Sam Stern has always been passionate about food – since he was a kid. Well, actually, he still is a kid. Or a teen. He’s a Teenage Chef who published his first cookbook at fourteen and is now releasing his fifth book – Eat Vegetarian – a fresh take on flavoursome food from the youthful tastebuds of fine a young food connoisseur.
Sam’s first book – Get Cooking – was just the beginning of his culinary publishing journey. Wanting to create recipes for other kids to enjoy and learn from, his books are no-nonsense, refreshing and totally designed to hook anyone with a penchant for the kitchen.
Eat Vegetarian is a bright, well-planned book, full of luscious photos of great food – none of it intimidating, pretentious or prone to over-styling, no no. There’s photos of Sam with his mates (cute!) and it looks like everything has been shot in the family kitchen – showcasing hearty, simple and delicious food anyone can achieve.
Don’t expect highly-stylised, complicated dishes here… but that is part of the charm of Sam’s work. His books would make indespensible first-cookbooks for kids leaving home, or for anyone who wants no-nonsense recipes ideas that will please everyone from tiny tots to Grandad.
Not being a red meat eater myself, and a great lover of good vegetarian food, it’s a delight to witness a young man understanding the pleasure and flavour to be found in vegetarian cooking. Sam believes ‘veggie food is up there with the best’ and he certainly proves it in this tasty book. Sam understands there’s plenty of health to be found in these dishes, and the vitamin and mineral content of food and nutrition is not lost on this young author.
Hailing from England, where a common layperson meal can consist of naught but stodge, it’s refreshing to see this New Jamie Oliver open Eat Vegetarian with, well – how to eat vegetarian. Listing the food items that are included in veggie meals (he includes eggs and dairy), Sam encourages readers to search for ingredrients across the five good groups and how important it is to include variety in vegetarian cuisine.
Sam also provides a checklist of the various food groups and what they do for your body, and how much you should be eating each day (again, perfect for young home-leavers). He also provides a list of ingredients for the pantry, how to store food, where to shop, and how to read labels for hidden ingredients.
Talk about thorough.
Before the recipes begin, this accomplished author gives tips on how to get cooking, and provides a helpful glossary and how-tos on such procedures as separating eggs, kneading and chopping onions. Another fabulous idea is the ‘signs’ throughout the book, showing the reader how many each recipe feeds, whether it is vegan, and if it’s fast to cook. I also love how he prefaces his recipes with teen-talk tips like ‘don’t stress about getting ingredients exact’, ‘experiment with different menu combos’ and his advice on plating up: ‘make everything look great’!
Opening with Speedy Breakfast and Brunch, Sam takes us on a whirlwind journey through quickie breakfast smoothies, making your own yoghurt (Brilliant Own-Style Yoghurt) and even how to make your own Designer Muesli. Breakfast just wouldn’t be breakfast without a Full English or American Breakfast, French toast, scrambled eggs, pancakes and omelets. But there’s also Mushroom Kedgeree and Eggs Florentine, adding a sophisticated spin to the basics.
In Lunches and Light Bites, we learn all about our favourite soups from minestrone to Mulligatawny, sarnies and cheesey snacks (hearty teen food) and yet here comes Veggie Fritters with Ginger Drizzle and Salt & Pepper Tofu, taking any typical repertoire up a notch or twenty.
For Afternoon Tea, the quintessential British tradition, readers can dive into flapjacks, meringues and Good Old Rock Cakes (oh yum) and of course, how could we pass over brownies and lemon drizzle cake? Yes yes, there’s scones and Victoria Sponge Cake, don’t worry.
In Dinner, we tuck into several styles of pizza, pasta and loads of delicious veggies – and it’s obvious Sam had fun including a fine selection of Asian food, for which he has an affection. Rounding out Dinner – and it’s so much fun flicking through this book and oohing and ahhing over the old time favourites including – is Shepherd’s Pie and Cornish Pasties, for which no book of classic English fare is complete without. But these are sitting happily alongside French Onion Tart, Thai Green Curry and Spanakopita, proving the author holds a fine balance of food understanding and appreciation that stretches the globe.
Don’t even start me on Puddings. Toffee Bananas, Brandy Snap Baskets, Mango Crumble and Custard, Lemon Tart, Summer Pudding, Bread and Butter Pudding… need I say more?
I love this book because it doesn’t hide the fact that it’s not meant for high-end culinary wannabes. It’s designed purely to get kids in the kitchen yet is a priceless addition to the adult cookery stash, adding heartily to anyone’s regular line-up of classics and hearty, delicious food that loses pretention to flavour and ease. It also – and this is the remarkable part about this book – doesn’t feel like a ‘vegetarian’ cookbook. This is hearty, flavoursome, tasty food – and kids won’t even know they’re gaining a full fibre and vitamin punch with the recipes gleaned from this book.
No fuss, fun, clever, comprehensive – I’ll be propping Eat Vegetarian up on my kitchen bench this week and letting the kids loose!
Eat Vegetarian is published by Walker Books, RRP AU$24.99