Author: Merchant Gourmet
Editor’s rating: 4.5/5
With so many plant-based cookbooks around, recipes can start to look very familiar. But this cookbook is different. Full of fresh ideas, these recipes will have you eating more fresh vegetables, lentils, beans, and grains in meals that are both tasty and delicious. The simple instructions and easily available ingredients, together with the short preparation and cooking times, make this (in my opinion) a must-have in any vegan kitchen.
Is this one of the Best Plant-Based Cookbooks in the UK?
“Do I really need another cookbook?” was the first thing that passed through my mind when I saw Merchant Gourmet’s Simple Plant-Based Cookbook on the shelf in the supermarket. Actually, that was the second thing. My first thought was, “Hmmm, that looks like a really interesting cookbook. I must have it.”
I gave a thought to the heaving bookshelf in my kitchen, my ‘one in, one out’ policy (yeah, right) and so of course logic and good sense prevailed…
… Later that day, as I leafed through the new addition to my ‘cookbook library’ (having somehow found a space in the house where I could squeeze in yet another food-related publication without having to action the ‘one out’ element of my policy) I quickly realised that this is a book brimming with fresh ideas.
There was no sign of the eponymous pasta bake, tired veggie burger recipe or (dare I say it?) mushroom risotto. Yes, I know people love mushroom risotto, but we don’t need any more recipes for it, please.
No, these dishes looked original, appealing, and in the main, easy and quick. And because I had spent so long looking longingly through the recipes, I now needed something that was going to be quick for my dinner! Consequently, I scoured my fridge and cupboards for ingredients that might match one of the recipes, a search that resulted in a delicious Lentil and Courgette Caponata.
Quick Vegan Family Meals
So it is with personal experience that I can confirm the Lentil and Courgette Caponata is a nutritious, tasty dish! It can be shared by all the family, including older babies who are fully weaned (as many of these dishes can be), and in keeping with the other recipes in this book, it was relatively quick to make.
Yes, that’s right. Quick vegan meals! So many plant-based cookbooks contain lovely recipes, but they can sometimes be over-complicated and take you half-a-day to make.
For vegan babies at an earlier stage in their weaning journey, you could try my Lentil and Red Pepper Pasta Sauce family recipe which is more easily adapted for that period when the smallest member of the house first starts eating solids.
Since that Caponata, we have had more than 10 different meals from this book, not a duff one amongst them, and still more that I am keen to cook. I am a huge fan and feel quite evangelical about it. So much so that I sent a copy to my son and daughter-in-law, a busy couple with a young family, as a present.
Are there Suitable Vegan Recipes for Students?
Put it this way, if my vegan children were going off to university now, I would be buying them this plant-based cookbook (and adding a shedload of Merchant Gourmet pre-cooked pouches to their first food shopping list).
Having experienced my children fending for themselves in their first years away from home, I appreciate that probably more alcohol is consumed than food – that’s them, not me – so it’s even more important that when they do eat, it is simple to make, and nutritious.
They can also impress their new mates with their mastery of vegan cooking because believe me, the recipes and instructions in this book are foolproof. I should know, I’ve cooked most of them!
Nutritious Vegan Meals
These recipes have clearly been well thought through to ensure that they are nutritionally-balanced, visually appealing, and easy to follow. The instructions are very straightforward and as a result, you really can’t go wrong with this book, which makes it ideal for someone who is just embarking on their vegan journey. That said, I am a vegan of many years, yet this book has introduced me to lots of new and appealing recipes.
Most of the dishes are complete meals too, but if you are battling with a hunger, you can always add extra vegetables and grains, or just get that crispy baguette out of the cupboard and those salad leaves from the fridge (or garden if you’re very organised!) to accompany it. We have eaten more than 10 of the dishes from this book so far, with many more recipes that I am keen to try.
Hats off to Merchant Gourmet for this plant-based cookbook, honestly. We already have a varied and well-balanced diet – vegan nutrition is of great interest to me, I’m an avid collector (and tester) of recipes, I love cooking and have people around me who love eating fortunately – but I can honestly say that the recipes in this book encourage you to eat more of the right things, more consistently, and in a very enjoyable way.
Eating Sustainably with Merchant Gourmet
If I have one complaint about this book, it is that almost every recipe suggests that you use at least one of Merchant Gourmet’s pre-cooked, flavoured pouches. These pouches are tasty and convenient, but they are also made from a plastic that isn’t generally picked up via your council’s doorstep recycling scheme.
To mitigate this, there are few options open to you:
- Merchant Gourmet provide a plastic pouch recycling scheme in partnership with an organisation called Enval
- Batch cook and freeze your own lentils and grains, adding flavouring after you have defrosted them for cooking
- Use tins of cooked lentils and beans
Options 2 & 3 may mean that you don’t replicate the intended flavours, but it might be a more sustainable choice.
However, it is important to remember that eating a plant-based diet is much more environmentally friendly in the first place, so you may not be so concerned about having to recycle the odd plastic pouch.
Merchant Gourmet's Plant-Based Desserts
The only section I have yet to cook from is the ‘Sweet Eats’ at the end of the book, although they all look amazing.
There is a reliance on chestnuts in the desserts, much more so than anywhere else in the book, so there may be less appeal in this section if you’re not a fan. Given the quality of the rest of the book though, I wouldn’t let this put any chestnut-haters off!
So why haven’t I made any of the desserts yet, I hear you ask? It’s not that I don’t like them, quite the opposite. I have absolutely no willpower, none at all, and if I make that Cherry Polenta Cake, or Chocolate Traybake with Frosting, I will eat the whole thing. I have form in this area. Whole packets of biscuits are shown no mercy in this household.
Still, Quinoa Apple Pie with vegan ice cream can’t be that bad for you can it? Even if I was to eat the whole thing. It is a plant-based cookbook after all. Well, OK then, maybe just a bowlful. Now, where did I put that pie dish…
Please note that I have added a link below enabling you to purchase this book from Bookshop.Org, an organisation created for the sole purpose of promoting local bookshops.