Cookbook Challenge: Donna Klein

Another personal cookbook challenge over the last couple of weeks – my 3 Donna Klein books. I’ve got 3 of her books - Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, Vegan Italiano, and Tropical Vegan Kitchen. She has written others, and I’ve been tempted recently by Chinese Vegan Kitchen, but I wanted to get some more use out of the others before I purchased. I’ve had Mediterranean Vegan for years now; in fact, I bought it before I had ever even thought about becoming vegan about 10 years ago, when I spotted it on holiday and thought it might help me cut down on cheese a bit. The other two were both presents. Like my previous challenge, I liked all the books but really hadn’t used them much. Time to see if they are worth the space on my expanding cookbook shelves.

First I used Vegan Italiano to make this Broccoli Tart and served it alongside the Romaine Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette from Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, just adding in a few chickpeas to make it more substantial. As you can see I added some Vegusto blue cheese on top – I knew it wouldn’t melt but it needed using and I love the flavours of blue cheese with broccoli. I liked this – I like pretty much anything with puff pastry, but the tomato sauce was a touch too sweet and without the sharpness of the cheese it would have been a bit dull. Quite a nice summer lunch but wouldn’t rush to make again.

Next was the Thai Style Stir-Fry with Crispy Tofu and Hoisin Sauce. I marinated the tofu overnight so it was very quick to make and I served it over rice. It was quite simple but tasty.

The Thai Style Pasta Salad was a bit odd, as it contained lightly cooked cucumber. I had a huge cucumber to use so I tried it, but added quite a bit more curry paste than the rather stingy 1/4 tsp the author suggests. I knew going in that there wouldn’t be enough vegetables in this for the ratio of pasta, and I was right, but I did quite like the cucumber in it and it’s a decent base recipe but I’d throw in red peppers and green beans next time.

I didn’t get a picture of the Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe (chickpea variation but with normal broccoli) but it was a standard pasta and broccoli dish, very quick and simple and hit the spot.

Finally, and again no picture, I made the Bolivian Lentils over Rice from Tropical Vegan. This was my favourite of the bunch without question. It was very simple to make – I cooked the lentils the day before then finished it off when I got in late the next day. It’s just brown lentils cooked with tomatoes, garlic, onion, chipotle and loads of parsley, but it was so tasty it’s untrue. I will definitely make this over and over and try it as the author suggests in tacos or as a side dish.

Overall it’s quite a mixed picture from these books. As you can probably tell from my reviews, they pretty much rely entirely on fresh produce. The first 2 don’t even have any tofu in, and the only pre made product I could find apart from a couple of sauces was purchased bread dough which appears a few times and which I certainly can’t get here. That sounds great in theory but it does mean that a lot of the recipes are very simple indeed, and can tend to be a bit bland and I often overlook them for that reason.

When I said I hadn’t used these books much, I wasn’t lying. I can only find 2 things I’d made before my mini challenge – the farfalle with courgette, mint and almonds from Vegan Italiano, and the ditali with cauliflower from Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, both of which I’ve made a couple of times and really like.

None of the books have any pictures which doesn’t bother me, but might turn some people off. Vegan Italiano has menus, which I like, especially when so many of the dishes in it aren’t main meals, more just ways to cook vegetables. My definite favourite is Tropical Vegan as it suits my tastebuds better than the others, but if you have easy access to great fresh produce and like clean, simple flavours, the others will suit you well.

Farfalle with courgette, mint and almond sauce


This is nothing like the sort of thing I usually eat. I used to eat lots of meals which consisted of loads of pasta with a light sauce like pesto, but I try to limit my refined carbs a bit, and also to include more vegetables with a main course.

But I’d had the book Vegan Italiano for ages and never cooked anything from it, and this recipe came recommended. I had a couple of stubby courgettes in the fridge so decided to give it a go.

It was the simplest thing I’ve cooked for ages and the more we ate it the more we enjoyed it. It was so light and fresh, and the lack of spices and heavy seasoning really made the other ingredients sing through.

Here’s what I did:

Cook enough pasta for 2 people (in our case, half a bag)
Cut the courgettes into small cubes and add to boiling salted water for about 3 minutes.
In my mini chopper I put about 1/4 cup whole almonds, a good handful of mint, a small clove of garlic and some salt. Whizzed it up then added nearly all the courgette and gave it another whizz.
Mixed up the pasta with the sauce and put the reserved few bits of courgette on top.

Really summery and fresh; will make again!