In the past, my cookbook shelf was guilty of the ultimate sin of home cooking: being purely inspirational and decorative. I find that many cookbooks have incredibly long ingredient lists filled with obscure and expensive items, so I often stick to my old favorites or Google specific ideas. Corn SHELVES! on a budget is different.
The famous vegan cooking duo, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, have created another plant-based cookbook; but this time they focus on dispelling the myth that vegan cooking is expensive. Their cookbook is full of affordable recipes that don’t compromise on flavor or variety — like super-quick chocolate ganache pots and tasty rolled oats with multiple topping options.
The recipes in SHELVES! on a budget are simple and accessible, with ingredients you can find in the average supermarket chain. One of the recipes I tested was “Kimchi Udon Noodles”, which seemed to be complicated and full of hard-to-find ingredients. But, I found everything at my local Woolworths, even the lesser known ‘gochujang’ fermented rice paste.
Smoothie recipes often fall victim to over-the-top ingredient lists, which has always put me off joining the early-morning blend craze. However, SHELVES! succeeded in converting me. Instead of requiring flax seeds, spirulina, and fifteen of your five a day, their smoothies are simple, yet still healthy and satisfying. The summer smoothie has berries, oat milk, banana, and rolled oats — items almost everyone has in their fridge and pantry.
One of the reasons my pile of cookbooks goes unread is that most authors seem to really want to write a novel. The long paragraphs are probably meant as detailed instructions, but end up overwhelming a nervous cook. Fortunately, First and Theasby avoided this by creating clear, easy-to-follow instructions that deliver near-perfect results the first time. For example: the “Take-A-Break Bakes” looked difficult at a glance, with many ingredients and various parts, but everything came together easily and looked exactly like the pictures. The sauce in particular, with the additions of beer, soy sauce and nutritional yeast, was so delicious you could almost eat it on its own.
Firth and Theasby not only chose affordable ingredients for their recipes, they also delivered a fountain of helpful money-saving tips. One of their most brilliant ideas was to make a dish in bulk, then use the leftovers to create other similar dishes – a nice change from eating the same pasta lunch for four days. Tried the “Big Batch Bolognese Sauce” and turned it into Spaghetti Bolognese the first night and lasagna the second (as they suggested). The bolognese sauce was dreamy: rich, “meaty”, and yet full of hidden nutrients. It also successfully turned into part of lasagna and made the cooking time much shorter for the second night.
The “staples” section was the only part of the book I questioned. It features recipes for pasta, spreads, broth, and bread, and aims to help people save money by encouraging them to make these items from scratch. I understand the sentiment, but it feels like an effort for those with the luxury of time. Many people who have to watch their budget also work hard and are incredibly busy. This advice therefore seems a little unrealistic. Perhaps if it had been approached with a “when you have free time” or “it’s a great way to spend a quiet weekend” attitude, it would have felt more relevant.
This cookbook is a great handbook for the new vegan, making the transition easier and providing useful information in the “nutrition” section – including a ready-made answer to the question “where do you get your protein from?”. It also takes the stress out of long-term vegan living with organizing tips like an “essential” shopping list, recommended kitchen equipment, and specific recipes for seasonal produce.
Make the dishes from SHELVES! on a budget filled me with new confidence in cooking and renewed my thirst for discovering delicious recipes. Like the good fairies of vegan cuisine, the BOSH! has created a cookbook that makes the kitchen a calmer and more pleasant place.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
SHELVES! on a budget by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby is available now from HarperCollins Australia. Pick up a copy of Booktopia HERE.