Book reviews, Comments, Culture, In Focus

Flying the vegan flag

Once up a time, though not that long ago, veganism was generally considered a quirky but harmless practice of food cranks – now it’s taken seriously and with good reason.


Richard Church

Sean Sheehan


Adopting a lifestyle based on eating plants and their products is being undertaken for various reasons and vegans can be motivated by different factors: ethical, environmental, health and budgeting issues may all play a part. Vegan restaurants have been popping up in London like the mushrooms found on their menus.

The shakes and burgers at Redemption Bar are superb and the avant-garde use of raw ingredients at Essence Cuisine points the way to an exciting and healthy future.

A sedate French restaurant like Gauthier – only entered after ringing the doorbell of a period townhouse in Soho – has a vegan menu that will melt the hearts of diehard carnivores.

“Vegan recipes from the Middle East” looks to a region of the world with a rich tradition in the cooking of grains and pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables and the pages of Parvin Razavi’s cookbook are full of tasty surprises. Her recipes are divided into countries – Iran, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey – and the theme of social eating is common to them all.

Mezze recipes abound and many of them can be conjured up in ten to fifteen minutes. Main dishes do not take much longer and “Iman Baylidi” from Turkey can be ready to eat in half an hour (taste the version at Mustard’s on Shepherd Bush Rd if you need convincing).

Richard Church, author of “Going vegan”, was a voracious meat-eater until dietary problems turned out to be a lactose intolerance and in 2014 this nudged him in the direction of veganism. He has sensible advice for anyone thinking of going vegan – if you like pancakes or  Bolognese it’s easy to make non-diary versions; vegan cheese are readily available; tofu’s versatility earns it a place in your fridge.

His recipes are structured around a day’s meal times, kicking off with sauces and dressings before proceeding with sections on breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfasts include the obvious but granola is enlivened with spiced apples and blueberries, porridge with raspberries, pancakes with banana and sultana; plus a spiced pumpkin French toast for those nostalgically attached to egg bread.

There are some twenty ideas for tasty lunches, from shredded kale with tomatoes and tamari which take five minutes to prepare to broccoli, courgette and ‘blue cheese’ which takes over half an hour. Protein bars and Cajun spiced popcorn make for appetising snacks.

The dinner section includes some familiar dishes like tofu with aubergines, vegetable risotto and pumpkin curry as well as a substantial shepherd’s pie that should satisfy those with big appetites. A vegan chilli with coffee and chocolate is one of the more refined recipes.

If veganism is to part of a new zeitgeist, challenging industrialized farming, books like these two are appealing contributions.

“Vegan recipes from the Middle East” by Parvin Razavi’s is published by Grub Street. “Going vegan” by Richard Church is independently published.

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