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I have a number of vegetarian cookbooks by Rose Elliot and I find them to be useful and reliable in general. As I try to make a completely new recipe at last once a week, I never need an excuse to buy another cookbook, so when I saw a second hand copy of her "Vegetarian Meals In Minutes", I decided to snap it up. The fact that it focuses on meals that are ready in less than 30 minutes was an additional attraction. I like spending time in the kitchen but it isn't always possible.
THE BOOK ITSELF
The book is a large, floppy paperback. This is fine to me because it stays comfortably open on the page that you are working from. [The hardback edition appears to be no longer available.] It contains quite a few photos, but there isn't one for every recipe. I wouldn't recommend it to a cook that really needs visual inspiration when deciding what to cook. Furthermore, the photos appear quite dated in style, far more so than you would expect from a book printed just a few years ago, and still available new. Some appear to have been taken through a gold tinted lense for example, and the presentation of the food also appears to come from the 80/90's, with lots of parsley sprigs appearing all over the place. I think the reason for this is the book was first published in 1994, under the title "Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Fast Food." It changed it's name, but not it's illustrations, in 1998, and has gone through various editions since. I have the most recent 2005 one, which is still available to buy new from Amazon and W.H. Smith.
WHAT IT COVERS
The blurb promises that the recipes will be ready in 30 minutes and that they will cover lunches, snacks, and suppers. I was a bit put off by the fact they did not specifically mention main meals here, because that is what really represents a challenge to prepare in half an hour. However, there are plenty of main meals inside even though I personally feel that many of the dishes are on the light side.
The recipes are divided into two sections. The first and by far the longest deals with meals based around stock cupboard ingredients. This covers things such as canned beans, pulses, and pasta. This is prefaced with some general guidance on what to stock your cupboards with. This introduction is probably most useful to new vegetarians, but while it is the sort of information that comes in a lot of cookbooks, the food suggestions are tailored to what lends itself to quick cooking. The recipes are then grouped by their main ingredient, which I found a bit awkward. For example, the recipes under the heading "bread", are not those for bread itself, but for "things on toast", and even a burger, presumably because it sits in a roll. Similarly, deserts are scattered everywhere, some with dairy recipes, some with the lentils and nuts section because they contain a nut.. I would find the book more user friendly if recipes for mains, snacks, etc had been grouped together. There is an index, but that isn't really fun to browse through.
The second part is for recipes based around fruit and vegetables, although they obviously appear in the store cupboard section too. I did expect there to be more of these, but I understand that being able to use tins and packets is helpful when you are time pressed.
ARE THE RECIPES REALLY QUICK?
One annoying feature of this book is that although all of the dishes are supposed to be ready in 30 minutes, the individual recipes don't actually give a guide to how long they will take. Some are much quicker than 30 minutes to finish, so it seems a good idea to highlight those to help the reader who is very, very rushed! Apart from that, I am happy that the recipes are genuinely quick to make, if you make the number of servings suggested [See below.]. There are not any nasty surprises such as the fact you were supposed to have pre-prepare something the day before.
There are some fresh ideas for pasta in paticular that I have found really useful. I love the chutney bean burgers, although they are not really a solid textured burger, but they are tasty and very quick nevertheless. I was disappointed that the main meals were not more varied as I feel the dishes are quite predictable - risottos, gratins and the like. They are reliable though, and as always with Rose Elliot, each one is properly explained. I haven't used this book when I want to cook something really different, or special but it is good for simple everyday meals. I wouldn't expect dinner party type dishes in a 30 minute cookbook anyway. If you want a simple starter recipe book, I think this would be a good choice as the dishes are nearly all very easy to make. The fact that a lot of vegetarian standards are included would then be a positive rather than otherwise. I actually think it would be a good choice for a student. As the recipes use everyday ingredients, they tend to be on the cheap side. Also a large number are intended to cater for just 2 people. As most of the recipes are simple, it is easy to double up quantities if you need to, but this of course increases both preparation and cooking times slightly.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
I have liked every recipe I have tried from this book, and not one has turned out badly. I know I will make some of the dishes again and again - a lentil and cranberry bruschetta, and an incredibly quick lime cheesecake to name but two. I have found more snack, and light lunch and supper dishes than main course though. This comes down to presonal taste, but it's also because I don't think the main meals are especially imaginative. If you want something to introduce you to new flavour ideas, I wouldn't recommend this book.
My main complaints are the lack of preparation times in the instructions, and the fact that the recipes are often based around serving two people. So while the recipes are quick, if you need to cook for a crowd, they won't necessarily come in at under 30 minutes. As mentioned above, I think this book would be good for keen students, new cooks, and those cooking for two. For experienced cooks, and those looking for adventurous recipes, I would say this isn't the best book for you. I also would not recommend this book to vegans, unless you are prepared to adapt the majority of the recipes which often contain cheese, cream or eggs.
Cover price is £10.99, with new copies at £6.99 from Amazon with free super saver delivery. Used copies are avilable for much less from Marketplace sellers.
ISBN 9780007193196, PUBLISHED by Collins.
[This review also appears under my user name on Ciao, and I have edited it for Dooyoo.]