Monday, February 27

My favourite cookbooks

I love cookbooks. I have so many that I've had to stop buying them because I can't fit any more!

Ok, so maybe I still buy them and then just cry when I get them home and can't find a place for them. Mostly I don't even use them, I just have a few reliable favourites and a folder full of recipes gathered from friends, family, cookbooks I don't own, the Internet, magazines, packets and boxes. This post will be about those old faithful cookbooks that keep me going back time and time again.

My absolute favourite cookbook is an English one called The Student Vegetarian Cookbook by Beverly LeBlanc. Being English, there are a few ingredients with different names to what they are called in Australia but mostly it's very easy to use here.
I just can't sing the praises of this cookbook enough. It is the heart and soul of my kitchen, with its food stains and tattered pages. Every recipe is easy, cheap, nutritious, delicious, and mostly quick to make. It's aimed at uni students so I really can't stress the quick, easy, and cheap aspects enough. It also has a whole page called 'There's More to a Can of Baked Beans Than Just Toast' which is a favourite of mine, followed by another page called 'Can Cuisine'. It's little additional things like this that mean that you can read the whole book a million times and still discover new recipes or variations you've never noticed before. As well as sections such as 'Cooking When U R Broke', 'Party Time', and 'All-Day Breakfasts and Comforting Drinks' (which are always nice), the book also contains a whole discussion on vegetarianism, smart shopping, eating a balanced diet, and what to stock a pantry with (for the real newies out of home). In addition, the author uses symbols by the recipe title to indicate things such as Vegan, Quick, or Hangover Buster, very handy.

My next favourite cookbook would have to be the Family Circle Best of Kids' Cooking (1995) which I got when I was about 6. This classic Australian cookbook is an oldie but a goodie.
While a lot of these recipes contain meat, many can be made vegetarian or vegan, such as (strangely enough), the Sausage and Bean Bake, which is a favourite of ours. This cookbook is home to the best Potato Bake recipe ever, the most awesome Corn Fritters, a delicious Fried Rice, and my famous Savoury Rice, which everybody loves.

Then there's Sweet Treats from Frankie Magazine, based in Australia.
This cookbook is full of whimsy and old-fashioned treats such as Sticky Apples, Peanut Brittle, Candy Hearts, Sherbet, Lollipops, Musk Sticks, and Truffles. I've made the Fruit Jelly Chews, Caramel Popcorn Balls, Sweet Honeycomb, and Old-school Boiled Lollies. You have to watch out though as some recipes use gelatin, which is not vegetarian! The photos are all very nice and cosy which makes me look at this book a lot and sigh and smile.

A new cookbook I have is The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. This cookbook is American so many of the ingredients have different names in Australia or are difficult to get, especially brand names. However, just because you can't get the brand suggested in the recipe doesn't mean you can't make it!
I have to admit, I haven't actually cooked anything out of it yet but that's not because of lack of desire, I just haven't got around to it yet and since I've had the book it's been too hot to bake. As well as a lifetime's worth of baking goodness of all sorts, this book has a section called 'The Whys and Wherefores of Choosing Vegan', and a useful and informative chapter on 'The How-to's and What-Nots of Vegan Baking'. I like to imagine Colleen Patrick-Goudreau as the homey, hardworking, resourceful, creative, hippie grandmother I never had. No offense to my actual grandmother, you're very nice too.

Another newie, Party Vegan by Robin Robertson (I hope that's not the name their parents gave them), is a great resource to have, especially when searching for finger food ideas. Again, this book is American and so many of the ingredients have different names and measurements are in ounces, inches, and degrees Fahrenheit. A conversion chart (ie the Internet) will help you here.
This cookbook says it is "dedicated to party animals everywhere who don't serve animals at their parties", which I rather like. For the party-planner, this book will be your best friend. It organises things into categories, uses symbols telling you if something can be made ahead of time, offers ideas for themes, and gives you a party countdown schedule. It reminds me of Monica from Friends even more than I remind myself of Monica from Friends. The recipes are split up into themes or party types such as A Picnic Lunch, Crowd Control, Effortless Potluck, A Child's Birthday, A Teen Party, Be My Valentine Dinner for Two, A Superbowl Party, Mothers' Day Brunch, Fathers' Day Cookout, Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah, and A New Year's Eve A-list. You can also mix and match the recipes to create you own kind of party, and indeed, being the organised book it is, Party Vegan offers some suggested mix and match menus for you.

Another faithful cooking friend of mine is Grandma's Best Recipes by Sandra Baddeley and Valerie Barrett.
This English book is full of simple, classic UK dishes (most of which are not vegetarian but I just like to look at the pictures on a cold wintry day), but also has an exciting and daring section called 'Grandma's Travels', featuring exotic, foreign-inspired foods. I imagine Grandma to be a lovable old English lady with china figurines, little dogs, and a colourful past that you only get glimpses of every now and then. She would always have something cooking when you came over and would sit you by the fire to eat while she told you stories of times past. Not that my actual grandmother is not good, you're very nice too. Grandma's Best Recipes has simple gems like Tomato Soup, Winter Vegetable Cobbler, Macaroni Cheese, Souffled Baked Potatoes, Cauliflower Cheese, Chili Con Carne (which you can always make with lentils), Vegetable Korma, Apple Pie, Rhubarb Crumble, Bread and Butter Pudding, Baked Rice Pudding, Blueberry Pancakes, Lemon Drizzle Cake, Scones, White Bread, and Banana Splits. There's also an entire Christmas section, and I am fanatical about Christmas! Along with Perfect Roast Potatoes, Honeyed Parsnips, Christmas Pudding, and Spiced Christmas Punch, there is a recipe for Mixed Nut Roast with Cranberry and Red Wine Sauce. I have eaten this many times and thought it was delicious until recently when I suddenly felt it was horrible. I'm sure I'll like it again though, I'm like that, and I'm sure that you'll like it.

The newest of the lot is PETA's Vegan College Cookbook, which I only got today. I may not have had it long but this book is already a firm favourite.
Again, being American there are some ingredients that we don't have in Australia, or things that we call a different name, but it's still very user friendly. The book was also written with the intention of not assuming that everyone has a stove so if you don't have a stove, it's broken, or you're just feeling lazy, this is the book for you! All the recipes are cheap, quick, and easy, and most of them are even good for you! I'm only halfway through it, so stay tuned to hear me sing the praises of it when I'm done (I've already sung a few praises here), but I'm sure that it will become the vegan equivalent to The Student Vegetarian Cookbook. It may not have a page of baked bean recipes, but it does have a whole 21 page section on peanut butter.

Happy eating! :)

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