As most of you will know, I am lactose intolerant which means I cannot have dairy, an allergy that I found many restaurants don’t take seriously. I would often order a meal and state my allergy several times just to make sure only to get my food with “just a little bit of butter” on my vegetables or in the sauce - argh!. So, I would often say I was vegan and discovered that not only did I never get dairy in any of my meals, but also what I was eating was actually fabulous and, in some case, better than what I was used to.
I began eating a vegan and plant-based diet even more and started experimenting at home with meals. In the beginning I didn’t have a clue where to start or how to create certain dishes without using the normal ingredients like eggs or milk. Nowadays there are an abundance of alternative ingredients you can use and, in most cases, you can’t taste the difference.
Vegan food can be just as diverse and colourful as what you are used to and there aren’t many recipes where there isn’t a great vegan alternative – I even managed to have tiramisu for the first time in my life!
So, with this in mind and to give a nod to World Vegan Day, I have asked our friends at Wulf and Lamb (I know… a vegan restaurant named after animals -there’s a story) to share some staple ingredients to help get you started with vegan cooking. Let me know how you get on.
This versatile and popular cream can be found in almost any food shop. It’s a great and easy substitute for cooking cream. Keep it handy and add to you vegetable curries and sauces.
Thankfully there are plenty of options in the supermarkets today so why not try them all to find your favourite? We recommend barista grade oat milk if you are making cappuccinos or lattes. If you’re craving something creamier you can always make your own - we love home-pressed almond milk, you can make it as thick as you please. Perfect for a creamy coffee or to pour on your cereal.
Cooking a hearty pasta is both quick and easy. There are many different kinds of egg free pasta. If you are avoiding gluten you can find lots of brands that make pasta from quinoa, corn, rice flour and other ingredients that are gluten-free.
When added to a sauce or sprinkled on top of your popcorn, these yellow flakes melt to give a cheesy flavour. We use it to make our signature Mac’N’Cheese with cashew cream instead of dairy.
Cashews & a good blender
Cashews are the perfect base for a creamy sauce or dip. Soak them in water overnight, rinse and blitz in a blender with added water. Add some lemon juice and garlic to create an aioli or some paprika and chili for a spicy dip. If you are making dessert some cacao or vanilla and agave can make for a sweet sauce to go with your cake or pancake.
If you don’t recognise this name, don’t worry, it’s something you are probably familiar with and might very well already have in your kitchen cabinet. You know that liquid that you pour away when you open a tin of chickpeas? This is aquafaba and when whipped, this viscous water behaves a bit like egg whites. You can use it to make meringues and cookies.
This savoury fruit is native to Africa and has become a staple in Jamaica, featuring strongly in many Caribbean foods. Its yellow flesh is reminiscent of scrambled eggs and the creamy texture is perfect for recreating this classic breakfast dish or to add to a stir-fry. You can find tinned ackee in special shops or online. Rinse before cooking and add straight to the pan.
Stock up on your favourite vegetables and build a dish around them. Start with the things you know and love. And when you’re ready you can begin to explore more exotic ingredients and discover some of the more unfamiliar gifts that the plant-kingdom has to offer like jackfruit...
Chef Franco Casolin