If you are the type of person who eschews meat or dairy analogues on principle or has a distaste for them, the The Gentle Chef Cookbook, by Skye Michael Conroy, isn’t for you. But if you, like many of us, love to veganize the meals you grew up with, this may be just what the book you’re looking for!
The focus of The Gentle Chef Cookbook is solidly on faux meat and dairy products. Fifty pages are dedicated to different seitan-based ‘meats’ alone. Other chapters cover soy meats and dairy substitutes. Combined, these analogue recipes account for about 1/3 of the book, and many recipes in the subsequent chapters incorporate them, for example the Seitan Asada Tacos (which uses one of the seitan recipes) or Creme of Mushroom Soup (which incorporates both the butter and the heavy cream substitutes).
As a reformed dairy addict without the patience for labor-intensive vegan cheese-making, I was especially interested to try The Gentle Chef’s reputedly easy cheese recipes.
The cashew-based Creme Cheese was simple, quick, and fairly convincing. The texture was wonderful, though it did have a touch of nutty flavor.
The Fresh Nut Mozzarella uses agar to form a firm block of cheese. While it’s not meant to melt and stretch, it captures the mouth-feel of cheese well. I found it a little flavorless, but sliced with tomato and basil, it made a wonderful vegan caprese appetizer.
If you’re not interested in making your own dairy or meat substitutes but still do use them, you’ll find much to enjoy in this latter part of the book, since the recipes can generally be made with store-bought substitutes as well.
While there are many international recipes, I appreciated that the book covers a great deal of traditional American fare, from Yankee Pot Roast to Chesapeake Bay Seafood Cakes. Party favorites like Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip or Macaroni Picnic Salad get a thoroughly vegan makeover.
The Gentle Chef Cookbook is a fun experiment in veganizing traditionally non-vegan foods. Was the experiment successful? I say yes!
Photo credits: The Gentle Chef /Kasey