Review by Lisa Margreet Payne
I always knew this day would come. Be careful what you mock folks, because it may become your future. It’s time to take a deep breath and admit that I’ve gone from a steak lovin’, red wine drinking gal to a gluten-free vegan all in a few short years. I know a lot of vegans are now choosing to eschew the word aiming for “plant-based” or even “plant-empowered” (yes really) as an alternative descriptor feeling that the term vegan has some unpleasant connotations. And I’ve got to say, back when I was chomping on the flesh and washing it down with a glass of red you could often hear me guffaw “My husband is a vegetarian, but if he’d been a vegan… *sucks in breath / shakes head sadly* I don’t know if we’d be together.” *wink* But here’s the irony, now it’s me whose doing the vegan diet with added limitations for my sins (bye-bye wheat, bye-bye tea and coffee, bye-bye wine and gin *sob*).
But I’ve got a good excuse. I’m in the process of being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, which the doctors suspect is rheumatoid arthritis. As my avid and sometimes slightly obsessive reading of natural health books and blogs will tell you, the best way to control autoimmune conditions is through dietary and lifestyle changes.
So naturally I jumped on the chance to review “Plant-based Paleo” by Jenna Zoe. I was automatically pre-disposed to like this book when it arrived as it has a lovely picture of one of my favourite vegetables on the front - beautiful rainbow chard. It’s one of my best sellers in the market garden and it always looks amazing in photos (and on the plate) as my instagram will testify.
I’ve read a lot about the benefits of a paleo diet, not only for my health condition, but in general. The idea behind the paleo diet, if you haven’t come across it before is to eat like people used to thousands of years ago. However the paleo diet typically incorporates meat and searching for vegan paleo online yields surprisingly few results and all from the U.S. Therefore I was delighted to be asked review a book full of vegan paleo recipes which was written by the UK based Jenna Zoe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m down with converting from oz to grams (actually I just switch my scales to the oz setting, but you know what I mean) and I’m very happy using my measuring cups. But it’s nice to review a British book on a subject you’ve been looking into. It also means that you’re more likely to be able to get hold of the ingredients more easily. Well, that was the theory. But more on that in a minute.
I’ve made about four recipes from the book so far and they’ve all been delicious! I started with Breakfast Crumble, mixing my gorgeous organic Jonagold apples with an almond, coconut oil and coconut palm sugar topping and serving it with coconut yogurt. I’ve had the Date-Orade a few times after my morning yoga sessions as, according to Jenna “ the coconut water and salt balance out the lost liquids and sodium from a hard sweat”. I’m not sure that my 20 minute gentle stretching morning yoga routine classifies as “hard sweat” but it makes me feel zen to have something this delicious and healthy afterwards. The Hemp Tabbouleh with Pea and Mint Falafel were uh-mazing. The herby, seedy, green leafy, fresh salady mix of the hemp tabbouleh made by mixing parsley, mint and kale with tomato, onion, cucumber, hemp seeds and pomegranate seeds was a mouth sensation all of its own. The pea and mint falafel were light and flavoursome, although I must admit mine crumbled into pieces and didn’t hold their shape while cooking, but that didn’t affect their taste one jot. The lemon tahini dressing was a nice sharp counterpoint to all of the flavours.
Remembering the deliciousness of the organic coconut yogurt I’d brought to go with the Breakfast Crumble (and the ouchiness of the price of it), I was eager to try the recipe for Coconut Yogurt in the book. Unfortunately I had a fail here. The recipe calls for you to leave the yogurt in the oven for 24 hours with just the oven light on. And it was then that I discovered that I don’t have an oven light in my main oven. Weird. Seeing as I had my coconut milk and probiotic powder all ready to go I thought I’d use the thermos method of making yogurt which I’d used successfully back in my dairy yogurt making days - I even used it to successfully make raw milk yogurt. Unfortunately it didn’t work for the coconut yogurt. But I did make a nice rhubarb and pro-biotic spiked coconut milk smoothie with it and I fully intend to research other methods of making coconut yogurt. The recipe is also bookmarked so that I can make the Berry Chia Jam as soon as my raspberries have ripened to go with the amazing strawberries my plants have been giving me recently.
Along with the Jam recipe, I’ve also bookmarked the Sauer-carrot recipe (fermented carrot in case the name didn’t give it away) and the macadamia cheese recipe. I’ll substitute the macadamia’s for cashews though, as organic cashews are cheaper than macadamia’s and something that I keep in my pantry, but I love the idea of making fermented nut cheeses.
“Plant-Based Paleo” certainly delivers on it’s promise of “Protein-rich vegan recipes for well-being and vitality” and Jenna includes some good information in the introduction. Such as “What is Plant-Based Paleo” and “Shopping for Plant-Based Paleo” together with “Essential Ingredients” and “Plant-Based Paleo Parameters” where she talks about what to avoid and what to consider, including meat, fish and eggs if you want a more traditional paleo approach.
Where I felt it was slightly lacking was that all of the recipes are what I would call “fiddly,” asides from the drinks. Most of them have long ingredients lists and many of those ingredients are either hard to come by, or expensive, or both. I know that Jenna Zoe runs the online shop www.foodstolove.co.uk where you can source many of the ingredients such as Xanthan Gum and Spirulina powder which is useful. But if you’re just starting out on your plant-based paleo journey you’re not going to have a lot of these ingredients in your pantry which might make it even more expensive, prohibitively so for some. The recipes also take quite a lot of work so aren’t for the beginner cook who isn’t comfortable in the kitchen.
However, if you’re already well into your whole food journey, have a nicely stocked pantry or are willing to invest in some new and exciting health food ingredients, and are comfortable spending time in the kitchen then I’d definitely recommend you check out “Plant-Based Paleo”. It’s recipes are interesting, healthy and tasty and will bring some variation to your meal time repertoire. Oh yes, and being a gluten-free vegan is awesome! We have the best food. Fact.
Plant-Based Paleo by Jenna Zoe, photography by Clare Winfield
Published by Ryland Peters & Small