Book review: Anything You Can Cook, I Can Cook Vegan

25 May 2023 by
Book review: Anything You Can Cook, I Can Cook Vegan

With her debut cookbook, Denai Moore wants to smash preconceptions about Jamaican food

The multi-talented Denai Moore is an acclaimed soul singer as well as the vegan chef behind Dee's Table pop-up restaurant, and has developed recipes for Leon and Tesco among others. With her debut cookbook, Moore wants to smash preconceptions about Jamaican food, which she says is "often misrepresented, stripped of its complexity and reduced to being a meat-heavy cuisine".

Instead, Plentiful is a collection of vegan recipes that celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of Jamaican cooking, which Moore says is a "melting pot of different cultures" that uses spices in a unique way.

Moore mixes the food of her childhood in Jamaica with influences from East and Southeast Asia. Her take on the Thai salad larb incorporates Jamaican-style ‘green seasoning' (made with blended coriander, parsley, thyme, green pepper and scotch bonnet) as well as vegan fish sauce and tofu. Moore's version of ramen uses the traditional base of Jamaican ‘brown stew' and caramelised brown sugar, then adds a kombu broth flavoured with allspice, another typically Jamaican ingredient.

Moore has gone off-piste with the book's format too. Forget starters, mains and desserts, instead there are chapters entitled ‘Food that I dream about before going to bed' (ie breakfasts, including a hominy corn porridge inspired by her grandmother's recipe), ‘Salads that aren't lame' (beetroot with olive and scotch bonnet jam) and ‘Comfort grub' (squash and butter bean curry with spinners, a type of dumpling).

Moore says the book is intended to include "all the greatest Jamaican hits" and readers will find many recognisable elements of the cuisine, albeit in her inimitable way. Callaloo, a leafy green, is turned into pesto for pasta, ackee fruit replaces eggs in a carbonara and there's vegan versions of Jamaican classics like patties and red pea (kidney bean) soup. From rice and pea arancini to a Jamaican ginger and marzipan loaf, Moore brings individuality and creativity to every dish, ensuring that Plentiful will provide inspiration to any inquiring chef.

Plentiful by Denai Moore (Hardie Grant, £24)

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