Cook Book of the Week THE CAFE PARADISO COOKBOOK Denis Cotter, Atrium, pounds 20.00, 278pp

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The Independent Culture
VEGETARIANS DO not have an easy lot in life. Vilified by ardent carnivores, they have to suffer the added indignity of being a "problem" guest. How would you like to be fed a diet of omelettes or pasta every time you ate out? Worse still, they are subjected to countless bad cookery books. Consequently, anyone with a penchant for meatless meals has to rely on their own imagination once they have exhausted the handful of good books currently available.

Denis Cotter is the chef/owner of Cafe Paradiso, a well-known vegetarian restaurant in Cork. This collection of his favourite recipes, interspersed with glossy photographs, doesn't suffer from the usual slick, chefy treatment. Instead you find yourself absorbed by his chatty writing, which amuses and informs at the same time.

He openly admits that he still puts his chilled beetroot soup with soured cream, cucumber and scallions on the menu despite the fact that it is "one of the lowest-selling dishes ever in the history of catering". He also states that he has been accused of having a heavy hand when it comes to cooking, but that this is because he likes food to taste of itself. Don't be misled by such modesty. Every recipe leaps off the page with its exciting flavours, whether it is squash, butterbean and leek stew with cheese gougeres or gooseberry-almond tartlets with amaretto custard.

The book is divided into six sections, which include Practical Stuff, The Pantry, Starters and Mains. Each recipe needs to be carefully read as it is packed with useful information. Everything is clearly explained, but you will need to cook properly. This is not a book for instant gratification, rather for lots of prolonged pleasure. Who knows, Denis Cotter may even tempt rabid meat-eaters with his new, vibrant style of vegetarian cooking.

Sybil Kapoor