Veganomicon, by the two queens of the vegan cooking movement Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, is probably the classic vegan cookbook. When I first toyed with the idea of going vegan, by eating vegan one week per month to check if it was doable, this was the first book I checked out of the library for inspiration. When I made the change permanent, I bought a copy. And then it sat on my shelf for ages. I occasionally dusted it off for some baking, but by and large it didn’t get used. As soon as I started doing these cookbook of the month posts at the start of the year, it occured to me that this would be the perfect opportunity to get some use out of Veganomicon. Still it took me until September to actually do it. I think I was reluctant because when I initially used it a lot of the American ingredients were lost on me (why so much applesauce?), and also due to the lack of pictures. But despite my reservations, it turned out to be a good month of food, if not the most exciting.
As usual, I made good use of the soup section. The broccoli-potato soup was good and hearty. It probably isn’t my favourite broccoli soup recipe, but it was solid.
The creamy tomato soup was a surprising success! I couldn’t believe it was so creamy when it was made using potatoes rather than cashew cream. Also, it had lots of flavour and was really beautifully seasoned.
And then the delicious midsummer corn chowder. I used frozen rather than fresh sweetcorn, and it all came together to make a good flavoursome broth.
The porcini wild rice soup came out as more of a stew. I was planning on thinning it out with more stock, but then I thought I might as well keep it as a stew. Mushrooms are so good and autumnal, this was a fantastic dish. The Czech people are expert foragers and can easily distinguish between poisonous and safe mushrooms – it’s even taught as part of their school syllabus! I feel like they would approve of this.
The spicy peanut and aubergine soup was a big hit. I love the African flavours of a peanut soup. The green beans were a good addition, and everything worked really well together.
The tomato and rice soup was also delicious and the perfect autumnal work lunch: grains, beans, veg, it’s got it all!
Despite the tropical September weather in Prague, I only made one salad. But it was a good ‘un! The quinoa salad with black beans and mango was right up my street. It was still really hot when I made this, and it was such a light, tasty dish. I’ve really come round to the idea of fruit in a salad, and feel I was missing out all those years I was scared to try it! Black beans are on the list of things I haven’t found yet in Prague – kidney beans were a solid substitute.
And so to the main courses. The chickpeas romesco was one of my favourites. It had fantastic texture from the chickpeas and was good and spicy. I rarely eat so many chickpeas in a dish, and I felt like I could feel the protein in my body!
The red lentil and cauliflower curry, however, was beige in every sense. It was fine, but uninspiring, and I think both Isa and Terry have provided better curry recipes elsewhere. Substantially better!
Similarly beige was the lentils and rice with caramelised onions. I would call it more of a side than a main dish. It was nice, especially the onions, but largely unremarkable.
These potato and kale enchiladas were a trial with my new oven. I decided I’d roast the little potato chunks, to get some extra flavour from them. Roasting them for 40 minutes and cooking them as part of the enchilada dish for longer had almost no effect on them – they were barely even edible at the end. But points for effort, surely? I also replaced the kale with spinach, because I’m yet to find kale here.
This pumpkin saag was pretty uninspiring. It was fine, but again, I think I’ve got better curry dishes up my sleeve.
One thing I can easily find in Prague is seitan. Seitan is a delicious fake meat and I love it. This is the seitan in mole sauce. The sauce was good, though I didn’t dare put the full amount of chocolate in (it seemed like a lot!), and the seitan chunks were heavenly. In fact, the sauce was so good I used it twice…
…also in the sweet squash and mole sauce recipe. I preferred the seitan version, because SEITAN. Dr HH preferred this one, with its lovely courgette slices. They were both really good, in fairness.
Unsurprisingly then, I also enjoyed the marvellously-named Seitanic red and white bean jambalaya. Again, the seitan chunks were succulent and lovely, the beans were delicious and there were some great flavours. I left out the celery, because it’s the food of actual Satan.
The tempeh shepherdess pie was another victim of my oven – it didn’t get particularly hot, but all the components had already been cooked, so it was alright. I have a tried and tested shepherd’s pie recipe, and I certainly won’t be switching allegiance any time soon. I think this one just looks a little dull and unappetising, though it tasted fine.
While I enjoyed a lot of the meals I made, I don’t know how often I’ll return to this book. I think both authors have released better cookbooks since then, both more attractive to the eye and more exciting to eat as well. Terry’s Salad Samurai is a creative and inspiring book that has made me much bolder in my combinations, and I’m currently working through Vegan Eats World and finding it much more exciting. Isa’s amazing Isa Does It is probably my most-used book, and Appetite for Reduction is almost as good. This is a nice book to have on my shelves, and I’m planning on returning to the baking section now that I live somewhere which sells applesauce (is it just stewed, cooked down apples?). It’s solid, but it hasn’t blown my socks off.