I stumbled upon this amazing cookbook as I was casually browsing at Labour of Love on Saturday afternoon, which happens to be one of my favourite stores in Toronto! Even though I am a vegetarian, I haven’t purchased a ton of vegetarian cookbooks over the past few years (partly because there is a more limited selection and partly because on my travels one isn’t always available). I quickly found myself flipping through the pages seeing fairly short to medium sized recipes, with no overly complex ingredients and lots of beautiful pictures. My final step before making the purchase was to do a quick check on Amazon reviews and sure enough it got top marks…so off to the register I went!
Leon Fast Vegetarian provides not only great recipes, but family stories, tips/tricks, key items to keep in a pantry and much more. The authors also identifies if the recipe is wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, low in saturated fats and/or low GL. My favourite part about this book, however, was that they gave great ideas for alternative ingredients so if something wasn’t found easily at your supermarket, you could always try option #2!
In order to properly review the cookbook, I tried out 4 different recipes to get a feel for the quality and the instructions. The recipes I tried include the following:
- Rosie’s Pea, Mint & Sharpham Rustic Fritters
- Baked Spinach, Squash & Blue Cheese
- Jossy’s Beet Hummus
- Cauliflower Cheese
Rosie’s Pea, Mint & Sharpham Rustic Fritters
I have now made this recipe multiple times as it was easy to make and even more delicious to eat! First off my local cheese place did not have Sharpham cheese, but the author suggested using any semisoft cheese instead or halloumi. I ended up picking a cheese called Prima Donna from Holland that had a great sharp flavour too it. Aside from the cheese (which was easily resolved), the rest of the ingredients were easy to come by. The recipe took very little time too, however the frying did cause my house to stink up a bit. What I discovered, however, is the fritters can be made and fried ahead of time, put in a zip lock bag in the freezer and then reheated in either the toaster oven or oven and they taste perfectly fine (I believe I did 400F for about 7 mins on each side). I didn’t end up making the mint sauce (in British cooking they use a lot of mint and I am not a huge fan of that herb), but I did serve it with a tzatziki, which went over beautifully.
Baked Spinach, Squash & Blue Cheese
This next recipe got mixed reviews between my husband and I. I am a big fan of strong cheeses and I especially enjoy a good blue cheese, but my husband unfortunately does not. This particular recipe has a very powerful blue cheese flavour too it, so know your audience. I am sure the blue cheese can be subbed for another and still taste great!
It was very easy to make, but had a lot of cooking time. A good trick to cut down on prep is to use pre-cut and peeled butternut squash, which can be found in your local grocery store. I also found that it didn’t hold together as well as the picture seemed to show (a bit more liquid), but still tasted amazing! I think I either didn’t have enough spinach or possibly didn’t drain it well enough, which might have been the cause of the excess liquid. Overall I loved the recipe and the flavours and this will be a perfect addition to my fall cooking.
Jossy’s Beet Hummus
This was another recipe that got mixed reviews. Personally I liked it a lot, but did find it lacked a bit of flavour. Perhaps if some tahini was added, it might have given it that extra kick it needed. The fresh parsley did help a lot and the colouring was beautiful.
I hadn’t worked with beets before so this recipe did teach me how to both cook and peel them, which I liked. Not sure if I will make this one again as preparing the beets took a while and of course they tend to stain your hands easily, but I did enjoy it. Makes a large portion so great to make on a Sunday and have it for a healthy snack for the rest of the week.
*She does provide an alt. cooking option for the beets which is great!
I think you would be challenged to find a recipe that has cheese and cauliflower in it, that isn’t good. Very flavourful and makes you feel a bit better about not having a ton of carbs with a pasta, I would definitely make this one again. My only thought would be that it gives you the option of Creme Fraiche or heavy cream and I chose the heavy cream since it was cheaper, but I found that it was a bit more liquidy than what the pictured showed. Will try the Creme Fraiche next time to see if that makes a difference in the thickness of the sauce.
There is also a ton of variation options listed as well if you want to change things up!
Organization of Book
I love how this was broken down into simple categories such as breakfast & brunch, soup, salads, fritters & pancakes, etc. They also sectioned it off into two parts, one for stand alone dishes and the second for what they call the “supporting cast”, which has sauces, grazing dishes, desserts, etc. Easy to work my way through, find what I want and of course there is always the index as a last result.
Ingredients – Obscure or Common?
Not all the ingredients are easy to come by, however she gives alternatives and suggestions in many of the recipes. I found that for the most part, the ingredients were pretty standard (cauliflower, peas, flour, eggs, cream) and so I didn’t have to make trips to any special stores or search to far outside my own fridge and pantry.
None of the recipes I found complicated to make, and I would be comfortable giving this book to a more novice chef, who might not know their way around the kitchen. There are tips given for almost every recipe that will either enhance the dish or give you an alternative way to make. Very easy to follow and basic.
Ummm duh! This is a vegetarian cookbook, so if you are looking for meat options you won’t find them here. It is not only vegetarian friendly, but as mentioned above, they list as well if a recipe is gluten free, dairy free or wheat free so it has plenty to chose from for all sorts of dietary restricted lifestyles.
You can be a seasoned cook or a total noob and still find this book of value. Between simple ingredients, step-by-step easy to follow instructions and plenty of tips/tricks, you can make your way through these recipes in no time. I think this book would be particularly useful to a new vegetarian to help provide them with ideas for variety in their diet. It can be challenging to find recipes for vegetarians that don’t seem like simply a side dish, so this book can help expand that repertoire.
Buy or Leave on the Shelf?
100% I would give this book a buy. Great pics, solid recipes, easy to find ingredients and simple step-by-step instructions are all big winners. Add in the great tips, substitutions and helpful information/stories that the book provides and you have yourself one heck of a great cookbook!