One World Vegetarian Cookbook

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Interlink Pub Group
2.00 star(s)
3.00 star(s)
3.00 star(s)
Pros: Nice variety of vegetarian dishes from around the world
Cons: Recipes are a little hit or miss, some instructions are vague.
Reviewed by Sharyn Harding

I love vegetables, but I love all of the other categories of food, too.  So, sometimes getting the recommended 5 servings a day just doesn’t happen and having the occasional meatless meal seems like a good solution.  One World Vegetarian by Troth Wells is a book that contains recipes from around the world for a variety of vegetarian and sometimes vegan dishes.  

The cookbook contains photos of most of the recipes and also lists which country or region the dish comes from.  There is a nice variety, with many dishes that were new to me.  I would imagine that if you were sticking to a strictly vegetarian diet, you could find many meals to prepare from here without getting bored too quickly.

I was disappointed in the introduction to the book.  There wasn’t much information on the author or how the book came about.  There was a lengthy piece extolling the virtues of vegetarianism, but this seemed a bit like preaching to the choir.  None of the arguments were new to me (livestock are mistreated, vegetables are healthier, etc.) and there were multiple references to the ”New Internationalist”, an organization I am not familiar with.  I read through the intro again to see if I missed something, but ended up having to find my answer online.  The New Internationalist is a cooperative that reports on issues of world poverty and inequality.  The author works for the organization and obtained many of the recipes from friends of the group.  This information could have lead to a more interesting introduction and helped create an identity for the cookbook.

The recipes themselves have brief introductions, sometimes giving the history of the dish, but often  something written from the person that submitted the recipe.  I found some of the recipes to a be a bit vague.   Many that call for cheese, don’t specify which variety.  Well, I can pretty much figure out that when the lasagna calls for 2 cups of grated cheese, parmesan and mozzarella would be a safe bet, but what about the 1 ½ cups needed in the sweet potato and cheese patties from South Africa?  I don’t mind experimenting, but I would prefer more guidance with recipes that are unfamiliar to me.

After browsing through the book, I decided to have a small get together and serve several of the dishes.  As a main course, I fixed bobotie, from South Africa, then prepared coconut rice and swooning imam (stuffed eggplant) as accompaniments.  

The bobotie had quite a list of ingredients, but nothing too difficult to find.  It consisted of fruit, beans, lentils and bread, all baked like a type of savory bread pudding with a bit of spice, milk and egg to hold it together.  This was by far the hit of the evening.  It tasted a bit exotic, but satisfying as well.  My only complaint in fact, was that the serving information was off by quite a bit.  The recipe claims to feed four, but I strongly doubt that even four of the most voracious eaters would finish this in one setting.  I would estimate it serving double or triple that.

The swooning imam was eggplant stuffed with sauteed onion and peppers, spiced with cumin, coriander and garlic, then baked.  The result was a bit bland and didn’t much justify the preparation time.  When the stuffed eggplants were baked, the instructions said to fill the base of the dish with ¼ inch of water and to cover and bake until the moisture was absorbed.  After 40 minutes of baking there was more liquid in the dish, not less.  The eggplant wasn’t bad, but the flavor of the spices were lost.

I had chosen to make the Coconut Rice with cashews and raisins, because I had thought the chilies in the Bobotie would make it spicy enough to be a nice counterpoint.  It wasn’t spicy and the coconut rice was not much of a hit.  The result was a bit gloppy, but this was most likely my fault for substituting a medium-grain rice for the suggested basmati.

Lately, I have developed a bit of a pet peeve regarding cookbooks with poor indices.  Now that I have focused on this, I am amazed at how many cookbooks neglect a section that should both be very useful and, I would think, easy to do well.  In One World Vegetarian, my complaint is with the layout: there are two indices, which in itself is promising.   The first has the recipes listed by region and course.  This may sound helpful, but I don’t know where something like picadillo would be listed (under ‘C’ for Caribbean and Latin America, duh!).  The second index is by ingredients and meal type.  What about the old fashioned list of recipes alphabetized by name?  When I went back to find the bobotie recipe, what should I look under? Well, it is listed under both lentils and bread, but why not under bobotie? 

OK, so the index is really a minor complaint and overall I was happy with the variety of recipes.  Many of them sounded appealing enough that I will be drawn back again to explore some new vegetarian cuisine. I think you could safely use this book to prepare a meal for meat eaters as well as vegetarians and have everyone satisfied.  
[h2]Recipe: Bobotie[/h2]
Serves: 4

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking: 60 minutes

3 or 4 slices bread

1 cup / 240 ml milk

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1-inch/2.5-cm piece fresh ginger, grated

1/4-1/2 green chili, de-seeded and chopped finely

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

4 cloves

8 allspice berries

stick of cinnamon

3/4 cup / 100 g dried apricots, chopped

2 tbsp sultanas or raisins

1 apple chopped

1 cup / 200 g red lentils, washed

2 cups water

1 can rosecoco or blackeyed beans, drained

1 egg

3 tbsp parsley, chopped

3 bay leaves

oil, butter or margarine



1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1 egg

1 cup / 240 ml milk

(including retained milk from soaked bread)

Heat oven to 400 F/200 C/Gas 6

1 First, soak the bread in the milk for about 20-30 minutes, until the milk is fully absorbed and the bread is really soft. When ready, with clean hand, squeeze the bread to release some of the milk (retain this milk).

2 While the bread is soaking, heat the fat in a saucepan and then cook the onions until soft. Next, put in the garlic, ginger, chili, garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, cloves, allspice and cinnamon stick and stir; fry for a couple of minutes.

3 Add water, apricots and sultanas or raisins, apple and lentils and cook for some 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Leave to cool a little.

4 While cooking, mix the soaked bread with the egg, parsley, bay leaves and the beans. Add this to the lentil mix and squash with your clean hand so the beans are partly, but not fully, mashed. This should make a moist but not watery mix.

5 Put into a baking dish and smooth the top with a spoon.

6 Now, for the topping, mix the egg, with the retained milk from the soaked bread, adding more milk as necessary to make about 1 cup/240 ml. Mix in the turmeric, cinnamon and salt; stir well. Pour this topping over the bean and lentil mix and put it in the oven.

7 Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the topping has set and is golden brown. Serve with yellow rice with raisins (easy to make by adding a little turmeric while cooking), and ‘sambals’ such as diced cucumber and yogurt (raita), dried coconut, chutneys or apricot jam, sliced tomatoes in a little vinegar with chopped chives or spring onions on top, chopped parsley, and sliced bananas.
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