I founded my restaurant Stem + Glory back in 2016 out of my passion to create clean, healthy and delicious plant-based food and I haven’t looked back. It has taken me over 35 years of experimenting with plant-based foods and I am so proud to be a part of the vegan movement. I want to win the hearts and minds of people not by propaganda but by offering irresistibly delicious plant-based alternatives. It’s no secret that veganism is on the rise in the UK and that is reflected in the vastly improved vegan offerings on menus across the country. It’s no longer OK just to offer a salad or risotto to a vegan.
So, if you’re thinking of providing vegan dining, whether at home or work, what should you be considering? I should start by defining what a vegan does NOT eat (you may be surprised that the list of what they do eat is really quite huge):
Vegans avoid all animal products, so that means no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs and no honey. Basically, if it’s come from an animal, whether the animal has been killed to provide it or not, a vegan won’t eat it.
Here are a few tips to help you not only get it right but to totally impress:
1. Veganise your ideal menu! Ok, this might not work if you were planning steak and chips, but say you were planning Indian, Italian, Asian or middle eastern – pretty much any style of cuisine works actually. Compile your signature dishes and then google a vegan version. There are stacks of vegan recipes online and you can literally put in your ingredients, then add ‘vegan’ and ‘recipe’ and you’ll find something.
2. Nature has given us a fifth taste – umami – which in a nutshell is ‘deliciousness’ and often it is the umami in food that makes it ‘mouth-watering’. Italian food is generally rich in umami and a great choice to veganism if you are new to vegan cooking. Tomato paste is very high umami as are olives (also umami), olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, Japanese food is also rich in umami and easy to veganise. If you feel like going for a classic meal, there are a huge number of vegan burger recipes out there. Add mayo, pickles (high umami), ketchup (high umami) to a meat-free burger. Toasted seeds and many spices are also high umami and can be used liberally. Cumin – vegetable curry? Smoked paprika – vegetable paella?
3. Always read packets. As a non-vegan, you probably don’t know what non-vegan products are sneaked into your everyday cupboard staples. Even now with veganism on the rise, packets are usually labelled ‘vegetarian’ but not necessarily ‘vegan’. It has been helped by recent changes to the law that allergens have to be written in bold, so it’s quite easy to scan ingredients lists for eggs and dairy which are the main culprits. So be really careful what you use.
4. Search out vegan wine/beer. There is a really good website http://www.barnivore.com/ which lists all vegan wine, beer and spirits you can buy in the supermarkets. Your dinner guest will really appreciate that you have done this research.
5. Eat out in a non-vegan restaurant and finding a vegan dessert is almost impossible. The best you’ll find usually is a fruit salad! So here’s your chance to shine with your vegan dinner guest. Raw ‘cheesecake’ is super delicious and really easy to make. It’s usually made with cashew nuts, and my favourite is raspberry or chocolate. You literally just blend all the ingredients and pour over a crust made from nuts and dried fruits. That’s for a completely raw version, but you can also buy vegan digestive biscuits (Doves Farm brand – get them on your trip to the health food shop). Mix crushed digestives with melted coconut oil for a more traditional cheesecake crust.
6. And finally, there is now a vegan Baileys! Called Baileys Almande it is made with Almond milk and is delicious. Serve with a couple of vegan chocolates – my favourite is the Booja Booja brand whose salted caramel truffles are to die for – and your vegan dinner guest will be purring.
Cooking vegan is easy, a lot 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 veganising your menu. Remember to liberally add high umami vegan flavours and you’ll be on track to produce a delicious and satisfying meal, and your guest will leave super impressed.
For more information check out my website www.stemandglory.uk or find me on social media:
Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton