The Naturally Sassy cookbook by Saskia Gregson-Williams is one of the older plant-based recipe books in my collection, published in 2015. It was a fairly new release when I started my vegan journey, and one that truly helped me find enjoyment in cooking after a period of having a difficult relationship with food. It’s not entirely vegan, but I’d say 95% of the recipes are, and the things that aren’t involve very easy swaps – like honey for maple syrup or agave. During this time of ‘lockdown’ I’ve enjoyed having the time to get back in the kitchen more, revisiting my cookbook collection and some of my old favourites. Having picked out a number of recipes I wanted to taste again, I thought it would be a good opportunity to review this book and potentially bring it to a new audience of people who have been exploring vegan cooking in more recent years.
The book incorporates a 24 page introductory section that goes through Saskia’s food journey (not super enlightening to be honest, she was just a teenager when she ‘wrote’ the book, so I have to admit to skipping over this part), and a more helpful kitchen essentials list of plant-based ingredients and their qualities. Throughout the book, along with the recipes, there are also guides to building your own smoothie, porridge, or balance bowls, which I found great for inspiration when struggling to think of new combinations for breakfasts or lunches.
My favourite section of the book is definitely the breakfast section, and now having the time to enjoy my breakfasts at home rather than guzzling down some Huel on the go, I picked a few to try out.
It’s a very simple recipe using a blend of oats, a banana, grated ginger, warming spices, almond milk, and nut butter. Took minutes to make, and I was pleasantly surprised that it did actually live up to Saskia’s claim that it tastes like real gingerbread. I don’t have the most powerful blender so the oats were still noticeable in the texture, but I didn’t actually mind that, and the smoothie kept me going until lunch time. Healthy, tasty, and using only ingredients I regularly have in my house, I would definitely make this again.
Apple and ginger overnight oats
There are a number of overnight oat flavour combinations featured in the book, all of which sounded delicious, but I had apples that needed eating this one sounded perfect to me. The apple and ginger compote took some time to bring together because I had to make my apple puree from scratch, stewing down the apples, and soaking some dates in boiling water as I didn’t have any juicy Medjools in the cupboards. While I left that on the hob, I made the oats mixture using porridge oats, chia seeds, and soy milk. In my opinion the recipe uses far too much liquid, but perhaps the ratio works better if you’re using proper rolled oats which can absorb more of the milk. Sadly I wasn’t, and even after reducing the milk quantity, I was still left with a sloshy liquid mixture in the morning (as you can see from the photo, it didn’t layer up nicely in the jar, like the pictures from the book showed). Still, it tasted great, and I’m not mad about having to eat it two days in a row. A couple of tweaks and I’d happily return to this recipe.
Crumble was always my favourite dessert as a child, served with lashings of custard. Crumble for breakfast, could this be allowed? The recipe was super straightforward, and although it tastes like pudding, it’s more or less as healthy as a bowl of porridge – just a dash more maple syrup than I’d usually use, but perfect for a weekend treat. The recipe calls for blueberries and raspberries, but to avoid an unnecessary trip to the shops, I opted for the frozen berry mix I had in the freezer, mostly blackberries and strawberries. It takes a little longer to prepare than some of the other breakfasts, but mainly just because of the cooking time, and while it’s in the oven you can sit down and enjoy a cup of tea. It was bliss to tuck into when it was finally ready, too. Definitely recommend.
I admit to skipping over the ‘salads and soups’ section of the book, because I’m just not a fan of soup, it always leaves me feeling hungry or unsatisfied, and I don’t really see it as a proper meal, so I certainly can’t be bothered to spend an hour dedicated to making it. Similarly, although some of the salads in here look a bit more robust than your standard iceberg lettuce bowl, none of them were singing to me, so I moved on to the evening meals section.
This was one I remember making numerous times in my earlier years of plant-based cooking. It’s a little faffy, having to remember to soak cashews overnight, and getting out the food processor to mix up half of the baked butternut squash and roasted onion with the nuts for a creamy sauce, but it’s totally worth it, and still takes less than hour to come together (including the peeling and dicing of the squash which is never particularly fun when you don’t have proper sharp knives). The sauce is given a nice cheesy flavour from plenty of nutritional yeast, and it’s just such a comforting bowl of warming food that I am so glad I revisited the recipe!
Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables to cook with at the moment so this dish caught my eye. In comparison to the risotto, the recipe requires very little effort, beyond getting your fingers a bit stained with turmeric. You simply coat the cauliflower and a chopped red onion with a warming spice mix and some olive oil, shove it in the oven to roast, then turn to boiling your rice. At the end it all comes together with a delicious tahini sauce (I use Belazu and I could honestly spoon it out of the pot it’s so good). A simple and tasty no-fuss recipe for a weeknight, this is one I’ll turn to again. The only downside is it only serves two so there won’t be any leftovers for lunch the next day, but it’s definitely best eaten fresh rather than batch cooked anyway.
As you can see, I picked a fair few recipes to try out in the space of a few days, and there were genuinely handfuls more that I could’ve chosen, because there are a number of really great looking dishes in this book. I know it’s an old one but if you don’t have it in your collection yet, if you like plant-based cooking using wholefood ingredients, this book might be one to add to your collection.
Do you own Naturally Sassy already? What’re your favourite recipes in there? I’d love to hear your own recommendations!