Expert Richard Makin, aka School Night Vegan, shares his secrets to plant-based recipes…
Inspired plant-based cooking can be pretty daunting. Whether you’re simply trying to eat less meat or you’re cutting out animal products cold turkey (pun intended), it can be challenging to make a plate of plants appealing. With a couple of tips and a handful of secret ingredients, however, you’ll be a vegan kitchen boss in no time. Here’s everything you wanted to know about getting the most out of vegan cooking (including tips on vegan baking). Find ingredients in health food stores, speciality grocers and online at buywholefoodsonline.co.uk.
Listen to Richard chatting about vegan ingredients on our podcast here:
4 easy vegan protein substitutes
Originating from ancient China, this wheat-gluten-based meat substitute has a remarkably convincing texture. It’s easy to make from scratch at home and can be shaped in any way you please (see the shiitake seitan burger with kimchi mayo on p38). Alternatively, buy it in blocks vac-packed or in chunks in jars. Great in stir-fries, Indian curries or on a BBQ.
Made from soy milk and widely available in a range of different textures. For a reliable meat substitute with a high protein content choose the extra-firm variety and be sure to squeeze out all the excess water. Marinate in teriyaki sauce and serve raw in a poke bowl or shallow fry with lemongrass before adding to a Thai green curry.
Usually found tinned at large supermarkets or fresh among the exotic fruits at the greengrocer. Once cooked and shredded, jackfruit has a texture similar to pulled pork and a subtly sweet flavour. It pairs well with a smoky BBQ sauce and is a fantastic filler for tacos, burgers and burritos. Alternatively, slice into chunks and use as a chicken alternative in your favourite curry recipe.
Fermented and compressed soy beans give tempeh its unique umami-packed flavour. Slice into thin strips and marinate in soy sauce, maple syrup and liquid smoke (see right) for a delicious vegan bacon alternative.
4 easy vegan baking tips
Ground flax seeds make a great egg replacement in most sponge, cookie and brownie recipes. Simply hydrate 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds in 3 tbsp of water for a few minutes and use as you would a whole egg. Their texture is similar to egg white and is equally great at binding together ingredients and keeping everything moist.
When a recipe calls for egg whites, don’t panic, just reach for a tin of chickpeas. The unsalted soaking water known as aquafaba is naturally high in protein and whips up into glossy stiff peaks, just like egg whites. It has barely any flavour once whipped and can be used for meringues, soufflés and macarons.
Vegan baking block
Not all vegan butter is ideal for baking. Most dairy-free spreads are similar to margarine in texture and tend to contain more moisture than traditional butter. Look for a product called baking block (or baking fat) on the supermarket shelves. It’s vegan and behaves like butter – it even works beautifully in laminated pastry doughs such as croissants and pain au chocolats.
Chocolate is an easy workaround – just use the dark stuff! Most good-quality dark chocolate contains no milk past around 54% cocoa solids. They may not be labelled as vegan as often they are created in an environment where milk solids are present, so it’s up to the buyer to make the choice.
4 store cupboard vegan ingredients
The secret ingredient behind a satisfying fishy flavour! This dried seaweed, usually seen with sushi, has a naturally subtle seafood taste. Lay a slice of nori on a slab of tofu as imitation fish skin before breadcrumbing and frying – perfect for a crispy ‘fish’ taco!
The key to nailing an entirely vegan eggy flavour. With origins in Indian cuisine, this rock salt has a potent sulphurous taste, so a small pinch goes a long way. Add to a tofu scramble to up the egg factor, or stir through rice flour pancake batter to make a convincing omelette.
This is great for adding a nutty, cheesy flavour to vegan dishes. Whip up a plant-milk béchamel with a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast and you’ve got a mac ’n’ cheese sauce. Alternatively, blitz nutritional yeast with toasted cashew pieces for a quick vegan ‘parmesan’ sprinkle.
The ingredient behind mouthwatering plant bacon and meaty marinades. For a vegan BLT, whisk a teaspoon of this miracle condiment with dark soy sauce, maple syrup and a pinch of smoked paprika, and use to baste aubergine or sliced tempeh before baking.
3 vegan blender recipes
Soy milk mayo
- Put 150ml room-temperature soy milk, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, ½ tsp dijon mustard and ¼ tsp sea salt in a blender or food processor.
- Blend on a high speed then gradually pour in 250ml sunflower oil while the blades are running. The mayo will thicken and emulsify as the oil is added.
- For emulsification the milk has to be the same temperature as the oil so take it out of the fridge before using. Use on sandwiches, burgers and in dressings.
Tofu cream cheese
- Put 400g firm tofu, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp soy milk and ½ tsp sea salt in a blender or food processor.
- Pulse until smooth then spread on bagels, or use in cheesecake recipes.
Cashew soured cream
- Soak 200g cashews in water overnight.
- Tip into a blender or food processor with 4 tbsp lime juice, 4 tbsp rapeseed oil, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar and ½ tsp sea salt.
- Blend all the ingredients until very smooth and creamy. Use on tacos, nachos or in dips.
We’ve pulled together a collection of easy vegan recipes for you to choose from – aubergine teriyaki bowls, Moroccan soup and spicy lentil burgers.