I hadn't heard of The Conscious Cook vegan cook book until my wife picked it up for me. The vegan recipes in here are intriguing, and introduce plenty of ideas and ways of using foods that can challenge you to stretch your cooking.
As you would expect, this is packed full of vegan recipes, which I'll get to in a minute. But there's more to it than that.
Chef Tal Ronnen, the author of the book, is clearly well connected. Scattered through the book are interviews and quotes from people involved in vegan food, from chefs to a man who helped popularise quinoa in the US. These provide interesting insights into how these people approach food and why they cook the way they do. These personalise the reading experience and the vegan food industry. The chefs even provide menus, with recipes, giving you a taste of different styles of vegan cooking.
There are sections on Tal Ronnen's favourite ingredients, double page spreads on subjects such as mushrooms and sea vegetables. They don't go into a lot of depth, but might be helpful in picking out high quality ingredients.
These are high class, often complicated recipes, of the sort found in good restaurants. Some of the ingredients may be hard to find if you don't live in a big city or near a specialist food shop. On my first go with a recipe from the book, it took half an hour just to make a sandwich for my lunch. This definitely isn't a book for when you're rushing to throw together a last minute dinner.
That said, the recipes are delicious and often inspiring. Most are well worth the effort involved, and even if you don't precisely follow the instructions, or can't find a particular ingredient, you'll still get great ideas for new things to try, like the banana stuffed chillis or the tempura beet.
And that half hour sandwich was worth every minute.
This is a beautiful looking book. The design is pleasant and not too crowded, and the pictures of the food are mouth watering. The print is on the small side, which can be annoying when you're trying to glance between the recipe and a frantically simmering pan, but it does mean that most recipes fit onto a single page, so you don't have to turn the page while your fingers are mucky from cooking.
All in all, this is an inspiring and useful vegan cook book, and chef Tal Ronnen deserves the bestseller status it earned. If you want to expand the range of your cooking, or just try something fancy once in a while, give it a go.
Photo via Flickr creative commons