Carrot Pickles and a Vegan Neurogastronomy Book Review & Giveaway
Cooking for the Senses by Jennifer Peace Rhind & Gregor Law is a new book published by Singing Dragon exploring vegan neurogastronomy. What’s that, you might ask? Read on and you’ll find out. There’s also a recipe from the book for easy and surprisingly delicious carrot pickles. I made them in almost no time at all. Oh and there’s a giveaway too.
Vegan neurogastronomy, it turns out, is a slightly different way of looking at plant based food. It’s all about the science behind the senses and maximising flavour. To engage all of our senses in preparing and cooking food can give us a feeling of wellbeing and can be highly therapeutic. If we focus on the foods we enjoy eating rather than those we choose not to eat, the world of food becomes more abundant rather than making us feel we’re on a restricted diet. Plant-based cuisine can be and should be as excellent as any other.
Cooking for the Senses
The book is divided into two sections, each written by a different author. It’s a hardback with 320 pages and is published by Singing Dragon.
Exploring Flavour by Jennifer Peace Rhind
This section gives an in depth account of nerogastronomy and explores the senses of smell, taste, texture, sound and appearance and how they change with age. It provides a good bit of reading material and is a really useful reference source. When Jennifer first became a vegan, she was initially at a bit of a loss as to what to cook. But her background in aromatherapy and perfumery came to her rescue and she started to explore the world of culinary herb and spice aromas.
The main chapter in this section, Ingredients and Flavours, takes us through a myriad of plant-based ingredients. It starts with vegetables, then goes on to fruits, seeds, grains, nuts and legumes, fungi, herbs, spices, oils, vinegars and salts and finishes off with a few dairy substitutes. With potatoes and onions being such a popular ingredient worldwide, it is perhaps no surprise that these sections are both over a page long. Each ingredient is described, with any particular nutrient and flavour qualities noted along with ideas on how to use them.
I do like a good spice mix, so I was excited to find Jennifer gives the ingredients for classic mixes from around the world. There are several I’ve never heard of, but now need to try. Advieh, for example, is a Persian mix which includes rose petals, cardamom, lime, pistachio and saffron – just wow!
The Recipe Collection by Gregor Law
This, of course, was the section I immediately jumped to as soon as I opened the book. I just can’t help myself; I’m a recipe junkie.
The recipes are an eclectic mix with inspiration taken from all over the world. Some are traditional and others are given a bit of a twist, but they all embrace the spirit of neurogastronomy. From Chinese mushroom sheng cai bao to Indian ‘Sunday Best’ biryani to Middle Eastern falafel koftas to Italian gnocchi, there’s plenty to excite the tastebuds.
Unusually, the first chapter in this section is Small Plates. There is a chapter on Brunches and Lunches and Picnics, but it comes second, not first. Gregor Law’s favourite way to eat is in the style of mezze, tapas or thali, i.e. with lots of small plates. I have to say, it’s mine too – as long as I don’t have to do the washing up. Lots of different textures and flavours help to keep the palate excited. Main dishes are covered in the chapter Dinner Dates and Gentle Plates and the essentials in Seeking Solace in the Kitchen. No book is complete without a chapter on Desserts and although this is a small one, it has some beguiling recipes.
The recipes will particularly suit adventurous cooks that have just started their journey into plant-based eating. But even if you’re an old hand like me, there are plenty of ideas to inspire. Now CT is able to eat butter beans, there’s no stopping me and the recipe for gigantes escabeche has me positively drooling.
There are several other recipes I have my eye on: roast saag aloo, petit pois à la Francaise which is a dish of cooked lettuce and peas and ratatouille with black garlic. Why have I never used black garlic before? Apple pesto sounds intriguing and Spanish flat breads called cocas have got me all a quiver. They are topped with a variety of ingredients and look a bit like mini pizzas. Perfect for parties. And of course, I’ve already tried my hand at the carrot pickles.
To finish, the apple and calvados cranachan sounds like something I’d like to try as does the rhubarb and Indonesian long pepper crumble. Rhubarb crumble is hard to beat, but adding some ground Indonesian long peppercorns to the topping has now got to be tried. And then there’s cherry chocolate cake – well, need I say more?
What I particularly liked about the book
The ethos of the book and recipes make a nice change from the new wave of vegan ‘clean eating’ cookbooks. Most, but not all, of the recipes are based on traditional dishes from various peasant cultures that have been eaten for a long time. It almost seems a little old-fashioned, but in a good way. You won’t find how to make vegan “cheese”, “mayonnaise” or scrambled tofu here. And the sweet recipes use plain old sugar.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the new ideas emerging in this fast paced changing world of less meat and dairy, but I also get a bit fed up with bandwagon jumping. Most of the ingredients here are easy to find, though I have no idea where you get hold of Indonesian long peppers.
The first part of the book is both interesting and informative and I can see myself dipping in and out of it for many years to come. At the end of the book, just before, the bibliography and index, I found a welcome surprise: a couple of pages on some of the more important plant compounds and which ‘superfoods’ contain them. Genistein and zeaxanithin I’d never heard of, but of course CT knew it all.
What I think could be improved on
Photographs. There’s no getting away from it, we are becoming increasingly visually focused and a cookbook these days needs to have appealing images and lots of them. The quality of the photography is not the issue here, it’s the lack of them. About half of the recipes have accompanying photographs, but not all of them are of the finished dish. There’s a beautiful picture of a romanesco accompanying the recipe for romanesco with citrus-infused salsa verde and toasted flaked almonds, but I want to see the final result.
The place to show photos of gorgeous greens and other edible plants is in the Ingredients and Flavours section. Sadly there are no illustrations of any kind here. Just a few scattered about would, I feel, improve the first part of the book. I do understand that photo shoots and buying images can be very expensive, but using them judiciously would really enhance the overall readability.
The only recipe I’ve tried so far is the one for pickled carrots and, unusually for me, I nearly followed it to the letter. I couldn’t bring myself to peel the carrots as prescribed; they were organic and so fresh they still had their leaves on. The bay leaf, I added to the jar with the carrots, rather than boiling it in the pickling liquid. As for the carrots, I cut mine fairly chunkily. The original recipe says they should be the size of matchsticks, mine weren’t. I liked the idea of larger pieces and in any case, I didn’t want to spend too long chopping. I had to change the name too; carrot pickles just sounds nicer than pickled carrots and more interesting to my ear and perception.
Anyway, the carrot pickles were quickly made and are totally scrumptious. I keep going to the jar to ‘just try another one’. We’ve had them in sandwiches and salads and they are a winner in both.
Carrot Pickles – The Recipe
- 4 carrots - scrubbed but not peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 150 ml cider vinegar
- 100 ml water
- 3 tbsp golden caster sugar
- ½ tsp sea salt I used Cornish sea salt
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- Trim the carrots, them cut them into julienne strips. I made mine fairly chunky, but the original recipe says they should be the size of matchsticks.
- Place them in a sterilised 500ml jar together with the bay leaf.
- Bring the remaining ingredients to the boil in a pan, stirring to ensure the sugar has dissolved, then pour over the carrots. Ensure all are submerged.
- Leave to cool before sealing. Keep in the fridge and use within 3 weeks.
Best left for a couple of days for the flavours to infuse.
I’m sharing this recipe for carrot pickles with #CookBlogShare which is being hosted over at Hijacked By Twins this week.
The carrot pickles also go to #CookOnceEatTwice with Searching for Spice.
Carrot Pickles. PIN IT.
Cooking for the Senses Giveaway
I was sent a copy of Cooking for the Senses to review. I was not expected to write a positive review and all opinions are, as always, my own. Thanks to my readers for supporting the brands and organisations that help to keep Tin and Thyme blythe and blogging.