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I have always been a fan of the River Cottage ethos, but our family don't eat meat so I hadn't bought any of his previous books, however this one looked too good to miss, and I was right. Sometimes I am seduced into buying a book but only find one or two real "keepers" among a selection of recipes which are often over complicated or contain too many unusual ingredients, which will then languish at the back of the cupboard until they have gone off or lost all flavour. In this book I have found a wealth of great recipes to turn to. There are some recipes that I regularly use and many others that I plan to try. The instructions are always clear to follow and easy to cook, and quite a few, such as the curries and the north african squash and chickpea stew easily lend themselves to be made in a slow cooker too.
The book is divided up into a range of sections, which include (among others) soups, pasta & rice and hearty salads, and recipes in all the categories are good, however I do find the dividing up of recipes into these sections a little idiosyncratic, for example vegetable biryani is in the rice & pasta section, but the three curry recipes are in the section headed "Comfort food and feasts." That section also contains the two lasagne recipes that I would have expected to find with the pasta.
This threw me at first until I developed the habit of using the very detailed index to look up the recipes that I wanted, and it does have the happy effect of letting you stumble across unexpected ideas as you flick through. The index has the advantage of also listing the ingredients in possible variants of the recipes, so if you have a glut of a particular thing you can easily find something you can use it for.
All of the recipes are vegetarian and Hugh also says on the relevant page where recipes are already vegan or could easily be adjusted to become so. Although eating a vegetarian or low-meat diet is often stated to be a healthy alternative, this is in no way a health food book: many recipes are obviously healthy, but others contain quite large amounts of saturated fat in the form of butter and cheese, I'm not complaining, but don't think you can cook anything from here and automatically lower your cholesterol!
As you would expect the production qualities are very high, and this is a beautifully produced and presented book. It is a large, heavy hardback which is easy to use and easy to keep open while you are working. The photographs are beautiful without being self-consciously "foodie" and the matte pages add to their appeal.
This book would make a lovely gift, and not just for vegetarians. If I have persuaded you, then take a look at Amazon where the book is currently selling for only £5.
River cottage veg
I have been a fan of the River Cottage TV series for a while but for some unknown reason I had never gotten around to actually getting one of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's very popular book. However, after watching and enjoying his River Cottage: Veg series in 2011 I took a punt and bought this one. It is currently available on Amazon for £12.49 in hardcover and £11.29 on Kindle.
The book itself is a nice looking thing, definitely designed with bookshelf appeal in mind but in keeping with the other River Cottage books. It is hardcover with a sturdy cover and a matt finish. The paper inside is of very good quality and has a slight matte finish also. The spine appears to be quite sturdy and it is quite easy to lay a recipe open flat if you don't have a cookbook holder. However, I have started to notice that with use some of the binding is starting to get a bit exposed, probably because the book is quite large at over 400 pages.
The book begins with quite a lengthy introduction written by Fearnley-Whittingstall in which he lays out his enthusiasm for vegetables and his idea behind the book which is that we eat too much meat and should look increasingly at the plentiful vegetables that we can access ourselves and even grow if we have the room.
Then we come to the recipes. I will give you examples from each section so that you can get a feel for the book. Each recipe is presented over a 2 page spread. One page has the recipe title and method and the opposing page has a photograph. Each chapter and recipe has an introduction. All recipes are vegetarian but those that are marked with a v symbol are vegan with some optional no-vegan ingredients left tout.
Comfort food & feasts: Aubergine parmigiana, pinto bean chilli ( a favourite), chard and new potato curry, cauliflower and chickpea curry, North African squash and chickpea stew, squash and fennel lasagne, swede and potato pasties (another favourite)
Hearty salads: spelt salad with squash and fennel, new potato, tomato and boiled egg salad, roasted parsnip, puy lentil and watercress salad,
Raw assemblies: (a section dedicated to eating vegetables raw): fennel and goats cheese, carrot, orange and cashews, cauliflower with toasted seeds, tomatoes with Thai dressing, a section on how to make vegetable juices.
Hefty soups: vegetable stock, gazpacho, Mexican tomato & bean soup, pea and parsley soup, creamy mushroom soup, parsnip and ginger soup, pearl barley, puy lentil and spinach soup,
Bready things: This section starts with an all-round 'magic bread dough' recipe which will go for pizzas, flatbreads, pittas and/or breadsticks. Garlicky flatbreads, crostini, pizza with new potatoes, rosemary and blue cheese, hot squash foldover (essentially rolled flatbreads), spicy carrot and chickpea pitta pocket, curried egg, lentils and flat-leaf parsley, tomato bruschetta, leek and cheese toastie, various rarebits.
Store-cupboard suppers: Tomato, thyme and goat's cheese tart, curried bubble and squeak, quick couscous salad with peppers and feta, frittata with summer veg and goats cheese, dhal, chickpea ketchup curry, quick chickpea pasta.
Pasta and rice: pasta with raw tomato, pasta with rocket, fennel and lemon, macaroni peas, baby carrot and broad bean risotto, tomato and mozzarella risotto, quinoa with courgettes and onions, new potato gnocchi,
Mezze and tapas: carrot hummus, cannellini bean hummus, oven dried tomatoes, spiced spinach and potatoes, patatas bravas, spinach and thyme pasties (another favourite),
Roast, grill & barbecue: chargrilled summer veg (courgettes, fennel, spring onions), halloumi, new potato and tomato kebabs, grilled aubergines with chilli and honey, roasted potatoes and aubergines, roasted roots with apple and rosemary,
Side dishes: steamed veg with a hint of garlic, cheats cauliflower cheese, celery gratin, creamy potato and celeriac mash, potato rosti, pumpkin and raisin tea loaf, chocolate and beetroot ice cream (??!!)
At the back there are a couple of short sections. The first is called store cupboard where he lists ingredients that it might be useful to have in when attempting these recipes. The second is called veg on the go and it is where he suggests which recipes may be suitable for eating cold, thereby able to have for your work lunch.
The first impression that you get from this book is just how well put together it is. A lot of thought has obviously gone into it and the sheer breadth of recipes here is fantastic.
I have done various recipes from here and intend to do many more. I have found that the instructions are very clear and all of the ones I have done so far have all turned out well. The emphasis is on the veg being cooked in such a way that you really do get the best out it rather than it being an accompaniment for meat. It is refreshing to read a cook book which is so unashamed to put the veg front and foremost. His vegetable stock recipe, whilst quite basic is something that I saw him demonstrate at a food festival a number of years ago and is an absolute keeper!
I do have a few minor quibbles. Firstly, as you will have seen there are some recipes which strongly feature some slightly more if not unusual, then certainly pricey and more difficult to get veg, eg fennel and chard. In addition to this, for the vast majority of the recipes it is required that you have a decent collection of fresh herbs at your disposal. Let's be honest for quite a lot of the time this is not quite possible, sometimes due to cost and also not everyone has access to be able to grow abundant herb plants (and often the English weather doesn't allow it in winter), so that is something to consider if this is an issue for you and you are considering buying g this book.
In addition, I can only imagine that Fearnley-Whittingstall has a slightly different idea of what a store cupboard supper is as some of the ingredients he mentions in that section are more on the fresh side. I may be wrong but I always think store cupboard meals are for when you pretty much out of everything in the fridge and are having to rely on making a meal out of tinned/dried stuff!
On the flipside of considering the more unusual vegetables however, it does encourage you to perhaps experiment with ingredients that you may have seen. For example, I don't believe that I have ever had chard, but I am now growing some at my allotment so that I can try some of these ideas out.
It would be easy to make the assumption that because it is a veg cookbook that it would be more on the healthy side than a lot of other cookbooks. However, it is worth attesting that in its defence the book does not make those claims, and indeed some of them do contain copious amounts of cream, cheese and pastry but I certainly think you would find some interesting alternative dishes if you were watching your weight and wanted something different. Certainly, there are a lot of ideas here that I have not seen anywhere else.
Not that it matters hugely, but it is worth stating that it is a stunning looking book. The way the dishes are photographed are lovely and fully in keeping with a lot of the rustic feel that the River Cottage brand promotes.
In conclusion, this is a solid, well researched and well executed book which really does a good job of drawing emphasis to the bountiful veg we have around us in this country. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is looking to get more out of their fresh veg and I really think that most people, even experienced cooks would get some exciting ideas out of it.
I received this as a Christmas present from my ever-so-thoughtful father who knows nothing about me, apart from the fact I am veggie. But I'm not complaining about the gift, although I already have about ten veggie recipe books, this was a welcoming addition.
Price: I wouldn't pay over a tenner for a recipe book, but that's because I'm skint. However, I did not have to worry about this as I mentioned earlier, it was a gift. I must add though that the size of it does warrant the price. There's a recipe for almost every veg imaginable!
Aesthetics: Oh God I cannot tell you how much the pictures make you want to physically pick up the book and eat it! You want to eat those dishes and you want to eat them nowwwww! So, the pictures are appetising, to say the least. The design of the book is great, in my opinion. Recipe books with pictures are always far superior to those without - as we all know we like to see what things are meant to look like. Especially those of us without an imagination. The layout of the book is also excellent. I never bother with the sections in it, instead I raid the fridge to see what veg I have, then look them up in the index in the back. This is a very helpful feature and the indexing has been done to a high quality.
Quality: The quality of the recipes are also excellent. Being me, I always have the store cupboard stuffed with essentials e.g. pasta, rice, couscous, coconut milk, tinned tomatoes... And lets not forget my windowsill of fresh herbs, yum. So yes, I can usually make the recipe with all the ingredients it lists, but never fear, if you don't have that fresh chili from Sainsbury's, you can always sprinkle in a bit of chili powder - and this is what Hugh does magnificently throughout, he suggests alternatives. The chatty informal style of the recipes is also refreshing; he makes it sound really easy to cook, which really, it is. You can tell that the author is trying to encourage people to eat more veg and thus become healthier, and this is great, as I am all up for healthy eating.
Recommend: I recommend it to all the veggies out there - thinking of dishes became a whole lot easier and tastier. But also those non-veggies who just love veg, tuck into this beast of a book.
What more can I say on a vegetable book? I love vegetables :D
I bought this book as I was looking to cut down on the amount of meat I ate.
The chapters are laid out according to meal type. I'm not sure what the layout approach is within each chapter as it is not alphabetic but food types (e.g curries) are grouped. The book also has an index at the back which I have found I use a lot. It is indexed by ingredient (e.g. leeks) and references not only the main recipe but also where the ingredient is mentioned in the possible variations.
For each recipe, Hugh gives a brief piece of chat at the start and possible variations in ingredients at the end. If, like me, you like to read cookbooks just for the sheer pleasure then this is a great book. There are plenty of pictures to go with the recipes and Hugh's chat at the start of each recipe makes it an interesting read.
The recipes themselves are very approachable and do not require a lot of fancy cooking techniques. There are some dishes that have relatively long ingredients lists but these are balanced with some that are shorter. For those following various diets, some recipies are heavy on carbs and there is a generous use of cheese. That said, the dishes certainly are well balanced and would fit easily into a healthy lifestyle.
The favourite dish so far from the book pasta with broccoli, garlic and chilli. This has become a staple of the kitchen as we both thought it tasty with the added benefit that my daughter will now eat a dish with chilli in it.
Overall I would recommend this book. In our house it has helped increase not only the amount of veg we eat, but also the variety. It also has the added benefit of being an enjoyable read too.
I received this as a Christmas gift (after some not so subtle hints!) as I already have River Cottage Every Day and had watched the Veg Every Day series on tv. I wanted it partly to try and get us eating more vegetables and partly because my mother-in-law is vegetarian and I'm always on the look out for new ideas for when she comes a-visiting.
I've only had it for a few weeks but it has already become a staple on my kitchen worktop and coffee table...in fact I probably shouldn't have called it a kitchen shelf keeper as I can't imagine it will spend much time on the shelf, I'll be using it too regularly to bother putting it away!
It's a big, chunky beast of a cookbook, in the same style as several of the other River Cottage books and is full of great pictures of tempting food...if only my attempts came out looking half as good! But, as my hubby says, it doesn't matter how it looks as long as it tastes good, and taste good these recipes do!
We've so far tried the Aubergine Parmigiana (one of my favourite dishes anyway, but this is probably the best version of it I've tried), leek and cheese toastie and the spicy merguez chips and all have been delicious. And tonight we'll be having the roasted aubergine boats..which I'm pretty confident will be a hit too!
Most of the recipes also have hints about what to serve with them and what other dishes in the book go well with each recipe, together with a page number, making them easy to find.
The only slight negative I can find to say about Veg Every Day is the way it's laid out...I would find it easier to use if it was divided into sections by vegetable (like Nigel Slater's Tender) so if I know I have a lot of leeks to use I just go to the section on leeks. Like I said though, this is only a very very slight niggle and the index does enable you to search by vegetable.
I see this book being the mainstay of my cooking for the forseeable future as I try and healthy us up a bit and won't be surprised if it changes the way I shop as well, spending much more on fresh veg and fruit than in the other supermarket sections, at least until my veg plot comes into full bloom again this summer...which I now absolutely cannot wait for!