Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Cookbook Review: World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible

Rocket & Roses HQ Play List:

Paulo Nutini ~ Sunny Side Up album 

Before Christmas I was asked to review the World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible cookbook and I was happy to oblige. I have to confess I wasn't aware of Chris and Carolyn's cafe in Convent Garden so on first look I was a little confused by the title. On my first flip through the pages I was confused as to how this could be considered a 'whole world' bible when only a few places on the world map were represented. Then a friend was visiting and having travelled most of world herself, she was very interested in the book and then she spotted that 'World Food Cafe' was the name of the cafe...moral of the story...read the back cover. lol. Then the holiday season happened and my copy got put away with other work until the new year. 

On first glance this book is far more than a cookbook...it's also a coffee table book. Anyone who is veggie/vegan and fond of travel will always find something to please amongst its pages. The food photography alone is an inspiration, but for me it was the photos of the travels that the Caldicotts have added to it, that capitvated me. Being a grounded travel lover at this moment in my life I felt I was able to temporarily escape into them. It's a beautifully thought out and put together cookbook and I don't say that easily. I am very hard to please when it comes to my cookbook obsession. Because of its sheer mass of recipes I struggled with how I was going to set about recipe testing. I do believe to review a cookbook you must have made a good selection of the recipes from it..otherwise what is the point? It took me maybe five weeks to shortlist the recipes I was going to test and when the decision was made it all flowed from there. 

The first recipe I tested was the Spicy Rice Flat Bread because I am a fairly new gluten free person. I must admit the recipe reads through as very simple but I found the 'getting a dough to form' stage quite frustrating. However this could simply be the fact I was still getting used to using rice flour...my mind maybe still expecting the doughiness of wheat flour. But I persisted and then had many, many flat breads covering my entire kitchen. lol. I also tried freezing some and they defrosted and heated up very well. That same day I made the Cinnamon and Coconut Milk Curry and at the suggestion of the authors the Thyme and Lemon Rice. (Photos of these recipes will follow). I enjoyed making the curry,it wasn't problematic and it was a delight as it simmered away on my stove. The rice was a great recipe and made my mouth water as the lemon and thyme combined.

My personal opinion of the above recipes is that the flat bread is better given time for the flavours to blend. I found the texture very different to what I am used to but that isn't a bad thing. A friend (and fellow vegan and willing tester) described them as more potato cake in texture and I couldn't agree more. Would I make them again? Yes, most likely I will because I feel, having had some more experience with GF flours since testing this recipe, I can make them better this time. On to the curry...I was a little dismayed at the amount of liquid with this curry. The aromatic qualities of this dish are very pleasing and I thought it was subtly beautiful in its finished form. I think because of its watery appearance I wasn't expecting a heavy overload of flavours but I was wrong. It had many layers and the spices built with each mouthful. I loved this curry. The aromatic side dish of Thyme and Lemon rice made it a sensory experience. The heady flavours of the thyme and lemon somewhat reduced over the cooking time and I felt combined with the curry, they were perfect for each other. I greatly enjoyed this combination which is good because I was eating it for days...lol. 

Having tested these three recipes I still felt that I needed to test out some more before I could write the review and so decided to ask my close circle of friends round for an afternoon and evening of recipe testing. They all happily agreed and I spent the day before making dish after dish to try on them. I decided upon seven recipes...a starter of East African Wilderness Sweet Potato Patties with East African Piri Piri and the Mozambique Piri Piri sauces. For the main course I selected the Deep-Red Rajasthani Vegetables in a Poppy Seed Sauce...I didn't want to make another curry. I served this with simple steamed brown basmati rice, wheat flatbreads and some of the Spicy Rice Flat Breads. I also made a serving of the Banana Raita as suggested by the Caldicotts. It intrigued me grealy lol. To serve the testers with a lesser sweet tooth I tested the Cucumber and Mint Raita also. And the final recipe that I served much later when we had a space to fill in our stomachs was a selection from the dessert section. I decided upon the vegan carrot cake which I converted to GF by using a standard gluten free plain flour blend.

East African Wilderness Sweet Potato Patties with Piri Piri Sauces

East African Wilderness Sweet Potato Patties            
(Recipe from World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible/Caldicott)

10oz/300g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
10oz/300g white potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into cubes (I used white pots)
2 tsp cumin seeds
2"/5 cm piece of cinnamon
6 cloves
1/2 tsp ground turmeric 
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced 
4oz/115g sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
good knob of butter (I used vegan marg)
1 small egg (I used one Chia egg...1tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water..whisk and leave for 15mins)
handful of coriander, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Place the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer until soft. 

Meanwhile dry roast the cumin seeds, cinnamon and cloves in a small frying pan until aromatic, remove from pan and grind to a powder. Combine with the remaining spices. Heat the oil in a wok. When hit, add the onion and pepper, and fry until soft. Add the sweet corn and ginger, saute for a couple of minutes, and then stir in the spice mix; fry for 1 minute and then remove from the heat. 

Drain the potatoes, and mash, with the knob of butter, until smooth, then stir in the spice and vegetable mix, the beaten egg/chia egg. chopped coriander and salt to taste. Shape the mixture into patties and fry in a non-stick pan with a little sunflower oil until brown on both sides. 

Serve with East African Piri Piri, mixed leaves and mung bean sprouts. 

East African Piri Piri 
(Recipe From World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible/Caldicott)

8 large red chillies, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt 
3fl oz/100ml lemon juice
4fl oz/125ml olive oil 

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. 

Mozambique Piri Piri  
(Recipe from World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible/Caldicott)

1oz/30g thin green chillies
2 tsp crushed garlic 
1 shallot, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3 dsp lemon juice
handful of chopped coriander leaves 
salt to taste 

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Adaptions: I used vegan margarine (Pure Sunflower) in the place of butter. I also used a Chia Egg in place of the beaten egg. And both worked just fine. I also used an alternative cooking method. In place of the pan frying as suggested above I place my patties on a lined baking sheet in a hot oven. 20 minutes the first side then gently flipping and 10 minutes the second. They were perfectly baked at this stage. When heating them back up for the testing I covered the tray in tinfoil and then placed back into a hot oven for 15 minutes. 

Taste Testers views...a general feeling was there was a little too much cumin in the patties. The texture from the pepper and corn was a great combination with the softness of the potatoes. There was a natural sweetness from the patties which wasn't a bad thing but when eaten with the Piri Piri sauces was balanced out nicely. The general feeling was a positive one and every one enjoyed the patties and sauces. The sauces themselves left a divided opinion amongst us. The East African Piri Piri was an intensely HOT sauce which was a bit of a shock for all of us whereas the Mozambique Piri Piri was a cleaner taste and the chilli built up as you ate it. Even the previously non-chilli loving amongst the group enjoyed the sauces...with the addition of many glasses of water. So be warned...they are full of flavour but will make you go into chilli shock if too much is eaten at one serving..lol. Overall a great dish and easy to make and very enjoyable to eat as a starter. 

Deep-Red Rajasthani Vegetables in a Poppy Seed Sauce

Adaptions: None for this recipe. 

I chose this recipe because I was intrigued by the white poppy seed sauce. I also fell for the beautiful red colour of this dish. The veggies in it just happened to be some of my favourites and it all seemed to fit for me. I easily found white poppy seeds at my local Indian & Continental Store in the city.  The powerhouse of spices permeated the whole of my house whilst this was cooking. It was easy to make and the recipe was also easy to follow.

Taste Testers views...overall the views for this vegetable dish was that there was a lot of natural sweetness and surprisingly the beetroot didn't take on the flavours from the sauce. Mixed views down to personal tastes re: sweet tooth and savoury tastes. Those without a sweet tooth found it just a little too sweet even when balanced out with the rice and flatbreads. Everyone agreed that it was a visually striking dish and the poppy seed sauce was interesting. I personally loved it as did one of my friends who said "...I wouldn't change or add anything to the veggie dish, simply delicious and what I would expect in a vegetarian cafe recipe book. Such an appealing colour too!..." 

The Raitas were a whole separate conversation...and drew gasps as I placed them on the table. "Banana Raita....are you sure??.."  lol. I couldn't agree with that question as it was exactly what I had said when I had read the suggestion by the Caldicotts. I made mine with natural soya yoghurt which led to both of the Raitas maybe being a little richer than using dairy yoghurt. Those who tried the Banana Raita were all pleasantly surprised. A couple of us found it too rich and not to our taste. But others enjoyed it with the veggie dish. One tester said she could simply sit with a spoon and eat it solo..and even as a dessert which is exactly what she did! lol. The Cucumber and Mint Raita was enjoyable also but the main conversion was all about the Banana offering. 

Would I make this meal again? The Rajasthani Veggies I will make often. I really enjoyed the white poppy sauce and I would maybe play around different veggies to counteract the sweetness that pumpkin and beetroot can bring. I very much enjoyed this dish. The Raitas are not something I'll make again but that is a purely personal opinion.  

Carrot Cake (V)   Makes one 2lb loaf 

Adaptions: I replaced the wheat flour for a Gluten Free Plain Flour blend and it worked very well.

Taste Testers views..."Best Carrot Cake Ever!.." was one of the written down opinions. A little too much cinnamon was another and a little like cookie dough but I suspect that was the difference between a wheat flour version and the GF one. Overall everyone loved this carrot cake and happily took home the leftovers in their doggie bags. It was enjoyed so much that I forgot to take the photograph for it. It looked a little burnt around the edges but when eaten it was clear it was just caramelised sugar and cinnamon. One of testers suggested serving it with custard which we all collectively agreed would be a great idea. It was a very light carrot cake and devoured by all who tried it. 

Additional photographs...

Spicy Rice Flat Breads

Not the most attractive little things but economical to make. Very much a case of how you serve them and what with. And for a spicy flatbread all felt they needed more flavour. Again, a recipe I will make again and try differing spice blends. 

Cinnamon & Coconut Milk Curry with Thyme & Lemon Rice

The first complete meal I tested and they were very enjoyable to make. Good portions and also freezes well.

Cinnamon and Coconut Milk Curry

The warmth of the cinnamon built as you ate it. The veggies were succulent and perfectly cooked. The sauce was a little liquid but still held a comforting creamy consistency. A delicate curry...

Thyme and Lemon Rice

I adore basmati rice and almost always use brown bastmati. This rice dish is very easy to make and the aroma is something else. It is a delicate flavour which compliments the Cinnamon & Coconut Curry perfectly. Both are dishes I will make again. 

Well that is the recipe testing completed and I found the whole experience a happy one...well ok maybe the first day making the flatbreads was a little stressful. lol. None of the recipes in this book are hard work to make..well not if cooking is your passion. The recipes are all clearly written and easy to follow even for the novice cook in my opinion. 

The book as a whole is extremely beautiful due to the high level of photography. The stories and notations provided by the Caldicotts are enjoyable and make you slightly envious. The information is specific and clear. If I had to find any faults with this cookbook it would be the heft of it. It's a large tome of a cookbook and not easy to handle in the kitchen but if that is the only criticism about your cookbook then you are very lucky.

I would happily buy this cookbook for loved ones and for my own personal cookbook collection. An this is your chance to purchase this cookbook at a discounted price. 

To order World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible at the discounted price of £16.00 including p&p* (RRP: £20.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG58. 

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to: 
Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, 
Littlehampton Book Services, 
PO Box 4264, 
Worthing, West Sussex 
BN13 3RB. 
Please quote the offer code APG58 and include your name and address details. 

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.
Written by Chris & Carolyn Caldicott and published by Frances Lincoln

Please note I am not receiving a commission for any cookbooks purchased. I am just happy to pass along the offer to you. 

Now would I visit the World Food Cafe if I got the chance? Most definitely I will...when I'm next in London it will be a 'must do'. I thank the Caldicotts for a very appealing and interesting cookbook and for the opportunity to review its contents. 

Many thanks also to my team of testers...your willingness to eat whatever serve up for all is a constant delight to me and your trust means alot. Thank you for your honesty...

And to my regular readers thank you for stopping by and I hope your week has gotten off to a great start...


NB: These recipes are not mine and therefore I take no credit for them. They are the hard work and creative talent of Chris & Carolyn Caldicott and theirs alone. I thank them for such great recipes...~R~