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PICK OF THE BUNCH (article first published : 2002-07-9)

Anybody who has tried cooking a family meal in recent times will be shocked by the spiralling food prices. In my house, meat has certainly become a luxury item while pasta and vegetables are more the order of the day. However, try eating pasta every day and you will soon run out of ideas. Pity the poor vegetarians who always have to make do with either boiled veggies or a platter of some sort. If any of this sounds even vaguely familiar, Lynn Bedford Hall is here to inspire you to new cooking heights.

Pick of the Bunch opens up a whole new world of vegetarian tastes and provides a wealth of ideas which have found great favour among the jaded tastebuds in my house.

This attractively-designed cookbook is divided into light cold meals, light hot meals, pasta, main hot meals and cold buffet. On the whole, the recipes are fairly straightforward yet use ingredients in an innovative way. The mouth-watering photographs sadly illustrate only some of the recipes, although clear and detailed descriptions more than make up for this.

Lynn Bedford Hall’s conversational style is unpretentious and personalises the recipes. There really is nothing fancy about the recipes, it is the unique combination of ingredients and unexpected simplicity of description that makes this a must-have cookbook.

Imagine a fragrant chickpea salad with mango and sprouts, or cucumber cheesecake with avo. Or get your tastebuds going with brown and wild rice stir-fry with ginger and chilli.

My family especially enjoyed the easy pizza with whole-meal crust. They raved about the stuffed butternut squash (cooked butternut halves stuffed with chick-pea, sunflower seeds and currants, liberally flavoured with honey, cumin, coriander, ginger, soy sauce, Greek-style yoghurt and cinnamon topping, baked for thirty minutes…yummy!)

Exploring the section on pasta proved to be another inspiration. Garlicky fettucine with vegetables can be adapted in so many ways, depending on what’s in the vegetable rack. Pesto gets a proper treatment and there are alternative recipes for when you need a change from the magnificent recipes provided.

This is not only a cookbook, it is truly an inspiration. It opens up vegetarian cooking possibilities and with even the barest of cupboards, Lynn Bedford Hall will inspire you to produce and appetising and inventive meal.

Published by the reputable Struik Publishers, Pick of the Bunch retails for R129.95 and is worth every cent. It is highly recommended. Happy vegetarian cooking! - Hendrik Baird




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