Giveaway & Review: The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen by Veronica Lavenia

The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen by Veronica Lavenia

The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen cookbook has only one thing about it that annoys me – Veronica Lavenia uses a few cheeses that are NEVER vegetarian and not once does she suggest a vegetarian alternative*. I don’t know what will happen when/if we leave the EU and whether we can happily sod their laws and make our own cheese and call it what we want but, at the moment, as any self-respecting vegetarian can (and will) tell you, Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano is an EU Protected Designation of Origin product and has to be made using calf rennet, therefore making it unsuitable for vegetarians. And if you don’t believe me, you can read The Vegetarian Society’s cheese fact sheet which also points out that Gorgonzola (also used in the book) is never vegetarian either.

[*The author, Veronica Lavenia, has seen this post and here’s her reply:

Of course all PDO cheeses are not vegetarian but times change and,  although some cheeses such as Parmigiano, are made with animal rennet it is equally true that some Italian producers of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano also offer versions  with vegetable rennet (this dairy, for example, http://www.ilverdiano.it/english.php, holds the patent for the vegetarian version of Parmigiano). They export abroad, especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries, but of course, I can’t mention in the book the name of cheese makers. Probably, I should have emphasized the  vegetarian version of Parmigiano. I assumed that it was as easy to find also in the UK as it is in the US but it appears not.]

Now my gripe is out of the way (I don’t know what I’ll get to gripe about if leaving the EU does mean Parmesan can be veggie), I’ll get on with telling you the good points of the book, of which there are many (and I’m sure you’re all capable of finding a vegetarian alternative to Parmesan anyway [hint: Tesco and Sainsbury’s both do one]).

Chocolate salami - The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen by Veronica Lavenia

This book is set out into seasons, and then again into sweet and savoury. The dishes are simple, with affordable ingredients you can find in the supermarket, which means you won’t be thinking ‘what the hell is that?’ and only being able to find a certain ingredient on Amazon and then wondering if it’s worth spending all that money on something you might only use once. As you’d expect from an Italian cookbook, there’s the usual salads, pizza, pasta and polenta and a few dishes that take a look at meat substitutes such as tofu and seitan.

I’ve made the Baked Eggplant (Aubergine) which I loved, even if The Meat Eater did call it a ‘meal for octogenarians’ when I placed a plate containing the gooey bake, soft sweet potato wedges and tender green beans in front of him. The next night, I made the Wholewheat Spaghetti Pie which consists of mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and spaghetti placed on a sheet of puff pastry but, at the last minute and after consulting my bathroom scales, I decided spaghetti was overkill and had a simple – but tasty – mozzarella and cherry tomato tart instead. The next recipe I’ve got my eye on is the Baked Oven Anellini, purely because it looks like aubergine on spaghetti hoops, as you can see in the pic below (although, now I’ve said that, I can’t see anellini pasta in any of the major supermarkets online, dammit).

Baked Oven Anelli - The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen by Veronica Lavenia

I’ll give you the recipe for the Baked Eggplant as it appears in the book (the recipe, that is – the photo’s my own) but don’t disappear just yet as, underneath that, you can find details of how to win a copy of The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen.

4.7 from 10 reviews
Baked Eggplant (Aubergine)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 spring onions (scallions)
  • 4 eggplants (aubergines)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
  • 100g breadcrumbs to taste
  • 100g pecorino cheese, grated, to taste
  • A handful of sun-dried tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Wash and dry the spring onions, cut into thin slices and set aside.
  2. Peel the eggplants and let them soak in salted water 20 minutes.
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs and pecorino cheese together in a bowl.
  4. Cut the eggplants into thick slices and dip them first in oil, then in the breadcrumb and pecorino cheese mixture.
  5. Oil a baking dish and arrange the eggplant in layers, overlapping with the diced spring onions.
  6. Cover with a handful of sun-dried tomatoes.
  7. Bake at 180C/350F/Gas mark 4 for 30 minutes.
Notes
1. Pecorino cheese isn't vegetarian, so I used a vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese (available from Tesco or Sainsbury's).

2. I didn't peel the aubergines (does anyone peel aubergines?)

Giveaway – Win a copy of The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen by Veronica Lavenia

To win a copy of The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen, published by The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen with an RRP of £19.99, just enter via the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen to review and a copy to give away but I was not required to give a positive review (I don’t suppose they’re best pleased I moaned about the cheese though). 


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59 comments

  1. Ive been a happy vegetarian for most of my life but I’m really suffering from a cooking rut at the moment. This book looks packed full of inspiration a plenty, enough to boot me clear out of the rut certainly!

  2. I knew about Parmesan, but not about Gorgonzola. Oh well, not a problem as the wife doesn’t like blue cheeses.

  3. I would love to win this. I am vegetarian and am always trying to find new recipes to keep my meat eating family happy x

  4. This looks like a great book and we are always trying to eat more vegetarian food but are short on ideas.

  5. I like simple and I like affordable! This book sounds like a great read for veggie foodies. Many people are still not aware that parmesan is not vegetarian! It used to bug me as it was so hard finding a decent vegetarian meal at Italian restaurants, but now i avoid cheese all together so I don’t have to worry about it anymore haha!

  6. I’m vegetarian and I had no idea about gorgonzola. I always search for the V sign on cheese and I didn’t notice that. When it comes to blue cheese, I prefer Stilton, so might be a reason I wasn’t aware about the issue with gorgonzola.
    Beside this, the cookbook sounds very nice.

  7. Ooh, your picture looks truly scrummy! I love Italian food and as a vegetarian and eager (if not always successful) cook, I’m keen to try new recipes!

  8. The baked aubergine looks really good, think we might have to try that. I love how aubergine goes all melty.

  9. As a recent convert to vegetarianism I am collecting useful recipes for me and my daughter- this loves perfect as we are great fans of pasta!

  10. This book looks fantastic. I am stuck in a rut of having the same veggie meals over and over and this would liven up meal times so much for me.

  11. I am a lover of Italian food. If I won, I would try to coax fiancé to cook using recipes from the book.

  12. I agree with your gripe about the cheese. But the book still looks good. We are a family of vegetarians but always looking for ideas for different things we can eat.

  13. I’m vegetarian so this is really helpful (especially about the cheeses) and the book looks great – thank you.

  14. My OH is veggie and I’ve toyed with going all the way a million times over. Right now I’m just focussing on eating as little meat and fish as possible and sourcing locally and responsibly when I do. This book would definitely be a welcome addition to our book case!

  15. I decided to eat only vegetarian meals to try and save money. I planned on doing it for a couple of weeks…that was in March! I’ve discovered so many different foods, Thankyou for the inspiration 🙂

  16. I get your gripe about a vegetarian cookbook that uses non-vegetarian cheeses in its recipes but, as you say, there are alternatives out there (I recently tried the vegetarian Bella Lodi, which was lovely but, unfortunately, quite difficult to find to buy). Apart from that, it sounds like a lovely cookbook, and any recipes with aubergines in gets my vote! Great giveaway 🙂

  17. I love baked eggplant but for some reason haven’t made it in ages this has just inspired me for tomorrow night ☺️

  18. I still check labels with regard to cheese, finding a vegetarian alternative to parmesan is so difficult for us because quite often they contain traces of egg which my husband is allergic to.

  19. This sounds like a great book, though I am surprised by the cheese thing – seems like a massive oversight! Even given her response (which makes it make a bit more sense) it seems daft to not mention something in the book when they are well known non-vegetarian cheese.

    And chocolate salami – wow!

  20. Would lov e to win as love making vegetarian meals, but seem to always make similar things – this would really jazz things up!

  21. This would be amazing. Think people are getting fed up of my vegetable lasagne 🙂 Just don’t have the courage or inspiration to do anything other than that if we want veggie Italian. Thanks for the chance.

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