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One Pot: Three Ways cookbook review. Why eating vegan doesn’t have to be difficult or boring

November 7, 2021

Vegan recipe book by Rachel Ama

‘Save time with vibrant, versatile vegan recipes’ is the by-line on the cover of One Pot: Three Ways by Rachel Ama.

Cooking for vegans

Both my daughters are vegan. Often when I tell people this they commiserate. “Oh no!” they lament sympathetically and give me a look of pity as though my pet had just died (probably not the most appropriate analogy but you get the picture).  The main concern is that cooking for vegans must be a nightmare.

My own experience is very different. I’m proud of my daughters’ choices and supportive, even if my way is different. Both of them cook healthy and delicious vegan food that we’re all happy to eat. When they come and visit, more often than not, they will cook for us.

Treating vegans as a different species has, thankfully, started to wane since they make up over 1% of the population in UK. This makes them attractive in economic terms and the sections of vegan products in the chill cabinet of the supermarket are now familiar. These dairy and meat alternatives are marketed partly as substitutes and partly for their convenience factor. They are processed foods and designed, just like all other processed foods, to be quick and easy to prepare and eat, but specifically by vegans.  My daughters would rather cook things from scratch, as I do, but we’re all busy.

Vegan recipe book by Rachel Ama

One Pot: Three Ways

One Pot: Three Ways by Rachel Ama is a cookbook for busy people who want to eat well. It’s designed around a simple system where you cook a main, one-pot recipe then have the choice of three options to make it into different meals.  The main recipe is enough for four portions and the recipe options use two portions so you are already set for a couple of meals that week. They are versatile so you can increase or decrease the quantities.

A few vegan cookbooks have crept onto my shelves and many of the well-known ones seem to be polarised into two categories: recipes for vegan versions of traditional dishes like shepherd’s pie (“you won’t miss meat”), and dietary-related health issues (“being vegan made me feel amazing”).  Rachel Ama’s main approach is to devise her own recipes that she enjoys, with big, plant-based flavours, and believes other people will too.  There are a few recipes for ‘basics’ at the back of the book that include riffs on Spaghetti Bolognese, Shepherd’s Pie and Moussaka but they are the exception. She mentions the positive impact on her body she found in giving up dairy in the intro, but doesn’t labour the point.

My heritage plays a huge role in the food I make; my immediate family are Welsh, St Lucian and Sierra Leonean, so it’s fair to say I grew up visiting family members with very different-smelling kitchens across London, and each smells like home to me.

Vegan recipe book by Rachel Ama

Key ingredients

Flicking through the cookbook, the pictures of food are vibrant in reds, oranges, yellows and greens – very different to the beige, lentil-brigade reputation that vegan food is still shrugging off. Some ingredients crop up many times such as mushrooms, red peppers, avocados, kale and cauliflower. There’s the usual range of pulses that are essential eating healthy on a vegan diet (a good source of protein and iron).

Other ingredients are a little less easy to find here in rural Devon. While tinned jackfruit has made it’s way onto supermarket shelves, hearts of palm aren’t often stocked, I haven’t found ackee and getting a fresh, plantain is impossible.

Rachel came into people’s homes via YouTube where she gained avid fans. She’s warm, friendly, attractive and explains things well, all factors that probably contributes to a large following. However, I think it’s her use of spices and flavours that has made the recipes catch on. Tahini, red chilli flakes, lemons and limes, miso paste, harissa, with lots of fresh herbs are on her kitchen counter. Paprika, cumin, garlic powder, allspice, turmeric, Madras curry powder, nutmeg and cinnamon make up the core of her dried spices.

When Rachel outlines these staples of her kitchen in the book, she divides them into three ‘stations’: fridge and fresh top-up essentials; store-cupboard essentials; sauces and flavour-station essentials. The recipes are also in three sections: One pot (a deep casserole); one pan (a good-sized frying pan); one tray (a large roasting pan). You get the impression that while she might dance around the kitchen, Rachel is a highly organised cook.

Vegan recipe book by Rachel Ama

So how does it work?

You make a centre-piece or main recipe (many of which can be done ahead) then choose from three different sub-recipes to make it into a different meal. For example, I made Harissa Hotpot from the One Pot chapter (recipe below) and served it with Green Tahini and Green Bean Salad. Alternatively I could have made Garlic, Lemon and Kale Wild Rice or Toasted Garlic Sourdough with Rocket to go with it.  These themes are repeated so you can eat a healthy and varied menu.

Roasted Cauliflower Curry, from the One Tray section can be served with minty, brown rice and cavolo nero; a coconutty white rice and chutney; or a salad of mixed leaves and cherry tomatoes drizzled with turmeric and tahini dressing.

Jerk-spiced lentils, in the One Pan chapter, can be eaten with Coconut Rice, Patacones and Pineapple Salsa on one day, Jerk Lentil Spaghetti on another or with Plantain Rotis and Salad on another occasion. Patacones are fried, rolled and refried plantain slices which I’ll try to make if I can find this elusive fruit.

Our verdict

One of my daughters had been eager to see the book as she’d watched Rachel’s videos and really liked the concept and the recipes.  She thought that sometimes the options were pretty similar (e.g. rice was common) and there were quite a few curries, however they looked good. There are creative ideas that she wouldn’t have thought to make. Her proviso was if you made all the recipes, the ingredient list could stack up (she’s a student cooking mainly for herself).

My other daughter is an experimental and spontaneous cook who doesn’t often use recipes. Her view was if you’re new to being vegan or only have a few meals that you know how to cook, this book would be great. Nothing seems particularly hard or complicated but there are nice flavour combinations that are probably outside some people’s boxes.

I wanted to know what someone who isn’t vegan, and doesn’t have vegans in her immediate family, thought of the book. She liked the photography and simple ingredients with the option to add things. “Not sure if I’m the target – I’d probably buy it for vegans. I like the servings information, it’s amazing how many cookbooks don’t say how many people a recipe will feed. I like the background about why she likes certain flavours, clear simple instructions, highlights in bold and not crazy ingredients.” My friend is an excellent cook and said she would like to cook from it.

KP was less enthusiastic. I asked him to select a few recipes he’d like me to cook and he struggled to choose three. However, he hasn’t tasted any yet.

So what did I think? There’s no seasonality in any of the recipes, they’re designed so you can go into the supermarket at any time of the year and make them. As I cook from my Riverford veg box, I find this a bit limiting. However, using leftovers of something I’ve cooked on one day as the foundation for a different meal is something I do regularly to minimise food waste, so I relate to the concept. This book gives me a different perspective and many new ideas.  Some vegan substitutes are included but not often: for instance, vegan mince is used for the Thai-basil plant-based mince recipes, however walnut and cauliflower mince is the basis of others. Overall, it feels like an interesting cookbook that just happens to be vegan.

As well as finding a home on the bookshelf of vegans it could be a great resource when cooking for a mixed group, which happens more and more these days.

Vegan recipe book by Rachel Ama

The Harissa Hotpot was really simple to make. I was really dubious about adding chopped aubergine into a type of stew without frying them first but they melted into the sauce really nicely. The zest and juice of orange really lifted the whole thing especially paired with the ginger. The green bean salad was a quick addition and the green tahini dressing was so delicious that I’ve made it again to serve with other vegetables.

This recipe is from One Pot:Three Ways and reproduced with permission from the publisher:

Harissa Hotpot

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: simple
  • Print

In this hotpot, aubergines and chickpeas are flavoured with aromatic ginger, cinnamon and fragrant harissa and all cooked in one big pot in the oven. This is a simple way to intensify flavours quickly and achieve very happy kitchen smells. The aubergines become deliciously soft and absorb all the flavours.

Ingredients

Harissa hotpot (main recipe)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon rose harissa
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger, minced
  • 2 aubergines, quartered lengthways, then chopped into triangular slices
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) cans tomatoes
  • zest and juice of ½ orange
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garnish

  • Handful of fresh flat-leaved parsley
  • 2 tablespoons shelled pistachio nuts, crushed


Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas 6.
  • Heat the olive oil in a deep, ovenproof pot over a medium heat. Add the harissa paste, paprika, cinnamon and onions and cook for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. If they begin to stick to the pan, add a splash of water to loosen them. Add the ginger and aubergines and mix to combine, then stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes and orange zest and juice. Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes until the aubergines have softened.
  • Garnish with the fresh parsley and pistachio nuts before serving with your choice of option dish*. The hotpot is now ready to be used in the recipes (*option one: garlic, lemon and kale wild rice; option two: toasted garlic sourdough with rocket; option three: green tahini and green bean salad – see below)  or it will keep in the fridge for 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Vegan recipe book by Rachel Ama

Green Tahini and Green Bean Salad


Ingredients

  • 2 portions of Harissa Hotpot (above)
  • 300g (10½ oz) green beans, trimmed
  • 1 Little Gem lettuce, leaves separated
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Green tahini dressing

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½-1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 2½ tablespoons tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt


Directions

  • Warm the hotpot in a deep saucepan over a high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low heat and simmer for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until piping hot.
  • Meanwhile make the dressing. Place all the ingredients for it in a bowl, adding just ½ teaspoon maple syrup at first. Add 2 tablespoons water and mix well until smooth. Some tahini brands can be thicker or more bitter than others, so taste the dressing: if it is too bitter, add a little more maple syrup: if it is too thick, add an extra splash of water to loosen. Set aside.
  • Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. Add the beans and boil for 2-3 minutes until tender, but still rich in colour and with a slight bite. Drain well, then place in a large salad bowl. Add the lettuce leaves, then drizzle over the dressing and the extra-virgin olive oil. Toss the salad together and season to taste with salt before serving alongside the hotpot.

This bean salad can be eaten warm or at room temperature.

Personal note: I used honey instead of maple syrup as I wasn’t cooking for vegans at the time. Honey is not considered vegan.


walnut and cauliflower mince recipe in Rachel Ama cookbook

Thanks to Yellow Kite Books, Hachette UK (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.) who published this book and sent me a review copy. All views my own.

What do you think of vegan cookbooks? If you aren’t vegan would you cook from one? If you are vegan are there any challenges you find when cooking or using cookbooks? I’d love to hear from you.

Please forward this review to any cookbook-loving friends you think might be interested or share on social.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2021 2:21 pm

    Sounds interesting. I too think the lack of seasonality would be a bit limiting, but cooking once for multiple meals is always a good practice.

  2. November 7, 2021 8:03 pm

    We aren’t vegan so I’m not big on meat substitutes but I have been trying hard to cook more naturally meatless meals. To that end, I even belong to a Vegan group on Facebook that are fabulous and welcoming no matter where people are on their journey to cutback/stop eating meat. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/600832400836487) I will share your review with them! This sounds like a cookbook I’d enjoy, Sally, and that harissa hotpot looks delicious!

  3. November 8, 2021 12:44 pm

    This is interesting even though I forbade myself to buy anymore cookbooks. 🙂 One family member is vegan (lives far away) and I have cut way back on meat and dairy. I do not necessarily appreciate the imitation type dishes as they often go after taste and texture, but seem to have given little thought to what one is actually eating (nutrition).

  4. haroldmarth15 permalink
    November 11, 2021 11:28 am

    please my dear write me back to email so that i will tell you why i contacted you (Haroldmartha35@gmail.com)

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