It's time for another book review and giveaway! And there's also an author interview and a free recipe in here! This post is just jam-packed with goodies. If you're in a hurry and want to go to straight to the giveaway, you can click here.
A lot of people seemed to enjoy the interview I did with Lani Muelrath, author of The Plant-Based Journey, a couple of months ago, so I went searching for another book that you would appreciate. And I found just the thing!
You may already know Lindsay S. Nixon, author of the Happy Herbivore series of cookbooks and creator of the Meal Mentor meal plan programme. She's also the host of two podcasts: Shortcut to Slim and the Meal Mentor Co-Pilot Podcast.
Lindsay is a busy woman!
Not to mention the fact that she's a keen globetrotter and has been to at least 40 different countries, including extensive travels in Europe.
The book I want to share with you today, though, is her Happy Herbivore Abroad recipe book! It's a combination travelogue/cookbook and includes more than 135 vegan recipes from around the world. Some of these are naturally vegan local specialities, like gazpacho and patatas bravas from Spain, aloo gobi from India, or colcannon from Ireland.
Others are traditionally non-vegan dishes that Lindsay has expertly adapted, making them not only vegan but also low-fat or fat-free. It's a real joy to flip through the pages of Happy Herbivore Abroad and be taken on a culinary journey around the world. In addition to telling the history of the dishes themselves, Lindsay also shares stories from her own travels, adding a personal touch to the book.
And of course, her travel stories reminded me of my own travel stories.
If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you might remember that in 2015 I wrote about a trip that Nick and I took to Toulouse, France. At that time, Nick was still eating meat, and he wanted to try the local speciality known as cassoulet. I won't list the ingredients of a traditional cassoulet, but suffice it to say it is most definitely not vegan.
We ended up at a local restaurant called the Maison du Cassoulet, where the staff were very friendly and accommodating but had a hard time scrounging up enough vegetables to make me a decent salad. No biggie, I survived, but it certainly wasn't a culinary highlight of my travels.
So when I saw that Lindsay had veganized this southern French dish for her book, I couldn't wait to try it and share it with you. Cassoulet, Happy Herbivore-style, is a rich, slow-cooked stew of white beans and vegetables, seasoned with thyme and parsley.
I was thrilled when Nick cooked up this delicious and hearty version of the dish that made us all very happy herbivores, including the geese, ducks and pigs who didn't get eaten! He even served it in an earthenware pot, similar to the traditional cassole that cassoulet gets its name from.
Want to try this at home? Here's the recipe!
8 oz vegetable broth
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, skinned and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme, divided
2 tbsp fresh parsley, divided
1 tomato, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 15-oz can white beans (any kind), undrained
thyme sprig (garnish)
Line a large pot with a thin layer of vegetable broth, and sauté onion and garlic over high heat until onions start to become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, and remaining broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium, cover, and keep cooking until carrots are softer but still firm, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tbsp fresh thyme, 1 tbsp fresh parsley, diced tomato, and tomato paste, stirring to combine. Continue to cook until carrots are fork-tender and soft, but not mushy or falling apart—about 4 more minutes. Stir in beans (with liquid) until well combined and add remaining fresh thyme and parsley. Reduce heat to low and cook until beans are warm. Ladle into a bowl and garnish with a thyme sprig.
Chef’s Note This recipe is adapted from Gourmet (March 2008). For a more traditional experience, add sliced vegan sausage. Use no-salt-added or low-sodium beans if possible.
Not only was Lindsay generous enough to share her recipe, she also took the time to answer a few questions about her travels:
Q: Of the all places you have visited, which one has had the best vegan food?
A: The following European cities are internationally known for being vegan food Meccas: Berlin, Ghent, Glasgow, London, and Prague. I agree these cities have a lot of vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants, plus a strong presence of veganism in general. It ultimately depends on what kind of food you are looking for.
"Best" is very subjective. Take pizza for example, some people might say NYC is "best" for pizza, while others will say Chicago. It's more about what YOU want and are seeking i.e., thin crust or deep dish. I think that applies pretty universally to all food, vegan food included.
Tokyo has the best tofu, for example, but that doesn't meant it's THE BEST for all vegan food, just that it's THE BEST place for tofu. 🙂
Q: Have any places surprised you – places that you thought wouldn’t be vegan-friendly, but actually were?
A: When I first traveled to Europe, everyone insisted I'd starve in Germany, and I've found Germany to be perhaps the most vegan-friendly. In fact, the first all-vegan supermarket chain started there! Likewise, everyone cautioned me about Ireland and France, but I had a lot of really great meals in both places.
And then there are the places, like Asia, where you think it'll be super easy--noodles! vegetables! tofu! but then you realize they traditionally put fish in everything so you have to be more hyper-aware than you had anticipated.
Overall, it's the same in America or abroad--some place are more veg-friendly or veg-aware than others, and patience is always key. Similarly, there are thousands of restaurants you'd never want to eat at, but there are thousands more that you would (and will).
My best advice would be to either go on vacation for the experiences of that place (making food secondary) or go on an eating vacation--going somewhere specifically for the food. You'll save yourself a lot of stress with one focus because few places do both really well.
Q: How do you go about researching dishes that are not vegan but that you want to recreate in a vegan version when you get home?
A: Research the original recipe and figure out ways to adapt it to be vegan. For example, I was intrigued by Irish Stew that was all around Ireland, so I looked up the traditional recipe for it.
I realized that, except for the beef broth and beef strips, it was vegan, so I substituted my home-made mock beef broth for the broth, and used portobello strips to replace the beef, along with some spices I use for "beef"-like flavor.
Q: Your recipes focus on healthy, whole foods without added fats like oil. How do you deal with the challenge of finding healthy options when eating out?
A: A little pre-planning can go a long way. I often research the restaurants in cities I'm visiting before my trip--seeing what their menu looks like and if there are dishes that meet my standards or can be modified. This isn't always possible, however, and when that happens I'll frequent restaurants that I know are reliable for healthy fare, such as a Thai place.
OR I'll just scan the menu for items I can work with--even leaving something off one of the dishes, or creating a meal based on menu items I see. (There are a lot of tips in The Happy Herbivore Guide to Plant-Based Living; see the eating out and travel cheaters). Overall, I try not to "live to eat."
I love a good meal as much as the next person, but I don't expect every meal to be Thanksgiving or a magical culinary experience. I want to have fun and explore--food is fuel so I can go do that.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who is worried about finding vegan food while travelling abroad?
A: I've been to 40 or more countries at this point and never had trouble finding something to eat. If you're super worried, pack food in your luggage so you have something for sure, but you can find bread, salad, and fruit everywhere. There are always fruit stands, and farmers' markets, and supermarkets in addition to restaurants. Most people want to help you, and learning a few phrases in another language is very helpful. Mostly, you just need to have patience.
And now, the moment you've been waiting for! Your chance to win a free copy of Happy Herbivore Abroad!
Update (14 July 2016): This giveaway has ended, and the winner has been drawn randomly and notified. If you entered but didn't win, there's still a small consolation prize coming your way. Look for it soon in your email inbox!
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