I start each day in the quiet of my kitchen, waiting for the kettle to finish boiling water for my coffee, staring at the pile of cookbooks on the counter, and I meditate through the meal possibilities for the day. Some days, I come to the answer of what to cook immediately and, some days I feel as though I’m pushing myself to want to cook. These are strange new days indeed, and I’m grateful for the routine cooking gives me. Ingredients dictate what I make more so than any other factor and, with much fewer trips to the grocery store I’m relying on my pantry items (canned/dried) to make meals with. This leads into the bigger question of what cookbooks out there support this type of pantry cooking?
Thinking about vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based cooking an image comes to mind of plates and bowls full of fresh, vibrant produce. Maybe you think of unique (read: expensive) or difficult to source ingredients. At times, vegan cooking can seem unapproachable or complicated based on how certain techniques, kitchen equipment, or ingredients are used. When I received a copy of Katy Beskow‘s Five Ingredient Vegan: 100 Simple, Fast, Modern Recipes I was pleasantly surprised how approachable and useful it is. Five Ingredient Vegan came into my life just before the quarantine was enacted in Canada and, in the weeks since, I’ve found this book to be the one I return to for simple, delicious, budget-friendly meals.
Why? For the simple fact that I already have most of the ingredients already in my pantry. I’m impressed how Beskow can distill the most important elements of a recipe so that you will, in fact, end up with something delicious. Her 5-ingredient recipes certainly don’t preclude adding other elements or ingredients but, to be honest, I’ve stuck to the recipes. I own one other 5-ingredient cookbook and, it’s so light on the vegetarian/vegan recipes I don’t use it that often. The beauty of Beskow’s cookbook is that anyone can find recipes to enjoy and, if you need to add an animal-based protein you can totally do that but, as they are, the recipes within Five Ingredient Vegan are completely satisfying (there is protein in beans, legumes, and even vegetables too).
Speaking about beans and legumes, there are many recipes in the book that make good use of them. From the Coconut Dhal (red lentils) to the Speedy Chickpea Masala then the Boston Beans (navy beans) to the Simple Bolognese (green lentils), we’ve enjoyed all of these hearty recipes. And, for people looking to include more beans and legumes into their diet, Five Ingredient Vegan offers a wide variety of recipes to choose from. Since her recipes use canned beans, you don’t have to worry about soaking and cooking beans ahead of time, which is also a time saver. With these seemingly endless days at home, I’m still not quiet committed to take the time to make everything from scratch and, I welcome useful shortcuts to getting a meal on the table.
The recipes are organized into 5 main chapters (Soups, Lunches, Suppers, Sweets, and Basics), with additional sections on kitchen tips and advice. Most of her recipes serve between two and four people and, many of these recipes can be easily doubled to increase the yield. Every recipe I’ve made and served to my husband and daughter has been enjoyed — some standout favourites have been the Coconut Dhal, Welsh Rarebit Stuffed Potatoes, and the Simple Bolognese. I really appreciate Beskow’s fuss-free approach and, for those who are new to home cooking then this is a great cookbook to start with.
One of my favourite recipes is the Spiced Parsnip Bisque. Parsnips taste so wonderful after they’re roasted and, combined with coconut milk and garam masala (a tasty spice blend of things like Cumin, Coriander, Green and Black Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Bay leaves, Peppercorns, Fennel, Mace and dried Chilies). This rich and flavourful soup is the perfect meal for the cooler, early spring days we’re experiencing and, I feel like the warm hug of a good soup is just what I need most days. Normally, I serve roasted parsnips as a side but I’m happy to incorporate it into a recipe (and, truth be told, my daughter much prefers to enjoy it in this soup).
Some of the recipes I’ve tried take a bit more cook time, such as the Welsh Rarebit Stuffed Potatoes (a twice-baked, stuffed potato) and the Coconut Panna Cotta w/ Mango Coulis (it takes time for the agar flakes and coconut milk to set up). But this extra time is really what is referred to as “passive cook time” — the time something is cooking/baking/setting up but you’re not actually doing anything during this step. I find during this waiting period I take it as an opportunity to clean up the kitchen so that there’s less to tidy-up at the end. If we’re all spending more time cooking meals each day, it’s a much easier task when there’s minimal clean up, which is why I’m gravitating towards Five Ingredient Vegan. Beskow’s recipes and methods are simple so that you’re not left with a mountain of pots/pans/dishes in the sink afterwards. That’s worth gold, in my mind!
If you’re looking to purchase one cookbook during this extended time at home (or even any time at all), may I suggest Katy Beskow’s Five Ingredient Vegan? It’s one cookbook that I’ve come to rely on because it makes excellent use of what I’ve got in my pantry. Even though the recipes only use five ingredients, Beskow’s done an excellent job of developing easy recipes that have flavour and substance. If you’re curious to see what else I’ve been cooking from Beskow’s book, then checkout my dedicated Facebook post or my custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthy5ingredientvegan.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Quadrille Publishing and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.