’m so glad I decided to bake them!
Once the muffins cooled, I offered them to the tiny vegans. Minutes later, my daughter returned to the kitchen, imploring: ‘Can I have another one? They are so good’. I found them to be incredibly moreish too. I plan to bake these again soon.
I make a batch of hommus each week for school lunchboxes. I am planning to alternate between ‘regular’ hommus and spinach hummus from now on. The flavour of the baby spinach is so subtle as to be undetectable. This recipe is a great way to incorporate raw greens into the tiny vegans’ diets.
Overnight Breakfast Cups
My daughter prepared this recipe alongside me one evening while I was cooking dinner. The next morning, we forgot that it was in the fridge! When I discovered it, I devoured a bowl for an afternoon snack. I topped my serving with additional non-dairy milk and a drizzle of maple syrup. I omitted the recommended peanut butter. My daughter had a serving the following morning for breakfast.
Our breakfast cups contained quinoa flakes. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of quinoa flakes. Drew also suggests using rolled oats and – as we are not on a gluten-free diet – I will do that next time.
Thai-style Yellow Curry with Coriander Dressing is truly delectable. I served it with brown basmati rice. I omitted the fresh red chilli from the recipe, and used a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes, to ensure it was ‘kid friendly’.
The method of tofu preparation involves the following steps: freezing; defrosting; squeezing; tearing; tossing with a smidgen of olive oil and tamari; then, finally, baking.
This process results in deliciously flavoured and delightfully textured chunks of tofu. 7 year old Tiny Vegan was particularly enamoured with the baked tofu in this dish, and I have since employed this method while preparing tofu for a stir fry. The blocks of tofu that entered our kitchen this week were directed straight to the freezer for an overnight chilling. I look forward to my next bowl of yellow curry. The tofu is currently defrosting!
I prepared Lancashire Hotpot for a family dinner at my parents’ house. It was popular with the adults and children, and I envisage this warming and comforting meal being a regular winter dinner in our home.
The sliced potato topping was well-received by the members of the household who hold disdain for mashed potato toppings (I’m not mentioning any names! They know who they are). The recipe does not instruct you to remove the bay leaves, but if you don’t like biting into whole bay leaves, I suggest that you remove them from the mixture before transferring it from the saucepan to the oven-proof dish.
Pikelets with Whipped Maple Cream
I prepared the pikelets for the ravenous tiny vegans as an after-school snack. As a consequence, Mat and I were not able to indulge in as many pikelets as we would have hoped to devour. Nevertheless, they were popular with the tiny vegans, and the strawberry jam and whipped maple cream were very pleasing accompaniments.
My sister was visiting for the weekend when I made Italian Farinate. She described it as the gluten-free lovechild of frittata and pizza. I used fresh thyme (leftover from the hotpot recipe) rather than rosemary.
I particularly enjoyed the farinate the next day, after it was reheated in the oven. The base had crisped up further and the flavours had intensified. Next time I make it, I will use baking paper in my spring form cake tins, as I found the farinate a little difficult to remove from the cake tin bases. Farinate would be perfect as an alternative to garlic bread, served with pasta dishes.
Soft Molasses Gingerbread Cake
My cake preference rarely extends beyond chocolate, so I baked Gingerbread Cake to push myself out of my cocoa-shrouded comfort zone. Drew suggests making this cake in a bundt tin. As I do not own one, I used a springform tin instead (combined with a lower oven temperature and a longer cooking time).
I am not keen on ginger in sweet recipes. I am not enamoured with chocolate coated ginger or candied ginger. I prefer my ginger in savoury dishes, like curries and stir fries. Consequently, although I had purchased a packet of crystallised ginger for this recipe, I decided to omit it. It was a good decision. A couple of the tiny vegans tasted the crystallised ginger, and did not like it. They enjoyed the cake, however.
If you adore gingerbread cakes, you will be charmed by this one. It rose beautifully, possessed a nice texture, and each bite was flavoured with a hint of molasses. I topped the cake slices with leftover whipped maple cream, rather than the suggested icing.
Chocolate Raspberry Muffins
This recipe is my kind of indulgence! These muffins are a decadent, moreish, and tasty treat. They contain frozen raspberries, raspberry jam and chocolate chunks. I replaced some of the oil with applesauce (as suggested by Drew). These were immensely popular with my extended family members. I will definitely bake these muffins again. They possess the decadence of a cupcake, making them an ideal ‘special occasion’ muffin.
About the Book
The 208-page book contains over 120 recipes presented in 10 chapters (with an elegant use of alliteration), including:
Beguiling Breakfasts and Brunches
Splendid Salads, Soups and Side Dishes
Pleasing Pasta and Ravishing Rice
Stunning Stews, Classy Curries, and Precious Pies
Sublime Sauces, Marinades and Dressings
The instructions are clear and unambiguous. Colourful symbols are used to highlight the soy-free, gluten-free, or low fat status of a recipe. Recipes that require 30 minutes or less cooking time are also highlighted. Ingredient measurements are specified in ounces, grams and cups ensuring that the recipes are useful and practical to readers across the globe. Furthermore, the recipes were tested by a bunch of international recipe-testers.
A couple of the recipes that I made contained all-purpose (plain wheat) flour. This type of flour isn’t a pantry staple in my kitchen. My preferred ‘gluten-loaded’ flours are wholemeal wheat and wholemeal spelt. I would like to use these flours when I next bake Zucchini Muffins and Chocolate Raspberry Muffins.
For the information of gluten-free readers, the book contains over 90 recipes that are gluten-free or contain a gluten-free option, including Gingered Cheesecake Bar Cookies, Vietnamese Savory Pancakes, and Sizzling Polenta Gnocchi with Sage.
Creative use of colour
The photos are beautiful and visually appealing. Vibrant colours, like burnt orange, sky blue, and lime green, are used effectively. Each chapter has its own colour theme, which is used consistently throughout the chapter: in the photography props (ie. tablecloths, straws, etc.) and the featured ‘tips’ sections that accompany the recipes.
The book features an introductory chapter called Building Blocks of Vegan Cuisine, which includes useful information about kitchen equipment, pantry essentials, egg substitutes, nondairy milks, and more. This section is peppered with brief recipes that highlight vegan whole foods, including Nut Milk, Refried Bean-style Dip, and Quinoa Tabbouleh.
The pages are thick and robust, which may seem like a trivial consideration. But, it becomes an important quality in a well-loved and frequently thumbed cook book.
What am I cooking next?
It’s a toss up between Satay Shiitake Mushroom and Eggplant Kebab Wraps and Tempeh, Eggplant and Sweet Potato Lasagne. Or, I may go straight for the Chocolate Mousse Tart with Raspberries.
Curious about the burger on the cover?
That’s a Portobello Burger with the Lot.
With a scrumptious collection of recipes covering a wide range of categories, my copy of the book is fast becoming well-thumbed. In my experience thus far, Veganissimo! lives up to its name. The food is truly beautiful, in both appearance and taste. And, as I have indicated, the layout of the book is visually appealing and easy to navigate.
If it would thrill you to see the colourful cover of Veganissimo! perched among your cook book collection, or if you think the book would be the perfect gift for a special vegan in your life, you can purchase a copy here or here.
About Leigh Drew
Leigh is based in Sydney, Australia, and has been vegan for over a decade. Veganissimo! is her third cook book.
Disclosure: A free copy of the book was provided to me by Arbon Publishers. All opinions expressed are my own (except those attributed to the tiny vegans, Mat, and my sister – of course!).
Tomorrow, I feature a recipe from Veganissimo!