The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia

We’ve teamed up with Waterstone’s, and this month our favourite book is a collection of show-off vegetarian dishes that will leave even carnivores begging for more.

The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia

Mushroom risotto: it’s the bane of many a vegetarian’s life. On menus across the land, it’s often the only meat-free option, thrown in at the last moment to tick a box. It could be superbly made, but if it’s the same dish you had at the last three restaurants, then it’s hardly likely to raise much of a smile.

Maria Elia’s elegant, inventive recipes will come as a breath of fresh air to exasperated veggies – and indeed to everyone else – because this isn’t so mucha vegetarian cookbook as one whose recipes happen not to contain any meat.

The recipes would make for an impressive dinner party menu – one at which the ‘V’ word could go unmentioned, thanks to Elia’s unexpected and inspiring flavour combinations. Sweet figs snuggle up to rich, salty Manchego in a luxurious, savoury tarte Tatin, and the musky woodland flavour of porcini mushrooms takes on a new dimension when combined with vanilla. Ginger beer-battered, stuffed tofu is served with Asian mushy peas, and watermelon curry is paired with black beans and paneer.

Not many chefs can pull off such bold combinations, but a look at Elia’s past offers an explanation. Raised in the kitchen of her father’s restaurant, she has trained in eateries across the world (including Spain’s top two triple-Michelin-starred restaurants, el Bulli and Arzak). Impressive stints in Italy, the US, Australia and Thailand also feature in this Anglo-Greek chef’s outstanding culinary CV.

And in true top chef fashion, her recipes can be as simple as a stock made from discarded pea pods, or as challenging as using that same flavour in four elaborate dishes of soup, custards, jellies and crostini.

With accomplished recipes and stunning photography, this is first-rate entertaining food that anyone can eat. In a way, it’s a shame the book has the word ‘vegetarian’ in the title, because with food this good, the absence of meat is neither here nor there.

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Get tickets for Maria’s cookery demo on 21 May



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