I’m pleased to present the review of and my cooking adventures with The Afro-Vegan cookbook by Bryant Terry. As a cookbook collector, I think the cookbook is beautiful. The plant-based recipes are southern with African and Caribbean influences.
In the words of the author:
Imagine if you removed the animal products from African, Caribbean, Southern, and other Afro-influenced cuisines, then meticulously cut, pasted, and remixed the food to produce recipes with farm-fresh ingredients as their heart and soul: that is Afro-Vegan.
As a fun element, each recipe has a musical soundtrack suggestion, and there are film and book suggestions on some recipes.
I know that many people shy away from a book like this because they fear the recipes will be too far outside of their comfort zone, or the recipes will require expensive ingredients that are hard to find. The ingredients used in the recipes won’t require a trek to a specialty store. This is very important to a lot of people, especially those who are new to cooking, and those who are intimidated by cooking recipes that seem foreign or confusing. I have a number of super fancy ingredient cookbooks, and while I love to look through them (because I do look through my cookbooks, even when I have no intention of making anything from them), the convoluted recipe list doesn’t inspire me to get in the kitchen. The recipes, photos, and ingredient lists in Afro-Vegan make me want to throw on my apron and get to work.
You need a bit of an adventurous palate for these recipes. The foundation of the recipes are based on solid pantry staples, but the manner in which Terry combines spices and introduces other ingredients into a dish may have you raising an eyebrow. Don’t fret. I made five of the recipes, and I enjoyed each of them.
The book isn’t heavy on images. A photo doesn’t accompany every recipe. I know some people like the idea of seeing every recipe photographed, but the images that are included are beautiful.
Potatoes are one of my favorite foods, and the smashed potatoes with peas, corn, and chile-garlic oil recipe is easy to prepare, and it will undoubtedly become a favorite menu item for your family. Don’t be afraid of the chile-garlic oil. If you don’t want it too spicy, cut back on the chile pepper. Remember, the mixture will have a great deal more spice when it is made fresh and will mellow out after it has been in the fridge overnight. Try it and see how you like it.
The All-Green Spring Slaw is a great side for the smashed potatoes, because it calms the heat of the chile-garlic oil. This fresh and light dish can be paired with just about anything. The dressing has a foundation of silken tofu that can easily be whipped up and added to another favorite salad. I’m normally not a fan of slaw, but this green cabbage recipe features additions like peas, sugar snap peas, celery, and raw pumpkin seeds.
You may think you know glazed carrots, but I bet you’ve never had them quite like this. I make a sweet glazed carrot dish around the holidays every year (I am from Texas!), but this savory dish is a delightful twist on that menu favorite. This recipe will surely surprise your guests and palette, as the cinnamon, garlic, cumin seeds, cilantro, and peanuts propel this dish to another level. The roasted cumin seeds add a spice that is mellow and delicious. This would be a great item to bring to a potluck or summer barbeque.
Collard greens have been a staple of my diet my entire life. Collard greens are easy to make and have many health benefits. This recipe calls for thinly sliced collard greens, and as someone that usually just roughly chops or tears the greens, this was new for me. The thin cuts combined with cabbage lightens the flavor of the greens and prevents the greens from turning into the large mush pile that so many people cite as a reason that they refrain from the vegetable. I was pleased to find bagged collard greens that were thinly sliced. If you are short on time, finding them sliced will help reduce preparation time.
I would never have thought to throw cabbage in with my greens, but I really enjoyed the extra texture and flavors. I love garlic, and this recipe calls for seven cloves! Again, if that is too much garlic for you, adjust the amount to fit your tastes.
Of all the recipes that I tried, this one took the most preparation. It requires prior planning, as the raw cashews and basmati rice need to be soaked overnight, and the dessert needs to chill. The nectarines and peach puree add sweetness to the cashew cream and rice. Smooth and delicious, this pudding is already a favorite in our house.
Put the pudding in these little 4 oz. canning jars, and you’ve created a portable snack that is ready when you want it. You can toss them in your lunch sack or make them in advance for a weekend outing. They make a great snack any time of the week.
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Seasoned cooks and newbies alike will benefit from this cookbook. Based on many well-known recipes, the mundane recipes you may have grown accustomed to are taken to new heights of flavor. The techniques used in the book are unlikely to confuse or overwhelm a new cook. Additionally, this book would make a great gift for anyone who is attempting to incorporate more plant-based recipes into their diet.
Interested in trying one of his recipes? Check out this recipe for Muscovado-Roasted Plantains.
Find Afro-Vegan in an independent bookstore near you!
You can follow Mr. Terry on FB and Twitter, too.
Disclaimer: I received this free book from Blogging for Books for this review. I’ve provided my honest opinion and experience with the book.