Hello non-vegan friends. Welcome. What’s that? You’re teenage daughter has decided to become a vegan just weeks before Christmas? You’ve invited the new neighbours over for dinner, but discovered they’re a couple of hippy vegans? Maybe you’re considering going vegan yourself, but don’t know where to start. Never fear, the tofu temptress is here.
The first question many people ask me on discovering I’m a vegan is ‘What do you eat?’ The easiest way for anyone new to veganism to think about vegan meals is to consider first what they themselves eat and see how it can be veganised. What did you have for dinner last night? Steak and chips? If so, veggie burger and chips isn’t that much of a stretch, is it? Most veggie burgers are fine for vegans, but do check the packaging as some will sneak milk in there somewhere. If they do, or even chuck an egg in the mix just to be awkward, it should be listed on the back of the packet under allergens. Or even better, you can make your own! Did you have spaghetti bolognaise? How about making it with soy mince, or lentils or just having penne al Arrabiata instead? See, it’s not that difficult really. The recipe selection is far too vast for me to list here, but try looking up some of these terms – bean burger, vegan sushi, vegan stir fry, vegetarian pasta, vegan mushroom risotto, vegan pancakes, stuffed peppers, vegan curry, vegan soup, vegan fillings for baked potatoes, vegan pizza – and you might find a few recipes that will become your vegan staples. Most pastry is vegan (like Jus-Rol) so puff pastry mains or short crust pastry tarts should be a breeze.
How about dessert? Well, the list is endless really. Believe me, once you get into vegan baking, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with milk and eggs at all. (For more info on milk and egg subs in baking, head over to my How to be Vegan section.) A vegan apple crumble is easy is you just substitute vegan margarine, like Vitalite, for the dairy stuff. Tray bakes and fridge cakes are just as easy. I have this book Vegan Junk Food and there are recipes in there that require three or four ingredients whizzed up in a food processor and voila, you have an instant sugar hit. I will say that where there’s melted chocolate, coconut oil often follows. You may look at the price of coconut oil in the supermarket and faint in shock. There is a cheaper way though. I get my coconut oil from Coconoil, where you can buy it in bulk. If you feel like you’re not going to be doing a lot of vegan baking, then you don’t have to bother, but do consider it, as when they’re not cooking with it, many people smear it on themselves for better skin! Win win. There’s also the legendary (in the vegan world) Vegan cupcakes take over the world. I took some chocolate orange cupcakes I made from this book into work last weekend and my non-vegan colleagues gratefully scoffed the lot.
What to remember when cooking for vegans is that they know they’re presenting you with a challenge. Many will offer to bring their own food, or maybe just one course, so don’t be insulted by this as they’re trying to be helpful. Also, don’t panic. If you’re having a group of people just substitute the meat item for, perhaps, something mushroom-y and delicious in pastry – I’m thinking of having this yummy thing at Xmas. And remember not to honey roast vegetables or cook them in butter or dog forbid, goose fat. Just think, you’ll be providing for a very grateful vegan at the table, while doing your heart a favour. I mean, goose fat, urgh…
If you’re not sure what to cook for a vegan then simply ask what they like. There’s no shame in it. Any vegan should be more than willing to help out, and who knows, once you’ve tasted what they’re having, you may never go back to meat again.