Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: The 5-Minute Vegan Lunchbox, by Alexander Hart

COOKBOOK: 52 fast, healthy vegan recipes that are creative and tasty enough to appeal to everyone, particularly given they are so quick and easy to prepare.

A fantastically diverse range of fast, tasty lunch ideas, but poor colour contrast is no one's friend.

Alexander Hart succeeds in providing quick, simple and healthy lunchbox ideas, although the idea of a 5-minute feast is little more than a marketing ploy. That said, many of his recipes don’t take much longer than that.

One doesn’t have to be a vegan to enjoy these creative midday meals, which range from wraps and salads to noodles and bento boxes. There’s a good variety of culturally inspired dishes, including Cantonese, Greek, Mexican and Egyptian. Simplicity is the word du jour–most recipes have only three steps comprising single-sentence instructions. The more complex recipes achieve the same in only five steps. All the food looks delicious and has the right combination of ingredients to be healthy and filling. This latest lunchtime cookbook from Hart is an ideal accompaniment to his early title, The 5-Minute Salad Lunchbox.

As seems to be a growing design fad nowadays, the colour contrast gives little consideration to any reader with a visual impairment. The coloured sections of the book simply use a darker shade of the background colour for its text. The softcover design does make it easy to keep the book open on the desired page, however, and Chris Middleton’s full-page photography of each recipe is rich in colour.

While it is difficult to recommend a book with such disappointing colour contrast, fans of Hart’s previous cookbooks will no doubt be thrilled with this latest creative volume of ideas.

Mexican Rice and Bean Salad (page 34)

This Mexican rice dish is exceptionally easy to make and is served cold in your lunchbox with the dressing on the side. I made it using a packet of Uncle Ben’s Mexican Style Brown Rice off the supermarket shelf, and sans jalapenos. It was tangy and spicy enough with its mix of red onion, lime juice and capsicum. Sweet corn softens the bite, as does the coconut yoghurt in the dressing, but there’s still a surprising mild heat to the combination. It’s absolutely delicious, though, and the bright colours make for a visually appealing dish too. The rice with kidney beans ensures that the meal fills you up and keeps you satisfied.

Egyptian Bento (page 116)

A Bento Box is a popular Asian style of serving a single-portion meal that comprises distinct elements, such as a rice, curry and sides, each in their own compartment so the foods don’t mix. The focus of this Egyptian variation is a broad bean dip which, according to the recipe’s introduction, is a national dish. Served with flatbread triangles, carrot slices and cucumber, the dip is also wonderful enough to just serve up with crackers. I expected this one to be bland, but the opposite proved to be true. The combination of cumin, garlic, tahini and other ingredients makes it very flavoursome, with lemon juice adding a bit of tang. The mixture is mashed instead of pureed, giving it a satisfying texture that helps the brain acknowledge when you’re full. I don’t have a Bento Box container myself, so the photo above is courtesy of the book photographer Chris Middleton and food stylist Deborah Kaloper but, of course, the end result of my effort looked just as perfect. Trust me!

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster Australia
Released: September 2020
RRP: $24.99

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