Many people see going vegan as giving up certain foods. While that may be strictly true in that animal products of any kind are most definitely off the table, other foods sneak their way into your diet and you’re all the richer for it. What do I mean? Well, there are many foods I eat now that I wouldn’t have eaten before I became vegan. The only reason for this was that I simply didn’t think about eating creatively. Even as a vegetarian, which I’ve been for most of my life, I didn’t consider the wide spectrum of food available to me. It’s funny, even going veggie aged twelve, people asked me (as indeed they do now) ‘What do you eat?’ as though all they do all day is stuff meat into their faces. Come to think of it, maybe that’s not so far fetched…Anyway, what I’m saying is that far from sacrificing flavour for your principles or health, as a vegan you tend to discover a whole new range of tastes that more than make up for any you’ve had to give up.
If you’ve even flicked through a vegan cookbook you may have thought to yourself, what on earth do these people use as ingredients – weirdos. Well, although I’m discovering new food all the time, I’d like to give you a rundown of some unusual vegan ingredients that you may not have heard of, as well as more familiar ones that we vegans use in non-traditional ways.
I’m going to kick off with Nutritional Yeast, or nooch for short. It’s a savoury, almost cheesy tasting non-active yeast that comes in the form of flakes and you can buy it at your local health food store or online. You can use it for all sorts of things, but I like to sprinkle it onto a pasta dish for some extra B12 (some nooch is fortified with it) or spin it into a homemade salad dressing to round out the flavour. There are various recipes for blending nooch with flour, water, mustard and cashews or suchlike to make cheese-style sauces.
This is one of the best from vegan chef Isa Chandra Moscowitz. I also love the one from her cookery book Appetite for Reduction, although she has several others on her website, check them out. I also love to stir nutritional yeast into a risotto at the end instead of parmesan (although vegan parmesan is coming on in leaps and bounds.) See my recipe here. So really, it’s a flexible ingredient that’s great when you’re after that cheesy taste. A little goes a long way, so my advice is to buy yourself a tub and search around for some fun recipes or simply experiment yourself.