I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not a food blogger.
I talk a lot about food because eating food is something that happens every day without fail, because this tries to be a fitness blog and a vegan blog, and food is a pretty key component of both of those, and because I
like love food.
So when Zsu from Zsu’s Vegan Pantry put out a call for recipe testers, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Although at the time I probably could have counted on one hand the number of recipes I had followed to the letter, preferring to cook according to what I have in the cupboards and what I am in the mood for, I always wonder if I am missing out on some new level of flavour experience by not bothering to go through a particular process or add this herb or that spice.
When I received the book, I fell in love with the brightness of the cover and, indeed, of all the photos throughout. And while you probably shouldn’t go judging books by their covers, this one really does perfectly represent the simple, no-fuss, no-fad quality of this book and the recipes inside, which are accompanied by tips on pantry staples and kitchen utensils. Zsu gives plenty of time- and money-saving tips throughout the book, and indicates whether the recipes are Quick & Easy, Gluten Free or Soy Free.
Rewind to before the book was out, as I excitedly clicked through the recipes on the forum we testers has been invited to, where we could dibs on recipes we would test and provide our feedback.
I knew that the best person to pick out the first recipes I would put my name down for was Ben. Together we singled out the Maple-Chipotle Crispers, Southern Biscuits and Gravy, and the Chipotle Chili. Unfortunately I never got around to making the crispers as the recipe required onion powder and I couldn’t seem to get my hands on any in London. But what I lacked in crispers, I made up for in Flaky Buttermilk Herb Biscuits (p.239). Oh my. Those biscuits.
Admittedly, I have never had “real” biscuits before (i.e. cooked by an American who knows what they are doing) so I don’t really have anything to judge by. Nevertheless, I feel that the fact that a batch of about 25 biscuits were gone within 24 hours, snatched up by anyone within reach, is testament enough to their deliciousness.
But what amazed me the most about these was how easily they came together. For someone who is irrationally fearful of using more than one or – at a push – two items of cookware (let alone dirtying the worktops of the kitchen!), I made these again and again within the following weeks. In fact, I am well overdue another instalment!
After having taste-tested far too many of the biscuits before dinner, I decided that for the actual Southern Biscuits and Gravy recipe (p.216) I would serve my gravy with a side of Garlicky Greens (p.196) instead . You can’t go wrong with salty, mealy gravy – nor with garlic-laden greens. Nor with following it all up with still-warm buttermilk biscuits slathered with extra vegan butter.) But if anyone knows how to make gravy look pretty… I want your secret. I will pay you in buttermilk biscuits.
The unsung hero of my testing experience was the Savoury Broth Mix (p.19). As somebody who never bothers with stock or broth, when it has been called for in a recipe I have begrudgingly bought an overpriced packet of stock cubes, of which the unused remainder would then go on clutter up the back of the spice cupboard and randomly tumble out when I reach for something more useful. This broth mix is called for in a number of recipes in the book, but it comes together so quickly and easily from basic ingredients, that I have continued to keep a jar of it in my cupboard at all times. It really adds the best little perk to any hearty recipe.
Case in point: the Crustless Pot Pie Over Smashed Potatoes (p.135) was the ultimate comfort food. Buttery coarsely mashed potatoes topped with a thick, salty pot pie filling. It was December and it was amazing. And easy. Super easy. The recipe called for any of the proteins listed in the book (Tender Soy Curls, Simple Seitan Cutlets, or Marinated Tofu) but I used up a couple of Linda McCartney sausages which were taking up space in the freezer, and they were perfect. So much for following a recipe to the letter…
Making the Chipotle Chili (p.63) required me to invest in a jar of chipotle adobo purée, which is one of the best discoveries I have made in the last year. This was a quick and simple recipe, hearty and satisfying with a generous kick to it. I served ours with more buttermilk biscuits because… buttermilk biscuits.
Tandoori Tofu and Vegetables (p.124) were also made and despite me misunderstanding some directions in the recipe it still turned out really tasty – if nothing else, make the marinade as that was by far the best bit! There was also a polenta pie dish which doesn’t look to have made the cut, but I believe the polenta base – which was a revelation to me and is now the only way I make polenta – has morphed into Creamy Cheesy Polenta (p.159). It was good and it’s bound to be even better.
For me to have made this many recipes – followed this many recipes – in a few busy weeks is a testament to how relevant Everyday Vegan Eats is to everyday life. I only had to purchase one totally new ingredient for all of my testing; from what I can tell, and from a London perspective, the most exotic the ingredients get beyond spices and tofu are nutritional yeast and seitan.
I love that this is classic, hearty comfort food with bold flavours, but that it has all had a discreetly healthy makeover. A little less butter here, a little more veg there… and while we’re at it, why don’t we make our own pantry staples to cut down on costs, packaging and filler ingredients? You’ll wonder why you didn’t do so earlier.
If I say any more, I worry you might think I am earning commission on the sales – ha! I’m not even part of any sort of official blogger tour. I just really like this book. Head on over to Zsu’s Vegan Pantry to see who is in the blogger book tour, and to buy the book. Meanwhile, I’m going to get on with trying some more of those amazing-sounding recipes (No-Fish Filet Sandwiches, Deli Reuben, Grilled Summer Pasta Salad with Garlic Crostini, Vegan Meatloaf with Herbed Gravy, and basically all the desserts and breakfast dishes), as I have barely scratched the surface!