Review: Vegan Soul Food Cookbook

When we in the UK think of food in the US it often looks like food from Epic Vegan: burgers, hotdogs, pizza, doughnuts. Deep fried overindulgence. I’m not knocking it; there’s just a bit of an unfortunate knowledge gap. Which is why I’ll buy pretty much any book with ‘vegan’ and ‘soul food’ in the title. This is my favourite so far. Nadira Jenkins-El’s Vegan Soul Food Cookbook. There’s a great selection of recipes in here and you can tell it’s been written by a professional cook. The recipes are straightforward and unfussy, yet still satisfying. Here are six reasons why I think you should get a copy:

Spiced rice with kidney beans and chard

If you want a quick, simple and so, so filling combo this is the one for you. Caribbean Coconut Greens have become a staple around here. Mostly because ordinarily Kate hates chard (on the other hand when I was a veg grower my boss said to me ‘I’ve never seen someone so into chard’ like I was some chard loving weirdo… not the point). The greens here are cooked in with some herbs, a bit of liquid smoke, and coconut cream to make a rich, flavourful side dish. Here it’s served with Island-Style Rice and Beans. And this is the rice and beans dreams are made of. It serves six and we are two so when I make it I have some leftover for the freezer. Not as much as I should though because I keep going back for a little sneaky spoonful.

Fusilli served in a ‘cheese’ sauce, Popcorn chicken and Broccoli

Looking back at this picture in the future I’ll know it was taken in the autumn of 2020. Why? Well, two reasons. One is the overcooked broccoli. There were a couple of months last year where I could not cook broccoli if my life depended on it (luckily it didn’t). I steam it for four minutes, it’s still raw. I steam it for five and it’s mush. I just couldn’t get it right. Then in December suddenly it’s all okay again and I do not understand. The other thing is the fusilli. I’m not known for using the correct pasta shape to match the sauce but usually I’ll at least be able to get one with a hole through it for Mac and Cheese. But you know what getting pasta has been like recently. This is Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ “Cheese”. Butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese has become a bit of a vegan staple recently but to be honest most of them are trash. Actually all of them are trash except this one. This one is really, really good. It’s not hiding the fact that it comes from a vegetable and has a nice cheesy note to it. It’s one of the first recipes I’ll turn to if a butternut squash turns up on the doorstep. Which they tend to because we get a veg box.

‘Ribs’ straight from the grill, still sat on tinfoil

These Barbecue Riblets are incredible. They’re a seitan/jackfruit combo which makes them moist and tender, and gives it the perfect pull-apart but not fall-apart texture. It’s smothered in the delicious Jerk Barbecue Sauce which is really quick to whip up. The cook time for these is fairly long but not very difficult and you won’t regret the effort.

Cubes of fried tofu smothered in Buffalo sauce in a bright red bowl

The hardest part of this one is remembering to freeze and thaw the tofu. These are the Buffalo Popcorn Chickenless Bites. Fried in about five minutes and tossed in Buffalo sauce. I may have eaten the whole bowl myself. Don’t worry. I went foraging for vegetables after. Also I only made half the recipe so that’s only supposed to serve 3, not 6.

Six tarts with a pecan pie filling on a white plate

I decided that this review wouldn’t be complete without something from the sweet section so I spent yesterday morning making up 12 of these adorable little Pecan Pie Mini Tarts. I love each and every one of them. They have a perfect crisp crust and sweet nutty filling. Everything you want from a tiny pie.

Take a look at this book – you won’t regret it.

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