Having written 60 vegetarian and vegan cookbooks in 40 years, Rose Elliot can easily be called the grand dame of British vegetarians.
She has other credentials to back it up. Her books of vegetarian and vegan cooking have been credited with contributing to the growth of British meatless cuisine, by no less an authority than Her Majesty. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth bestowed the Order of the British Empire on Elliot for her "services to vegetarian cookery."
Her "New Complete Vegetarian" distills the best of her cooking repertoire into a broad reference book, loaded with more than 1,000 succinct, relatively simple recipes. Many are vegan, including no animal products like milk or eggs, and are marked as such.
This is a book dedicated to passing on accumulated kitchen wisdom, not impressing page-turners with pretty pictures. The color photographs are few and far between, so if you need the reassurance of images, this might not be the one vegetarian volume to have.
Any cookbook that wants to be "complete" has to cover a lot of ground, and Elliot's does. She starts with familiar soups -- carrot and coriander, celery and tomato, chilled cherry -- before adding her versions of international favorites, like borscht (Russian beet), dal (Indian lentil) and vichyssoise (creamy French potato).
The first courses, snacks and appetizers section features recipes that would be welcome at any party, like marinated mushrooms, sweet potato bhajis (fritters), pears with blue cheese and walnuts, or more than 20 spreads and dips. Others might work better at a small dinner, like eggplant fritters with tomato sauce and avocado and grapefruit salad.
Dinnertime candidates abound, with vegetable dishes substantial enough to anchor a meal. Root vegetables in turmeric and coconut sauce, cashew and dill fritters, cauliflower satay and fennel stuffed with cream cheese and almonds are among the main dishes, which range from simple to ornate.
There are entire sections on beans, pasta and grains and rice. Tarts and pies get their own chapter, as well as cheese and eggs, baking and breads, cakes and doughs.
Desserts don't get short shrift either, starting at simple fruit preparations like baked apples with raisins, to traditionals like trifle and linzertorte, and exquisite summer treats like melon sorbet with crystallized mint leaves.
By the time it's through, "New Complete Vegetarian" leaves even meat eaters thinking that vegetarianism might not be so bad.
>New Complete Vegetarian
By Rose Elliot
Sterling400 pages; $30