Viva Vegan CookbookA couple of years ago I gave my initial impressions of this book, but now, having had a decent amount of time to use it, I thought it was worth an update,:

Let’s face it, we’ve got far too many cookbooks, but there’s always room for one that changes everything! We know we need to eat less meat – for health reasons, to save money, and to help the planet – but somehow we never seem to quite get around to it

Sticking Viva Vegan on my Christmas list was a bit out of left field, but it has turned out to be fantastic. The recipes are really delicious Latin American staples with great Vegan twists, and there are some really interesting meat-substitutes that I can’t wait to try – and I’m sure I’ll get to soon. As a bonus, most of the recipes can be made from store-cupboard ingredients – albeit pretty specialised store cupboard ingredients!

As I’ve embarked on a recent on-again, off-again love affair with the VB6: Vegan Before 6 diet I have found myself making the recipes more often, and I’m definitely developing some favourites.

Our top recipes so far are the Cashew Crema – a replacement for the ever-present sour cream used in many recipes – and the Drunken Beans, although we have yet to make the Vegan Seitan Chorizo, which I am really looking forward to.

Making Seitan is one of the things we just haven’t tried yet from the book – it took me a while to source the Vital Wheat Gluten, which is essential to the recipe – none of our local health food shops had it, so I had to resort to Amazon. While I was there I stocked up on some of the more unusual ingredients she mentions – I’ve listed them below to make it easy for you to find them. Any day know I’m going to get the time – and courage – to give it a go, and then I’ll report back . . .

Our favourite recipes

As with every recipe book, we have grown used to several of the dishes, and they get cooked regularly, with varying local tweaks:

Peanut Sauce – Salsa di Mani
This is a quick, simple sauce which makes an easy addition to steamed veg-and-rice. Loved by all the family.

Cashew Crema
Slightly less well received by the whole family, but one of my favourites. We’d use it more if you didn’t need to soak the cashews beforehand, as we’re always after creme fraiche.

Drunken Beans with Seitan Chorizo
I do this one all the time – albeit without the Seitan Chorizo, as I’ve only just got the Vital Wheat Gluten. Some point soon I’ll do the whole thing – it should be even more delicious.

And some recipes we’re keen to try

As well as regular favourites there are a few dishes that I somehow just haven’t got to yet, but which are definitely on my shortlist:

Seitan
Used in lots of vegan dishes – this is a meat substitute based on Vital Wheat Gluten. Getting the ingredients was the hard bit. Now I just need to find time to try making it.

Black-Eyed Butternut Tostadas
Crispy-fried tortillas stacked with toppings – what’s not to like?

Chocolate Chile Mole Sauce
I’d just love to see the kids’ faces when we serve them something covered in chocolate . . .

Mashed Potato Pancakes with Peanut Sauce – Llapingachos
These could be perfect for a VB6 vegan breakfast – and a perfect alternative to Bacon & Eggs!

And there are plenty more where those came from.

Essential Vegan store-cupboard ingredients

In addition to large bags of cashew nuts, peanuts, dried beans, brown basmati rice, and a garden full of vegetables, there are a range of interesting store cupboard ingredients we’ve bought to fill the gaps for our more unique Vegan recipes. Hard to find in your local supermarket, but surprisingly easy on Amazon:

Wheat Berries, a delicious wholegrain alternative to rice, perfect for VB6
Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, essential to make Seitan – the delicious meat substitute.
Liquid Smoke, for adding that essential barbecue flavour to Seitan.
Engevita Yeast Flakes for more meaty flavour.

That’s the update – even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore there are some great dishes for you to try!

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Viva Vegan Cookbook

We’ve got far too many cookbooks, but there’s always room for one that changes everything! We know we need to eat less meat, but never seem to get around to it . . .

Sticking Viva Vegan on my Christmas list was a bit out of left field, but it has turned out to be fantastic. The recipes are really delicious Latin American staples with great Vegan twists, and there are some really interesting meat-substitutes that I can’t wait to try. As a bonus, most of the recipes can be made from store-cupboard ingredients – perfect for our collection of Resilient Recipes.

Now all that’s standing between me and some Seitan Chorizo sausages is finding some Vital Wheat Gluten!

I’ve got some Black Beans and Cashews soaking now for tomorrow’s dinner – I’ll let you know how we go.

I got it from Amazon, so if you can’t find it locally, here is the link –Viva Vegan, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

Another of my wartime specials, this is a collection of Marguerite Patten’s recipes from 1940-1954, helping people to make the most out of the wartime and post-war rations. It ‘s full of fascinating insights as well as frugal recipes and is great at demonstrating alternatives to rationed foods. There are a lot of meat-substituting tricks, as well as recipes where the meat is padded out with cheap, easily available, extras. These are joined with a variety of amusing “mock” dishes: Mock Apricot Flan for example, where the apricots are replaced with carrots; or Mock Crab, Mock Duck,  and Mock Oyster Pie; as well as any number of eggless alternatives to traditional cookery.

It contains a good section on preserving, although I suspect it is well behind current thinking on food safety, so I’m not sure I’d use the recipes given for canning. I hope I never need the advice on stewing and frying Whale meat, but I’d be happy to try the Honeycomb toffee.

Overall it is a fascinating read for the frugal, alternative approach to living that we may be returning to. I think it’s a book to try out from a library first, and then buy if you’re enticed. I got our copy from the National Trust bookshop at Dunham Massey for less than a fiver, but if you can’t find it locally, here is the link to get it from Amazon –Victory Cookbook: Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1940-1954, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

Now this is a bit of a quirky inclusion to our library – it’s directly reprinted from the 1940’s edition, and so is not the most up to date, but I do have a bit of a thing for wartime cooking and gardening books.

When originally published, this was the Government-supported manual designed to turn us into a nation of growers. As a result it is a surprisingly good, down-to-earth guide to becoming a productive gardener. It covers everything you’d expect: Planning crops, tools, all the different vegetables, fruit and flowers, pests, poultry, bees, and how can you resist a book with a chapter entitled “Rabbits for Flesh & Fur”.

As well as being a good basic intro to traditional gardening techniques, its extra dimension is that of thrift. In these austere times, learning how to garden frugally is a great skill, and so this book is elevated beyond novelty purchase and into a (mostly) serious part of our library. In fact I’m just off to re-read the sections on Bees & Chickens now!

I got our copy for £1 from a discount bookshop, but you should be able to get them from your local bookshop or it’s only £2.80 from Amazon – follow this link –Make Your Garden Feed You, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

This book is one of my guilty little secrets! How can anyone be really serious about gardening with a book from Reader’s Digest?

Now that the secret is out however, I have to say that if I could only keep one book from our library it would be this one. It has everything you need to know, about almost every type of fruit and veg that you’re likely to grow. It’s simple, clearly laid out, well indexed, packed with great pictures and illustrations, and very very unpretentious.

My only criticism is that it could have done with being more comprehensively updated from the 1977 original. There a several newly-fashionable plants you won’t find in here, and there is an over-dependence on chemical solutions that you don’t tend to find in most modern books.

So, as you may have guessed, this book is another one to buy. Don’t bother with getting a copy from the library – I did initially, but went straight out to buy one as soon as I had the chance. Please order it from your local bookshop, but if you have to buy it online please follow this Amazon link – Food from Your Garden and Allotment, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

In our eclectic library of green and gardening books, this is one of my favourites. I combines being a coffee-table “pretty” book and a great starting point for most smallholding topics. There are a couple of sections that I find invaluable: there is a better guide to deep digging that that in How to Grow more Vegetables; and I find the crop rotation guide, and pictures of the vegetable beds through the year, to be the clearest I’ve read – it’s what inspired our Crop Rotation fantasy plan. But most of all, I like the fact that it has a couple of pages on any topic that might interest me – from bees to chickens, building a storeroom to preserving, and it has the ultimate dream – plans for mini-farming five acres.

The book is beautifully produced, the illustrations are a delight, and the content is relevant and comprehensive. This is another book I’d recommend buying – it’s something to refer to on-and-off for ever.

Please order it from your local bookshop, but if you have to buy it online please follow this Amazon link – The Complete Book of Self-sufficiency and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

This is the bible by which we run our allotment-style vegetable beds. It’s not the only gardening book you’ll ever need – it assumes you have basic gardening knowledge already, or are getting it from another book. Where this book shines is in it’s explanation of Biointensive gardening practices. Unlike some “pretty” gardening books it is not a joy to read, however the tables of plant spacings, expected yields and typical consumption are invaluable if you are serious about trying to feed yourself from your land. One of my favourite parts of the book is the section of sample garden plans – they are a little complicated to follow but really help to build the confidence of novices like us.

The great testament to this book’s usefulness  is that it is probably the muddiest of all our books. It is the one with us when we’re working in the garden, not a coffee-table talking point or occasional reference.

If you want to move beyond just messing about, this Biointensive “mini-farming” approach is one of the ways to go. It’s not a book to get from the library, this is one to buy, and use. Order it from your local bookshop, but if you have to buy it online please follow this Amazon link – How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Can Imagine and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).