Cook Book Review - Vegan 100 by Gaz Oakley
Vegan is the new Black, its having its moment in the spotlight and it seems that everyone is trying it on for size. I’m not vegan but more like a part time vegetarian, a conscious eater - the official word apparently is Flexitarian. Hi I’m Despina aka Forked LDN, and I’m a Flexitarian.
Due to high demands, over farming is at a crisis point and raising animals for food with poor practice is causing deforestation, damage to the soil and sea. Our eco system is suffering, which is having a knock on effect on our health, not forgetting the conditions some of these animals are kept in, in order to feed us. I believe that encouraging people to eat more plant based food and minimising meat consumption to once or twice a week, ensuring that what we do eat is sustainable, ethically and responsibly sourced can only be a good thing. *steps off soap box.
Gaz Oakley has become a bit of an internet sensation as the Avant-Garde Vegan and his new book Vegan 100 gave me a chance to find out why. I invited my friends over to help critique food cooked from the book and interestingly non are vegans. Also, one of them is a coeliac which unfortunately for her means she’s hypersensitive to gluten, but it also means that a fair bit of Gaz’s book is off limits. Why? Because he uses a meat substitute called seitan in a fair few recipes. Its made from wheat gluten, high in protein and when marinated and cooked, becoming similar to the look and texture of meat.
So with this in mind, I crack on with my menu:
Starters: Tofu Tikka Kebabs with Carrot Salad - Gaz claims that this is the tofu dish to make if you have friends who say they hate it and as I’m feeding the carnivores, it feel like a good dish to start with. It needs to be eaten straight out of the oven, so if you’re tempted to make this at home give yourself an hour before hand to marinade. Tofu is the blank canvas of the food world- soaking it up with big bold flavours is the key to making this dish work. It did get mixed reviews but I think this is mainly to do with its unfamiliar texture, the flavours worked well together and the carrot salad went down a storm. I’d be tempted to cook this on a bbq next time, just to see if the charcoal and flames enhance the flavours.
Picking a main proves a little more challenging, seitan is off the menu, tofu has been used in the starter and did I mention the friend who isn’t a fan of aubergine? Thats off the menu too. As the choices in the book are now quite limited I consider making some new friends. Failing that I opt for the American diner inspired experience: The Mexican, a burger with classic Mexican flavours served in a gluten free bun and Tomato Salsa, Gaz’s Guac, Quick Onion Rings, Herb & Lemon Polenta Chips and washed down with Sunshine Orange juice. The stand out dishes were the onion rings, the light and crispy batter kept everyone coming back for more and Gaz’s Guac with the charred pepper and mango make this a winning dip. I’ve already shared the recipe and will definitely be making it again. Like the tofu kebabs, the polenta chips need to be eaten straight out of the oven, with plenty of lemon juice. They were sadly neglected once they grew cold, it turns out polenta gets a little rubbery and the dried herbs within each chip feel a little sharp on the palate and made me wonder if I should have stuck with the sweet potato fries.
With full belly’s of avant-garde burger and chips, the obvious choice for dessert was an avant-garde ice cream, Raw Mango & Vanilla to be precise. I don’t have an ice cream maker so the challenge was to make this by hand. An arduous job of hand churning every hour for up to 6 hours which resulted in a wave of middle class smugness when asked if I made this from scratch. I’ve never made my own ice cream, nor have I eaten a dairy free ice cream where the main ingredient is cashew nuts but I can tell you that it tasted pretty good! I couldn’t taste the mango, were my mango’s not ripe enough? (said the tart to the vicar…) so on this occasion, I'd be more inclined to call this Cashew & Vanilla Ice Cream.
Vegan 100 highlights the ingredient seitan and as long as gluten isn’t a problem, this book is bountiful in recipes. Having said that, there are still enough recipes to explore, lots of exciting flavour combinations, and classic dishes re-imagined. I’ll be giving the Chocolate Not-Ella, Hazelnut Spread a go and the Hot-Pink Beetroot Ketchup is on my list, taking my pink food obsession to the next level. I already have the ingredients waiting patiently in my kitchen for the Chocolate truffles…no guests required.