Cookbook Challenge Week Three: The Urban Vegan

Until the cookbook challenge, I don’t think I ever heard of The Urban Vegan but I was lucky enough to find a copy at the library. So far I’m pretty impressed, there are definitely some good quality recipes in there. By no means would I consider this a beginners cookbook, although there are some basic recipes, there’s also a whole chapter dedicated to haute cuisine and some great ideas and techniques thrown throughout the book. At first glance I realized that I had no idea what most of the recipes were by looking at their names, I’ve never heard of things like Pastitsio, Feijoada, or Spaetzle before and the fact that there are no pictures didn’t help, but the descriptive intros that Dynise added to each recipe made up for this. The only downside or little annoyance I found with the book was that a nice few recipes called for ingredients that required a special trip to the heath food store, normally stuff like this doesn’t bother me since I like trying new ingredients but I can see how it would be a real turnoff for people who don’t have easy access to things like soy flour (I was disappointed that I couldn’t make the Tiramisu since I’d have to order Soy Whip).

I had a lot of trouble picking a recipe from this book as everything sounded so appealing, then I came across the Curry Cashew Casserole figured how could I go wrong? There’s three things I love right in the title. Curry? Check. Cashews? Check. One dish meal? Check. The dish came together really quickly, no pre-cooking required, although I think sauteing the onion beforehand would have added to the flavour.

I had the Thai Kitchen Brand red curry paste left over from the Red Thai Tofu , so I used that and added in additional 2 tablespoons plus about 1/4 teaspoon of red chili flakes to make up for the lack of flavour but the dish still wasn’t as spicy as I would have liked it to be. Regardless of the spiciness, this casserole was so delicious! I made it as my main the same night my family decided to go the meaty route and had to stop myself from greedily gorging and actually share it with everyone else. It was just so creamy and flavourful! Everyone thought it was great, my dad even commented on how there was so much flavour that it made everything else on his dish taste bland. Go veganisim!

On Wednesday night for dinner I tried out the Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine. I wasn’t planning on making this dish but I was feeling kind of tired that night and wasn’t in the mood to cook. The tagine seemed like the easiest recipe to make as you only have to throw everything into a pot and let it simmer and also I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand.

It turned out ok but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make it again. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the recipe I think it’s just that I don’t like anything that’s sweet and tomatoey. I really should have known better as I had the same reaction when I made a Moroccan dish from The Vegan Table. I did really like the suggestion of sprinkling toasted almonds on top, it added a nice flavour and crunch. P said he liked it, which is something since he really doesn’t like cooked cauliflower. If I were willing to give this a second chance I would definitely leave out the raisins and throw in some extra spices to make it more savoury.

The Spaghetti Carbonara was a recipe I just couldn’t pass up. P makes carbonara on a regular basis and I’ve always wondered about trying a vegan version; I really used to love it but just haven’t come across anything that looked promising. On top of this I just happen to have a fresh batch of coconut bacon that was eager to be used up. The recipe calls for tempeh bacon but I’m not a big fan of the homemade variety and I’ve yet to see any at either of the stores I frequent. This makes a lot and I mean a LOT. I cut the recipe in half and still got 4 – 5 servings out of it. I’m not sure if it tastes exactly like carbonara but I really loved this pasta! It was a little too salty but I’m pretty sure that was my own flat for putting in to much bacon. It was really rich, with just a hint of smokiness and totally satisfying. I wouldn’t think twice about serving this to friends, it would be a crowd pleaser for sure.

Last on the list was the Smokey Split Pea Soup. Growing up in Newfoundland I used to eat split pea soup on a regular basis, it was (and still is) my favourite comfort soup. I already have my go-to recipe but every time I come across a new pea soup recipe I just have to give it a try. I’m really glad I didn’t over look this soup as it had a very distinctive rich and smokey flavour. Most recipes I see usually call for liquid smoke, this one called for tempeh bacon so of course I once again utilized the coconut bacon that was sitting in my fridge. The bacon really added to the flavour, not only do you get the smokiness but you also get hints of maple and soy sauce with every bite. I thought the addition of rutabaga was a nice change from the standard potato. This is the type of soup that just gets better overnight, I’m really looking forward to eating it for lunch tomorrow.

To go with the soup I needed something that could soak up all that yummy broth, so I made the 6 Grain Dunkin’ Bread. Like the name says, this bread calls for six different types of flour! I already had four of the flours, so had to make a special trip to the store to get the remaining two, but I’m a hoarder of ingredients, and the extra trip didn’t bother me in the least. The bread doesn’t contain much gluten, so I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t turn out when I was kneading it but lo and behold I ended up with a dense fibre filled loaf with a thick crust. If you’re the type of person who only eats white bread then you probable won’t like it, but if you like a dark, uniquely flavoured, hearty bread with a slight trace of molasses then this should be right up your alley. I probable wouldn’t eat it on its own but for soaking up soup this bread was great, it also didn’t contain any white flour which is always good in my books.

I really liked this book and I’m disappointed that the time has come for me to return it the library, there are so many recipes that I would love to try. I guess I’ll just have to add it to my wishlist, I mean I do have a birthday coming up in a couple months (hint, hint :))

Curious of what others thought of Veganomicon, check out this link.

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