Vegetarians have long bewailed the difficulty of making Thai food: almost every ready-made Thai curry paste available contains shrimp or worse. Now it is possible to concoct your own! McDermott has created an Eastern cookbook with a Western eye, taking the mystery out of this delicious cuisine. Recipes are categorised along familiar lines, exotic ingredients are explained in a glossary and sources listed, unusual techniques (from opening a coconut to roasting chillis) are fully explained. This cookbook is very helpful indeed: there's even a bibliography and a list of menu suggestions, you can alter the amount of heat in a dish to taste (I'm a wimp about chillis and am doing fine), and she is not too snobbish to suggest replacements, such as ginger if galanga is unavailable. The lay-out is clear and easy to follow, and there are several interesting anecdotes about McDermott's travels in Thailand and the traditional Thai way of life.
The recipes are imaginative, healthy, straightforward to make, and they work beautifully. Many of them are vegan, and adaptations are usually suggested for those which are not. A "Basic Recipes" section gives recipes for essentials such as the different curry pastes, roasted chilli paste, vegetable stock, and "mushroom mince" (which she has invented to replace minced meat in traditional recipes).
Some examples of recipes included are:
Crispy spring rolls with sweet and hot garlic sauce
Green papaya salad
Jasmine rice soup with mushrooms, green onions and crispy garlic
Red curry with eggplant and sweet peppers
Butternut squash in fresh green curry
Coconut ice cream
Thai iced tea
To my surprise, Thai cookery turned out not just to be possible for vegetarians and vegans (an astonishing number of recipes are here, and meat-eaters will certainly not feel deprived), but the ingredients are easy to find, the recipes easy to make, and the results are dazzling.