One month cooking from Feed Me Vegan

Not so long ago, I came to own a copy of Feed Me Vegan, the vegan cookbook from former Made In Chelsea star Lucy Watson. If you're not in the habit of watching reality TV show on E4 about overly monied young people in SW3, that may not mean anything to you. If you are in the habit of watching such mental chewing gum (confession: I am, a fact of which I am not proud!), then you may be faintly surprised that Lucy Watson has a cookbook out.

Another confession: Feed Me Vegan wasn't a book I set out to get, it was a book given to Mr Flicking the Vs at work for a Secret Santa present. It's taken me this long to get around to cooking from it, but thanks to Jenny Marie's cookbook challenge, I finally put it through its paces.

I think this is a book aimed at either people that don't cook a lot, or new vegans (or possibly new vegans that don't cook a lot): the recipes are all pretty simple. And when I say simple,  I mean there's a recipe for fajitas that involves buying Quorn pieces and 'fajita spice mix' and cooking them up with a couple of veggies. This isn't taxing stuff.  Which is not to say that easy can't be tasty, it absolutely can, but if you're looking to level up your vegan cooking, this may not be the book for you.

With all that in mind, join me on my journey through Feed Me Vegan. Talking of easy recipes, here's one of the easiest of them all: chilli.

I think most cookbooks in my collection have a chilli recipe, so is Feed Me Vegan's a worth addition to the canon? I'm going to surprise you by saying yes! It's not going to rock your world and overthrow everything you thought you knew about chilli, but it will make a decent bowl of beans. The pink pickled onions on top were a nice touch of colour and sharpness.

The pickled onions also did double duty on top of these tacos, which were filled with a base made of marinated tofu, mushrooms and tomatoes, topped with salady bits and guac. The good points: the guac was delightfully fancy - I think guacamole purists might query miso and yoghurt in their avocados, but I'm good with it. Also in the tacos favour: Mr Flicking the Vs doesn't like mushrooms, but didn't seem to mind their presence here, so the tacos must have been sufficiently diverting on both flavour and texture, otherwise he would have run away like a cat that's just been shown a cucumber.

I found the tomatoes and mushrooms made it all a bit wet, and the tacos went from crispy to sodden. I also felt obliged to jack up the liquid smoke and chipotle so all the flavour didn't get washed away. Still, it wasn't a bad set of tacos - most things taste great in a corn shell with avocado on top.

There's more avocado on Feed Me Vegan's version of that most stereotypically English of meals, the fried breakfast. There are some familiar elements, like tomatoes and sausages, and some more modern additions - the ubiquitous avocado toast for example. The fry-up calls for baked beans, but I had some kidneys left over from the chilli, so I went rogue a bit (don't tell Lucy Watson). I was rather taken by the addition of smoked tofu (instead of my standard scrambled) and the rosti. I can never have enough carbs of a breakfast time. My only complaint about this was the instruction for a single sausage - surely, a little lighthanded for an indulgent breakfast?

At this point, I should add one of the good things about Feed Me Vegan is there's lot of colour pics. I should also add that you may find not all of the dishes you recreate look like the glossy colour photographs. My attempt at Lucy Watson's pad thai was more two separate species than separated at birth - hers, a picture perfect take on Thai, mine looked distinctly jaundiced. I didn't take my own photo, it looked so imperfectly yellow. The taste was OK, but every new pad thai recipe I cook has to live up the Brooklyn pad thai from Vegan with a Vengeance

There are a few curry-type recipes in Feed Me Vegan, and it seemed rude not to make one. I attempted the butternut squash and kale one, only with chard stepping in to play the kale as my kitchen was sadly kaleless at the time). Like chillis, I think almost every cookbook I own must have some variant of curry in it, and Feed Me Vegan's version doesn't look like it's breaking much new ground: butternut, greens, heavy on the coconut milk. And like the chilli, the curry totally pulled it out of the bag: the deliciously different spicing and gratuitously indulgent coconut cream made this one satisfying eat. 

Another very basic dish coming up: spag bol. I normally make a spag bol with beans, Feed Me Vegan goes with soya mince, which I'm very happy with. I'm quite partial to soya mince, and I don't make spaghetti bolognaise more than once in a blue moon, so I was looking forward to this. Also - garlic bread! Garlic bread! There really isn't enough garlic bread in my life.  I dodged the vegan cheese (Lucy Watson's book has a lot of vegan cheese in it) but I'm very happy to report it was great nonetheless) and made a cheese free version, which was heavenly.

Next up, the Peanut Tofu Buddha Bowl. I don't know who invented the concept of the buddha bowl, but I owe them a debt of gratitude. I love a good buddha bowl - it's full of good healthy food that doesn't taste like it's worthy or some sort of culinary punishment. It also looks really fancy, without actually needing a whole lot of effort. I've not met a buddha bowl I didn't like, and this was no exception. It's a mix of marinated tofu, veggies, greens, and avocado, all slathered with peanut satay sauce. I think I made this about three days on the spin, so you can tell it's a winner.

The last recipe I made from Feed Me Vegan was a cake, because every meal should have a cake at the end of it. Much as I hate to end on a bad note, the Lemon Yoghurt Cake was an out and out fail. It was a bit of a damp batter when I put it in the oven, and when it came out, it was a stodgy cake that fell apart when I touched it. It degenerated into crumbs - big, heavy crumbs. It tasted fine, but I'm in no rush to make it again.

So after a month of cooking from Feed Me Vegan, I'm not really sure who the book's aimed at. The recipes are really simple and familiar, to the extent I think even omnivores would be able to knock passable versions without the need for a recipe book. Knowing to add soy mince instead of meat mince to a bolognaise recipe to make a vegan meal isn't a sufficient level of complexity to need a recipe book to run you through it. If it's a cookbook for people that haven't really cooked much - students and people moving out of home for the first time? If so, are those people going to have things like sun dried tomato paste?

I guess it's meant as a first vegan cookbook for people dipping their toe in herbivorousness - most of the recipes are vegan versions of popular classics, with a few more modern plant based dishes for good measure. If it's your first vegan cookbook, you'll be pleased with the results. If you're a more experience cook or more long time vegan, there's not much in this book you won't have seen before. Still, if you find yourself with a gift copy, there's still some fun to be had.

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  1. Not a book I'm familiar with so it's interesting to get your honest overview! Doesn't sound like it's for me, but there's still plenty of potential for new cooks, for sure. That curry does look pretty great too.

  2. So I now want to try showing my cat a cucumber, trying the brooklyn pad thai, and a need to eat garlic bread. It is interesting to read your thoughts on the book - you mention the beautiful pad thai book and this makes me wonder if it is a coffee table book for people who want to think they might cook but actually wont. (Sorry that I am influenced by your mention of mental chewing gum)

  3. It sounds similar to a book for college students I once reviewed — lots of easy to prepare familiar recipes with several surprising standouts. The recipes you made look pretty good, especially the curry. Maybe the cake needed a bit longer baking, or a tad more flour.


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