Plentiful: The Big Book of Buddha Food
Chrisi & Louis van Loon, Paul Atkinson & Angela Shaw
Review: Brian Joss
There is a Buddhist Retreat Centre (BRC) in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and the vegetarian food that is served there has won international acclaim and many of the recipes featured in Quiet Food (2005) and The Cake the Buddha Ate (2011) as they do in Plentiful.
The dishes were created by innovative chef, Paul Atkinson, who, with the help of cooks, the “Ladies” as he affectionately calls them, Lindiwe Ncgobo, Lungi Mbono; Dudu Memela and Nonkanyiso Dlamini, runs the kitchen like a maestro conducting an orchestra of flavours, to make your taste buds, to quote a phrase from a banking ad, dance like fairies on your tongue. What the book does demonstrate is that there is nothing humble about a vegetable whether it’s a cauliflower, a carrot or a potato. In Atkinson’s hands they are turned into fare fit for royalty. The book has eight headings: Soups, Salads, Mains, Sides, Sweet Treats, Tea Time, Bread & Pastry and Back To Basics which tells you how to prepare aoli, basil pesto, balsamic vinegar glaze and a mixed berry sauce, to name a few.
Soups include leek and potato soup; carrot and coriander, cream of tomato soup and roasted pumpkin. There are salads aplenty – from roasted potato salad to couscous salad with chickpeas and pomegranate. If you prefer something heartier then you can try a mushroom bolognaise, Moroccan vegetable stew, a spicy vegetable chili or a roasted vegetable lasagne, as Mains. On The Side will show you how to prepare an aubergine dip or the Lebanese classic tabouleh. To satisfy your sweet tooth there is a silky smooth chocolate tart, poached pear and chocolate pudding or a baked vanilla cheesecake in the chapter, Sweet Treats. If you’re still not sated you can enjoy gluten-free chocolate brownies, marvellous meringues or a traditional fruit scone at Tea Time. In Bread & Pastry there is a homemade sourdough starter or the BRC’s own rye sourdough bread or their famous everyday bread. Many of the dishes have a distinct Mediterranean influence and if you follow the recipes you should be able to recreate them in your own kitchen. The ingredients are easily obtainable, just be sure that they are fresh. The headlines on the recipes are clever and humorous. For example, Holy Cannelloni describes the butternut and goat’s cheese cannelloni and Vanilla Thriller is the heading on the baked vanilla cheesecake, or Quiche de Resistance for a spinach and feta version of the French classic. Though the dishes are all vegetarian they will find favour with the carnivores among us. And if you want to step beyond your comfort zone of meat and potatoes, then Plentiful is the place to start. The anecdotes and stories about the BRC and pictures and biographies of the contributors and cooks add interest to the colourful volume which will be well-thumbed and won’t just be part of the décor on your kitchen shelf.