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Luscious Vegetarian Review 01/23/13

Michelle Edwards puts Sonia Cabano and Jade de Waal's Luscious Vegetarian cookbook through its paces and comes away delighted.


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Luscious Vegetarian by Sonia Cabano and Jade De Waal

I wanted to cook a meal from Sonia Cabano and Jade de Waal’s Luscious Vegetarian that was light and healthy, with bright, bold flavours – perfect for a warm summer evening, and the virtuous me who demands less starch and fewer calories for a few weeks every January.

Which made the task of choosing a meal really hard, because the book is packed with recipes that are low on the guilt and high on the yum (although it also features some really decadent extravagances like wild mushroom lasagne, churros, and potato soufflés, which I’m definitely going to try out in winter. Or February).

The recipes are categorised in six sections – Quick, Light, Pure, Feast, Relax, Bake – but each section carried at least two recipes that I thought would be perfect for a relaxed, summer Saturday night.

One of the reasons it was hard for me to settle on a meal was that this book is all about the food, and lots of it. It’s not one of those cookbooks that looks beautiful – or is full of contextual waffle – but is thin on content.

There are recipes in this book that I’ve never seen before – carbonada criolla (basically a whole pumpkin, stuffed with vegetables and baked), congee (which I ate while I was living in Taiwan but have never thought of attempting to make myself), Greek yoghurt and herb pie baked in vine leaves – and which would whet the appetite of any cook looking for a bit of a challenge.

But there are also recipes for microwaved banana rice pudding, homemade chakalaka, and a whole page of interesting braai ideas – dishes that are easy and comforting and practical but which you might not have thought of yourself.

The book’s really easy to use because quantities are given in volume as well as tablespoon/teaspoon measurements, there’s a conversion table at the back, and Cook’s Tips are sprinkled throughout, often giving advice on how to “veganise” a lacto-ovo vegetarian dish. It’s probably worth mentioning that this book is “vegetarian” in the South African common parlance sense – while a lot of recipes are vegan, like the starter and main that I chose, a lot of them do contain egg and/or dairy.

What struck me is that this book would do well to drop the “Vegetarian” from its title. The fact that the recipes don’t contain meat is incidental – they’re all so interesting and seem so complete that they deserve to be appreciated in their own right, and not defined by an ingredient they happen not to contain. I suppose what I’m getting at is that this book, compared to my other vegetarian cookbooks which read more like survival guides (like, “how to get by in the world of meat-eaters if you don’t want to eat any meat”), would be at home in anyone’s kitchen, whether they’re vegetarian or not.

So, after spending a few hours (yes, hours – it was really hard to choose) flicking through the book and drooling at the pretty full-page pictures, I eventually settled on these three awesome courses:

Tofu larb in lettuce cups

Thai pumpkin soup

White chocolate mousse with chilli grilled pineapple

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