Sunday, 8 June 2008

veganomicon: a review

lemon and pea risotto and lemony potatoes from veganomicon

I've been putting off this review for two weeks, thinking that I'd make just one more thing, to make my review just that little bit wider, but this morning as I lay in bed I realised that I'm all Veganomiconed out, so I suppose that the time for a review is at hand.

Veganomicon: a review

I love the title of Veganomicon; the idea that it is the cruelty-free book of the dead; that it is an excellent vegan compendium; that it is a gigantic recipe book filled with recipes I can cook without alteration.

I have found the book very US-centric. Earth Balance and Veganaise have both been listed as "don't bother with anything else" sort of items, which made me feel incredibly (perhaps not rationally) resentful, as if there was no acknowledgement that maybe there are vegans out there in the world beyond the US' borders, with awesome products of their own. As an Australian, I've become used to converting recipes in my head, but the narrowness of the book has, as I mentioned (and childishly or not) made me feel resentful. Any Australians (and others?) using the book should remember that "all purpose" flour is plain, and "confectioners' sugar" is icing sugar.

messy rice and lentil and cauliflower curry (from veganomicon)

Both D and I have had some interesting experiences with the flavour of the recipes. The curried things were bland, and things that used herbs we rarely use (tarragon, for example) were often quite overpowering (though not necessarily untasty). This may be an indication that we're not used to these herbs, but I am not convinced.

I have seen many complaints about the format, and I have to agree - although format isn't a make or break thing, and I don't mind having multiple recipes on one page, having to turn the page in the middle of a recipe didn't work for me. Once or twice I didn't notice until halfway through the recipe that there was more on the next page, and that's my fault for not reading the recipe all the way through in advance but also it makes for awkward reading.

I've had some problems with the times listed, and it wasn't until the second recipe that I realised they were cooking times only, which is a bit misleading.

The cookies so far have been pretty awesome. I have baked the chocolate-chocolate chip-walnut cookies multiple times now, they are quite tasty and the next day it's like eating muffins or something. That they are so damp is less than ideal, but that is quite likely part of what gives them such a great final consistency. The recipe is also very flexible; as I mentioned in a previous post, messing up the proportions quite considerably didn't dampen the deliciousness of the cookies. The chewy chocolate-raspberry cookies were also quite tasty. I am confused by the wheat-free chocolate chip cookies - they contain oat, which is a maybe-yes maybe-no item for coeliacs, which they acknowledge in the recipe, so I'm confused why their wheat-free cookie wasn't something that was guaranteed to be coeliac friendly.

samosa stuffed potatoes from veganomicon

I do love the listing of basics and how-tos. Beside the samosa stuffed potatoes it tells you how to bake a potato if you've not done it before, and that's handy. I enjoyed discovering some new things (penne vodka with slivered almonds - awesome!), and having some new takes on things (samosa stuffed potatoes - fantastic idea!).

penne vodka from veganomicon

It was definitely worth the purchase, and having to cart it all the way back from Singapore. Similarly to Vegan With a Vengeance, it is a bit junky, and I have found that I usually have to modify the recipes as I'm cooking them to make them to my taste, which is not necessarily a problem, it's just a thing.

It does, in its way, meet its title as 'the ultimate vegan cookbook.' Maybe there will be a bigger, more encompassing cook book sometime, but for now it's certainly the most comprehensive that I've come across in terms of basic variety, which makes it a good starter's book, definitely (although now that I've said that, I do wonder how it competes with Vegan Planet, which I've yet to try but understand is awesome).

Overall, I'm glad I have it, and I can see myself getting a lot of use out of it, especially in terms of ideas and inspiration (less than the recipes word for word), but probably no more than any other cookbook on my shelf.

Recipes that we tried in order to form this opinion: samosa stuffed potatoes (p60) (awesome idea); lemony roasted potatoes (p109) (not really my thing); messy rice (p118) (bit bland); potato and kale enchiladas with roasted chile sauce (p162) (bit bland); pumpkin saag (p184) (quite tasty); red lentil-cauliflower curry (p186) (needed more spices); penne vodka (p193) (I loved this); green pea and lemon risotto with roasted red peppers (p199) (tasty, but nothing exciting); chewy chocolate-raspberry cookies (p234) (quite tasty); chocolate-chocolate chip-walnut cookies (p236) (these have entered rotation as go-to present cookies).

pumpkin saag


Veggie said...

Yeah, that's what I found too, I hate having to turn the page in the middle of a recipe.

Do you have vegan mayonnaise in Australia?

a vegan about town said...

I've not yet encountered any evidence of vegan mayonnaise in Australia, though I can now get cheezly, and tofutti, which is cool.

moonbug said...

You can get vegan mayo in Australia. Kingsland Soy (they make soy cream cheese, yoghurt and cheese as well) make it. They are a Queensland company though I have seen their products Australia wide both in Coles and health food shops. They used to do a nice herb flavoured one which was a bit like tartar sauce but I have only seen plain in the last few years.

Kat said...

Just making sure you saw that Oprah is doing a 21-Day Vegan Cleanse!

Chef Tal Ronnen put together a bunch of recipes using vegan products, like Earth Balance.

You can check out her whole program & the recipes here:

lisa said...

Hey, I followed your link from Pip's Veganomicon review... as with her review, I agree with you wholeheartedly! Overall, a bit disappointing from an Aussie perspective. I just think we cook so differently...

steph said...

Hey Lisa,

I hadn't really thought that 'aussie' cooking was so different from usa cooking, but it is true that I view my us-based cookbooks differently from the others. It is a good cook book, I'm just not convinced it's the perfect cook book. :o)

Theresa said...

Just read this post thanks to a few links I've followed (can you tell I'm procrastinating) and I just wanted to say... Praise 97% fat free mayo is accidentally vegan, and very widely available, at least up here in QLD. Also, I love Vegan Planet but haven't seen V-con, and probably wouldn't pay that much for something that gets such mixed reviews.

steph said...

Theresa, I really want to get Vegan Planet, I've tried it a couple of times and it's great, but I've yet to buy it! Veganomicon has been okay, but nothing fantastic.

Cool news about the Praise Mayo!