Last summer, the kind folk of Frances Lincoln sent Smokin’ Tofu a copy of World Food Café: Quick and Easy Recipes from a Vegetarian Journey to review. You may recall that review it I did, and I absolutely chuffing loved it. What a lucky bunny I am, because I’ve also had the opportunity to take the follow up cookbook, World Food Café Vegetarian Bible, out for a spin.
I’m currently sitting in my living room drinking black instant coffee. Outside, the sky is the colour of cooked rice and there’s a chill in the air that completely spoils the illusion that spring is about to give way to summer. My boyfriend is sitting on a mattress on our living room floor, freshly showered, with a bowl of leftover Thai takeaway from our anniversary treat last night. The smell of garlic and coconut, lime juice and chilli, mingled with the boyish scent of body spray and shampoo, permeates the air. He is happily munching, lost in his bowl.
There are three types of cookery books, in my experience: books of basic staples like the perfect arrabbiata sauce or how to bake a simple loaf of bread; books of ambitious recipes that, with a little practice, can become part of any confident cook’s repertoire. And then there’s the super involved, ten-page-per-recipe books that use a never ending supply of obscure ingredients. They are complicated, beautiful and kind of hard to understand, like gastropoetry. They are more like arty coffee table books than cookery books. World Food Café books are the best of all three – staples, show-stoppers and absolutely beautiful – in one.
The 200 recipes span 38 different countries, islands and regions, from North Africa to French Polynesia, Southeast Asia to Central and Southern America. Whilst recipes like Moroccan mint tea, Marrakesh tajine, falafel and homemade harissa paste form the basics for the North African chapter, the more adventurous cook can skip straight to the Ouarzazate Couscous or the Briq Á L’Oeuf.
Thai green curry was the first dish I cooked from World Food Café Vegetarian Bible. It wasn’t so much that I set out to cook something from the book, but that I wanted to use a Thai spice set Brendan gave me for Christmas and after some fruitless internet searching, it occurred to me to check my new culinary bible for a simple paste recipe. Sure enough, there was a recipe for vegetarian Thai green curry, from paste to accompaniments.
Living in a multicultural quarter of London, I have easy access to most of the ingredients featured in the book, like jaggery and tempeh, but authors Chris and Carolyn Caldicott are always mindful to suggest alternatives when a particularly regional ingredient is listed. On the most part, the recipes are comprised of simple core ingredients that are available from even the crappiest supermarkets, and any cook with a spice cupboard worth her salt should be able to navigate the longer ingredients lists with ease. We are living in a post-Ottolenghi world, after all.
I’ve found, over the few months I’ve had World Food Cafeé Vegetarian Bible knocking around my kitchen, I reach for it often, whether I’ve just got a load of shiny cheap aubergines from the market and am wondering if there’s a decent baba ganoush recipe (there is), or if I feel like cooking something completely new. It’s a brilliant Mother’s Day gift if you have a mom that likes to whip veggies into shape, otherwise it’s just a handy volume to have knocking around, should you spontaneously decide that today is the day you try refrying your own refried beans or try your hand at homemade flat bread.
You can order yourself a copy of World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible for £16.00 spondoolies including free UK p&p (RRP: £20.00), by givng Littlehampton Book Services a bell on 01903 828503 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and quote the offer code APG58.