The tag line reads: “Around the world in 30 meals”, which feels as though the book might be a little light in recipes. However, it isn’t. In fact, Hughes takes us on a tour of 30 different countries and provides her interpretation of vegetarian versions of dishes that are typical to that region. It is a brilliant concept that works really well and a great way to make feasts (including starters, mains, side dishes and puddings) themed to a certain geographical cuisine.
She also provides some very insightful text surrounding vegetarianism in that particular country. For example, did you know that 80 – 90% of aboriginal diet was traditionally plant based? She also includes links to useful websites related to vegetarianism in that area.
It is clear from the outset that Hughes is someone who knows her stuff when it come to vegetarianism. Not only is she the editor of The Vegetarian magazine, but also teaches at the fantastic Cordon Vert School and is currently Secretary of the Guide of Food writers.
What I like about her recipes is that she takes a couple of ingredients that are iconic to a country and creates recipes that complement them.
Particularly good recipes came from the Ethiopian, Indian, Togo and Vietnam sections. I am a big fan of Ethiopian food and have wanted to know for a while how to make Injera and was amazed at how easy it was!
The Danish section (which include Jerusalem and artichoke soup, baked beetroot, almond rissoles, cabbage rolls and to finish: aeblekage (apple charlotte)) was also fantastic. These dishes felt really well thought out and accompanied each other very well making and impressive and eye pleasing spread. It also felt as though each dish was remaining very true to traditional Danish styles of cooking.
But the dish that went down particularly well and one that I will definitely be making again was the black bean and chipotle chowder from the Canadian section. Although I have not been to Canada, I’m a little dubious as to how ‘authentic’ this dish is. But, I don’t think it matters as it tastes great. Hughes writes: “This thick soup has a rich, hot, smoky flavour that comes from the powdered chipotle chillies and cocoa”. The flavours are incredibly complex, and while it feels strange to add chocolate to a spicy chowder, I would recommend you don’t leave it out of this recipe as it adds a real smoothness and depth of flavour to the dish. I had trouble finding canned blacked beans and had not left myself enough time to soak dried black beans overnight, so I substituted this with black-eyed beans and it still seemed to work very well.
It has to be said, there are a couple of countries that have recipes listed that I don’t think work as well as others. I feel the French and English sections are particularly poor. France is famous for fantastic cheese, so why opt for vegan recipes instead of dairy? Or perhaps a vegetarian version of coq au vin would have been more apt. After all, you can sometimes struggle to find a classic French recipe that doesn’t have a rich red wine gravy to go with it!
The English section also felt a little lack-lustre and the recipes were a little basic. While I really like the idea of her ‘fish’ themed beer-battered tofu and crushed minted peas, I felt Hughes could have gone out to town a bit more here. There are some ingredients vegetarians NEVER get to eat when eating out and these mainly revolve around fish dishes. It would have been great if the recipe included samphire (especially now it is much more commonly available) and she could have included a poshed-up homemade tartare sauce (again, something vegetarians don’t normally get to eat). I realise tartare is traditionally French, but it is a condiment that is much more likely to turn up in Britain than France nowadays and I don’t think anyone can deny that it hasn’t become a bed friend of many British fish dishes! I guess the problem here is that there could be so many dishes that could sum up a country and it must be hard to pick out a select few.
All in all, while a few of Hughes dishes are a little uninspiring, it has to be said that these remained in the minority. On the whole, there were many more that are truly inspired. I think the concept works really well in that vegetarianism transcends nations and knows no borders. I love the idea that while it might be a little harder for a vegetarian to get by in some countries more than others, with a little bit of ingenuity and substitution here and there, vegetarians can enjoy the plethora of food the world has to offer.
Jane Hughes book can be bought from here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventurous-Vegetarian-The-Around-World/dp/1780261608
…and her brilliant blog can be found here: http://www.veggiefoodwriter.co.uk