Book Review- Cornucopia- The Green Cookbook

Modestly described on publication as “A timely cookbook from Ireland’s plant-based pioneers”, Cornucopia: The Green Cookbook went on to win the Avoca Cookbook of the Year 2019 title at the An Post Irish Book Awards within weeks of hitting the bookshops - a well-deserved accolade for a beautifully produced book and the team behind one of Dublin’s best-loved and longest established restaurants.

Following a life-changing spell working at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston, Deirdre McCafferty and her late husband Neil returned to Ireland and established Cornucopia in 1986. While their vegetarian ethos is central to Cornucopia, it has always been a place to be enjoyed by all and its story - told by Head Chef Tony Keogh, food writer Aoife Carrigy, the Cornucopia chefs and the owners, mother and daughter Deirdre and Dairine McCafferty - is inspirational. It’s a great read, with happiness, job satisfaction and a sense of community shining through on every page.

This is the second Cornucopia Cookbook - the first, Cornucopia at Home, The Cookbook, was published in 2008, and was vegetarian. Now, with The Green Cookbook, they have taken the ethos further and, like most of the dishes served in the restaurant these days, the recipes are all vegan.

I have reservations about the current rush to veganism and, while I am a keen gardener and love plant-based food, I dislike vegetarian and vegan dishes created to ape traditional meat dishes - so, for example, I would find the tasty stew recipe given below more appealing if it had a less imitative title. And the nutritional challenges of veganism are barely touched on in The Green Cookbook. This is the elephant in the room, but perhaps as a restaurant serving individually delicious meals to happy customers, as opposed to being responsible for their overall dietary choices and any lasting effects that they may have, the educational responsibility is not theirs. It certainly doesn’t detract from the fact that this is an excellent recipe book from an exceptional team and the press release puts it very fairly:

“The mission at Cornucopia has always been to make great-tasting, home produced, healthy, vegetarian and vegan food. At a time when plant-based eating is more popular than ever, they are pioneers in creating delicious, hassle-free meals packed with veg.Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or are trying to cut down on your meat intake, this book brings you punchy flavours, satisfying dishes, a dash of urban cool and a refreshing take on the conventional stereotype of vegan food. The dishes are flexible and include ingredients that can
be easily sourced, allowing you to make healthy and delicious meals for any occasion.This is a cookbook for anyone who feels there is merit is reducing or limiting our consumption of animal-based food products from a trusted team of chefs.”

The main author, Head Chef Tony Keogh, acknowledges that creating good vegan dishes can take more time and effort than conventional cooking, but the recipes are categorised as ‘Simple’ Moderate’ and ‘Complex’ to help you choose something that will suit your mood and available the time - and there is no shortage of helpful guidelines.

SAMPLE RECIPE: Cornucopia’s Quick Irish Stew
“Our twist on an Irish classic is a huge hit in the restaurant during theannual St Patrick's Day festival. This is a simpler version and is perfect for whipping up at home when you want some comfort food, fast. Made with a variety of local root vegetables and a meat substitute of your choice, it is a warming, nutritious option for a cold Irish day. Roasted mushrooms or aubergines also work well, though they are certainly not as traditional. Serve it up with vegan soda bread or a crustyspelt boule.”

75g gluten-free oat groats (or pot barley)
3 large onions, sliced
4–5 medium carrots, diced
3 leeks, white parts only, rinsed and sliced
3–4 bay leaves
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
2 litres stock, homemade or shop-bought
850g floury potatoes, peeled and diced
100ml tamari, or good-quality soya sauce
3 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
rapeseed oil
300g prepared tempeh (soy product made from fermented soybeans), or
seitan (protein rich wheat gluten)
vegan Worcestershire sauce
stick blender and jug or high-speed blender

Cook the oat groats (or pot barley, if using) according to packet instructions.
Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a high heat, add the onions, carrots, leeks and bay leaves and sauté for a good five minutes until softened and browned.
Pour in the stock and add the thyme bunch, tied with twine. Bring to a rolling simmer, add the potatoes and reduce the heat to medium. Cook at a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are nicely cooked. Remove from the heat and fish out the bay leaves and the tied thyme.
Take a couple of ladles of solid matter from the stew and put it in the blender along with the tamari (or soya, if using), Worcestershire andmustard. Blend to a smooth purée before stirring it back into the stew.
Add the cooked oats (or barley) along with the tempeh (or seitan) andseason to taste before serving. This is lovely with an extra swirl ofWorcestershire sauce on top.

*We like to keep our recipes gluten-free where possible, so we use tamari, gluten-free oats and tempeh in this recipe. If gluten-free ingredients are not a priority for you, you could substitute a good-quality soya sauce for the tamari, pot barley for the oats and seitan for the tempeh. 

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