If I take you back to the time when I was a young chef, only about 10 years ago, vegan menu options were very limited. If a restaurant had an animal-friendly diner, the chef’s choice would normally be to ‘give them the risotto without the parmesan’ or ‘just a salad’.
Those days are gone, and everything has changed. More and more people are requesting vegan food and drink, so chefs and food establishments have been forced to evolve with the times, which can only be a good thing in my opinion.
Why are so many of us deciding to turn to a veganism? A recent study estimated that 3.5 million of us have now adopted a vegan diet and/or lifestyle. This figure is up from 540,000 just 2 years ago. That’s huge growth! The same study shows that the 3 main reasons that people are choosing veganism are:
-To maintain a healthier lifestyle and diet; some people think it can help with tiredness, muscle pain and conditions like fibromyalgia.
-To work towards a healthier planet; some figures indicate that the meat, dairy and fish industry contribute to a huge percentage of the world’s pollution.
-To create a cruelty-free world for animals; It’s difficult to argue against the proof that many animals are treated poorly within some farms and slaughterhouses.
The continued “trend” of veganism has forced the food and drink industry to re-evaluate what they are offering to their vegan guests; boring salads, tasteless risotto or bought in, eggless pasta are no longer acceptable. Instead, as chefs, we are finding new and interesting ways to flavour dishes and create exciting and unique flavour experiences without using animal products. There are so many creative alternatives available, so it is easier than ever to create spectacular vegan dishes that even meat eaters would enjoy. If you don’t eat eggs but want a meringue, that’s no problem! Just empty a can of chickpeas and save the water, then Whisk it up with a handful of sugar to create a fantastic, vegan ‘aquafaba’ meringue. I promise you, it tastes just like the real thing!
If you think you would miss the flavour and texture of pulled pork or chicken, there are countless, cruelty-free ways to replace these.
Jackfruit is a fruit from India, that when cooked with spices and smoke, tastes and feels like your beloved pulled pork. Or how about experimenting with different mushrooms? The high umami levels in these are a great replacement for rich meaty flavours; a pink oyster mushroom can be made to resemble a meaty piece of beef, or an Eryngii mushroom can be shredded and cooked to resemble pulled chicken, then served in the same way. There is a multitude of available options to consider.
I’m not writing this article as an activist trying to get you to convert to veganism, nor am I going to tie myself to a butchers shop until they stop serving meat! I’m not vegan, and probably won’t ever be, but I’m just trying to show you a snippet of the vegan world form a chef’s perspective, and hoping to inspire you to be a little bit more adventurous and not shy away from experimenting with vegan dishes.
Vegan food doesn’t have to be boring, flavourless and colourless. All it takes is some different cooking techniques, some open-mindedness and passion to really create some amazing, different dishes.
meet the chef
Karl Tyler Catering and Events began almost 2 years ago, and within that time, has developed a fantastic reputation throughout Nottinghamshire and beyond. Karl describes his food style as “modern British with world influences” and is extremely passionate about not only offering beautifully presented, premium food but also creating a memorable experience for clients.