Cook the books – Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook

. May 08, 2017
Photography by David Parker.
Cook the books – Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook

Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook is a collection of recipes by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse, the pair behind the popular Melbourne restaurant of the same name.

The food is predominantly Latin-inspired cuisine. Head Chef Shannon is not a vegan and maybe that has something to do with their ethos towards cooking vegan and the addendum in their title “A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan)”. You've probably eaten lots of things that are entirely vegan without even realising it – you're just eating food, that happens to be vegan.

I requested this book for review because I wanted an excuse to have my vegan friends over for dinner, turns out, they've all visited Smith & Daughters and gave it rave reviews. But I received the book with a strange caveat: "Some of the recipes have butter or chicken stock in them..." and upon flicking through the book, some of the recipes did mention non-vegan products, products that could be easily replaced in a recipe list with vegan alternatives.

As one of my vegan friends is half Peruvian, I decided it was only fitting to try the Peruvian Pasta Bake Sopa Seca and I couldn't resist the Jalapeño and Corn Fritters.

First, I made the garlic aioli to go with the jalapeño and corn fritters by blending together tofu, garlic, salt, soy milk, apple cider vinegar and dijon mustard then when they were well combined I slowly drizzled in a 50/50 mix of vegetable oil and extra virgin olive oil while still blending until all the oil had been emulsified. I was actually quite surprised at how well this worked, it certainly tasted like aioli – Success!

I also decided to make the coriander cashew cream which would be drizzled over the Sopa Seca in advance. Again it was pretty simple, I blended together some cashews that I'd soaked overnight, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, coriander and salt until it was as smooth as I thought it'd get. I don't have an actual blender, I could've tried a stick blender but I got it fairly smooth in the food processor.

For the jalapeño and corn fritters I blended together some defrosted corn kernels, egg replacer powder and baking powder into a fairly smooth paste and then combined the mixture with some whole corn kernels, diced jalapeño and cornflour. I set the mixture aside to rest for a while before deep frying.

I fried in batches of 4–5 for about 6–8 minutes, I found it took a fair bit longer than the book recommended to get them cooked through but that could just be my deep fryer as I often find I can't rely on given timings implicitly.
 

For the Sopa Seca, I first needed to fry the pasta... yes, you did read that correctly, fry the pasta. This recipe does suggest that this is nothing like any Italian pasta dishes so I decided to do as I was told and fry the pasta, I had a lot of pasta though and it wasn't going to fit in my frying pan so I fried it in 3 or 4 batches and sure enough the pasta went turned golden brown and a little more brown in places and imparted an earthy flavour to the pasta. Interesting.

After frying all the pasta, I placed the onion, garlic, chipotles, tomatoes, ground coriander and oregano and blended into a sauce. Then I transferred the sauce into a saucepan and cooked it with bay leaves for about 10 minutes. Then I stirred in the stock, black beans and attempted to stir in the fried pasta, my saucepan was maybe a little small so I had to be very careful when breaking it up with a spoon.

After the pasta had been cooking for about 5 minutes, I could remove the bay leaves, transfer the mixture to an oven proof dish, cover it with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes.

When it was ready, I drizzled over the coriander cashew cream and sprinkled it with fresh coriander.

To be honest, I was a little doubtful about how these dishes would turn out but I was really pleasantly surprised. The Sopa Seca was really delicious and not at all weird, definitely not like an Italian pasta dish but quite hearty a little spice, earthy-ness of the beans and the pasta and then the cashew cream kept it light and interesting. 

I served it with a simple green salad and the pan fried peppers with crispy garlic also from the book and I think everyone was really happy. I may have sold a couple of copies of the book that night.

I might have to steal the jalapeño and corn fritter recipe and go into business as a food truck, serving only that. I doubled the recipe and we ate through it all as a starter between five of us. If I had more, we would've eaten a lot more. And to think they were, well, vegan.

The Book Cooked
Level of expertise required: To quote the book itself “These recipes are for regular cooks. This isn't fancy shit.” Nothing seems overly complex in the book and I don't think you need to worry about being super precise with the recipes, there's even a disclaimer that Shannon never measures anything and had to work out measurements to put in the book! Which hopefully should make things less daunting. But with it being vegan food prepare to spend a little time preparing extra sauces etc from scratch.
How many trips to the supermarket required? Mostly everything can be found fairly easy at a local supermarket and I think most good supermarkets are pretty good at keeping stocks of the few vegan specific products you may need with their 'health' products. On that note I was pleased to see that Mo and Shannon do not claim that this book is a 'health food' book, and while I'm sure most of the food can fit into a balanced healthy diet it isn't a book aimed at eating healthy. But yes you may have to venture to a vegan shops for some ingredients but I didn't need to.
How closely did your dishes resemble those in the book? I thought mine looked pretty spot on, however they did write in the book not to worry about plating the dishes in the same way they did for the book and to “put the food on the plate however you damn well please”  
Ease of readingVery easy to read and as you can see above written to be very accessible and with great humour.
Pretty on the coffee table or designed to be battered through overuse? My vegan friends all made an “ohhhhhh” sound when they saw the book, apparently the vegan community had been very excited about it and I think with good reason, it's a pretty great book that covers a variety of realistic to cook recipes covering a broad spectrum of flavours. Most of the recipes I looked at and thought “hmm that looks good” not 'that looks good for vegan food' but just good food I'd want to eat. And cook. It's a good cookbook. That happens to be vegan.