On first glance, The World Food Café Vegetarian Bible seems to be part National Geographic Magazine, part travelogue and part vegetarian cookbook. This isn’t surprising when you discover that Chris Caldicott used to be a freelance photojournalist and also London’s Royal Geographical Society’s glamorous-sounding Expedition Photographer-in-Residence. It was this opportunity to travel and eat in exotic locations that led to his desire to open his own world food restaurant. After meeting his wife, Carolyn, they travelled the world together before opening the World Food Café in London’s Covent Garden which was the go-to place for adventurous vegetarian food for twenty years. As travelling vegetarians, they faced the challenge of finding food in countries where the traditional cuisine leant more towards meat and seafood.
They managed it though and the World Food Café Vegetarian Bible is a compilation of recipes inspired by food found in Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. There are over 200 recipes in this weighty 384-page hardback (even the paprika and turmeric coloured cover hints at what’s inside), 120 of them suitable for vegans and over 200 vibrant photos of food, landscapes, buildings and people. Photos of camels are interspersed with photos of stews and curries; a photo of a Gorkha woman smoking on a hillside in Nepal precedes a recipe for panch kol (a combination of five vegetables with a rich garlic and spiced tomato gravy).
As you’d expect, the recipes are varied and wide-ranging; from familiar dishes such as saag paneer (an Indian spinach and cheese dish) to the not-so-familiar cozido (a Brazilian stew containing tofu, pumpkin and okra marinated in garlic, onion and tamari). As anyone with a large collection of cookbooks can tell you, many contain hard to find ingredients but, surprisingly, considering this collection is inspired from such far-flung places, most of the ingredients are readily available in the supermarket. Where the authors have felt an ingredient may be hard to source, alternatives have been suggested.
So, if your vegetarian world food expertise begins with a veggie chilli and ends with a Quorn curry, the World Food Café Vegetarian Bible will liven up your dinnertime. That’s if it makes it as far as the kitchen. It’s a bit of a cliché to say this wouldn’t look out of place on your coffee table, but it really is a beautiful book.
The World Food Café Vegetarian Bible has an RRP of £20 and is published by Frances Lincoln.