It’s a Tuesday night, there’s homemade vegetable soup cooking through on the stove, a loaf of bread being slowly eaten into on the chopping board and a cookbook to talk about- what could be better?
Sam Murphy’s Beautifully Real Food landed on my doormat a few weeks ago, and I’m not kidding when I saw it’s stayed by my bed ever since.
There are only a few books that make it up to those ranks. But this is a gorgeous tome, and one I’ve loved opening for those first ten minutes after waking up, or that final half an hour when you’re determined not to go to sleep just yet.
I’m a TOTAL self-confessed cookbook addict. I come from a long line. My parents have separate rooms in the house for different cookbooks and how near they need them to be at all times. In the kitchen = premier league. Mum’s work room = someone feels nostalgic about it. My bedroom= just in case Dad forgets that incredible toad in the hole recipe.
What I love is that some of the kitchen ranking cookbooks are brand new, sure, but some are also ancient- sellotaped at the bindings and stuck together with a forgivable mix of cake batter and cooking wine.
In my eyes, a good cookbook should have a few gateway recipes- things you’ve been desperate to try for ages. On top of that, I love any technical advice the cook is willing to share. I like to hear from a cook that’s generous enough to share what’s helped them improve over the years. The skills you don’t just pick up from familiarity. I’m not talking about those annoying four pages every cookbook you pick up now seems to spend talking about stocking a pantry and using a freezer more if you're on a budget. I’m talking useful tips for styling food you’re going to serve- or how to make that pudding taste great four days after makign it. Especially vegan cooks, when you’re working with alternate rules to the rest of the cooking world. Taming tofu, baking with various egg replacers- we all need help with this.
And finally: A great cookbook should also push you to try out recipes you never would have gone near before opening its pages. This is where you can become a better cook: when you trust the author and are learning new skills.
So, you know what’s coming: Sam Murphy’s book does all of these things. I love it. On first glance, the photography is gorgeous and the styling is bang on. The food looks beautiful but attainable (mine and Hannah’s favourite word of the moment), meaning you can be totally motivated to go and try some new recipes out. I love how Instagram-influenced the photography is actually. Within a few page turns, it made me want to eat brighter, fresher, homemade food- purely because it just looks like a lot of fun and that I could actually achieve something similar.
The first night I was reading this book, we’d already ordered in pizza due to it also being That Day Where Everything Went Wrong. But when I got to the sauce section of the book, I had to give making vegan aioli a try to go alongside my pizza. It was incredible! I sat in bed with an entire mug of it, dipping pizza crusts into it and wondering why I didn’t have stashes of various vegan mayo (mayi?!) in my fridge all the time.
Another thing I love is that the book is extensive: you could run an entire restaurant off these options, but Sam manages to stick to some main categories of food, like burgers, sauces, smoothies and cheesecake slices, so you can really get to know the different recipes and play about with them yourself. Instead of trying to provide 100+ different bowls of food, you can delve deeper into perfecting a burger recipe or getting that nacho sauce just right.
And the final thing? There’s a lot of technical help, and a lot of guidance. This is the first vegan cookbook I’ve read in the past few years of veganism coming into the mainstream that actually did some myth-busting for me. I found Sam's advice as useful as I've found Isa Chandra Moskowitz- she gets that people will often be cooking with ingredients they've never seen anyone prepare before, and how fun and daunting that can be. Sam explains how to make those beautiful raw cheesecakes you’ll often see dotted about her Instagram by using some of the base mixture to re-mold and decorate the top. She talks about jackfruit, gives a seitan cutlet recipe, a raw Snickers bar recipe, queso dip… I feel like whether you’re just going vegan or have been vegan for a few years, this is a really helpful guide for some of the recipes you might have been struggling over.
All in- it’s a really generous book. Sam hasn’t held back or written a book to just get started. I feel like Beautifully Real Food has everything in it to build a new way of eating vegan around- not overnight- but more… the things I took for granted that I decided not to bother with making again (cashew cheese sauce, different stir frys, breakfast burritos) I actually want to try again!
** COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY **
I’m really excited to launch Guac’s first ever reader giveaway! I have one copy of Beautifully Real Food to give away to one UK-based reader (sorry international pals- I’ll work on something for everyone in the future, promise!).
All you need to do is answer the following question in the comments below, or on my Instagram comments for this post:
What is the one vegan recipe you’d love to learn how to make?
Whether you take inspiration from what I’ve mentioned above or have been grappling with getting something just right for ages- let me know!
A winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday 28th February. Good luck!