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Hugh does Virtually Vegan

Hughs veg bookI tend to ignore celeb chef cook books for the same reason that I don’t watch their programmes on the telly (cooking competitions judged by shouty chefs the exception). Meat. They are usually full of it and it seems a bit of a waste of time or money to watch or buy something when probably 50 percent or more of the content isn’t going to be relevant to me.

So I was quite excited when I got River Cottage Veg Every Day book – not least to finally have a well known chef gracing my book shelves that doesn’t involve meat.

The introduction made me chuckle a bit. ‘We need to eat more vegetables’ was from the same stating the bleedin’ obvious stable as Jamie’s ‘discovery’ that kids eating school meals choose chips, chips and more chips. But I do like a man with principles and passion and Hugh’s view is that we should be eating more veg for the sake of our own health and that of the planet. So here he offers a book on cooking with vegetables (not a vegetarian cook book) in the hope of encouraging even meat eaters that greens can be good.

Hugh really does love the veg. And I have to profess a little dash of love for Hugh. This is very different to a lot of veggie cook books that often offer limited recipes with meat substitutes like tofu or quorn. The dishes are creative, modern but mostly easy to make and with ingredients that I can find in my cupboards, or simply use a substitute for. The recipes are well laid out, about a third of them are suitable for vegans and clearly marked, but it’s  easy to adapt the others to make them 100% vegan.

You have a choice of those that are quick to prepare and cook and those that are a bit more complicated and time consuming. My one slight criticism would be that timings aren’t given up front so you have to work it out by reading through the instructions before having an idea of how long it may take to make.

vv hughs mezze

Why make one dish when you can make four?!

My personal favourite, as a lover of picky food, is the Mezze and Tapas section so I can make and taste several dishes all in one sitting! There’s an unusual section on raw food (not salad – that’s a whole other section) which has inspired me to try more in my diet. It’s not all about the main meals – there are quick and easy snacks, new ways to try veg as side dishes, alternatives to the packed lunch sandwich, and realistic tips on getting kids to eat more greens. I like the tasty takes on traditional recipes – for something a little bit different try the spinach, penne and cheese ‘spouffle’ or sweet potato and peanut gratin.  The ‘magic bread dough’ has cast its spell and for the first time ever I am making my own bread and enthusiastically working my way through the Bready Things chapters.

This is not at all preachy or pretentious. It’s written in a practical, straightforward way – recipes such as ‘herby, peanutty, noodly salad’ say exactly what they are. It has fast become my firm favourite, which instead of sitting on a bookshelf, has a permanent place in my kitchen, the ingredients stained pages evidence of its regular usage.

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A DJM Development, by Dylan McKee