The bible cookbook in Britain, before the advent of the likes of Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson, was “Mrs Beeton’s cookbook”. First published in 1861, modern versions are still in print and selling well.
But veganism has actively arrived on the scene and, while it is not a new religion, it does look to a culinary world transformed. Now it has its own bible – but without the Old Testament’s animal sacrifices.
“Vegan Bible”, like “Mrs Beeton’s cookbook”, is an anthology of recipes and similarly wide-ranging in its scope.
There are more than 500 recipes and they cover just about every type of cooking – from raw food to oven-baked dishes by way of salads, vegetable pizzas, tarts, terrines and dips – as well as situations as different as cooking for children, dinner with friends, buffets, barbecues and picnics.
Especially welcome is a selection of gourmet recipes, like crème brûlée with roasted peaches or raspberry and rose bavarois, to impress non-believers still under the impression that vegans survive on a diet of lettuce and nuts. In the style and spirit of Mrs Beeton, the no-nonsense recipes are brief and to the point; each one a straightforward list of ingredients and a one-paragraph set of instructions.
The fact that “Vegan Bible” is written by a Frenchwoman, Marie Laforét, is itself a sign of changing times given how her country’s cuisine is traditionally as obsessed with eating the organs of dead animals as Argentina’s.
Veganism is a broad church and for many not eating anything of animal origin is an ethical choice: anti-speciesism being a rejection of animal exploitation on the grounds that our species grants us no rights over species in the same way that a particular gender or ethnicity does make its members superior to others.
Ethics aside, veganism seems basic to environmental sustainability given how much land is devoted to livestock production and the cultivation of cattle feed. Every steak or chicken meal eaten in Europe, says Marie Laforét, contributes to the deforestation of the Amazon.
The big challenge for vegetarians wishing to be vegans – for carnivores it may be a mountain to climb – is giving up the eating of cheese. “Vegan Bible” shows how easy it is to make various cheeses but there is another cookbook from the same publisher, Grub Street, that specialises in the art and craft of making vegan cheese: “Homemade vegan cheese, yogurt and milk” by Yvonne Hölzl-Singh.
The basic ingredients are nuts, seeds and soya beans and, for thickening and stabilizing, coconut cooking fat, agar agar or cornflour. Flavour comes from adding yeast flakes, light miso, garlic or onions. No special equipment is needed beyond a stick blender and there is no need for expensive high-powered blenders or soya milk machines and yogurt makers.
Pumpkin seed and cashew cheese, truffle cheese pralines, cashew nut crème fraîche, soya milk and many other recipes are provided for eating food without eating products made from animals.
“Vegan Bible” by Marie Laforét and “Homemade vegan cheese, yogurt and milk” by Yvonne Hölzl-Singh are published by Grub Street