As promised, here’s the first installment of my series of reviews of the cookbooks I own. First up: Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry. It’s fitting that this is the first cookbook I will review, as it’s my favourite (or at least in my top three – don’t make me choose!). Why? So many reasons…
- The recipes are unique and creative, and fulfill a unique niche not filled by my other cookbooks. He doesn’t just recreate soul food. He puts new twists on old recipes, and encourages you to create your own twists on family classics. There’s even a space to write and re-create your own family recipe.
- Terry is a man after my own heart, as he has a recommended song to accompany each recipe. Food and music! Together! As they should be.
- The recipes are, in general, perfectly balanced between healthy and decadent. While his recipes are often healthier twists on many soul food classics, he’s not afraid to use the ingredients required to replicate the richness of these dishes.
- There is a recipe for black-eyed pea fritters that are amazing. Although I’ve just linked to the recipe, I assure you that the creation of this recipe, all by itself, is reason enough to buy this cookbook and support this chef. (And don’t wimp out and bake them. Fry them. Trust me.)
- His recipes are generally foolproof. Some chefs are more scientist than artist, but Terry is definitely an artist. I have a feeling that he sees his recipe as a template that can be played with, and every time I have played with the template it has worked out well. For people that don’t like to follow recipes, that’s great news. Of course it’s also worth noting that his recipes are brilliant as written as well.
- The ingredients lists and the recipes are short. Not too much detail, nor too little.
- He has a whole chapter dedicated to ‘zero waste watermelon’ in which he uses every part of the fruit. Brilliant, and I know some other bloggers would agree that there’s a certain genius about finding a way to use every part of this fruit.
Another thing I love is that he tends to consistently use a core group of ingredients, so if you want to make his recipes, you’re not left with orphan ingredients. So many cookbooks send you hunting for random ingredients that you’ll never use again, even if you do like them. With this cookbook, expect ingredients like greens, black-eyed peas, cornmeal, root veggies, thyme, cayenne and coconut oil to make repeat appearances, along with many other staples of most vegan kitchens like tofu, brown rice, quinoa and tempeh. He also made me fall in love with some ingredients (celeriac) and bemoan our limited selection of produce with a few recipes (why don’t we have plantains…why only ‘cooking bananas’, which are not plantains at all???).
A list of my favourite recipes from this book, to get you interested in checking it out:
- Blackeyed pea fritters with hot pepper sauce (as previously mentioned – I’ve m
ade these more times than I can count).
- Quinoa cornbread (a twist on traditional cornbread with whole quinoa and a bit of quinoa flour)
- Roasted plantain pieces with garlic-lime dipping sauce
- Crispy okra strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette
- Celeriac sauce (with everything – or the coconut tempeh in the book)
- Roasted red potato salad with parsley-pine nut pesto (and I don’t even like potatoes all that much!)
- Sweet Sweetback Salad with Roasted Beet Vinaigrette
- Grits (all of his recipes for grits are amazing, but my favourite are the creamy grits with cajun-spiced tempeh)
- Black. Brown. Green. Granola.
- Blackened tofu slabs with succotash salsa (I convinced James we should have this on Christmas along with the requested hot, stodgy meal. Who wants to eat roasted potatoes and gravy when it’s over 100 F/40C outside???)
- Baked BBQ blackeyed peas (by far my favourite baked beans recipe – quite different than traditional baked beans).
Honorable mention goes to the tempeh, shitake mushroom and cornmeal dumpling stew because James loved it. Dumplings can even make James – a tempeh hater – eat tempeh. And he would probably add the roasted potato and mixed greens gratin, which was pretty tasty even to me, who is lukewarm on the subject of potatoes. One thing to note, though, is that for those of you who prefer photo-heavy books, don’t look to this book for ‘food porn’. It’s a simple book in terms of its graphic design, and I personally like that. Buy this book for the content, not the aesthetics. Also, if you are afraid of spice (are you crazy??) note that his recipes would be delicious even with the hot spices omitted. Just don’t tell me about it.
Work has been crazy lately and will be for the next few months, so expect more posts like these, which are quick and easy to write and don’t require much brain power after a day of exercising the mind at work.