By Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder, Stem + Glory
So you have invited me to dinner. I am a vegan of 30 years. That’s enough to instill fear into even seasoned vegan chefs. So, what can a non-vegan cook for me? And what on earth do vegans eat?
A good place to start is actually looking at what vegans DON’T eat. And that is no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, and even no honey (stolen from bees). Basically, if it has come from animal, whether the animal has been killed to provide it or not, a vegan won’t eat it.
That leaves a really long list of foods that we do eat, so cooking for a vegan isn’t actually as difficult as it may initially seem.
Here are a few tips which would definitely have me inviting myself back to yours again!
What do you like to cook most? Plan a menu around your signature dishes - the things that you cook well - then “veganise” it. There are a few things here that might not work for example, if your signature dish is steak and chips, but most other dishes and cuisines can be veganised. Once you have your menu, say for example paella, google ‘vegan paella recipe’. Hey presto you’ll find loads. There are some very well know sites, and I find it is always good to find recipe sites that are actual people (rather than recipe sharing). Another approach could be to go out and get yourself a vegan cookbook! Spend some time in a bookshop flicking through the recipes until you find one you like the look of. There has been an explosion of vegan cook books lately. My favourite is still a little book called ‘Easy Vegan’ another favourite in our house is ‘Street Vegan’.
Visit your local health food shop and stock up. You’ll not only get vegan ingredients, but you will also get lots of ideas whilst you are there. There will be time savers too that you can buy. For example, there are off the shelf plant-based versions of many classic foods such as vegan mayonnaise, vegan pate, vegan margarine, and a whole host of plant based milks and creams so you can also veganise a fabulous dessert
Many people think of veganism in terms of ‘lack’. If you have a recipe and just take out the animal products, it probably will be bland. So, you have to start over and construct food from the ground up using things that have taste and flavour so nothing is ‘missing’. Head for ‘umami’ rich foods which will bring a depth of flavour to your cooking. Tomato paste is very high umami as are olives and olive oil, and sun-dried tomatoes. Japanese food - soy sauce, sea vegetables; very high umami. Many store cupboard staples are also high umami - toasted seeds, pickles, fermented foods, mushrooms, broth, nutritional yeast, many herbs and spices. Roasting, grilling and caramelising also deepens the umami flavour - for example try roasting butternut squash before using it for soup. We do a lot of this at Stem + Glory - adding an extra cooking layer gives instant complexity to flavour.
Many people are not aware that a lot of beer and wine is not vegan - the products used for ‘fining’ are often made from fish or eggs, so search out vegan wine and beer. Co-op is good for vegan wine labelling and there is a really good website http://www.barnivore.com/ which lists all vegan wine, beer and spirits you can buy in the UK.
And finally, vegan dessert. This is almost impossible to find in a non-vegan restaurant, so I for one would really appreciate the effort made. Raw ‘cheesecake’ is a real winner with me and it’s super easy to make. Again, google a vegan recipe - these are usually made with cashew nuts are sugar free. Winning flavours with me are raspberry, blueberry or chocolate. You literally just soak the cashews then blend all the ingredients and pour over a crust made from nuts and dried fruits. You can also make a more traditional version using vegan digestive biscuits (Doves Farm brand from the health food store). Mix crushed digestives with melted coconut oil for a more traditional crust.
Cooking vegan is easier than you think. It’s also cleaner, healthier and a more sustainable way to live. Our dependence on animal products comes more from habit than it does from actual ‘need. Rise to the challenge of vegansing your favourite dishes. Remember to liberally add high umami vegan flavours and you’ll have me leaving satisfied, grateful and very impressed!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurant Stem + Glory; a hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurant, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredient 100% made on site. Stem + Glory offers all day casual fine dining, fast breakfast, brunch and lunch, juices, smoothies and great coffee. All available to eat in or take away. Stem + Glory also offers mouth-watering and hugely popular tasting menu evenings and special event menus. The restaurants have an extensive vegan bar, offering the best craft beers and fine wines, alongside cocktails, mocktails and smart drinks. www.stemandglory.uk
Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton
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