Cookbook review: East by Meera Sodha

Cookbook review: East by Meera Sodha

Be it silky-soft aubergine recipes, canny ways with tofu, or reimaginations of salad, Meera Sodha has you covered.

Lincolnshire-born to Ugandan Indian parents, she made a culinary name for herself with debut cookbook Made In India, which was swiftly followed by bestseller Fresh India. She’s since become known for her Guardian column, filled weekly with intriguing and tasty vegan recipes (a coup to successfully combine the two).

Her new collection is as vibrant, veg-worshipful and beguiling as we’ve come to expect…

The book: East by Meera Sodha

Who will love it? Vegans bored of salad; vegetarians bored of goat’s cheese tarts; all those with an interest in Asian cuisine; those flirting with being more plant-based; and of course, fans of Sodha’s weekly Guardian column.

What is it trying to get us cooking? According to the tagline: ‘Vegan and vegetarian recipes from Bangalore to Beijing’, and it’s cleverly divided into handy sections like ‘noodles’, ‘tofu’, and ‘curries’, so you can quickly orient yourself. While Sodha isn’t actually vegan, she loves veg, and the recipes reflect that – each spiked with flavours and influences from Asia (and Sodha’s culinary travels around the world, and around restaurants in London). There are kimchi pancakes and kung pao cauliflower, pilau rice dishes for every season, massaman and katsu curries, salted miso brownies and banana tarte tatin.

How easy is it to use? Very. Sodha writes in the book’s introduction that she began writing many of the recipes while her daughter was still tiny – elaborate, time-consuming recipes were not an option. And so these are achievable, no matter how sleep-deprived or time-famished you are. That’s as long as you’ve stocked up in advance on the more exotic ingredients required, like gochujang, kombu, choi sum and mirin.

The best recipe is… Shitake pho with crispy leeks – because just the words ‘crispy leeks’ make us want to get in the kitchen. And a good broth is unbeatable.

The recipe we’re most likely to post pictures of on Instagram is… The dorayaki pancakes with blueberry cream – the cream is bright purple!

The dish we’re least likely to try is… Mushroom bao, because however easy you tell us it is to make bao buns from scratch, who really can be bothered?

Overall rating: 8/10 – it’s a total stunner of a book, from the highlighter-orange spine to Monika Forsberg’s clean colourful illustrations, and David Loftus’ chic photography. Its mid-week-supper practicality just adds to the charm.

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JUST LOOK WHAT IS HERE! My new book, EAST, is all. ************ I cried when I saw it because this one isn’t just a cookbook (they never are). It’s a (very emotional) record of a journey I took into becoming a new (and working) mother, exploring new vibrant cuisines, diving into veganism and the working with the some of the most incredible humans I’ve met (tagged above) One of whom, John Hamilton, died the day after handing me this front cover - and who I will miss, always. But I worked so hard and I am so very proud. And well, ultimately, I hope I’ve done good by you dear sweet cooks - I really hope you like it. Out 8th August. xx

A post shared by Meera Sodha (@meerasodha) on

How to make Meera Sodha’s aubergine larb with sticky rice and a shallot and peanut salad

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

For the rice:

350g Thai sticky (or glutinous) rice

For the larb:

4 medium aubergines (250g each)

Rapeseed oil

Salt

2tbsp palm sugar

2tbsp lime juice (from 1 & 1/2 limes)

2.5tbsp soy sauce

2tsp tamarind paste

1.5 bird’s-eye chillies, very finely chopped

For the salad:

3tbsp rapeseed oil

2 large shallots (200g), halved lengthways and finely sliced

Scant 1/2tsp salt

40g ground peanuts

A large handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

40 fresh Thai basil leaves, finely chopped

1/2 a bird’s-eye chilli, finely chopped

1tbsp lime juice (from 1 lime)

(David Loftus/PA)
(David Loftus/PA)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven 200°C fan/220°C/425°F/gas 7. Put the rice into a sieve and rinse it well under the cold tap, then cover the rice with cold water and leave to soak for 20 minutes. In the meantime, cut the aubergines in half lengthways and score a criss-cross pattern on the cut sides. Brush all over with oil and put cut side up on two baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, brush the cut side with more oil and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until creamy inside.

2. Meanwhile, make the rice and the salad. Drain the rice, put it in a lidded saucepan, cover with 520ml of cold water and add half a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to its lowest setting and simmer for 15 minutes, until all the water has evaporated and the rice is cooked. Cover with the lid, and leave to stand for at least 10 minutes.

3. To make the salad, heat the oil in small frying pan on a medium flame and fry the shallots for around 20 minutes, until brown and crisp. Take off the heat and stir in the salt, ground peanuts, herbs, chillies and lime juice.

4. To make the larb dressing, put the palm sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, tamarind paste and chilli in a small saucepan with eight tablespoons of water. Heat, stirring, until the sugar melts, then take off the heat, taste and add up to half a teaspoon of salt, if need be.

5. To serve, put a flat mound of rice on each plate, layer over two aubergine halves, pour on the dressing and sprinkle the salad on top.

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MY BOOK, EAST, IS OUT TODAY - it’s designed to help you eat more vegetables. Blow me down with a feather if it doesn’t. This time more than ever, I couldn’t be prouder of the whole team behind it. The waddle of Penguins including my editor @duchessoffigs and my dear departed art director @stswithunsboy agent @janefini , photographer @davidloftus and my team @bjbenton @hannahmccameron and @thekitchencooperative (more tagged) - not to mentioned all the friends and family that been everything and more. Well done all of us. I hope you like it! ********************* We celebrated last night @rochellecanteen - see my stories for photos. The flowers in the photo above are taken from bunches kind guests gave @henriettainman @clerkenwellboyec1 @foodingtrish @duchessoffigs and also from @hattieflower

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East by Meera Sodha, photography by David Loftus, is published by Fig Tree, priced £20. Available now.

- Press Association

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