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Best vegetarian cookbooks

The Week logo The Week 08/01/2019 Gabriel Power
a variety of fresh vegetables on display in a store © Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

The number of people switching to a meat-free lifestyle is skyrocketing in the UK.

Figures recently compiled by Waitrose suggest one in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan.

“Vegetarianism has grown and evolved. More people dip in and out of it,” says the supermarket’s executive chef, Jonathan Moore. “There was a time when choosing a plant-based diet was about taking an ethical stand based on unwavering principles. For many, this distinction between vegetarians and meat-eaters still exists but for others the lines have blurred.”

Last year more than 168,000 people signed up for Veganuary, pledging to go meat and dairy free for the month of January, and this year the campaign is gathering pace.

So whether you are trying out a strict plant-based diet or just want more veggies in your life, here are some excellent vegetarian cookbooks to get you started.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

What better place to start than with this classic, initially published over a decade ago. Billed as a “breakthrough cookbook” that “made vegetarian cooking accessible to everyone”, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian was a major hit with the public.

A tenth-anniversary revamp of the famous veggie cookbook includes vibrant colour photos as well as ingredients that were not widely available when the first edition was published in 2007, such as oat milk instead of soy milk, the Spruce Eats reports.

Also in this revised version is a new chapter focused on smoothies, teas, and more.

“Whether you’re a flexitarian, take a solid no-meat stance or just want to explore more vegetable-forward food, this cookbook won’t let you down,” the Spruce Eats adds.

Wholefood Heaven in a Bowl by David and Charlotte Bailey

The Independent calls this book’s myriad healthy recipes “a pleasure to browse, inspiring to discover, and exquisite to eat”.

Wholefood Heaven in a Bowl focuses on naturally healthy, unprocessed ingredients and flavours from around the world, featuring 65 unique vegetarian and vegan recipes including Ethiopian teff and butternut squash stew, Yucatan salbutes and quinoa porridge with vanilla-spiced almonds and dates.

David and Charlotte Bailey’s signature dish - the Buddha Bowl - won a British Food Award in 2011, making this book a must-try.

The World of the Happy Pear by David and Stephen Flynn

Perhaps the most potent weapon in the arsenal of twins David and Stephen Flynn’s cookbook - along with the food served at their famed Happy Pear cafe in Dublin - is their uncanny ability to twist meaty favourites into veggie delights.

“In between running their hugely successful café, the Flynn brothers have found the time to bring us their favourite recipes such as grilled halloumi burgers and salted caramel tart,” the London Evening Standard says. “They also offer up handy tips for the vegetarian approach to everything from BBQs to burgers.”

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Owner of five delis and restaurants across London, British-Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi has made a considerable name for himself with his Mediterranean and Israeli-tinged recipes across three books, Ottolenghi, Jerusalem and Plenty.

“He’s a genius,” The Scotsman said upon release of Plenty in 2011. “His isn’t exactly Middle eastern cooking - he’s from Jerusalem - but it draws its very breath from the explosive colours and tastes of the region.”

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone made Deborah Madison “America’s leading authority on vegetarian cooking”, GoodReads says, with more than 325,000 copies of the landmark book in print.

Madison has compiled “the most comprehensive vegetarian cookbook ever published” with recipes ranging from appetisers to desserts that are “colorful and imaginative as well as familiar and comforting”, says the site.

Complete with pizza, pasta, quesedilla and gratin recipes, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is the book for anyone who wants to cut meat out without having to hunt for quinoa and chia seeds.

How Not To Die by Michael Greger

The rather provocatively titled How Not To Die: discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease is the brainchild of Dr Michael Greger, the lecturer and physician behind the popular website

It claims to offer “effective, scientifically proven nutritional advice to prevent our biggest killers - including heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes - and reveals the astounding health benefits that simple dietary choices can provide”.

And if the slew of rave user reviews from retailers aren’t enough, perhaps more effective would be an endorsement from the Dalai Lama, who said: “This book may help those who are susceptible to illnesses that can be prevented with proper nutrition.”

The Fruit, Herbs & Vegetables of Italy by Giacomo Castelvetro

Old-school would be an understatement for the final entry, The Fruit, Herbs and Vegetables of Italy, written in 1614 by Italian Protestant refugee Giacomo Castelvetro, who moved to London to escape persecution at the hands of the Catholic church.

Upon his arrival in England, Prospect Books says, he was “horrified by our preference for large helpings of meat, masses of sugar and very little greenstuff”, and so published his own cooking manifesto, which was first translated into English in 1989 by Gillian Riley.

The Guardian reports that because this “highly entertaining” book was written before tomatoes and chillies became popular, it can be “comically outdated”, including such bizarre assumptions as lentils being “very bad for you” and “only eaten by the lowest of the low”. But the paper also insists that there is still merit to Castelvetro’s findings, adding: “There are some very relevant, simple and intriguing recipe suggestions on everything from broad beans to hop shoots.”

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