All cooking rests on a set of fundamental techniques. If you know those fundamentals, there’s very little you won’t be able to do in the kitchen.
Once upon a time, I was complaining. Specifically, in this instance at least, my beef was with the cookbook industry. I fully recognised myself as a culinary dumbass—a man who once tried to make a curry sandwich and who spent the best part of several months living solely on egg and sausages—and found recipes frustratingly mystifying due to not understanding the why behind instructions like
add salt to taste and
brown the onions, let alone the how. I wanted a cookbook that would treat me as just such a dumbass, assume absolutely no prior knowledge and take me through cooking from first principles in little baby steps.
Shortly thereafter, I discovered Ruhlman’s Twenty, which is exactly that book. Over 100(ish) recipes, divided across the twenty techniques of the title (including chapters like Onion, Salt and Water), Ruhlman takes the reader from zero to culinary hero and rather beyond; I will probably never cook sous vide, for example, but I feel better for knowing what it is.
The book has one flaw,1 however, for the aspiring chef who also finds themself interested in veganism: almost none of the book’s recipes are vegan. So, what is a man in such a position, eager to improve both his hands-on understanding of cooking and learn how to cook within the constraints of veganism, to do?
Make every recipe in the book, vegan-style.
So this is one of my projects for this year: to cook every one of the 100(ish) recipes in Ruhlman’s Twenty, adapting each to replace any non-vegan ingredients. There will be successes, there will be failures, there will no doubt be some howlingly stupid mistakes. It should all be good fun, though.
The rules of this project will be as follows:
- I will be posting in ~25-recipe batches, and aiming to complete one such batch per quarter;
- I will assume that the reader has a copy of the book to hand or will purchase it if interested, and will not be copying out all of the recipes from it;
- I will not follow the order of the book;
- I will limit my posts to just the interesting bits—the recipe adaptations and the results—and will leave the reader who may be interested in learning more about veganism as an idea to look elsewhere; and
- I will try to alternate my vegan replacements, because I don’t want to eat tofu all year any more than you want to read about it.