I’m a big fan of The Happy Pear, the grocers and cafe run by a pair of handsome man-twins seen being optimistic and cheery and wearing unseasonal shorts all over the media late last year. That was shortly before my birthday and the reason they were so ubiquitous was that they released a book, so I sat on my hands to avoid purchasing it and waited. With not a hint dropped my BFF turned up with the goods and I don’t quite recall but I probably snatched it from her in a my preciousssss style.
The book hasn’t let me down. Though their food is my style – vegetarian, hearty, unpretentious – I will preface this by saying I’m not entirely on board with all their methods. I’ve pretty much halved or cut out the salt in the recipes I’ve made from it, and have been more liberal with my oil use: olive, rapeseed, sesame and coconut are my fats of choice. The guys are not fans of oil use at all as they explain in the book. However I heartily agree with the main thrust of their philosophy, which is:
Sure you can’t argue with that.
I reckon the book has been road-tested pretty well, at this stage we’ve made:
- Carrot, Cashew and Coriander Soup;
- Thai Rice Noodle and Marinated Tofu Salad;
- Peanut and Chilli Dressing;
- Happy Pear Dahl (always use coconut milk IMO);
- Veronica’s Potato and Bean Curry (actually my husband made this, twice);
- Mexican Leek and Black Bean Chilli
- Winter Squash, Leek, Kale and Fennel Gratin (twice!)
- Healthy Chocolate Coated ‘Caramel’ Bars (fake Twixs)
The chilli was the only one that wasn’t a hit with all the family. Neither boys go for oniony things, and Ted started to pick out the black beans too.
I do have a couple of strategies for when the kids are being Feckin’ Fussy.
- In general there’s a bit of pushing stuff round the plate but in my house there is one dinner and that’s it, and a fear that a two year old won’t eat his dinner is not a reason not to try him with it. Sticking with that approach has meant that both boys will generally try something on their plate, even if they don’t embrace the whole meal. The gratin gets picked apart; I leave cheese off one quarter because Dominic doesn’t like “slimy” (melted) cheese. He likes kale, fennel and nuts, but not squash. Ted loves the squash, and cheesy topping but not the kale. That’s an okay compromise in my book.
- I do find the bigger boy will sigh and moan and grump his way to the table on sight of anything that isn’t noodles or pasta with pesto. “I don’t like this dinner” he’ll say before he’s even worked out what it is. It sits there in front of him. We make no effort to cajole, we just tell him that’s what’s for dinner. We continue on our general chat about the day, paying no heed to the dinner ignoring happening. Eventually a fork (or finger) will find it’s way to the plate and he’ll eat some. Then in all likelihood he’ll just keep going. If he catches us watching him, he’ll proclaim “I was just kidding about not liking this dinner” to save face. Massive eye roll from me on the time wasting, but again, I’m not going to argue and I call that a win for the cook.
The fake Twix bars were a big test: I made them for a kid-friendly New Years Eve party. I didn’t want to be the parent providing a load of sugar after normal bedtime! They were a great combination of textures and really hit the spot and were a big hit at the party too (I think – they were eaten up anyway!)
I find the portion sizes generous overall – for example, the dahl says it serves 4, but we got maybe 5 adult and 3 kid portions out of it over a couple of days. No one who’s seen my husband eat would ever accuse him of eating small amounts either.
I have a list of to-do recipe’s that I’m excited to try – it’s good wholesome vegetarian food for all the family bursting with flavour. So even if you can’t countenance going the whole hog (carrot?) and turning veggie, this book would be great in your cookbook for your meat-free mondays (and tuesdays, wednesdays…)