I’ll never be a vegetarian but I’m not the sort of boorish meat eater who claims he hasn’t had a meal if it doesn’t bleed. And so it goes I like vegetarian cookbooks and my absolute favourite ones are written by people like me: card carrying carnivores.
I’m a really big fan of River Cottage: Veg Everyday! I’m a fan of Hugh Fearnaley-Whittingstall’s food writing generally and so his approach to meat free food is very in keeping with the way I cook and eat. I’m also a big fan of Simon Hopkinson, so I bought his effort The Vegetarian Option. It’s lovely, but a little odd.
The book is beautiful and the recipes in it are exciting. They’re all a bit fancy, a bit chefy — it’s date night or dinner party food where Hugh’s book is midweek family fare. The bit that’s weird is the obligatory “essay from the chef” that all cookery books must start with. Here “Hoppy” treats us to his philosophy on vegetarian food (he’ll never be one, because he doesn’t like being restricted — fair enough) and then the strange part: a lengthy anecdote about him and his staff lying to and laughing at a vegetarian in his restaurant. It seemed an odd thing to put in a vegetarian book because, well, vegetarians are likely to be reading it. He then goes on to recommend using chicken stock in the recipes (though he does concede you might like to use a nice vegetable bouillon instead). I’ve not cooked from this book yet but I won’t be at all surprised to find a beef fillet or two hiding in here.
Hopkinson may not have quite the respect for his vegetarian audience as he should, but he certainly has a lot of respect for the food. I wonder: will Gordon Ramsay put a vegetarian book out next?