It may be that the mojo is strong right now, or perhaps I’ve just been lucky with selections, but I have reviewed some great cookbooks recently. Richard Buckley’s “Plants Taste Better: Delicious plant-based recipes, from root to fruit” stands out even among those. Before I continue with what this book is, I should perhaps spend a moment explaining what it is not, from my perspective as someone who loves spending time in the kitchen and is always eager to try new recipes. This book is not for cooks who prefer to take as little prep time as possible. Yes, there are a few recipes that will accommodate you, but the majority will seem like frustrating exercises. Buckley features quite a few recipes whose individual parts must be made in advance, and even though that sometimes means up to days in advance, I realize a good number of casual or busy cooks won’t want to bother.
So, who is “Plants Taste Better” for? Anyone who enjoys recipes that feature commonplace ingredients with a twist and beautiful presentation. Cooks and gourmands who love to tickle the taste buds and don’t mind a little extra effort. One refreshing feature of the recipes is that the ingredient lists are generally relatively short to moderately long.
Buckley begins by offering a bunch of no-nonsense, down to earth advice on cooking, combining flavors, and choosing and buying produce. Unlike most other chefs, he offers a word of wisdom on using salt and cayenne pepper properly, as well. He spends some time explaining what exactly ‘umami’ is and how one can achieve it when cooking. Finally, he goes over essential and nice-to-have kitchen equipment.
The book is divided into Snacks; Soups, Pates, and Light Lunches; Salads; Mains; Desserts; and Breads. The recipes are frequently amended by helpful hints. Nothing is left to chance for those who enjoy stocking their pantry, fridge, and freezer with homemade essentials: From making stocks and pickles, a variety of garnishes like spiced nuts and dukkah, to making pasta (with photos to help with more complicated shapes like tortelloni and an entire section on making perfect gnocchi), oils, butters, and milks, the options are virtually endless. I was particularly impressed with the fact that the Breads chapter begins with a sourdough rye bread, something I have tried to find in our area for ages.
So, is this a must-have? If you feel about food and its preparation as I do, then definitely. More timid cooks may be happy to know that every dish is featured in a photo, as well.
“Plants Taste Better” is published by Quarto Publishing Group – Jacqui Small. I received a free copy for review via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.