Vegans will love this cookbook that has grown out of a popular Indian food blog. Now it's possible to enjoy classics like tofu-paneer in spinach and chicken-free balti.
Throughout my quest for good vegetarian and vegan cookbooks that inspire and satisfy with their recipes, I’ve come to realize that the best books share something in common: the authors actually follow the plant-based diet that’s promoted in the book. It’s astoundingly simple, and yet I’ve been surprised at how many cookbook authors do not profess to be vegetarian or vegan themselves; they’re simply developing recipes to meet demand or fill a void in the already-saturated cookbook world.
When a cookbook author really knows what it means to go meat-free, the recipes take on a different feel. They use normal, everyday ingredients; they provide main courses that are hearty and filling (and do not focus exclusively on salads and stir-fries); they develop interesting and complex recipes that one would want to eat, even if one were not meat-free themselves.
One such book is a brand-new offering from Seattle-based food blogger Richa Hingle. “Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook” (Vegan Heritage Press, 2015) is unusual because it takes Indian cuisine – which is already known for its strong vegetarian culture – and makes it vegan, something that you don’t normally see.
Hingle teaches home cooks how to use tempeh and soybean tofu in curries, and how to make vegan paneer (fresh Indian cheese), using almonds and cashews, as well as homemade chickpea tofu (also known as Burmese tofu). She manages to transform well-known dairy-based desserts into vegan versions, such as gulab jamun (doughnuts soaked in sugar syrup) and kulfi (spiced ice cream). There are plenty of gluten-free recipes. The cookbook also features many delicious traditional Indian dishes that are unchanged because they’re naturally meat-free.
A former software engineer, Hingle was vegetarian before going vegan. The transition was stimulated by her connection to adopted dogs and the sense that she couldn’t eat one animal while caring for another as a member of the family. She was distressed by the exploitation of the mother-infant bond in the dairy industry. She writes in the preface:
“After the initial transition [to veganism], I started working on vegan versions of restaurant-style Indian food, and cheese- and dairy-dependent desserts, to replace the memories and tastes I loved with plant-based versions. My goal was and is to not give up any foods we like, but rather to replace them with non-animal-based versions.”
“Vegan Richa” is a serious Indian cookbook, with an impressive set of recipes for a book that looks small at first glance. Hingle’s photography is excellent, without being overly stylized, and makes the book appealing to use.