Vegan cuisine has taken off in a big way over the past couple of years, partly because of how restaurants like Stem + Glory in Cambridge have helped change perceptions of plant-based food.
“Historically, plant-based foods and vegetarianism in this country has all been a bit bland and boring. So we’re working hard with flavour and the food is healthy but it’s not healthy for the sake of it. Not like a boring bowl of raw veg, for example,” says Stem + Glory founder Louise Palmer-Masterton. “It’s vegan and it’s delicious.”
Stem + Glory was voted the best restaurant in Cambridge by the public in this year’s British Restaurant Awards, and Palmer-Masterton is set to open her third crowdfunded operation in three years in London this November.
While Palmer-Masterton doesn’t run the Stem + Glory kitchen herself, she’s been a vegan for going on 35 years now and has an admirable collection of recipe books that she’s tried and tested. So whether you’re a committed vegan or a meat-free Monday dabbler, who better to ask for some recommendations for the home chef?
“When you asked me this question I went to my bookshelf and looked through my vegan cookbooks. I’ve got quite a lot so I tried to pick the ones that have the most meaning,” says Palmer-Masterton. She came back to us with three essentials she returns to again and again, and a further two that she thinks also deserve a nod. Straight in at number one is a book that’s ideal for beginners and for whipping up quick midweek meals.
1. Easy Vegan, published by Ryland Peters & Small
“Everything I have made from this book has really turned out well,” says Palmer-Masterton. “It’s interesting because there’s this boom in celebrity-endorsed books at the moment and yet this one is written by a publishing house and I’ve found it to be the best. It’s a well-researched book, the recipes are tried and tested, the pictures are great and above all it does what it says on the tin – everything takes 20-30 minutes. There are some really nice salads and cold dishes in this book. There’s a falafel recipe in this book which I’d cook over and over again.”
More of Palmer-Masterton’s favourites from Easy Vegan:
- Brown rice, hazelnut and herb salad with kaffir lime dressing
- Green bean and chickpea salad with sesame dressing
- Italian bean dip
- Sweet potato and coconut soup with Thai pesto
Buy on Amazon | Paperback £4.48 (RRP £10)
2. Vegan Street Food, by Jackie Kearney
“This book is like a trip around Asia – there’s a section on each country,” says Palmer-Masterton. “There are some absolutely spectacular recipes and this is another one where everything I’ve cooked has turned out outstandingly well.
“The recipes are a bit more complicated though and there are definitely issues with quantities. If you’re a novice cook this maybe isn’t the best place to start, but it’s a book for someone who’s gone through the initial stages of cooking vegan cuisine and wants to push themselves a bit, or impress their friends.”
Palmer-Masterton’s favourites from Vegan Street Food:
- Pol sambol – Sri Lankan coconut chutney
- Sambar – Tamil dal
- Sticky coconut rice with mango
- Badass bondas – spicy potato and spring onion balls
Buy on Amazon | Hardback £11.89 (RRP £17)
3. Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
“This is an outstanding book. The woman who wrote this is one of the key players from the early vegan scene,” says Palmer-Masterton. “She really knows what she’s doing with vegan baking – every single cake that I have cooked from this has turned out 100% perfect. It’s all about raising agents, and a lot of recipes will use a combination of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, for instance.
“The other thing is, while it’s called Vegan CupcakesTake Over The World, you can use the basic cupcake recipe for a cake instead and it works out really well. If you are going to get just one vegan baking book, period, then get this one.”
Palmer-Masterton’s favourites from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World:
- Lemon macadamia cupcakes
- Apricot glazed almond cupcakes
- Gingerbread cupcakes
Buy on Amazon | Paperback £10
4. Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
“This was one of the original vegan cooking bibles,” says Palmer-Masterton. “It’s not really one of my favourites in that I don’t use it a lot, but it has a place in my kitchen. It doesn’t have any pictures, but there are absolutely tons of recipes in it and it’s good for just flicking through for ideas.
“The dressings are great. I like a lot of raw food, but raw food is all about the dressing so having a good selection of dressing and dips are really critical to my style of cooking. This book does that really well.”
Buy on Amazon | Paperback £15.99
5. Beautifully Real Food, by Sam Murphy
“This one made the list because of the raw vegan desserts,” says Palmer-Masterton. “When I got this book, I made a few things from it and I was kind of like, yeah… the recipes are okay. It wasn’t until I flicked to the vegan desserts in the back of the book that I realised that this is where this woman is at. She’s got the most delicious vegan raw dessert I have ever tasted! It’s a fruit and nut base, then a mint layer and a chocolate layer.
“Generally, the recipes are quite challenging. Like Vegan Street Food it’s for the more seasoned cook. But the the beauty of raw desserts is that they’re quite simple as they tend to have fewer ingredients and they’re usually just blended. There are added layers of administration, so to speak: you have to soak the cashews, you have to make the base separately and you do need a really powerful blender or it ends up a bit grainy.”
Buy on Amazon | Hardcover £10.70 (RRP £19)