on May 5, 2008
I've hesitated to review cookbooks because I'm never sure when I've tried enough of one to warrant a review. After all, I can only comment on the bits and pieces with which I have experience. Still, the good cookbooks are worth mentioning, and this is one of the good ones.
As I flip through Vegan Fire & Spice, I'm finding that just about every recipe screams "Try me!" The recipes are organized broadly into large swaths of the globe (The Americas, Mediterranean Europe, The Middle East and Africa, India and Asia), and each section is further broken down into more specific regions. The recipes are -- you guessed it -- spicy, though of course this is adjustable to taste by varying the amount of spice or the quantity of chilis.
Anshu's Red Lentil Sambar sounded immensely appealing, although it required a trip to the local Indian grocery to purchase Garam Masala and a Sambar spice mixture. This is a good weekend recipe, as preparation and cooking takes some time. And there's a small criticism: I wish this cookbook included estimated prep times, because although some steps in this recipe gave approximate times, others did not and so it was hard in advance to get a sense of how long I'd be in the kitchen. I started making this at 6:45 and the meal wasn't ready until 9:00. Now that I understand the recipe, I'm sure that I could cut that time way down -- but it was worth even the long prep time.
The sambar is a delicious, hearty dish, full of chunks of vegetables and rich simmered lentils. It is more like a stew than the thin sambar soup you normally get in restaurants. Spiced to perfection -- and even better when I brought some with me for lunch the next day.
On a side note: I purchased this and another vegetarian cookbook from Amazon, and in a lovely gesture, they tucked in a coupon for a McDonald's chicken sandwich with my order. How thoughtful. At least I got a laugh in about it!
on December 27, 2009
I went vegan two months ago--something I never thought I could do. Giving up meat, I knew I could handle; but giving up cheese, cream and yogurt? Impossible. Still, what I had learned about the dairy industry compelled me to give it my best shot, so I immediately bought 3 vegan cookbooks to help me with the somewhat daunting task of eliminating animal products from my diet. And I must admit that, of the 3 cookbooks I bought, this is the one that has gotten the most use by far, even though it's the smallest of the three.
Perhaps I am biased, because I love spicy food? I'm not sure. What I do know is that the recipes in here are fabulous. I haven't tried all of them--far from it; I've only tried a handful--but those that I have made have been so delicious and easy to make that I keep making them over and over again before trying new ones, just because I know I love them. My very favorite is the Chickpea and Green Bean Curry, which I have made several times now for omnivorous friends who all love it and agree that there is nothing missing. But the Lentils in Onion Gravy (don't be fooled--it's an absolutely delicious Indian dal with amazing flavor; the name is deceptive) are right up there with the curry. The Moroccan Chickpea Soup was bursting with flavor. The Nigerian Peanut Stew is one of the most interesting (and heartiest) meals I've ever made. And there are so many others I can't wait to try...
The only recipe so far that has disappointed me was, ironically, the very first one I tried, a Spicy Eggplant and Potato Stew with chickpeas. I don't know if I made it wrong, or if I just don't like that recipe much, but I was disappointed, and almost thought that I wasn't going to like the cookbook. Luckily I decided to give it another chance, and since that first letdown, every single recipe I've made has been fabulous and has been just as pleasing to the (omnivorous) friends I've fed it to as it has to me.
I like the way the author has divided the cookbook into geographical sections, which is different from the set-up of most cookbooks where they're divided by ingredients. I also like that there is not an emphasis on reproducing meat tastes and textures. Since I've given up real meat, I have no particular desire to eat "fake meat"; there are plenty of dishes that are perfectly delicious all on their own without having to try to substitute fake meat or cheese products. And I am always so proud to cook for my friends (I'm the only vegan among my good friends) and see how much they actually enjoy my vegan food. I try never to be self-righteous when explaining my new lifestyle choice, nor to point a finger at anyone who hasn't adopted it, especially since it has only been a couple of months for me. But I think that if I can manage to convince people who are utterly persuaded that they could never be content without eating animal products that you CAN eat really well as a vegan and not even miss those things, then maybe I am helping to set the stage and get the wheels in their mind turning and maybe one day when they're ready they will join me.
on June 1, 2008
I bought this book a few weeks ago for my vegetarian daughter. She has cooked many different recipes from it and they are all great. I think that we'll throw out all our other cookbooks. This is the only one that we now use. My husband and I have stopped eating meat since my daughter's cooking is so good. The meals are rich and hearty, and they don't need meat to make them great. Robin may be a couple of new vegetarian converts soon!
on January 14, 2009
I acquired this book two weeks ago and read it from cover to cover before deciding I just had to try some of these recipes! So far, everything has been amazing. I made the Texas Caviar which my family absolutely loved (we never knew about canned chipotles before) and then I made the Stuffed Cherry Peppers which were gone before they had a chance to cool off! Next, I made the Pasta Puttanesca which was incredible, then the Jamaican Spiced Tempeh Nuggets which were too good to resist. Last night, I made turmeric and cinnamon infused Sweet Potatoes with Chickpeas which will surely become a new comfort food for me, and I have eagerly bought the ingredients to make the Turkish Eggplant tomorrow. I have a large collection of cookbooks, but this is the first one that has taught me how to use spices to produce authentic global flavors in recipes that are simple, easy to follow and wickedly delicious. This is a book that can help people make the jump from vegetarian to vegan. Buy extra copies because you'll want to pass it on!
on October 14, 2009
I organized a series of cooking competitions among my meat- and dairy-eating friends and all are required to cook from Vegan Fire and Spice. So far we've had two meals featuring seven different recipes. Most of the recipes were very good, the rest were excellent. Even while my guests were complaining about the idea of having no meat or dairy, they'd be scooping seconds and thirds onto their plates and exclaiming how good everything was. Our last meal didn't even have carbs in it, just veggies and legumes--and everyone raved about the food (especially the Portuguese Kale Soup and the Roasted Veggies and Garbanzos with Romesco Sauce). No one has sworn of meat and dairy yet, but they all admit that the recipes in Fire and Spice prove vegan cooking can be interesting, good, and satisfying. I like that most of the dishes have whole food ingredients instead of a lot of processed soy products. Highly recommended.
I am always thrilled to see a new Robin Robertson book, and this one is no exception. It is a flavorful and exciting tour of world cuisines. Cooks who do not have easy access to local ethnic markets will appreciate the fact that Robertson has designed her recipes to be supermarket friendly and has provided good substitions for esoteric ingredients. Not only vegans, but people of all eating choices will enjoy this fine book.
on August 10, 2010
I've been a vegan for almost 10 years now, and I love spicy food whether it is a fiery pa-nang curry or a flavorful boraccha sauce. I bought this book thinking I'd find some great, spicy, innovative recipes to try.
What I found instead was that the author was very timid in using actual heat and spice, and started every recipe with the disclaimer, "If you want it more mild, leave out the chilies".
If you don't want to eat spicy food, you should choose a cookbook that doesn't focus on such flavours. There is a lot of repetition in ingredients, and to be quite honest many of the recipes were downright bland.
I ended up giving my copy away.
I'll be sticking to proven authors such as Isa Chandra Moskowitz/Terry Hope Romero, Nava Atlas, and Lauren Ulm (Vegan Yum Yum), whose food splattered tomes are a testament to creative, reliable recipes.
on January 11, 2008
My daughter gave me this cookbook because she knows how much I love all the cuisines of the world--Chinese, Italian, Indian, Thai, Spanish, African, etc.--and I'm really impressed with it! The book's organized by regions of the world, making it easy to find recipes I'm in the mood for. I've already made one of the Italian recipes and one of the Thai recipes, and both were easy-to-follow and delicious. I can't wait to try all the recipes I've seen in my favorite restaurants but never knew how to make! To me, the spicier and hotter a recipe, the better, but the book offers recipe modifications for people who want a full-flavored meal without all the heat. And it introduced me to all kinds of chilies and even told me where I can find them. It's a gem!
on September 11, 2008
After a three week culinary trip around the world I still can`t wait to sample another of these tasty dishes. So far, none has proven disappointing.
Some are pretty close to recipes in "Vegan Planet", the other cookbook written by Robin Robertson I own, but, as I love hot and spicy food, those additonal recipes make it worthwhile buying this collection.By the way, the vegetable broth in "Vegan Fire and Spice" is much better than the one in the above mentioned book.
Cook with this book and you won`t miss animal products at all.
on November 2, 2008
Just looking through the chapters I was in awe at the far reaching extent of Vegan Fire & Spice ... Close to Callalou, Nigerian Peanut Soup, Majorcan Baked Vegetables, Turkish Eggplant, Moroccan Spiced Carrots, Vegetable Samosas, Vindaloo Vegetables, Fusian Asian Noodles, Hunan Fried Rice, Indonesian Coconut Rice ... I could easily go on as this cookbook has around 200 savory recipes. Yes, savory. I have to admit, as much as I love dessert, I find the baked goods and sweets recipes often overwhelm vegan cookbooks. Robin gets right to the point, offering tons of recipes for everyday meals. And I do mean everyday. While the flavors may be exotic, the ingredients are surprisingly accessible. Most of the recipes can be whipped up using ingredients I readily stock in my pantry. Somehow Robin has fused dozens of international flavors with American staples, no easy task I am sure!
As for the layout, the cookbook is divided by region, The Americas, Mediterranean Europe, The Middle East & Africa, India, and Asia, with a recipe guide at the beginning of each regional section. The recipes are listed as appetizers, soups and stews, salads and sides, main courses, or dressings, sauces, and condiments. With a well-stocked spice rack and pantry (rice, lentils, canned tomatoes, canned beans, peanut butter, etc.), and a week's worth of basic perishables (bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant, onions, carrots, etc.), most of the recipes are just minutes away. Some of the recipes do call for tofu, tempeh, or seitan, which are pretty easy to find, even at traditional grocers, and common staples in many vegetarian diets. Since I don't typically purchase these ingredients, I opted to stick with the all-vegetable recipes (of which there were many), but you can also substitute another protein (I know, it's a vegan cookbook, but it's still versatile!).
In our earlier years my husband and I loved to challenge one another with douses of hot sauce, but these days we prefer our meals filled with flavor, not heat. Luckily, it really was easy to adjust the heat in these recipes, using just a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes when a ½ teaspoon was called for, for example. Also, Robin uses little chili peppers at the top of each recipe to denote the natural heat (when unadjusted) of each recipe, ranging from one to three chili peppers.