Sunday, 21 May 2017

Book Review: But I could never go vegan

I was lucky enough to have a long term loan of Kristy Turner's But I Could Never Go Vegan cookbook.  I had followed her Keepin It Kind blog so I already knew she does great recipes and beautiful photos.  The book delighted me with recipes that really inspired me but were (mostly) easy enough to make.

The book takes a humourous approach to vegan advocacy.  Sections are organised around how to counteract protests about being vegan.  Such as "Where would I get my protein?".  It is funny but it is a bit negative too.  Personally I prefer the more positive subtitle "Satisfying ways to pack in the protein".  I don't need to be convinced that vegan food is fantastic.  I just want good recipes.

The recipes are for the experienced cook who wants some interesting recipes that go beyond the basics.  They include both quick weeknight recipes and some more extravagant entertaining dishes.  I have cooked a lot from the book over more than 6 months. I love the recipes but not the way it is organised.  Even knowing it quite well, I find it hard to find recipes because I don't find the ordering intuitive.  On the plus side, this meant I was always discovering more dishes I just had to cook when looking for a recipe.

I am listing the recipes I made under each section.  Note that I did not make recipes from every section and only made some components.

SECTION: All those special ingredients are way more expensive 

From this section I made:
  • Sunflower Sausage - this was a great minced meat substitute.  I used it in bolognaise a few times.  It could be a little dry if cooked too long but was really tasty and a great basic protein to add in lots of dishes for some oomph.
  • Barbecue Sauce - I liked it but even with halving the sugar it was a bit sweet and needed better seasoning.  I think that I should have seasoned better and that it lacked some flavour because I didn't have any ancho chile powder.  Having said that, I didn't have any trouble finishing it as there were lots of ways to use it.
  • Tofu Sour Cream - I made this for a soup topping and then it lingered in the fridge.  It was nice in the soup but I am not really into creamy and don't use sour cream much.
  • Honey Bee Happy - this is boiled down apple juice, sugar and lemon juice.  It had a honey texture but tasted like apple juice concentrate.  I was not that impressed but then it was really good in the brownies I made it for.
I made a few of these basic recipes because they were required by other recipes.  While they weren't overly complicated they did add to the time needed for some other recipes.  Once I had made some of them, I wanted more ideas of how to use them.  What I would have loved would be a list of recipes in the book that used them, so I wasn't rifling through the book trying to find them.  Niggles aside, I liked the range of basics in this section.

SECTION: I could never given up cheese

Tofu Feta (from Tofu Feta, Spinach and Potato Gratin)

I made this tofu feta for a salad recipe.  It did not work that well for me in the salad.  The texture was too soggy to imitate feta - perhaps my tofu was not hard enough.  I also found it more sharp than salty in flavour.  Then I made savoury muffins with the rest of the feta and really loved the flavour and texture it gave them.  I might make it again just for muffins.

SECTION: Tofu doesn't taste like anything

BBQ Baked Tofu

I really love tofu and don't need anyone to suggest I love it.  This BBQ baked tofu used the above BBQ sauce and was delicious.  We had it for dinner with coleslaw and spinach.  I loved it so much that I ate some cold for breakfast.  The the rest went into a tortilla casserole

SECTION: Vegan cooking is too hard

Chickpea Omelets

I enjoyed these omelets made with chickpea flour and vegies.  However as they took longer to make than my regular ones I probably would not make them a lot.  I am sure I took a photo but can't find it.

SECTION: Where's the Beef?

Lentil Mushroom Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze

I love a good nut roast but find vegan ones more challenging.  This loaf looked really promising with lots of lentils, oats, mushrooms, and almond meal.  It held together well and I enjoyed it but if I made it again I would tweak it.

SECTION: Just thinking about salad makes me yawn

Three Pea and Orzo Pistachio Pesto Salad

This was a nice salad for dinner.   I used some pesto that wasn't in the book.  I didn't use orzo as I could not find it and bought small shells instead.  So my version was slightly different.  I made the tofu feta (above) for the salad but did not really like the texture of it as a topping.

Roasted Broccoli and Apple Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

The Roasted Broccoli and Apple Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing was brilliant.  I made enough changes that I blogged my version of the salad.  However it was still hats off to Kristy for the idea of adding roasted seasoned broccoli to a salad, for the creamy dressing and for the combination of crunchy, creamy, sweet, savoury.  I used sausage crumbles on top as that was what I had but I think the tempeh bacon that Kristy used would be great.  However I really liked my addition of raw purple cabbage in it for flavour and colour.

BBQ Cauliflower (from BBQ Cauliflower Salad with Zesty Ranch Dressing)

I love the BBQ Cauliflower that was part of a salad.  I had cauliflower and BBQ sauce so it was pretty easy.  But I did not have the time for the salad dressing and crumbed onion rings.  I used hot sauce for bite because we don't have ancho chilli powder.  The cauliflower was great as a side dish and in sandwiches.  Above it tops (bio)cheese melted on toast.  I really loved the mayo, celery, grated carrot, baby spinach and BBQ cauliflower in a sandwich.

SECTION: What about brunch?

Chickpea Scramble Breakfast Tacos

I love making chickpea scramble and was pleased how well it worked in these breakfast tacos.  Unfortunately I did not have time for Kristy's method of whisking the ingredients, leaving them to set and then frying chunks.  Instead I did my usual quick fry method.  They were great with seasoned roasted sweet potato, red capsicum and onion as well as avocado (I fried it because it was not ripe and enough - this was a revelation!).  I cannot imagine making it for breakfast but loved it for dinner.

SECTION: Fake "foods" freak me out

Potato and Pea Samosa Cakes with Tamarind Sauce

These samosa patties were impressive.  I was amazed and pleased at how well they held together with a bit of chickpea flour.  They were a little chewy and quite spicy.  They would make great finger food as they were all too easy to nibble on before dinner.  Thank goodness they made lots.

Lentil, Chard and Sweet Potato Curry

This was a really nice curry, bordering on a dal with all the lentils.  I added a few more vegies.  The addition of a spoonful of black salt at the end gave it a slightly different flavour to my usual curies but it was very good and comforting.

SECTION: It's all rabbit food

Nacho cheese sauce (from Jackfruit Nacho Supreme)

I really liked this nacho cheese sauce.  My cheese sauces are usually thick enough to double as a dip but this was more pouring consistency.  At first I worried it lacked bite but then I found I had left out the miso which made a big difference to the flavour.  I added some to some soup which worked well.

SECTION: Not soup again

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This soup was tasty but very thin.  I might have added some liquid than the recipe.  By the next day it had thickened a little.

Potato Sauerkraut Soup with Sausage Crumbles

I partly made this because I loved the photo.  I also would like to eat more sauerkraut.  The soup was nice and I really liked the crumbles on top.  However it was a bit on the sour side.  Perhaps it needed better seasoning or a little less sauerkraut.  A nice change on the usual potato soups.

SECTION: I'd miss pizza

Buffalo Cauliflower Calzones with Cashew Blue Cheese Sauce

I did not make this recipe but a few years back I made Kristy's Buffalo cauliflower pizza with tofu blue cheese on my own sourdough base.  The cauliflower was great but the tofu blue cheese did not quite do it for me.  However I would like to try the cashew blue cheese she uses.  And I have to say it was a great innovative pizza topping like others in the book.

SECTION: Can't i be pescatarian instead?

Beer Battered Faux Fish and Chips

I have no desire to be a pescatarian but I do long for a fish and chip shop that does vegan fish.  The beer battered tofu was excellent.  I loved how the tofu sat in marinade for an hour or so and I really loved the batter with beer in it.  My tofu was smaller and took a while to fry.  It wasn't an easy recipe but was great for a birthday treat.  As an aside, I would have preferred the ingredients to be separated into the marinade and the batter rather than all in together but this is nit picking, esp when I loved the results.  I didn't follow Kristy's chip recipe as it is better to roast chips my own way in my oven.  I loved having fish and chips at home (with a leftover salad from a community lunch) and I really loved the leftover tofu fish fried until crispy and eaten in a sandwich with mayo.  I really need to make this again.

SECTION: My friends wont want to come over for dinner

Cashew Carrot Pate

I made this pate ages ago.  It was more dip than pate but very nice.  I think I fiddled with the ingredients a bit but can't remember why.

SECTION: No way.  I'm Italian (of Southern/German/Mexican/French)

Pretzel Dumplings with Sauerkraut Mushroom Gravy

You don't make these dumplings to gaze upon and admire their beauty.  Sylvia and I made fun of them especially when they had cooked the the stew was like gunk with a thick gloopy skin.  The dumplings were not quite as I expected.  (I struggled to work out how much her 4 pretzels weighed and deducted it was 225g.  I didn't have enough and used some breadcrumbs to top it up.)  Rather than be like a dough, they seemed like chunks of soft pretzel.  They were better the second day. More cohesive and better taste.  The stew was quite tasty and a good way to use up some of my sauerkraut.  I really liked this stew but was not quite as wowed as I expected.

SECTION: I don't want to be left out at potlucks and family get-togethers

Maple Baked Beans and Cornbread Casserole

This was a delicious oven bake.  I found there was too much maple in the baked beans which were a bit sweet.  I then forgot it in the dumplings which could have done with a little.  However despite this, I really enjoyed the casserole and would love to have it again.  The dumplings were a little sandy but I find this with polenta. I didn't have the right white beans so I had a mix of kidney beans, lentils and black eyed peas.  I would love this at a potluck brunch.

SECTION: Wait, is chocolate vegan?

Chocolate Chip Brownies

Vegan brownies can be challenging but I was swayed by the claims that these were fudgy.  Over summer I made these and took them warm to a friend's pot luck dinner party.  They were really disappointingly crumbly and would barely hold together.  The next day they firmed up and were more brownie-like but still a bit softer than I had hoped.  But very very moreish.

It has been very generous of Faye to loan me the book.  It is not a new book, having come out in 2014.  Since then Kristy has also written But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan.  You can see some of the goodness from the second cookbook on Faye's Veganopoulous blog.  I really must give my copy of the book back to Faye soon. I am reluctant as I continue to find recipes I want to make in it.  Maybe I need to buy my own copy.  I highly recommend you find a copy of the book, even if you just want to cook good vegan food rather than go vegan.

But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It's Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over for Dinner is written by Kristy Turner, published by The Experiment in 2014.


  1. What an amazing test run you did of the book! I like the sound of many of these recipes even if the chapter titles wouldn't necessarily be my first pick either. I think you'll definitely have to get your own copy :-)

  2. This is such a timely blog post and review of the cookbook, Why?! I picked up a copy of this and But My Family Would never Eat that I think from Bristol VegFest at the weekend. And guess what, I cooked my first dish from it yesterday - the BBQ cauliflower. I have not used it as extensively as you, but it is because of your perusal and Faye's that I treated myself to my own copy. I think your spot on with your review, I am struggling with the layout in relation to allocation of recipes, but its still fun. I am inspired to make the samosa cakes and sauerkraut dishes. I know the dishes won't all be to my taste and may disappoint like the brownies, but I do like my cookbooks and there is enough in them to interest me.

    Finally, I love your photographs and your take on the recipes - sometimes we bloggers when we cook from cookbooks try to emulate the images in the cookbook, I like that you steered away from that.

  3. Great review Johanna! I like the sound of the fish and chips-I've had a fish burger at a vegan place here and I could have sworn that it was fish. And I actually like the chapter titles.

  4. Wow, you have really given this book a workout. It's a great roundup, and like most books, it seems there were hits and misses.

  5. Oh my, what great recipes! I have heard such great things about the book, I'll need to pick it up. I love how you have made so many recipes from it and included pictures. The "It's all rabbit food" section sounds so cute.

  6. I love cookbook reviews that really go into detail and test a lot of recipes, so you know whether it's worth a buy or not. There's a lot of good looking eats in there, but I think it looks like more of a loaner than a buyer for me. That said, I really need to find out the tofu fish and chips recipe!

  7. Holy moly girl did you ever try a lot of the recipes! That's awesome. It sounds like there is a good mix of everything in there. It's too bad some of the recipes were disappointing, but many of them sound really good.
    The samosa cakes look SO GOOD!


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