I often read my vegan cookbooks like a novel from cover to cover, rather than looking for specific recipes. I grab some pieces of paper for bookmarks, put my feet up, lower the cone of silence then read through the recipes. One of my favourite read-it-like-a-novel cookbooks is Veganissimo! Beautiful Vegan Food by Leigh Drew. Another favourite is Leigh’s Greenilicious: 101 Ways To Love Your Greens, with Queensland based dietitian and nutritionist Amanda Benham contributing to the nutrition information sections. Leigh and Amanda were brought together to create Greenilicious and this book is also frequently consulted in my home!
Check out some of the gorgeous photos from both books (thank you to Arbon Publishing for allowing me to use these images)! Here’s the Spiced Chocolate and Zucchini Cake with Macadamia Icing from Greenilicious:
Hint of Mint Cheesecake from Greenilicious:
Soft Molasses Gingerbread Cake from Veganissimo!
Rocket Frittata from Greenlicious:
Scallion Pancakes from Veganissimo!
Fennel, Asian Vegetable and Fresh Fig Salad from Veganissimo!
There are some fantastic cheese recipes in Veganissimo! and I love the Chive and Cashew Cream Cheese (I’ve also made it with dill instead of chives). This is one of my favourite photos from Veganissimo!
Broccoli Fritters from Greenilicious:
Filled with loads more beautiful photos, both Veganissimo! and Greenilicious were created here in Australia. I asked Leigh some questions about her background, future plans and the cookbook creation process. You can find my reviews and photos of dishes I’ve made from both Veganissimo! and Greenilicious further down. Check this interview out, I very much enjoyed reading Leigh’s responses!
Please tell us about your culinary background!
I started cooking for the family (of 2) when I was about 9 years old. My mother was working a lot and I perfected the muffin pizza for a quick dinner for us. It’s been all wins since then! I worked in a French restaurant and studied cheffing for a while in my early twenties, but I didn’t really hit my fall-in-love-with-cooking state until I became vegan in 2003. I suddenly had to relearn everything that I knew, and a whole new world opened up for me!
I started blogging, then managed to convince Sydney Community College to let me run vegan cooking classes, which led to my first book being published by aduki (a Melbourne vegan indy publisher), which led to me becoming involved in running naked espresso and apt in Newtown, as well as ongoing involvement as a cooking demonstrator at various vegan festivals around Australia.
I have mostly concentrated on writing cookbooks in recent years, with an occasional foray into hospitality (I helped out at Revolution Foods Café in Enmore for a while), and have been lucky enough to have great support from Arbon who have published my last two books.
What does writing a cookbook generally involve, from start to finish?
My experience with writing a cookbook (and this may differ from other experiences) is to first determine the theme of the cookbook, then do some research to see if there is much out there in the same vein (or if there is a trend coming up).
Second task is to create the shape of the book – chapter titles/concepts etc, and then build a recipe set that reflects the theme of the book and the chapter concepts. When the recipe set is finalised and a skeleton recipe is written for each of dishes, then I get my recipe testers and taste testers involved.
I cook the dishes, making changes to the recipes I’ve already written, and present them to my taste testers. I incorporate the feedback from that experience into the draft recipe, and then post it for my recipe testers to make. They’ll come back with further feedback and based on that, I’ll finalise the recipes and present them to the publisher.
After that there is editing, looking at design for the book and, if I’m really lucky, sitting in on the photoshoots for the chosen recipes. I might also be writing the introductory chapters (non-recipe chapters) at the same time as all of the above is happening. There is also the process of choosing the cover, which is always lots of fun and very difficult!
Finally, I get to hold first proofs of the final version of the book in my hands, and then the first print run. I always get overwhelmed with a combination of pride, happiness, slight confusion and a feeling of “how did I write this beautiful thing?” when I see my books.
Do you have any standout favourites from Veganissimo! and Greenilicious?
Oh wowsers. It’s always hard to choose!!
From Veganissimo…. I love the Coconut, Ginger and Lime Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis; the Lemon Self-saucing Pudding; the Soft Molasses Gingerbread Cake; Tandoori Cauliflower Cheese; Thai-style Yellow Curry with Coriander Dressing; the Cashew Cheese with Roasted Garlic and Smoked Paprika; the Vegan Meatball Subs; and the Pikelets with Whipped Maple Crème.
From Greenilicious…. I love the Raw Tex Mex Tacos (was so chuffed that they made the cover!); the Green Crepes stuffed with Chilli-spiked Cream Cheese; the Broccoli Fritters; the Creamy Artichoke and Spinach Dip; the Mushrooms Rockefeller; and the entire Green Smoothies chapter.
There are so many others, but today, these are my favourites 😀
When you have an idea for a recipe, do you run with it? Or do you have to make sure nobody else has done it first?
There are so many creative, prolific vegan bloggers and recipe creators out there that I definitely try and see if anyone has already created the dish I’m thinking of making! If there are lots of example of the dish out there in existing cookbooks or on the internet, I may go back to the drawing board, or I may look at ways to tweak it to make it identifiably my creation.
So if it’s a version of an already popularly veganised dish, such as the Reuben Sandwich in Veganissimo, then I’ll do some research on the different ways that people have approached the dish and adapt my recipe accordingly so that I can bring something hopefully new to it.
Always research, because firstly, there are great techniques out there that you may not have thought of, and secondly, occasionally you find that no-one else has done anything like your recipe idea in any way 😀
Do you have a meal at a restaurant (or friend’s house, festival etc) that blew your mind?
Oh, regularly! Most recently it was probably at Green Mushroom in Glebe (all veg*n Indian restaurant) – everything we had was top notch. Cannot wait to try the other half of the vegan dishes on the menu!
Brunch at Smith & Daughters made me cry with happiness – a griddle full of veges and beans and nopales topped with cheese sauce, soft corn tortillas on the side….
Oh! The vegan gorgonzola pizza at Sfizy Veg in Berlin was amazing. Actually, everything at Sfizy Veg in Berlin is amazing. Their brunch… OMG.
I’ve been getting lunches from My Little Panda Kitchen in Sydney and their cinnamon bun is mouth-wateringly good.
And my boyfriend makes the best – BEST – roast potatoes.
What are your plans for the short and long term future?
In the relative short term, I’m writing a new cookbook, which is exciting. I’m hoping to do some travel in the near-ish future, and hopefully keep writing and speaking on how to be a well fed vegan!
Mostly my plans are to be the happiest vegan I can be. And to learn to swim.
If you could have one culinary superpower, what would it be?
Hmmmm. Making the washing up magically happen without my having to do it isn’t really a *culinary* superpower, is it? To turn slightly melty vegan cheese into bubbly, stringy, stretchy vegan cheese. Vegan cheeses are getting better and better, but sometimes I just miss the whole “hold pizza at arm’s length from face and have the cheese stretch across the chasm” experience.
Leigh has packed 120 recipes in to Veganissimo! which range from marinades to baked goods, from cheeses to sandwich style foods, from stews to desserts and more– it’s all there and I have no doubt you’ll find something you’ll enjoy. The Lemon Self Saucing Pudding is my family’s favourite and frequently requested!
As well as the recipes, Leigh provides some information on the vegan lifestyle and a vegan diet in Veganissimo! The chapter ‘Building Blocks of Vegan Cuisine’ covers equipment basic, pantry items, legumes, nuts and seeds (including a table for soaking and cooking times), whole grains, soy and wheat products, nondairy milks, dairy substitutes and egg substitutes.
Here are some of the fantastic recipes I’ve made from Veganissimo! and I have loads more I want to make.
I loved these Vegan Meatball Subs and I was over the moon that my fussy ten year old loved the (no)meatballs. I made my own bread rolls (using spinach, hence the green) and filled them with some greens, the meatballs, the Chunky Onion and Tomato Sauce and the Cheese Sauce which you can make using either oats (my choice) or sunflower seeds. The meatballs are made with tofu, walnuts and brown lentils. The recipe calls for green olives in the mix but I didn’t have any, though I think they worked perfectly without. These are now my go-to meatballs:
The Angel-hair Pasta with Creamed Eggplant and Avocado Sauce gives you the option to use chickpeas instead of eggplant. Here I went with the eggplant (though I made too much pasta!). I think it would taste just as good with the chickpeas, which is what I will try next time. I didn’t have the ingredients to make the Gomasio recipe called for, so I sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on top:
The Overnight Breakfast Cups are made with quinoa flakes and apple. I often have overnight oats so this was a nice change:
The Aragula Salad with Cranberries, Butternut Squash and Orange is another favourite of mine and one I would make as the star salad if I was cooking for a lot of people:
The Pikelets with Whipped Maple Cream recipe was another good choice. The kind of good where you’re really impatient to eat them but you have to wait until you’ve taken a photo (where the jam and cream kinda plop everywhere by the time you get the dish outside):
Another favourite recipe is the Reuben Sandwich, using a tofu bacon that’s marinated in a spiced soy. This spiced soy, with cinnamon and anise, adds a really nice flavour to the marinade. Like the meatballs, this tofu bacon is now my go-to bacon/facon recipe. This sandwich looked so good that I set up camp outside and enjoyed it all nice and peaceful like:
I’ve previously made the Thai Style Yellow Curry with Coriander Dressing and rate it as a favourite. Loaded with coriander (cilantro), this is a definite winner for coriander-loving me. The recipe calls for tofu but I was all out so I used some chickpeas and leftover pumpkin:
DeeW wanted to help me make a cake for Mothers Day so we went for the Moist Beet and Chocolate Cake (in a heart shaped tin of course!). DeeW requested no glaze as she’s not a fan of icing, so we sprinkled over some icing sugar. I could barely detect any beetrooty taste in the cake (I’m not a huge fan of beets) and what I could pick up was no problem at all. As the name says, this cake is moist and chocolately. The colour was gorgeous and I will definitely make it again:
I’ve previously made the Chocolate Mousse Tart with Raspberries which disappeared quick smart at a family Christmas lunch:
Greenilicious contains 101 recipes to ‘love your greens’ and in all honesty this is one book (along with Veganissimo!) where I want to make just about everything. There are alternatives given if you want to omit an ingredient or try different flavours. I especially love this book because I am very guilty when it comes to serving my greens in the most lazy, minimalist way possible. In other words, I throw all my greens in to a blender and drink them. Now sure, green juices and smoothies can be awesome but Greenilicious has loads of wow factor recipes (go back and look at the official book photos above! Those cakes!!!).
From Greenilicious, I’ve made the Pesto Broccolini Pizza. The polenta base is a very welcome change from your standard pizza dough:
The Ethiopian Greens with Spiced Chickpeas recipe is another favourite of mine:
I really enjoyed the Tofu Salad with Shredded Cabbage, Peanuts, Chilli, Mint and Miso Dressing. Here I’ve added some hemp seeds:
There are a load of green smoothie recipes with worthy names like Baklava, Sesame Halva and After-Dinner Mint. One of my faves (both the name and smoothie!) is Cooper’s Cherry Pie:
Arbon Publishing and Leigh are offering up a copy each of Veganissimo! and Greenilicious for one lucky Australia based reader of Veganopoulous to win. That’s right, the winner will receive these two books! To enter, please leave a comment below telling me which recipe shown here appeals to you most. The winner (remember, Australia only!) will be chosen by a random number generator. Be sure to use an email address where you can be easily contacted (this won’t be made public). This giveaway closes on Friday May 29th 2015 at 23:59. Good luck!
If you’re not the winner, you’re still in luck! Arbon are having a May special where you can purchase both books for a total of $50.00 by using the code VEGANAU. $10 will go to Vegan Australia.