A world beyond the lentil

May 25th, 2011

It’s almost twenty years since we published a book of recipes by Simon Hope, ‘Entertaining With Friends’. It was a book of restaurant recipes. Believe it or not, there weren’t actually that many of those kind of books around at the time. Rarer still, it was a book of vegetarian recipes. Food For Friends was a legendary institution in its day; and Simon Hope was one of the most inspiring figures on the vegetarian scene. Incredibly, Brighton was to boast a second wonderful vegetarian restaurant, one which in time would eclipse all others and be regarded far and wide as the very best in the country. That restaurant was Terre à Terre.

So, a few years ago, a publisher and his commissioning editor booked a table at this restaurant and enjoyed some of the most incredibly original and flavoursome food they could remember. Before they left, they managed to grab a few minutes with the restaurant’s owners and told them how very wonderful that meal was. They innocently asked had they ever thought about writing a book of Terre à Terre recipes. Turns out they had… just a bit. Another meal and another meeting later and a few ideas had been batted around and fleshed out (if you’ll pardon the non-vegetarian expression). Handshakes all round and Terre à Terre owners Amanda Powley and Phil Taylor were about to embark on their first book together.

And it was quite some time in the making. But then restaurant recipe books so often are: there is much to think about when putting to page recipes that will work in a home kitchen as effectively as they do a restaurant kitchen… but work effectively they did. Reading through the recipes was every bit as unique an experience as a visit to the place itself. The fun and curiously named dishes that appeared on the restaurant menus were uncompromisingly copied over verbatim to the book; introductions to each recipe painted an enchanting story of how ideas had come to life, how exciting flavours balanced one another in the dishes and how alternative ingredients and elements from other dishes could be brought together to take things off in a different direction. Lisa Barber came on board to photograph the food and managed to beautifully capture the sheer wit and brilliance of each and every dish over about eight days of location shooting at both the restaurant and Amanda’s home.

It was an incredibly long process, but by the winter of 2009, we had produced a book. It was a book that all of us were very proud of. It is, we believe, the best book of vegetarian restaurant recipes there is, but it is also quite simply one of the best vegetarian cookery books you’ll find. For vegetarians, it offers so many new and inspiring choices to cook. For meat eaters, it takes you to a place that is light years removed from dusty old stereotypes of lentil dishes and green salads. Above all, it is a book that gets you excited about food and about cooking, and in today’s world of cookbook publishing, that really is something to shout about. And so shouting about it we are, and since this week is National Vegetarian Week, there really is no better time to salute Terre à Terre and a cookbook which is nothing less than the perfect representation of the finest vegetarian restaurant in the country.