Vegan friend coming around for dinner?

There’s no doubt that veganism is bang on-trend at the moment. The number of UK vegans has risen dramatically over the last two years, from 1% of the population to 7%, according to a survey published earlier this year.

It also reported that the biggest rise in veganism is among young people.  So, how about cooking a vegan dinner for your friends?  Here are my top tips:

By Louise Palmer-Masterton founder of award-winning restaurant Stem + Glory

1.  Start with your favourite meal and make it vegan! Might not work for 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. You can literally put in your ingredients, then add ‘vegan’ and ‘recipe’.

2.  For less creative cooks, get down to the health food shop. You can get vegan alternatives to almost anything now. For example, vegan mayonnaise is easy to make, but there are a number of off-the-shelf versions that are really tasty. There is even vegan cheese, plenty of plant-based milks and creams too. 

3.  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’. For example, Italian food is generally rich in umami and a great choice to veganise. Tomato paste is very high umami as are olives, olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. Japanese food is also rich in umami and easy to veganise. 

4.  Read the packet! Non-vegans probably don’t know what non-vegan products are sneaked into your everyday cupboard staples. Even with veganism on the rise, packets are usually labelled ‘vegetarian’ but not necessarily ‘vegan’. It’s 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. 

5.  Finding a vegan dessert is almost impossible. The best you’ll find usually is a fruit salad! Here’s your chance to shine! Raw ‘cheesecake’ is super delicious and really easy to make. You literally just blend all the ingredients and pour over a crust made from nuts and dried fruits. See recipe below!

Cooking vegan’s much easier than you think. It’s also cleaner, healthier and a more sustainable way to live. Rise to the challenge of vegansing 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.  Louise :-)

Louise's Raw Cheesecake

cheescake.jpg

"Finding a vegan dessert is almost impossible..."

Cashew nuts are a really versatile ingredient; once soaked and blended they make the most deliciously creamy desserts. We vary our cheesecake according to the seasons, and you can easily adapt this yourself, substituting the blueberry and banana for raspberries, cocoa or even just lemon and vanilla.

Preparation time: 1 hour plus chilling or freezing time | Makes 12 portions

Ingredients

For the base:

110g cashews (can also use almonds)

100g desiccated coconut 

265g pitted dates 

30g coconut oil, melted 

2.5g vanilla powder (or extract)

60ml water 

5g cocoa powder 

For the filling:

720g cashews

220g maple syrup

100ml lemon juice

220g coconut oil (melted) 

90ml water

5g vanilla powder (or extract)

pinch sea salt

110g blueberries (frozen) 

1 banana

12.5g blueberry powder

15g soy lecithin 

Method

For the base

Soak the cashews (or almonds) in water for 15 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Add the cashews (or almonds) and all the remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until a sticky, crumbly mixture is made.Line a 25cm springform tin with baking paper. Transfer the mixture into the tin and flatten the base evenly. Press down well and smooth over using the back of a spoon.

For the filling

Soak the cashews in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Add the cashews and all the remaining ingredients except the lecithin to a blender and blend until a smooth and viscous liquid has formed. If your blender is low powered, this may take 10 minutes or more. Thoroughly stir the lecithin into the liquid, and then pour the filling over the base. Leave the cheesecake in the fridge to set or freeze and then leave it out for an hour to defrost before serving.

To serve

We serve ours with some blueberry compote and slices of caramelised banana. You can also serve it with fresh blueberries, or just eat it straight from the fridge!

HealthWeb editor