Vegan cookbooks: A Gift for Life

This season of goodwill, why not give the gift of knowledge to friends and family? And nothing beats a decent vegan cookbook when it comes to knowledge. Tony Bishop Weston, author of copious vegan cookbooks over several decades, and thus somewhat of an expert in this area, gives us the lowdown on the highs of vegan cookery books.

The Perfect Gift

So what’s the perfect gift for a non vegan friend for Christmas?

A vegan cookbook of course!

It ticks every box, including the one where you get invited to dinner without the long list of questions.

“Do you eat gluten?”
“Is chocolate ok?”
“Is it OK if I just use half an egg?”
“But honey is just pollen, made by flowers not bees, bees just collect it, no?”

Book Bias

Of course, if you ask, I’ll just advise that the best book is ‘The Ultimate Book of Vegan Cooking’ now re-edited and reprinted as ‘Vegan Cookbook’ by Lorenz. We put a lot into that – a history of veganism, the why, how, where, when and what of veganism and a great nutrition and health section by nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston as well as over 140 recipes. A perfect introduction to vegan food.

Cookbook Consensus

Full disclosure, I don’t really use recipe books apart from for cake and bread. I tend to look at the pretty pictures and sometimes I think, “oooh that’s a good idea…”

So in the interest of full disclosure – ‘other vegan cookbooks not written by Tony Bishop-Weston are available’ – I turned to my twitter followers, few in number but very lovely and asked for their favourites.

Bish Bash Bosh!

Inevitably there were numerous people singing the praises of the “as seen on TV”, “Bestselling” , “Simply Amazing” Bosh Boys Books. Henry Firth says The Big BOSH! Wellington Roast, a great Christmas favourite, is a firm favourite with their massive fanbase. Ian Theasby, Henry’s other half says The Ultimate Chilli is a definite crowd pleaser.

As a vegan chef for over 27 years it took all my sparse social skills to suppress the “I was cooking that before you were potty trained!!!” thoughts and begrudgingly admit that the BOSH! vegan scheese and onion crisps are an absolute game changer. (Not sure if they have a recipe for them but you can buy them in the shops in massive yellow packets)

Without any sense of irony, empathy or sensitivity even my neighbour proudly announced he had bought the BOSH cookbook and there were loads of fantastic recipes in it! I’m pretty sure I suppressed an eye roll and smiled sweetly through gritted teeth, nodding politely.

Dirty Vegan

There were quite a few nominations on my Twitter feed for ex-Dirty Sanchez turned Dirty Vegan Matt Pritchard and his vegan cookbooks. I guess that’s understandable as he has a similar no-messing-around, tell-it-like-it-is, simple but delicious ‘to hell with nutrition’ approach that seems to have gone down so well with new vegans. I met him once in Paisley (next door to Glasgow) at a Food Festival. However, I was masquerading as Vegan Pirate Captain James Tea Cook and I’m pretty sure, by the ‘not a scooby’ look on his face, he dismissed me as a local drunk, which ironically, later, I was. (It was also a beer festival)

Exquisite Vegan

The ubiquitous Aine Carlin who pops up everywhere even in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose magazines got a few shout outs too.

@bonesjones creator of BBC Radio 6 Music says her ‘New Vegan’ cookbook is one of his kitchen staples.

Well Beaten To it

The title of my next half written cookbook is entitled ‘The Great British Vegan’. Punished once again for my procrastination, Aimee Ryan of Wallflower Kitchen has well and truly beaten me to it. I suppose it’s saved me another job and has edged me ever closer to retirement.

Keep it in the Family

My brother in law has been singing the praises of ‘The Ranch’ in California, a raw retreat and makeover venue treading in the footsteps of the Hippocrates centre but not so earnest. He bought us all their cookbooks, once again my social skills training came into play and I extinguished the knee-jerk ‘eye roll’… and to be fair they are beautiful in a Deliciously Ella (but more skilled and healthier) kind of way. The downside is they stop short of being vegan by sometimes exploiting their plethora of beehives and the honey oozing out of them. You can obviously easily swap honey for maple syrup or agave syrup but they may in any case be too ‘out there’ for the average lover of sausage and mash, pizza and dirty fries.

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

One of my favourite cookbooks of all time is ‘The Enchanted Broccoli Forest’ by Moosewood Cookbook author Mollie Katzen. Arrogantly and typically I doubt I ever followed a recipe in it but uniquely I did read it and fell in love with it’s inspirational prose and it’s main theme of encouraging you to go and create your own dishes with sections on cultural collections of herbs and spices to create a feel for a cuisine. Most importantly there was a huge blank note section for creation at the back which I used to write all the ideas for recipes for my first vegan cookbook the Scottish Highland themed Rainbows and Wellies.