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One week of cooking from the Step-by-Step Vegetarian Cookbook

The latest lucky cookbook to get my 'week cooking with' treatment is the Step-by-Step Vegetarian Cookbook. As the name implies, when I do a 'week cooking with', I pick one recipe book and cook different things from it all week.

This week, it's the Good Housekeeping Institute's take on veggieness.

I've had this book for longer than I care to think about - I think my parents gave me it as a present not long after I went veggie back in the late 1990s.

It's not a very vegan friendly cookbook: while it does mark vegan recipes with their own animal-free symbol, it's quite subtle. There's not much in the way of any deliberate attempt to court vegans elsewhere either - a lot of the recipes involve dairy or eggs somewhere along the line.

It's fair to say that I didn't look forward to this week of cooking as much as some others, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. In your face, judging a book by its dairy-heavy cover!

First up was the Barbecued Aubergine Baguette. Yeah, I was starving when I eventually got this bad boy on the plate, so it probably rated higher than it otherwise might have, but the homemade BBQ sauce was good for not much effort and the crispy aubergine got the thumbs-up.

Onto the Spaghetti with Leeks, Peas and Saffron Cream. This one generated scepticism when dished up to my poor guinea pig. You can't blame him - I had no vegan cream to hand, so went for yoghurt substitute instead.

Yeah, that was a bit like asking Usain Bolt to run the 100 metres on his hands - it was never going to be a winner.  Substituting rich, fatty goodness with a wholesome, virtuous equivalent was a daft idea, but I wouldn't remake the recipe with cream anyhoo - this dish was too much of a damp, yoghurty squib.

As much as the spaghetti was a surprise disappointment, the Spiced Chickpea, Rice and Carrot Pilaf was an equally unpredicted success. 

The recipe does that thing where it asks you to add water, put the lid on the saucepan and, like Lot, don't turn back, just have faith things will turn out good. And, to my wonder, they did - no soggy rice, just good, subtly spiced pilaf. Nice.

White Bean Stew with Tapenade didn't have to trouble itself to succeed. It had broccoli, it had beans, it had olives - it could only have had more of my favourite things if it involved kittens and brown paper packages tied up with string. The lemon zest and rosemary combo - what could go wrong? Nothing, that's what. Not a darn thing. 

Which is funny, because Vegetable and Bean Stew with Rouille should have been a similar walkover, what with being based on a beans/veggies/random crap axis of awesome.

It wasn't a walkover, alas - hey, it had a hard act to follow but it rather ended up looking like the white bean stew's 'before' picture in a makeover show. The rouille was great though - I'll be making that scamp again.

So, one week on, would I recommend you buy Step-by-Step Vegetarian Cooking? Nah - you're a vegan, go buy a vegan cookbook. But if, like me, you've already got one at home, it might just be worth a second look.

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  1. The crispy aubergine looks delicious and the white bean stew with tapenade sounds really nice too! It can be rewarding to revisit old cookbooks as your taste can change over the years, I have a few books that I should drag out again soon...


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