Recently, we were able to talk with cookbook author Jo Pratt about her latest soon-to-be-released book The Flexible Vegetarian. Within the book are plenty of vegetarian recipes which can be easily altered to suit other culinary needs. The book releases on 07/09/17 is available to pre-order here.
Could you tell us a little about your new book? What does it mean to be a flexible vegetarian?
I’ve been writing cookbooks for a few years now and always like to follow a theme that is close to my lifestyle and that of others. It was becoming apparent that I was cooking vegetarian meals more frequently at home for myself, my family and friends. So I decided to write a book offering the flexibility of tasty dishes that are suitable for occasional meat-eaters, vegetarians who need to cook for meat eaters, and dedicated vegetarians alike.
All recipes in the book can be served as completely vegetarian meals, or with the addition of a simple meat, chicken or fish recipe, making them suitable for meat-free days and meat eaters alike. The book is broken down into chapters covering Breakfast/Brunch, Soups/Broths, Small Plates (starters/lunches/light meals or sharing food), Big Plates (main courses), Dips/bits (sauces, dressings, nibbles) and there is also a chapter with recipes on how to perfectly cook the various cuts of meat or fish. It’s pretty handy for when you need to be really flexible with your cooking.
What are some of the challenges that come up in cooking for a group of people with such different culinary needs?
It can become hard work, expensive and stressful having to cook separate meals for people with different culinary needs. The best solution is to be able to cook one meal, with just a few alterations along the way to suit all.
I’ll often have dinner parties when guests have different requirements. For example, one will eat fish but no meat, another is a strict vegetarian, and another ‘has to have’ meat to feel like it’s a ‘proper’ meal! Times like this I’ll make a big vegetarian dish, such as my Roasted Fennel and Aubergine Paella. Just before serving I’ll pan-fry some prawns in garlic and separately roast some chorizo in a little red wine. They can be served alongside the paella by my guests if they fancy it.
Having culinary differences can be a challenge for many, but it should be a time when creativity and flexibility comes in, which is where I hope people will find the book very useful.
What are some of the recipes you’ve really enjoyed putting together for this book?
It’s always a challenge coming up with new recipe ideas as there are already so many great existing recipes. However, when I plan my books I like to make sure there is a good balance of accessible ingredients and recipes that are seasonal, suitable for different occasions, and ones that not only taste delicious but also look good.
The Flexible Vegetarian has a picture for every recipe, which is a real treat. Most have an option for adding meat or fish if someone wishes to do so, yet if you stick with the recipe as it is, you’ll find it’s nicely balanced with proteins, which not all vegetarian recipes are. A perfect example is Creamy Mushroom, Leek and Chestnut Pie. The rich creamy sauce is created by blending silken tofu into the mushroom stock and Madeira wine. The results look and taste like cream but the nutritional benefits from tofu are far greater. For those wanting some meat in their pie, individual ones can be made with the addition of some cooked chicken, turkey or ham in the sauce.
I also like to keep up with current food trends, so you’ll find some bowl food recipes (Buddah Breakfast Bowls or Spiced Tofu Poke) and there are some delicious twists on classics such as a Kedgeree and Aubergine and Quinoa ‘Meatballs’.
The book mentions using more sustainable ingredients, can you tell us more about that?
Cutting down on meat consumption and increasing the use of plant-based foods is all positive in regard to looking after our environment. There is such an incredible range of sustainable ingredients available that will provide our diet with protein. In the book, I use a huge variety of pulses, nuts, seeds, soy products, wholegrains, eggs and dairy products, all of which are wonderfully versatile, and provide amazing flavours and textures in recipes.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start reducing the amount of meat in their diet?
Yes… buy The Flexible Vegetarian cookbook! The recipes are all so well balanced with flavour, texture and satisfaction value that you don’t notice meat is missing. On the days you want to eat it there are suggestions where you can add it into the recipes, so basically it’s an all round perfect book for those wanting to have the flexibility of eating, or not eating meat, from breakfast right through to dinner.
(The book is available for pre-order here)
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