Aimed at: adventurous carnivores, flexitarians
As a Kiwi prone to understatement, he doesn't want to say it, but writing this book may have changed Mat Follas's life.
'That's such a MasterChef thing to say,' he groans (he won the show in 2009). 'But yes, it's certainly changed the way I cook and the way I eat. Actually, it has for the whole family. My third favourite meat is aubergine,' he explains.
'I began writing it thinking most good dishes could be improved with the addition of some meat. Now, I'm certain that's not true. I am pretty sure that vegetables are the real jewels. You can tell from the kids, they either don't notice or they ask for certain dishes. There's a tomato and fennel lasagne in the book that we eat an awful lot of.'
Follas (right) had tried being a vegetarian when he was a teenager but it didn't stick because he soon tired of bean
burgers and unexciting risottos. But it's clear that, nowadays, quality of produce means that more is possible and so there's a definite air of the born-again about Follas when he gets on a roll. He's someone who is passionate enough to convert people - even if he makes statements which could sound like sacrilege to dedicated flesh eaters.
'Chorizo is irrelevant,' he proclaims. 'Well, almost. I've not found a good vegetarian chorizo but I do think you can recreate the effects in a cassoulet. That's been a big step for me.
It takes some time. I think you have to admit that if you're cooking vegetarian, it might take you a bit more prep but the results are worth it.' The book covers a lot of bases, from straightforward cauliflower cheese (albeit with four different cheeses) to the spectacular looking carrot and beetroot terrine, or a nettle and wild garlic soup with a poached egg. There's a lot of show-off, dinner-party stuff as well as everyday favourites.
Recipes can be complex but are explained in intricate detail - the chopping sizes of almost everything is included. This is a book for people who find comfort in precision but it is also filled with enough ideas to make it extremely useful for those of us who like throwing in handfuls of ingredients.
It's just a very solid, good cookbook and is an excellent place to start if you want to begin cooking with less meat.