Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cookbook Review: Vegan Secret Supper

I've got loads of good cookbooks already - some of which I've hardly explored - and yet, it is nearly impossible for me to resist getting more. So, when the publishers of Vegan Secret Supper offered to send me a copy to review, I jumped at the chance!

First things first, this is an excellent title for a book

Apparently, the author Mérida Anderson used to do secret pop-up dinners out of her home kitchen in New York City, and the menus and recipes in the book are based on those experiences. Here's what I've tried so far:

The first thing I made, without hesitation, was the Dark Hazelnut Rye Bread.

I love this bread so, so much. For some reason, mine didn't turn out nearly as dark as hers did in the book, but I don't really care - because it did turn out DELICIOUS, and that's what really matters. The recipe makes 2 "small" loaves. I 1.5'ed it and made 3 loaves, so that I could give one to my parents. My loaves were sliced up and frozen... so that I could have a couple of pieces for breakfast every day. So, so delicious. I just ran out of my freezer stash, and I can't wait to make more for myself!

Next up, I made the Wild Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin Lemongrass Curry

This dinner was definitely a bit of a project, but in the end, it wasn't actually that much work, or that complicated. The dumplings were easy to make and were baked to perfection. They were very tasty, but also the texture was great. I was really happy to see how firm and not-at-all-crumbly they turned out. Those of you who've experienced crumble-upon-contact dumplings like I have know what I mean.

But the real star of the show was this amazing, thick, luscious and creamy curry sauce. Packed with flavor, velvety texture, and actually pretty darned easy. Instead of the 2 cans of coconut milk the recipe called for, I used 1 can light coconut milk and then some broth, to keep it a bit lighter on calories - and the flavor wasn't lacking for. I will most definitely make this again - the curry sauce comes together super quickly and is really versatile - you could throw just about any veggies or browned tofu in there and have dinner in 30 minutes.  We both loved this meal!

this was hard to photograph at 9 pm

This week I made the Pepper Crusted Cashew Cheese Plate with Juniper Tofu & Olive Tapenade

I was really excited to see this recipe in the book, because I have had a jar of juniper berries for about a year now, and had no idea what to do with them. The Juniper Tofu was good and definitely a new flavor profile for me! There was juniper in the marinade, and also some crushed juniper sprinkled on top of the tofu slices.

You can see with your own eyeballs that this was a totally elegant dinner to put together on a weeknight! But actually, it wasn't all that complicated. It helped that I already had some cashew cheese on hand (from Artisan Vegan Cheese), and instead of serving with pickled beets, I copped out and just served with roasted beets. One thing that I really like about this book is that she really encourages you to modify and adapt the recipes as you please. So, I took her up on it!

The mixed wild rices and red lentils for the dumplings looked so beautiful in the pot together!

Some more observations about Vegan Secret Supper:

~ The book has lots of different sections, including: Starters, Soups, Breads & Grains, Mains, Desserts, Brunch, Teas & Sodas, and a VSS Pantry section. The pantry section has all sorts of cool things like Rejuvelac Nut Cheese, Coconut Melting Cheese, Apple Chipotle Lime Chutney, Smoke-infused Olive Oil, Smoke-cured Coconut... and so on. There's a lot of stuff in there that I'm eager to try out!

~ The write-ups for the recipes aren't really that thrilling. They're short and dry, without a ton of personality. So it's not one of those books that you just sit down and read for the stories.

~ A lot of the recipes seem pretty complicated, but I was surprised that everything I made ended up being quite straightforward and easy. And, most importantly, quite delicious

~ The book is paperback, with lots of nice pictures (but not for every recipe). The layout is really pretty and easy to use.

~ Vegan Secret Supper definitely has something to offer in that it's full of new flavor ideas and new ingredient combinations. This is not one of those books with a million recipes you've seen before. So, if you are a creative and reasonably confident cook who likes to try new things in the kitchen, I really think you'll enjoy VSS. Also, the recipes in VSS are conspicuously low on soy, call for pretty much no processed ingredients at all, and there are plenty of gluten-free offerings.


  1. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Oh, how exciting! I have had this on my list to consider buying, so I am happy you reviewed it. I want to get this and Artisan Vegan Cheese. And then I swear I am not buying anymore cookbooks :)

    jen e.

  2. oooh these look so amazing! i need to try that pumpkin lemon grass curry!mmmm!

  3. wow, this cookbook sounds amazing! i will definitely have to check it out! your pictures are fantastic, too!

  4. Now you totally have me kicking myself for turning down a tester copy! Everything you made sounds so good, I may have to just go out buy myself a copy now :)

  5. Christy R1:47 PM

    I just bought this book. :) I've only tried the Coconut Fettuccine Alfredo (I didn't have time to make the veggies to go with it). It was really good! The only thing is that I used non-light coconut milk and I found that it does give it a pretty strong coconut taste. I made it again a couple of nights later and did mostly coconut milk with a little flax milk (which kept the creaminess, but took down the coconut flavor - I also used a little more of the minced sun dried tomatoes (as I really like the taste that they bring to the dish). It ended up being fantastic. I can't wait to try more of the recipes. :)


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