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VeganMoFo: River Cottage Veg Every Day: A bit like soft porn

This post is part of the Vegan Month of Food - or VeganMoFo to you and me. To learn more about VeganMoFo, click here.

In The Guardian not so long ago, there was a fairly long opinion piece by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall about we shouldn't eat so much meat. He'd found himself eating more and more vegetarian meals and enjoying them, he said. He's not keen on meat's impact on the planet, he said. So he's made a vegetarian cookbook, he said.

He's not advocating giving up meat entirely, mind - oh no. Just eating a bit less meat and fish, adjusting ourselves to meals that don't contain any flesh.

While I can't help but agree Eating Meat Is A Bad Thing, HFW's arguments sound a little bit like the rhetorical equivalent of trying to get people to watch more soft porn: people who hate porn hate soft porn, and people who like porn hate soft porn.

So it is with HFW's contention we should eat more vegetarian meals: if you like meat, you'll not be keen on going semi-veggie. If you don't like meat, you'll not be wondering why bother going semi-veggie when you can go entirely veggie.

(Not to mention that if you're a vegan, you're probably thinking if HFW really wanted to make a difference he'd be advocating animal-free meals, not just meat-free ones.)

Still, he's published a cookbook, River Cottage Veg Everyday!, (yes, it has an exclamation mark. Sigh) and The Guardian had featured a few of his vegetarian recipes from it next to the article (they're all here if you want to check them out).

Given I don't have £25 to spare for a new cookbook to check out Hugh's vegetarian utopia, I decided to cook my way through The Guardian's recipes.

My first foray into Veg Every Day! (yes, there's an exclamation mark. Yes, it's still there. We all have to suffer because someone in the publishing industry had too much coffee one morning) came in the form of the spicy carrot and chickpea pitta pockets.

I'll be honest, this one was a bit of a leftfield winner. I wasn't expecting to like this one as much as I did.

It veered a little too far into sweet territory, although that's probably in part down to the vegan yoghurt I used (Alpro) as a sub for the dairy yoghurt the recipe calls for. It's also down to the overloading of orangeyness - perhaps it's in fashion among newspaper recipe writers.

Sweetness aside, the paprika and cumin, chick paas and veggies with a caramelised tang, went from chopping board to plate in 20 minutes or so and got a thumbs-up from my willing guinea pigs.

Next up,  new potato and chard curry (or in this case, HFW's recommended substitution of spinach).
It left me a little underwhelmed - the spicing left it a little on the bland side. I'm not a chilli queen, but I still expect a curry to have all sorts of exciting spicing going on. This one didn't.

I'm not sure I can blame HFW for the low firepower of the curry - I rarely make a good curry, and this is no exception - I was still hoping for better.

It had the watery whiff of 1970s vegetarianism about it - the sort of watery nonsense you'd give to the token non-meat eater at a carnivore's dinner party.

From there , I headed off for a double whammy of HFW - harissa roasted new potatoes and chillis stuff with beans.

The former were sweet and fun. I've not looked with harissa an awful lot, but smearing anything over lightly fried potatoes - well, almost anything - is clearly going to show it off to its best advantage. It pepped up the potatoes - wonderful they were covered with oil and roasted in the oven, the sweet spice and heat gave them an extra kick.

The chillis stuff with beans - or in my case, small peppers stuffed with beans - were pleasant if nothing to write home about. A large factor in their could-have-been-betterness was that the pepper shells had been rendered into mush by my crappy oven (you're supposed to chargrill the peppers til you can remove the skin. In my case, the grill cooked the peppers through and annoyed the skins a little, rather than grilling the bastards).

I can't hold my crap ovenness against HFW, so these get a tentative thumbs-up - white beans, tomatoes and onions crammed into pepper shells, along with that most awesome of spice combos, cumin and paprika. I suspect using chilli rather than pepper as the shell would have given the recipe more oompf - it was crying out for a little heat. Add a bit of hot sauce, you say? You couldn't be more right.

So after cooking four dishes, what's the verdict? Is Veg Every Day! (shouldn't there be a tax on perky exclamation marks?) worth buying?

Nothing rocked my tastebuds into hitherto unheard-of realms of ecstasy, but each dish was hearty, doable home-cooking style goodness for veg*ns. Maybe next time HFW can go all out and ditch the animal products for good.

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