One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cookbook Review: Caribbean Vegan by Taymer Mason

Although I've never met Taymer, I still consider her a friend as we are part of the same publishing house and have been exchanging emails at a rapid pace since she embarked on her first book Caribbean Vegan: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy Free Authentic Island Cuisine for Every Occasion. Although I've been corresponding with Taymer for months the one thing we never talked about was, surprisingly, food! So I had no idea what to expect when I Caribbean Vegan arrived in the mail.

I'm pretty short on time these days, most days in fact, so I tried to go for recipes that looked fairly quick to make in the book. My eyes immediately went to Plantain Balls as an excellent way to use the two plantains I had ripening on my countertop. The recipe said it served six which I thought was highly unlikely due to the fact that it only calls for one plantain and a pretty short list of ingredients so I doubled it, since I had two plantains on hand anyway. Before I could make the Plantain Balls I had to make the Everyday Vegan "Ham" that went into the plantain balls. I wasn't too thrilled about this, outside of my all time favorite (and very processed) "ham tube" I don't really go for pork substitutes as pork was one of the first animals I stopped eating decades ago. However, the list of ingredients sounded intriguing and I couldn't think of anything else to subsitute for the ham in the plantain balls so I gave it a whirl. The Vegan Ham was exceptional. The addition of pineapple and clove make it sweet and give it that authentic island taste. I did add about 1/4 cup soy flour to the gluten mix to change up the texture of the ham just a little.

Now that my ham was made it was time to move on to the plantain balls. Mixing all the ingredients together was a sinch and within minutes my plantains balls were in the oven baking up. These were a little treat for my senses. But, even though I doubled the recipe, it still barely made enough for 2 to 3 people to eat let alone 6 like the recipe says. Also, they don't keep well as leftovers so make sure you eat them the day you make them.

I had a little pineapple juice left so I decided to be adventerous and make the Jerk "Sausages". The extensive list of ingredients should have prepared me for the long night I had in store but for some reason I didn't read the directions all the way through to see how long it would take to cook these sausaes so I started putting them together around 11:30pm on a Saturday night (yes, my life is just that boring that I'm at home cooking on a Saturday night). As it turns out, this was one of the longest saturday night's of my life. It took me about 30 minutes to get all the ingredients together and in the bowl (with the pureeing of the beans, tofu and roundin up all the items on the ingredient list) and the sausages take over 1 1/2 hours to cook! I was up until nearly 3 am, when everything was all said and done. The sausages were definitely delicious but not spicy at all which was surprising considering the long list of spices that went into makeing them. I read the "Island Tip" too late which suggested putting a scotch bonnet pepper into the mix. This is more than just a suggestion this is mandatory to the recipe. Without the scotch bonnet pepper the sausae just reminds me of a slightly heavier spiced version of the Vegan Ham recipe. I also wish there was more direction on how to use the sausages. I never really cooked with sausage as an omni, outside of breakfast, and have never eaten or cooked with jerk sausages before so I still have no clue of what to do with the dozen sausage links that are sitting in my freezer right now.

While the jerk sausages were cooking I thought I'd kill some time by cooking whatever else I could find in the book that had ingredients that were readily available in my kitchen. The Curried Potato Salad fit the bill perfectly. This is hands down one of my new favorite potato salads. It is bursting with flavor, a snap to put together and super filling. I had it along some pan-seared jerk sausage (the only way I could think ot cook it), and of course the plantain balls.

Lastly, and most importantly, I took a quick tour through the drinks and cocktails section of the book to find a dynamic recipe for Rum Punch. This time I read the Isalnd Tip first and made sure to go out and get some Angostura bitters. I didn't use Mount Gay Rum (because I couldn't find it) but found another great jamaican rum to use instead. This was an amazing and authentic rum punch recipe that will have you feeling like you're sitting on the beaches on Barbados. Overall I think this book is really fantastic and when I get a little more downtime I will venture out to some of the more time consuming recipes as everything looks amazing. My top 5 recipes from Caribbean Vegan are:

Everyday Vegan "Ham"
Rum Punch
Curried Potato Salad
Plantain Balls
Caribbean Green Split Pea Soup


  1. try the coconut turnovers! my sons went (coco)nuts for them :^)

  2. Thank you for the review. I'm really excited to get this book and cook for some of my friends who come from the region. I've never had any omni Caribbean food, so their input will be helpful.

  3. Can't wait for my copy to come!!

  4. Interesting. I will definitely be looking into purchasing this book and yours this weekend!

  5. I made the Coconut Rice and Bajan Beef Stew tonight - thumbs up


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