A few weeks ago I attended Penguin’s first Vegetarian Cookery Evening, where I met Meera Sodha, and Stephen and David Flynn from The Happy Pear. This was the first event I’d been invited to as a blogger, which was really exciting! I met lots of other bloggers, as well as company representatives, and there was a free bar and some really delicious canapés from the chefs.
I was a little disappointed with the ‘cookery evening’ part – the resources were clearly limited, and so Meera Sodha made no-cook energy balls while Stephen and David Flynn made a smoothie. All were delicious, and everyone was very nice and entertaining, though I didn’t feel I learned anything new. The demos were over quite quickly, and we were then led through to another room to chat to each other and the chefs. I was particularly looking forward to meeting Stephen and David Flynn: a few years ago, whilst on a family holiday in Ireland, we stumbled across their café, which we loved. When the first Happy Pear cookbook was released in 2014 I excitedly snapped it up, though on arrival I had some mixed feelings about it. Although there were recipes I loved, I found quite a few ingredients that I just couldn’t buy at home, and the methods in some recipes were unclear. Despite this, when I heard about the release of their second book, The World of The Happy Pear, I was eager to see what new recipes and ideas they would include.
Chia seed pudding (page 12)
After over a year of seeing chia puddings all over Instagram, I thought it was about time I tried them. I was a little nervous, having heard mixed reviews, and the fact that it does look a little like frogspawn. I was spurred on, though, by Stephen and David’s comments that they hadn’t liked the texture of chia puddings before developing this recipe.
I loaded mine with toppings (coconut, fresh raspberries, cacao nibs, bee pollen and mint leaves – because why not) as suggested, and dug in. It really was surprisingly refreshing, and not half so jelly-like as I was expecting! The toppings lent a variety of textures, which it did need, but overall it was light and fruity and made a refreshing summer breakfast. I wouldn’t make it every day, but I will make it again – as someone who is definitely not a morning person, I especially love that all the preparation is done the night before!
Moroccan tagine (page 109)
The weather in London last week left a lot to be desired, so I was really craving something that would be warming yet summery at the same time. I was also drawn in by the promise of a quick and easy mid-week meal – and was not disappointed. I love this recipe. The blend of spices is mouth-watering; the dates are jewels of sweetness, and the almonds sprinkled on top (which I definitely recommend) add a gorgeous textural crunch.
The recipe itself isn’t perfect: the ingredients list isn’t in order, which is frustrating, and also lists ‘juice of ½ a lemon’, which isn’t included in the method. Despite this, I continued (adding the lemon juice along with the chickpeas), and was really pleased with the meal I ended up with. I’ll definitely be making this again!
On the whole, my feelings are mixed. Many of the recipes feel less accessible, and less practical than those in their first book, which is a shame. Although there are a number of recipes I’m keen to try out – coconut chana masala with spinach; black bean, squash and roasted garlic burgers; pad Thai – there are also some that I would just never make. The homemade non-dairy milks are completely inaccessible to me, as I don’t have a blender powerful enough to make them smooth. Although the quinoa and flax pancakes look delicious, my lack of a ‘high speed blender or coffee grinder’ means this is also out of the question. I also just don’t see the point of the homemade coconut yoghurt, as it lists ‘shop bought coconut yoghurt’ in the ingredients.
There is a roundel on the cover from the Sunday Times, calling Stephen and David Flynn ‘the poster boys for a healthy way of life’, which I think is a good summary. There is some very delicious food in this book – don’t get me wrong – but it’s so smiley and aspirational that it starts to feel a little over the top. There are some recipes that don’t have accompanying photography: the photos instead are used to depict semi-clothed men (amongst others, there is a double page spread of four guys flexing with their tops off). While I’m no prude, I just don’t understand the relevance of this in a cookbook – I’d much rather see photos of the food. It should be the food that tempts me to make the recipe, not the looks of the people who wrote the recipe. I am aware that a lot of ‘wellness’ cooks use their own images to promote their food: while it’s a bug-bear for me, I know this is not the case for everyone.
Despite some shortcomings, though, a lot of their food is truly delicious. If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can buy their new cookbook, The World of the Happy Pear, here. You can also visit their website, or follow them on Twitter and Instagram for more recipes and inspiration.