Penguin, Canada, 2019
I came across Desiree Nielsen on the SBS food channel with her Urban Vegetarian show and was immediately taken not just with the things she cooked and her approach to nutrition but also with her ebullient and personable manner.
Let me start by saying that while I am a vegetarian in so much as I don’t eat meat (red or white), I am a committed eater of cheese, dairy products in general and eggs and I do eat some fish and seafood because I feel I need it.
Much of what Desiree Nielsen cooks is Vegan friendly and the recipes in this book are all Vegan friendly and gluten free, but the focus is on eating for a healthy body and digestive system – more anti-inflammatories, less sugar and saturated fat, good gut health and sustainable healthy weight with stable blood sugars.
‘Just eat more plants’ is her simple message, taking time to make cooking a part of your daily life as self-care. This means eating joyfully – real foods not processed ones, cooking more often and drinking more water (though we do see her sit down with a glass of crisp white on the tv show) – there is no moral tone to this and it’s not about deprivation – it’s about healthful, happy eating.
The first four chapters are information – about inflammation, the benefits of plant-based foods, nutrition and setting up your kitchen to work with plant-based cooking. Do read all of this, tempting though it is to dash straight to the recipes. It will make it easier for you to cook from the book and it will also help make sense of and personalise the philosophy and practice.
Having said that, I am going to refer you to things that leap out of the pages as definitely worth going ingredient shopping so you can add such things to your current weekly menus – which, let’s face it, can easily become repetitive and samey – even if you don’t want to become vegetarian or Vegan.
Get out your blender or food processor and buy a good cook’s knife is my advice if you want to cook from Eat More Plants. Stock your pantry with the staples and shop regularly for fresh fruit and veg.
People with grandchildren may like to try the Mujadara Neat-Balls in Spiced Tomato Sauce (yes neat not meat) p. 177 – a great alternative to your regular Spaghetti and Meatballs standard. People who leap cheerily out of bed in the morning (this is not me) may like to try one of Desiree’s smoothie recipes (Blushing Beet Smoothie Bowl p. 98 looks pretty as well as being simple to make and full of good fruit) or you could go for a breakfast muffin or scone.
There’s a good-sized chapter on salads – the Pink Grapefruit and Fennel salad on p. 116 is a stand-out; the snacks and dips should tempt you away from potato crisps for party entertaining or family, especially in an Australian summer and the dessert and biscuits/cakes section indulges your sweet tooth via maple syrup, vanilla extract and fruits. And finish yourself off with a tahini date shake – yes, it’s back to the blender with you.
Desiree Nielsen is at https://desireerd.com/ where she espouses the delightful notion – You are meant to feel amazing – and she has sign in e-newsletter.
Eat More Plants is available at your local book stores or online.