The UK has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people choosing to follow a vegan diet. There are now over half a million vegans – a rise of 360% in the last 10 years – plus a further three million vegetarians (5.7% of the population). In addition there is a growing number of people identifying as “flexitarians”, who choose to eat mainly – but not exclusively – vegetarian food.
This has, in part, been attributed to the rise of ethical and sustainable living, particularly amongst Millennials and Generation X, who are passionate about playing their part to help improve the planet (some organisations estimate the livestock sector could be responsible for as much as 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions). Catering for this significant – and growing – number of people is crucial to operators in all sectors of foodservice, and, with pulses providing a fantastic source of protein, we asked seven knowledgable chefs and industry experts to put forward their creative culinary suggestions for vegan menu options.
Jean-Christian Jury, author of ‘Vegan: The Cookbook’ (published by Phaidon, £29.95) As a vegan, pulses are often the best alternative protein for replacing meat. When not overcooked and because of their high levels of fibre, pulses keep a good texture. This combination of protein and fibre also keeps you fuller for longer and their complex carbohydrates help you retain high energy levels (unlike sugar). I use the full range of lentils and all sorts of beans in my cooking to create recipes like plant-based ‘bolognese’ or ‘burgers’. I think pulses are best used as a standalone ingredient: in a chickpea curry, quinoa mathrooba or Karachi dumplings. Recently I’ve started using more fresh roots like ginger and galangal (turmeric) in my cooking. When cooked in a curry, these roots lose many of their nutritious properties leaving us only with a delicious flavour, but not using the full root. To remedy this, I’ve started cold-press juicing the roots and once my curry is cooked, I remove the pot from the stove, leave to cool for 4-5 minutes and add the 2-3 tbsp of ginger or galangal juice into the mix. The scent and flavour is absolutely amazing and my body benefits from all the great properties of the roots.
Chef Day Radley www.vegan chefday.com Pulses are an excellent source of protein but sprouting them brings them to a whole new level. Sprouting is easy to do and can turn a cheap ingredient into a protein powerhouse as they are much easier to digest and therefore the protein is more accessible. This cheap ingredient can, once sprouted, elevate any plate, turning a plain recipe into an elegant dish. Use sprouted lentils for a delicate decoration and sprouted beans for a more rustic look.
Paul Evans, head chef at Mallory Court Country House Hotel and Spa, Warwickshire (www.mallory.co.uk) Catering for vegans at Mallory Court is really important to me, as the popularity of a vegan diet has increased massively in the last few years, we are getting more frequent requests for vegan options. With this in mind it is important for my chefs to be organised and prepared for the vegan guests. Whether it is for breakfast, afternoon tea or their evening meal their food experience deserves to be of the same standard as that of the other guests. My two favourite ingredients to use for vegans are agave nectar to replace honey and nutritional yeast flakes, added in risottos to add a cheesy flavour. With my wife being vegan, I enjoy the challenge of cooking vegan friendly dishes. One of our favourites in our household is my carrot cake recipe, which is available at www.stiritupmagazine.co.uk/recipes.
Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts, founders of The Vurger Co We love incorporating pulses into recipes. One way we do this is actually in a recipe we cook at home all the time – it’s a vegan chilli recipe and can be adapted quite easily to suit your needs too. Simply sauté two chopped onions and three red peppers then add a teaspoon each of paprika, chilli powder and cumin. Then add a tin each of sweetcorn, red kidney beans and lentils, season and cook on a medium heat for 20-25 minutes for a perfect winter warmer.
Alex Connell, principal tutor, www.vegsoccookeryschool.org Pulses offer a wide range of ways to be cooked and enjoyed. For light lunches Puy lentils are great for bulking out vegetable bakes – try using courgettes, aubergines and peppers with a little crème fraiche, passata and vegetarian mozzarella. Lentils can also work beautifully alongside bulgur wheat or cous cous with roasted vegetables stirred through. Chickpea curries are always a firm favourite, with the pulse absorbing the flavours of your chosen sauce or spice mix. Many recipes where mince is traditionally used can work well with lentils, so try them for burgers, ‘meat’balls or even lasagne!
Ben Bartlett, celebrity chef, uses flavoured oils such as Prep Premium to bring an extra dimension to a vegan Christmas party menu Try the Ultimate Vegan Christmas Roast made with red lentils for iron, protein and fibre – three things vegan diets are often thought to lack. Mix the lentils with red onion, garlic, carrots, leek, butternut squash, fresh herbs, apricots, cranberries, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, mixed nuts and chestnuts and bind with flaxseed egg substitute. Serve with onion gravy and a potato and parsnip mash given a burst of flavour with Prep Premium basil-infused oil. For a fun starter to share, offer vegan cheese fondue topped with fresh fig and grilled rye bread, and for pudding serve a fabulously seasonal cranberry and “eggnog” trifle.
John Steele, national account controller, Futura Foods Mozzarisella is a fantastic vegan cheese alternative which tastes great and even has the same stringy effect as Mozzarella when melted on pizza. Chefs who are under increasing pressure to cater for special dietary requirements can use it to create vegan dishes with minimum fuss. Provided other elements of the dish are vegan friendly, pasta dishes ‘al forno’, pizzas, salads and stuffed vegetables won’t require huge recipe changes – Mozzarisella can simply be used in place of the original cheese. Made from rice, the cheese is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, coeliacs and those with a dairy intolerance.
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