Preparing For Plantbased - Tips + Tricks
It’s official, 2017 was the year of the Vegan. Whilst 2 years ago we were branded ‘weird’ for not wanting to eat meat on Christmas Day, this year there was more of a fight for the nut roast than there was the turkey. And this seems to be only a precursor to 2018. Veganuary has never been so big before, and thanks to supermarkets and restaurants jumping aboard the vegan bandwagon (a bandwagon which has grown by 360% in the past 10yrs FYI), there’s now more options than ever before, making the choice to forgo animal products that much easier.
That said, it’s still pretty daunting. For so long, meat has been seen as the core element of a meal, from which we build around. Once you take this away, even the most skilled of chefs can feel a little out of their depth. A little practice though, and you may find that vegan cooking is more or an accelerator of creativity rather than an obstacle. Not to mention there’s no time wasted defrosting meat, one pot meals are the norm (which means less washing up) and you don’t have to worry about the meat still being raw - we’ve never heard of illness from undercooked lentils or chickpeas before.
So this week we’re sharing our top tips on vegan cooking. The important bit though? These tips come from a team where about 80% of us eat animal products to some degree. Why is that bit important? Because the real message here is that vegan cooking isn’t limited to just vegans, and it can be a part of your everyday life rather than having to be a drastic choice between the meat life or the veg life. Another great concept to come out of 2017 was ‘flexitarian’ - eating mostly plantbased but occasionally enjoying meat, eggs and dairy too. As our mantra goes: find what works for you, and stick with it. So whether you’ve taken the plunge into veganism this January, or simply want to switch out the occasional meat-based meal, here are our favourite replacements.
Tempeh - tempeh is the only 'meat replacement' style ingredient we use in our lunch boxes, and generally tend to avoid the likes of tofu and seitan due to quality fluctuations, or wheat content. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, which means it's easier to digest, and has quite a 'meaty' texture. It's on the plain side flavour-wise, so is best to marinade or cook in a rich sauce. We use seasoned slices of it in our probiotic box, but it can also be crumbled and added into stews, stir fries and curries.
Mushrooms - mushrooms have long been one on the most popular options for meat-free dishes, particularly in restaurants. The main reason for this, other than their ease to cook, is because they have a similar umami flavour profile, and texture, to meat. We use mushrooms on our immunity box, sprinkled with vegan parmesan, but they can be added to practically anything! We love to use mushrooms when we want to create a creamy flavour profile in a dish, as they tend to mix better with cashew cream or coconut milk based dishes than other vegetables.
Cauliflower - Long gone are the days of over-boiled cauliflower, usually doused in cheese. Maybe it's because we love beautiful food, but cauliflower has become a key vegan option, with cauliflower steak (pictured above) becoming a popular member of restaurant menus across London. With the help of seasoning (turmeric + cauliflower is a match made in heaven), it can be transformed to fit any cuisine. Sliced or grated and roasted, it can also be added to one-pot dishes and pairs very well with Indian or Middle Eastern flavours. These Cauliflower tacos are the perfect example of innovative vegan cooking.
Lentils - Our love for lentils runs deep - they're versatile, so easy and quick to cook, and make one-pot cooking a breeze. Our turmeric + butternut daal pot is one of our favourite additions to the range, which uses red lentils, mixed with coconut milk and Ayurvedic spices. Green and red lentils are great for adding to big pots of vegetables for a protein-rich one pot dish, or sautéed garlic, onion and spices for a daal - both are quick, easy and rewarding on the tastebuds. For a lentil based salad, we always opt for Puy lentils, which should be cooked alone then added. Go for bitter greens such as rocket, a combination of roasted root veggies and a creamy dressing for winter vibes.
Beans + Legumes - a life void of hummus isn't a life with thinking of, and luckily vegan meals pair perfectly with mounds of hummus (just think of it as a really delicious way of getting your essential proteins). We always make our own because it's so much cheaper and tastier - just blend chickpeas with olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, roasted garlic and a good dose of Himalayan salt. Aside from hummus, legumes are incredibly versatile, making the perfect addition to salads, as well as curries and burger patties. Our go-to is mung beans thanks for their incredibly high protein content! Try sauteeing them with garlic and onion, then serving with a good amount of greens + roasted roots.
Aubergine - one of the most interesting meat replacements we've had recently was an an aubergine burger served with a seaweed dressing to replicate a fish patty (at Mooshies, London). Aubergines are such a versatile vegetable and take on the flavour of what they're mixed with, with making them a great base. Cooked for long enough, the soft texture can also be incorporated into meals where you would usually find minced meat such as lasagnes and pasta dishes, burgers, meatballs etc. This Aubergine Parmesan Bake is a great example. Our recommendation is to grill sliced aubergine separately (we tend to use a double sided grill such as a George Forman) with just a dash of olive oil and salt. Once they're nice and soft, they're much easier to work with.
Flaxseed - Whilst we haven't yet mastered a vegan replacement for eggs outside of baking, flaxseed is our absolute go to when trying to make cake recipes without eggs. Simply mix one tbsp of flaxseed with 3 tbsp of water, and it will replace one egg in baking. Flaxseed is also great for digestive health which is an added bonus!
Chia seeds - Similar to flaxseed, one tbsp of chia seeds mixed with 3tbsp of water makes a great egg replacement, and doesn't have a flavour as strong as flaxseed. We've used it in various cake recipes with great success!
Almond and cashew milk - our favourite milk replacements for making porridge and chia pudding, they’re not overly sweet so make a great base. We like to make our own using just nuts and water to ensure a high nut content and no added sweeteners, otherwise we recommend Rude Health’s Ultimate Almond.
Bonsoy soy milk or Oatly oat milk - for coffee, these are the ultimate dairy free milks. They never curdle (the ultimate annoyance with plantbased milk), and make the creamiest lattes.
Coconut Yoghurt - We much prefer nut or coconut based products in P+G HQ, so prefer to use coconut yoghurt over a soy alternative (until a high quality one enters the market at least). For a more traditional 'yoghurt' flavour we love Coconut Collaborative, or for a more decadent option (great with cakes and dessert) we love CoYo.
Cheese… the ultimate sacrifice for most. Truth be told, we just go entirely without it at P+G, or opt for a goat or sheep alternative if we really want it as it’s easier to digest. Not very vegan though, so we recommend any cashew based, small batch produced creamy cheese alternative - however the UK offering is little and incredibly expensive (hence why we go without it). An alternative if you want to create a cheesy sauce would be adding nutritional yeast flakes, salt and garlic to a coconut milk or cashew cream base.
Cashew Cream - for those times when you need something a little richer and thicker than coconut milk, cashew cream is our favourite go to. To make it, simply soak cashews in water for 5-24hrs, then blend with a dash of plant milk. We use this to make dips, cheesecakes, custard and more. For a sweet base simply add a couple of dates, or for a savoury option, add nutritional yeast, salt + garlic. This makes an amazing vegan mac + cheese or sweet potato dauphinoise, or add more milk to make a creamy, mayo-like dressing.