Today I am sharing with you my latest cookbook discovery: My New Roots by Sarah Britton. I originally discovered this book in our local library. I was browsing the shelves of cookbooks (for ones I didn’t already own!) and its stunning cover caught my eye. Inside is packed with beautifully illustrated, healthy recipes, based on a philosophy of a diet full of fruit, veg and wholefoods instead of refined, processed and junk foods. Since the start of 2016 my husband and I have been trying to eat more healthily, along similar lines – more of the good stuff, less of the bad. This book was not only full of that kind of food, but the recipes looked so delicious and so enticing, I quickly snaffled My New Roots from the library (and have since bought my very own copy.) Though some of the recipes are more complicated than I would usually do, there are some absolute gems in here: meals which manage to be super healthy, super tasty and easy peasy all at once – now that’s my kind of cooking!
My New Roots is written by Sarah Britton who is a nutritionist and a food blogger. (Her blog is also called My New Roots.) As a young woman, Sarah had a life changing experience with a tomato (yes, really!) which caused her to rethink her whole approach to food. She gave up processed food and began to feel so much better, that she wanted to learn more about the link between food and the body. She went on to study nutrition, which in turn led her to start a blog to share what she what she had learnt from her studies and to share her healthy nutritious recipes. She now receives emails from people from all over the world who have been following her recipes and have lost weight, started to feel more energised and some who had even been healed from medical conditions!
This is not a “diet” book in the traditional sense. It’s not about counting calories or deprivation. It’s a book that celebrates fantastic ingredients and delicious meals that just happen to be good for you. In fact she doesn’t even give a nutritional breakdown of her meals in her book – her reasoning? “Because every one of these calories is good for you.” What a fab philosophy! Her focus is on using good quality, healthy ingredients and enjoying eating them. She uses the term “plant-based wholefoods” to describe her recipes. Which, in practice, means lots of healthy fruit and vegetables, nuts, beans and lentils and wholegrains. Sounds a bit hippy? Maybe, but in a good way: this is a thoroughly modern book with beautiful pictures, fabulously tasty recipes that just happen to be super good for you.
This is a great book if you are vegetarian or vegan as all her recipes are vegetarian and the majority are vegan. It’s also a wonderfully useful book if you are following a gluten or dairy free diet as there are A LOT of gluten free and dairy free recipes here. It’s a great book too if you are trying to cut out or cut down on refined sugar and carbs – there is no refined white sugar or refined white carbs in any of her recipes. But it’s also a good book if you are just trying to eat more healthily. My husband was recently diagnosed with high cholesterol and this book is absolutely perfect for that. Pretty much everything we have read so far about how to lower your cholesterol levels is espoused in this book: more wholegrains, more good fats, more veg, nuts, seeds and pulses, less refined carbs, less sugar, less saturated fat – it’s all here.
Sarah is also passionate about eating seasonally and consequently the book is divided into seasons. Not that you have to follow the book in this way of course, but if you are trying to eat more seasonally or you want to make the most of seasonal produce (or if you have a regular seasonal veg box) this is a really useful book. Sarah is so passionate about seasons, she has even added in an extra season: she divides summer into early and late summer as she has previously worked on a farm (which incidentally is where that life changing tomato encounter happened) and feels that there’s quite a difference between the produce that is in abundance in the early summer and that of the later part of the summer. Her passion for eating seasonally is not just about sustainability, but also because she believes it’s actually better for our bodies – for example, foods with a high water content like cucumbers and watermelons refresh us in the summer while starchy, calorie dense root veg keeps us going through the winter.
I have to admit, some of the recipes are a bit more time consuming and fiddly than I would usually go for…in fact there are a few I skipped over. I am passionate about food being easy, stress free and enjoyable and consequently I don’t really go for recipes where you are supposed to soak the beans overnight or make your own ghee… HOWEVER don’t be put off by these, the majority of her recipes are easy to make and her flavours are amazing. I mean seriously. Some of her recipes just bowled me over – her balance of flavours was just perfect…her use of spices…it’s like she has like a magic touch or something. A-MA-ZING!
If, like me, you like a quick and easy approach to recipes, there is still plenty in here to enjoy. I have tried about a dozen of her recipes so far and I’ve been seriously impressed. I have to admit I didn’t bother soaking pulses or making my own nut milk, but her recipes are completely do-able if you, like me, prefer to buy your beans in tins and use normal milk or ready-made nut milk. Alternatively if you are looking to learn about how to make your own nut milks/nut butters/ghee, grow your own sprouts or cook beans from scratch, there is a fab little section at the front of the book called “Essential Techniques” which teaches you how to do this stuff. I skipped over it though as I wanted to get to the recipes…
Every recipe is clearly laid out, with a lovely little blurb at the top (I think I’ve mentioned before, I hate recipe books that have no introductory blurb to the recipes), a clear ingredients list, numbered steps which are easy to follow and every recipe has a beautiful inspiring picture. She also includes helpful little notes about why certain foods are good for you: for example how lentils are a great source of folate, limes are full of vitamin C and how blackberries have lots of calcium, magnesium and iron. I love these little notes. It’s great to learn all about what we should be putting into our bodies and it makes a nice change from all the tabloid headlines screaming at us about what we shouldn’t eat!
Her recipes say how many they serve, which seems pretty accurate, and there are helpful little symbols to guide you as to which recipes are vegan friendly (and therefore dairy free), which are gluten free and which might need some additional prep time (for example, if you need to soak some beans!) My one complaint is there is no time guide to tell you how long a recipe will take to make. It means, if you want to know what time you have to start cooking, you have to read the recipe and work it out. Gah!
Some of the recipes take quite a long time, but there are also plenty of quick ones. I’ve found plenty so far that take under 30 minutes and there are some that only take 10 minutes. Though, I have adapted the recipes, using beans from a tin, oil instead of ghee and ready-made coconut milk, for example. If you were going to make your own milk or cook your own beans some of the recipes would take quite a bit longer.
Sarah does assume you have a blender, but I found that all the recipes I tried worked just fine with my little hand held one. There were also a few ingredients which I couldn’t find in my local Tesco, so I substituted them for similar ones (green lentils instead of black ones, quinoa instead of kaniwa, buckwheat instead of kasha) and the recipes worked just fine.
As I mentioned before, the book begins with an Essential Techniques section explaining how to make nut milk/butter, grown your own sprouts and cook beans from scratch. Great if you want to learn how to do these things, but all the recipes are totally possible without these techniques.
The book is then divided into 5 “seasons” Spring, Early Summer, Late summer, Autumn and Winter and each section use seasonal produce. Each section is then further divided into four sub sections: breakfast, small measures, mains and sweets, with four or five recipes in each sub section.
Finally there is a section on Stocking The Pantry. Sarah starts by saying that she does not expect you to go to your pantry and chuck everything out, but rather this is an encouragement to gradually eat up your white flour, white sugar, processed food and packaged snacks and gradually restock with more wholesome ingredients…she points out that if you have a kitchen full of healthy ingredients you are more likely to eat a more healthy diet – a great tip!
Whether you plan to do this or not, this section is a great resource to inspire you with healthy wholesome foods. It explains what all these foods are, why they are good for you and what to do with them. There are a few weird and wonderful things in here (shoyu, bee pollen and chlorella anyone?), but the majority is sensible stuff we all know we should be eating more of: beans, lentils, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, healthy fats… Now, I’m not planning to chuck out all my white flour/sugar/pasta/rice just yet BUT I am planning to include a few more of these in my cupboards, so I can eat healthy wholesome food more often.
What I have tried so far
So far I have tried about a dozen of her recipes and so far they have all been really truly delicious, relatively easy to make and I just love how healthy they are. I actually feel better for eating them! It’s great how each recipe is packed full of deliciousness AND nutritiousness. My two favourites so far have been Four Corners Lentil Soup: AMAZING flavour AND super easy to make and my other favourite was a mixture of lentils and green olives (fab combo – who knew?) with tzatziki, pea shoots and avocado…sounds a bit mad…but you wait till you try it…and oh so pretty! I have to say I haven’t found a recipe I dislike so far, though there have been a few that I might have disliked had I tried them…I didn’t really like the sound of raw cashew yogurt, for example, but then I‘ve been so amazed by Sarah’s ability with flavours…perhaps I would like the recipes I didn’t try.
Here are a few examples of what I’ve tried and liked…
Four Corners Lentil Soup
This was the first recipe I tried and it totally bowled me over (no pun intended). It is simply stunning. The flavours are just perfect. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted…I had to have another bowlful just to make sure. The great thing about this soup is it is incredibly simple…sweat onions, garlic and ginger, add cumin and cayenne pepper, add lentils tomatoes, lemon juice and stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with some coriander and lemon slices and you are done!
10 Spice Chocolate Chilli
This recipe is inspired by the famous Mexican dish “Mole Negro”. I’ve never had it but always wanted to try it. Now I know what I’ve been missing. It’s amazing!! Let’s just say if you like chilli…you will love this. It’s like chilli but 10 times better. Just incredible depth of flavour…my husband loved it too. He was very disappointed there wasn’t enough to have for lunch the next day. Apparently, real Mexican food is going to be one of the big trends of 2016 – so I’m feeling quite on-trend! My only complaint is that it uses a lot of different herbs and spices – 10, funnily enough – and I imagine if you don’t have a cupboard full of spices, that’s a few too many to go out and buy (though once you’ve tried this you might be tempted!).
I have since created my own easy peasy version of Sarah’s Chilli. My easy peasy Vegetable Mole has fewer herbs and spices, but still has great flavour…AND can be made in under 30 minutes!!
Roasted Cauliflower with Lebanese Lentils and Kaniwa
My goodness I’ve only just got my head around quinoa and now I learn there is also kaniwa and amaranth that I should be eating…all are grain-like seeds which are full of fibre and iron…and great alternatives to couscous and rice. Now I’m afraid my local Tesco is clearly a bit behind the times (!) and doesn’t stock kaniwa…so I substituted with quinoa and it tasted great, but I think this would be great with rice if you prefer something a bit more ‘normal’! It’s another one of those wow recipes: a mix of lentils and quinoa with onions, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cumin and parsley paired with simple roasted cauliflower. Sounds simple but the flavours are anything but. The result is totally delicious – not hot, just a subtle Middle Eastern style spiciness and roast cauliflower is so much nicer than the boiled kind. It makes a great packed lunch the next day too. My biggest complaint about this one would be it involved using 3 saucepans and a roasting tin…that’s way too many pans for me.
Avocado and Cashew Nut Ice Cream
So I know I said I wasn’t much into long faffy processes and this recipe does require you to soak the cashew nuts for 4 hours, but I just had to try this one…vegan ice cream, made out of avocados and cashew nuts…sounds horrid right? Wrong! It actually tastes of ice cream…I manage to trick my avocado hating children into trying this and they actually liked it. It was fun seeing their faces when told them what it was made from 🙂 It does help that Sarah flavours it with peppermint extract and adds chocolate chips (well actually cacao nibs…which amazingly Tesco actually stocked!) But seriously this recipe is incredible…ice cream that is actually good for you! Wonders will never cease.
Black Lentil Salad with Tzatziki, Avocado and Pea shoots
Last but by no means least, I have to mention this one. My favourite of the lot. It’s really simple but totally delicious. I had it for lunch one day. It took less than 30 minutes and was very easy to do, but just tasted fab! Sounds a bit mad I know, but you just wait till you’ve tried it. It really works. I particularly liked the combination of lentils and green olives. The heat of the lentils brings out so much extra flavour in the green olives and the combination of the two is a really fab match. This is definitely one I will be making again.
I could go on and tell you about all the other recipes I made, but really I would be repeating myself and over using words like ‘amazing’, ‘delicious’, ‘great flavour combination’ and throwing in far too many exclamation marks. All the recipes I made were great tasting, relatively easy to make (with a few adaptations) and all good for me! What more can you want really? So I will leave you instead with a little photo montage to show what else I’ve been cooking…
If you are trying to eat more healthily in 2016 and want a recipe book that is all about putting more of the good stuff into your diet rather than counting calories and fat grams, then this is the recipe book for you. It’s chock full of delicious tasting, healthy, wholesome recipes that are also delicious and filling. If you are vegetarian, vegan or just looking to reduce the amount of meat in your diet, given all those scary headlines, then this is a really helpful book too. Likewise if you are following a gluten free or dairy free diet there are a lot of great recipes in here for you too. There is very little gluten or dairy in this whole recipe book and what there is can usually be easily adapted. It’s also a great book if you are interested in nutrition and/or want to learn more about how to cook pulses from scratch and make your own nut and seed milks/butters.
If on the other hand, you can’t bear the thought of meals without meat, you hate lentils and beans and the whole idea of wholefoods brings you out in a rash, this is definitely not the book for you. It’s also probably not a great book if you are allergic to nuts, seeds or legumes…it is packed full of them! I imagine if you are trying to follow a low fat or low carb diet it’s probably not for you either…this is a very different approach to healthy eating.
I know this book won’t be for everyone, but if you like the idea of eating more healthily and filling your body with more fruit, veg and wholefoods this would be a great purchase!
Buy My New Roots by Sarah Britton
** Disclosure: I was not paid to do this review. I am reviewing this book because I genuinely enjoyed reading it and making the recipes and think others might too. All words are my own The links to Amazon in this review are affiliate links. This means if you buy the book through any of these links, it doesn’t cost you any more, but I will get a small commission. Thank you in advance 🙂 )**
Have you read this book? Do you agree with my review?
Are there any other recipe books you would like me to review? I am always open to suggestions!
Only Crumbs Remain / Angela says
I love the sound of this book Eb, so a massive thank you for sharing your review with us.
I too love to browse the many recipe books in the library despite having so many at home, so when I’m next popping into the library I shall certainly be aiming to borrow this one! It sounds so good with its seasonality, vegetarian/vegan base and healthy nutritious vibe. I had no idea that blackberries were full of calcium – I really wouldn’t have thought it!
My mum too has been diagnosed with high cholesterol and although she’s declined the statins (!) has managed to reduce it through an improved diet. How’s your husband’s cholesterol levels doing?
Eb Gargano says
It’s a great book. Especially for us at the moment, trying to eat more healthily. Very much encapsulates what I consider healthy eating…I love her focus on what is truly good for our bodies rather than calorie counting. Thanks for asking about my husband’s cholesterol. He’s only just been diagnosed…the doctor did offer him statins but my husband also declined…he’s mid thirties, not overweight and motivated to improve his diet. We reckon, in his case, it’s best to start with diet and if that doesn’t work we can look at statins later. Fingers crossed! Eb x