Veganism: is it fad or a revolution?

Whatever the future holds, veganism is set for another flexitarian-fuelled boom this month as thousands of people turn to veganuary in an attempt to start the year with a healthier lifestyle and do their bit for the environment by eating less meat.

Veganism is nothing new off course as in many cultures the practice of abstaining entirely from animal produce has an established history. Many Rastafarians, followers of Jainism and certain sects of Buddhism have been swearing off meat, fish, eggs and dairy for centuries, but in the west it took an awful long time to really catch on. There wasn’t even a commonly accepted English-language name until 1944, when a British woodworker called Donald Watson called a meeting with a handful of other non-dairy vegetarians (including his wife, Dorothy) to discuss a less cumbersome label for their lifestyle choice and the word vegan actually came into being.

These days the typical stereotype of a vegan as someone who spends their days walking around barefoot, wearing hippie harem pants on a scrawny emaciated frame, eating unappetising looking bowls of lentil stew like Neil from the cult comedy The Young Ones has long gone. Social media and celebrity endorsements have played a significant part and #vegan has had more than 61 million posts listed on Instagram alone. Vegan food is now hip, colourful and extremely photogenic, and the image of a beautiful, social influencer drooling over her amazingly healthy salad bowl packed full of nutritional super foods is also a very strong and positive message for younger generations. And let’s face it, whatever our age; we all secretly want to be trendy and we all seem to want social approval these days. Sometimes I get the impression that we are all somehow trapped in a millennial bubble, where we spend more time with our heads down, scrolling through snapshots of our peers’ daily lives than actually living our own. I mean, if it weren’t for the likes of Instagram, how else would we see what everyone is eating?

As a fairly committed omnivore, I just couldn’t imagine eating plant-based food all of the time, but even I’m thinking of giving veganism a try for a while over the coming weeks. And taking meat, fish, dairy or eggs out of cooking can actually became a catalyst for creativity, forcing me, and many other chefs to think in new and interesting ways about how to extract the most flavour and pleasure from the usual suspects in the vegetable counter. As annoying as boringly hip diet trends tend to be, in this case, it’s no bad thing. Because when it comes to our environment, health, and the rights of animals, adopting a vegan diet, even just for one short month, is an all-around win. A very Happy and healthy New Year!

Vegan Thai green curry with jasmine-Pineapple rice

Ingredients                        serves 4

1 tin of coconut milk
1 courgette, diced
250g pumpkin, peeled & diced
½ red pepper, sliced
300g broccoli florets
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small bunch of coriander
1-2 tbsp’s green curry paste
Juice of one lime

Green curry paste
A small bunch of fresh coriander
3tbsp chopped lemongrass
3 kaffir lime leaves
4 small green chilies, de-seeded
5g fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp fish sauce
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend to a thick paste.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and sweat the onion, sliced red pepper and diced pumpkin until they start to soften. Add the broccoli, courgettes, curry paste and pour over the coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through. Season to taste, sprinkle with cashew nuts and serve with boiled jasmine rice-pineapple rice.

Jasmine- pineapple rice

320g jasmine rice 
700ml water
350g fresh pineapple, diced
Juice of ½ lime 
2tbsp fresh coriander, chopped 

Bring the water the boil in a saucepan and add the rice and pineapple. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes, then fluff rice with a fork. Stir in lime juice and chopped coriander. Season to taste.


Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins

Ingredients                        Serves: 4

For the parfait:
3 very ripe bananas, sliced
1tbsp honey
The seeds from 1 vanilla pod,
1 can of coconut cream

Place 1½ bananas, honey and vanilla to a mixing bowl. Whisk for 1 minute and add slowly add the coconut cream and continue beating for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and fluffy. Pour the parfait into glasses and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours.

Banana caramel sauce:
150ml water
250g sugar
200ml vegan cream
50g vegan butter

Bring the water and sugar to the boil in a heavy bottomed pan. Cook (without stirring) until golden brown for 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from the heat and immediately add the cream and butter.  Stir well until smooth and add the sliced bananas. To serve, remove the parfaits from the freezer and top each one with warm caramel sauce and serve immediately.