Book recommendation: “Vegan to go” by Attila Hildmann

Today’s book review is about this collection of vegan recipes from Attila Hildmann:

Source: attilahildmann.de

I like the style of this book, the gorgeous pictures, the simplicity of the recipes and of the layout. You can see a preview of the book yourself. Vegan to go is currently only available in German, while two other books from him are translated to English (Vegan for fit and Vegan for fun) – I hope this one gets translated soon, because it has so many useful ideas for lunches and picnics! He also gives a ton of tips about how to optimise cooking (cook a larger amont and use it in other recipes, reuse leftovers, cook several side dishes and combine them in a tasty, varied lunchbox…)

Attila explains the basic principles of veganism in the introduction. I liked how he didn’t try to mass-convert the readers, or worse, to make non-vegans feel guilty about eating meat and dairy, and use that as a moral crowbar. He is great in telling his story and sharing his thoughts about his way of eating. I liked how he shows how vegan recipes don’t have to be boring or ascetic or the normal-recipe-without-meat, and that many recipes in Mediterranean cuisines are already vegan. I also liked how he talks about his hobbies on Facebook: fast cars, sports, vegan recipes… he doesn’t fit the description of the usual vegan, but then I got a revelation: does he have to in order to be considered a proper vegan? Shall we expect that all vegans have everything else in common? I think that he is building a bridge towards all people who are not interested in how vegans dress, have fun, shop and so on, and therefore assume are not interested in how they eat; he shows that eating vegan doesn’t involve the rest of your life, if you don’t make explicit, separate decisions to do so.

Thanks, Attila, for being a great ambassador, for your recipes and your positive vibe!

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In the kitchen: moelleux

Yesterday I had a bit of inspiration for baking. I fancied something chocolatey and muffin-like, so I browsed my cookbooks, especially “La ciliegina sulla torta” from the famous Italian blogger Jessica Leone. This book is a present from my mum, who bought it after reading her blog, tried her recipe for Belgian waffles and adopted it as her default one. That’s huge. My mum used the same waffle recipe for decades (with unanimous approval) and went so far as swapping it for a new one. So when I found a soft chocolate cupcake recipe, I was sure it would come out great.

Moelleux is the French name for a chocolate cake with soft center (see this page [in French] for a great description). It became the favourite word of my geeky friends when we attended FOSDEM earlier this year and feasted on moelleux at our reunion dinner.

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I edited the recipe a bit, because I didn’t want to use butter. I used coconut oil and coconut paste instead. I added too much flour and I compensated that with a spoonful of soya yoghurt and one of almond mousse. The recipe suggested to bake them for 15 minutes for a soft centre, or 20 for a firmer texture. They ended up in between a moelleux and a brownie, with a hint of coconut.

From the kitchen: Pellegrino Artusi’s cookbook

Today I wish to write about an iconic Italian cookbook: La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, from Pellegrino Artusi. It is so famous that people call it simply “l’Artusi”. The book is the collection of hundreds of regional and family recipes from all around Italy, sampled by Artusi during his business travels and published, with significant difficulties, in 1891. No editor dared to publish such a book, considering it too trivial, so he resolved to publish the first edition at his own expenses and risk. After a short time, with great surprise, he became so popular that it sold over 1 million copies and reached 111 editions!

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I bought a copy of it on a street market in Mantua, not suspecting its value, and after a closer inspection, not understanding why someone would sell it. Each recipe starts with a paragraph about how and where he first knew about the dish, a careful explanation of the cooking steps and special attention to the quality of ingredients. It is nowadays not easy to put into practice, because tools, ingredients and quantities have changed so much: he often mentions the large ovens that were common in farms (forni da campagna), meat cuts that I have never seen, and suggests to cook for 8-12 people. It is more an overview of the Italian society than a cookbook, with its rich descriptions, hints on ingredients availability, perils of travelling, funny anecdotes, common ailments, even the final section with menu suggestions for the common holidays you find “Festa dello Statuto”, that was the anniversary of the first Constitution approved by the king.

I have read it in Italian, the rich, musical, aged Italian of the book’s last edition of 1911. There are translations in multiple languages, that I hope keep its peculiar atmosphere. Enjoy!