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Sphere Publishing, £20
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Beautiful, sexy, sophisticated, bold, stylish, complex, big-hearted and big-flavoured… these are not the words normally associated
with vegan cookery, but they sum up the recipes in this book perfectly.
But then again, veganism has been changing. Once associated with bland, joyless, hippy-dippy student fare, it’s now cultivating an altogether cooler image.
A-listers like Beyoncé and Jay-Z have been dabbling in it, public figures such as Bill Clinton endorse it, and American food writer Mark Bittman has popularised
the notion of ‘part-time vegan’ through his VB6 (‘vegan before 6PM’) diet. In the UK, the fastest-growing category of meat-free restaurants is raw vegan cafés.
Influential, bestselling cookery writer Isa Chandra Moskowitz was once involved in New York’s punk rock scene, so her recipes have a slightly anarchic,
‘add a bit of this and a dash of that’ quality. This new cookbook is a large, ambitious tome, sumptuously designed and printed on thick, creamy paper
that’s a delight to hold. Recipes are attractively styled and illustrated, with gorgeous photography by Vanessa Rees. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen a
vegan cookbook with such high production values. And the recipes are even more impressive. In her quirky, witty, chatty writing style (you imagine that’s how she speaks), Moskowitz explains how to create vegan ‘cheese’ from cashew nuts and sunflower seeds, add creaminess to soup with puréed cauliflower, and use chickpeas to approximate the taste of tuna.
There’s an amusing (but informative) chapter on ‘vegan butchery’ in which she demonstrates different ways of cutting tofu and tempeh – ‘vegan meats’ that she makes liberal use of. She also uses vegan supermarket staples generously such as wheat gluten, nutritional yeast flakes, miso, sriracha sauce, agave nectar, almond milk and almond butter. We tried out three recipes, all of which – despite some overly laborious steps – turned out superbly. Chimichurri pumpkin bowl with soba noodles and black beans, and miso-flavoured sweet potato gnocchi with tarragon-laced cashew cream and seared brussels sprouts had suitably ‘look at me’ credentials and delicious, complex flavours. And moreish carrot cake pancakes went down a treat during a weekend brunch with friends. True, by drawing on such varied global flavours, recipes contain far too many ingredients, and some restraint would have been good. They are also more ‘cheffy’ than the author – whose aim is to get you whipping up something quick and tasty after work – would have you believe. However, she does advise on keeping a very well-stocked store cupboard; and the end results are worth the effort. ‘Isa Does It’ is ideal for proficient cooks – vegan or otherwise – who want to take their cooking to another level. For sheer exuberance of design as well as content, this is the best vegan cookbook I have ever seen.
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