Top 10 Vegetarian Cookbooks or Why I’m Back on the (Cashew Nut) Sauce

veggiesHere are some things I don’t want to put in my mouth; Blue Peter pets, Bambi, trotters, Shergar. Which is why, after a seven year break, I decided to return to a predominantly vegetarian diet at the beginning of this year. My New Year’s Resolution was of the ‘lets pencil that in’ variety until the whole ‘there’s a pony in your pie’ story exploded and I thought I was going to gag up an equine kidney. Literally.

I first became a veggie in my late teens on the grounds that  I didn’t approve (in the way that only a 15-year-old can ‘not approve’) of the Diet of Diminished Responsibility as I called it. I had the idea that I would only eat what I could kill. Having experienced gut-spewing hours on the water, both lake and and sea, with just my dad, a fishing rod and a thunderous sky for company, fish were totally on my menu. Dad taught me how to reel in the thrashing creatures, unhooking their bloodied mouths before stopping, in a moment of bizarre reverence, to admire the rainbow-beauty of their silvery scales. Dad would gaze at the gasping fish, his eyes moistening, reading the scales like tea leaves before administering a merciful clout to the fishes head. Queasily, I’d watch the perfect silver ring of the fishes eyes retract making way for the wide black pupils of stillness. It felt raw, but somehow natural and oddly ok to skin, gut and cook ‘em up with garlic later that night. But maybe I’d just  read too much Hemmingway.  But so it was that my diet was veggie/pescatarian for some twenty years until the traumatic birth of my second daughter, the Biscuit Thief.

Within hours of the emergency C-section I had undergone, I became desperately anaemic and needed a blood transfusion. I still remember the sensation of a stranger’s blood seeping into my architecture like tar through a straw. It crept into me like a burgundy, life-saving syrup, carrying with it so much heat that I could trace its path around my broken body. Over the next few days, as the anaemia ebbed away, a gnawing started in my belly. My husband came to visit me in hospital and I looked at him like a shark looks at tiddlers.

“I think I…I…I think I need…I need a fucking steak!” I said, horrified.

I was like Alex the Lion in the Madagascar films when he imagines the lemurs and zebras turning into little sirloins such is the intensity of his meat-lust. Since that moment seven years ago, there has been nothing I wouldn’t do for a sausage until recently, the smell of meat, let alone the taste of it, started to make me feel unbelievably squeamish.  Thank fuck I’m not French.

And so I am back;  back to the demanding cooking, back to the endless peeling of root vegetables, back to the exotic adventures with cheese, back to endless reconfigurements of falafels and humous. Unfortunately for a vegetarian/pescatarian, I am not on speaking terms with eggs after a salmonella incident on top of a mountain in Spain where I puked and also pooed in front of a pop star and my new born baby had to sleep in a suitcase ~ but that’s another story. So without eggs, I have to work hard to get my protein.

Having been out of the quinoa-loving lifestyle for some years, I asked Twitter and Facebook for some vegetarian cookbook suggestions and these ones came out top. Enjoy!


The Mystic Cookfire by Veronika Robinson

River Cottage Veg Every Day Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Sundays At Moosewood Restaurant Moosewood Collective

Plenty Yotam Ottolenghi

Gaia’s Kitchen Julia Ponsonby

Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Cookery Rose Elliot

River Cafe Cookbook Green Rose Grey

The Vegetarian Pantry  Chloe Choker & Jane Montgomery

Paradiso Seasons Denis Cotter

The Accidental Vegetarian Simon Rimmer


46 thoughts on “Top 10 Vegetarian Cookbooks or Why I’m Back on the (Cashew Nut) Sauce

  1. And what did happen to Shergar!!?? I was a veggie, fish eating person until a few years ago, and actually I would quite like to go back to that diet someday soon – my skin is a lot better for it. And especially after Tesco’s ‘finest’ horse meat scandal. BTW, the timing of this line, “I think I…I…I think I need…I need a fucking steak!” made me spit my tea out – so funny! An accupuncturist told me to eat more red meat in my diet a few months ago, so I tried some steak, first time in many years – my God, that medium rare slab of meat tasted so good, but I didn’t poo for another week. Which brings me back to the many benefits of a veggie diet. The River Cottage Veg Everyday is fab – and Yotam rocks! X.

  2. Oooh excellent. I’m a lazy veggie (let my meat eating husband do all the cooking and therefore I don’t get very adventurous meals). I’d love a few good recipes to try.

  3. Brilliant. I love the stranger’s burgundy life-saving syrup. And, what about pooing in front of a pop star? You’ll have to tell us that story. As for being a vegetarian – I’m a little too fond of sausage. xx

  4. I don’t have any cashew alternative suggestions, but the cookbooks I mention are filled with great ideas. The Mystic Cookfire used loads of nuts… Let me know what you find out!

  5. This post is perfect timing for me. I was veg for years, stopped when I got pregnant, went back and am off again. My son wants us to go back to meat-free but I have to be careful with any changes in eating habits. I may just have to do more planning this time around.

    I also like the books that Nava Atlas has (Vegetarian 5-Ingredient, Vegetarian Family, Vegan Express, etc.) especially if you are short on time.

  6. I nearly snort-laughed out loud at your story with eggs. Congrats on Freshly Pressed! I like the idea of vegetarianism, but have never been able to consistently eat healthily without meat. There’s some things I have tried but don’t eat, such as duck, and I like ducks, so don’t want to kill them. Cows? Chickens? Fish? Pigs? I’m good with that. 😛

  7. I think I’m going to try being a vegetarian. I’ve given up meat many times but is so conscious of my health now that I definitely need to make some changes. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  8. I have respect for the vegetarian and I am interested if your diet sticks rigidly to an organic diet.

    Please allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment:
    I believe it depends on the reason why. “I don’t like eating animals”,
    “Because they are living things”
    Biologically fruits and vegetables are living things too but I can undertsand the huge contrast in what humans associate with ‘living things’. I blame cartoons for this as there are people who legitimately think “I’m eating Bambi”. These people need a reality check.

    “I want a healthier lifestyle”. Sure animals are pumped full of anti-biotics or intensively reared for food production. Red meats are showing increasing evidence of being bad for us but white meats and fish (in a balanced diet) are good for us. But what about vegetables and fruits that are genetically modified and sprayed with toxic pesticides.
    “I go organic” Sounds good but nothing is 100% organic. Clouds of sprayed insecticides can be carried by the wind onto organic plants as well as could be spread by contaminated birds and insects.

    Being scared by the horsemeat scandal is ridiculous considering we eat and drink stuff everyday that contains artificial chemicals and carcinogens. Horsemeat is actually better for us than beef as it is leaner. I don’t however know the quality of the meat so can’t give exact details on percentages of fats, proteins etc.

    Like I said I am playing devil’s advocate here in the nicest possible way (if that is possible) and am interested in you response.

    At the end of the day we have to live our own lives and I found your article well written with somevery funny comments. 🙂

  9. I was vegetarian for about three years, around school. Looking back that was probably the healthiest period of my life. Now, ahh.. Meat is unavoidable, work or home. At home my dad gets all snipey if I don’t eat like a good lil girl, and well, there’s nothing vegetarian at work except milk, and I can’t really live the day off on milk. I’m still trying to work the kinks out but I really plan on being vegetarian again soon. Who knows, maybe I’ll go the whole hog to vegan? (intended, sorry. =P )

  10. Thanks for your comment. As you can probably guess from the tone of my writing, I’m not returning to a veggie diet for any big political, or indeed, logical reasons! But I guess I do still have a sense of the ‘Diet of Diminished Responsibility’ that I first had way back in my teens. To me, a supermarket’s neatly packaged, plastic wrapped ground mince is part of a trajectory of disconnection from nature that makes me profoundly sad. It’s a personal perspective and my kids still eat sausages! And regarding the horse meat affair, the scandal is in the mis-labelling. But the equine kidney line was too good not to include:) What I did not put in the piece, but which is the main reason for returning to a majority veggie diet right now, is cost. As someone feeding a family, I just can’t afford to put even the best-quality hand-reared organic meat on our table; it’s hard enough to pay for an organic carrot! Thanks for playing devil’s advocate – always good to be made to think 🙂

  11. I own most of those cook books 🙂 I have to say just in my own opinon that I find Plenty by Ottam very pretty to look at but everything is VERY labour intensive and very dairy heavy. I havent made anything successful from Simon Rimmers book yet but I do like his flair. The winner for me has to be River Cottage veg – its simple, rustic and everything has turned out so so delicious!
    Great post, I love the “Diet of Diminshed Responsibility” quote haha oh my days what a perfect way to sum up how I felt when I first turned veggie lol

  12. If you’re off the eggs as well, maybe try some vegan cookbooks? I’m not vegan myself, but I don’t eat meat, and I love Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cookbooks for inspiration on things to do with tofu and seitan. I’m especially loving Vegan Eats World at the moment; it has some fab Asian recipes, and I add a bit of cheese into some of the other ones when I feel it would enhance deliciousness…

  13. Totally agree about cost. I moved to Canada in June 2011 and the cost of food here is more than in Britain. Veg is more expensive than microwave meals, which I don’t understand. On avegare it is around ten pounds for 5 bog standard chicken breast in England I remeber ASDA selling twelve for ten pounds
    I agree with the disconnection from nature thing too. Many children will say “Supermarket” when asked where a chicken comes from. They need to be reminded that this is a chicken. When you eat KFC or what ever this is what you are eating. (Although its debatable if KFC actually sells chicken but you get my point)
    I have been inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with regard to using every part of the animal. I even try to observe ‘Meat-Free Mondays’ but in a house of red meat eating carnivores that is tough.
    Thanks for taking my comments in the right way. I look forward to your next blog 🙂

  14. Love this post – it’s hilarious!! And congrats on going veggie again 🙂 I’m excited to keep up with your veggie adventures!

  15. I’m a lapsed vegetarian myself who’s trying to get the meat back out of my life. Thanks for the great cookbook recommendations! I just put a few on hold at the library 🙂

  16. It’s tough, especially trying to make things that satisfy my totally carnivorous teenage son!! But I feel so much better when I eat vegetarian. That’s why I want to get back to it.

  17. When I went vegetarian a few years ago I wanted to make certain I was doing the right thing nutritionally. I found a veggo diet can be horrendously junky, or the very best. My favourite blog for well researched information on what our bodies need is . I could never figure out why people could happily eat a cow or suckling piglet yet have issue with horse, guinea pig or dog. Is it because they don’t associate meat in a plastic package with a live creature that has as much personality as their favourite pet? I’m not anti-meat, it works if there are no other option, but thankfully there are so many other options in my world. Too many options – my head spins sometimes as I get lost in the world of tasty healthy veggo Internet recipes and end up having baked beans on toast.

  18. Brilliant post, made me laugh out loud! Very sorry to hear about the egg in incident, that sounds horrible. I follow a predominantly veggie diet for my ME / CFS and a book I’ve recently got and love is Honestly Healthy by Edgson and Corrett. They have a website by the same name too. It’s all about alkaline eating which I don’t specifically follow I just dip into the recipes which are healthy and nutritious (and delicious to boot!) good luck with your ‘new’ diet and congrats on freshly pressed!

  19. Thank you … Have heard so much about alkaline diets. Nutrition is such a good approach to me/cfs… Wishing you well on your journey.

  20. try the indian version of world cuisines – most of it is altered for the vegetarians. being an indian and a vegetarian, have grown up relishing the veggies plus we have a way of substituting meat by some veg option. i hope you do give it a shot and like it too (the heat maybe on the higher side, so u will have to control the spice to your taste)
    congrats and good luck!

  21. I love a good cookbook I do! The Rose Elliot one is quite out dated now though. She’s replaced it with Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian and it’s brilliant. I really want Simon Rimmers since no one is yet to agree to visit his restaurant in Didsbury with me, not even when I lived there.

  22. Hi. Thanks for the veggie cookbook list.

    Not on your list but a great vegan cookbook is Fresh At Home. A lot of very easy recipes of sauces that don’t take long to make. Mostly assemble the ingredients and mix. These sauces, which have a sort of fusion taste, can be used with the salads/dishes they suggest, or just over whatever veg are available in the fridge.

  23. Thanks for sharing those wonderful cookbooks. I personally own Plenty and River cottage. Both I find make cooking such as joy. Looking forward to reading the other cookbooks.

  24. I know how you feel! I don’t know if I could give up meat entirely so I try to eat a veggie-based diet, with some high quality meat thrown in from time to time. It’s been an adventure! And new vegetable-based cookbooks are always a good thing!

  25. ‘Diet of Diminished Responsibility’ love it!! I gave up dairy and meat late least year, kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Feel great, lost over 10k and don’t feel I am missing out on anything. Still eat fish but working on giving that up too. Great blog and love the book suggestions. 🙂

Comments are closed.