How to Veganize Your Cooking

Whether you are trying to go fully vegan, or want to start use less animals products in your cooking, here's a few simple tips for doing so.

For some people changing a few of the ingredients they are used to cooking won't be a problem but for others it might take some adjustment. Remember though most people cycle through a handful or regular recipes for most of their home cooked meals, so it won't take you long to figure out vegan versions of most of these you perfect over time, and you can replace the others with some new recipes. Changes in our lives are often great times for growth, so you can use this change to get some healthier dishes into your roster.

You can veganize almost any dish, mainly by looking at the role the animal product played in the dish.

Protein is a good place to start because it makes you feel full. Pasta is one of my weekly staples. To make sure it's got plenty of protein I'll generally add a handful of red lentils, a can of red kidney beans, or a handful of soy mince to a recipe. You can get dried soy mince at any health food shop, which I tend to use in moderation, a handful is more than enough in most things. You can also buy frozen soy mince, which is more expensive, including in carbon by needing to be kept cold, but it is generally better if you want to use it in the quantities of regular mince. Pesto is really easy to veganize and full of protein, just blend some basil, salt, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil, or experiment with using blends of other sorts of nuts such as almonds, macadamias and pistachios, and other herbs such as a touch or oregano in with basil, or coriander/cilantro.

Kidney beans and soy mince lend themselves really well to chillis, as well as refried beans which are great for burritos, tacos etc. Lentils lend themselves well to shepherds pies, and of course curries along with chickpeas. For something like a stir fry, cashew nuts or tofu are a great way to go. I will chop up some tofu and cook it in a little oil, maybe a splash of soy, setting it aside for adding later, there are lots of great pre marinated tofus, or just put some raw nuts such as cashews in and brown them slightly. Complete sources of protein are quinoa and soya, so you can put what you want on a bed of quinoa (used much like cous cous or rice, and the packets usually have good cooking instructions) and get plenty of protein. Finally there are lots of substitutes you can get from health food shops, you can check the website Happy Cow for your closest ones worldwide (as well as nearby restaurants with reviews). Personally the substitutes I use most regularly are veggie sausages for a quick breakfast fry up, with beans, toast, grilled tomato, and if I'm feeling energetic mushrooms and scrambled tofu. Veggie burgers are another staple for me, I also usually keep some sort of veggie burger, nut cutlets, bean burgers, wheat protein burgers, in the freezer for quick filling meals on nights when I'm busy (or just feel like a burger).

Next, dairy replacement. The fats in them are probably the main reason we like dairy products, though they also have sugars in the form of lactose, usually salt, and some protein. So replacing fats isn't hard. In a salad I'll toast up some nuts, usually cashew nuts, walnuts (in a little soy) or pine nuts, avocado is always good as well. I also like to add tahini to my salad dressing to sneak in some calcium and protein, plus a little miso just because it is awesome. The cookbook Veganomicon has a recipe for cashew ricotta which is great in lasagnes, for the lasagne topping I'll make a bechamel white sauce to top it, sometimes with a little nutritional yeast added in. Coconut milk is a great rich alternative to cream, particularly in curries, soups and goes great with lime juice. In a sandwich or burger, I'll add in some avocado instead of cheese, and this also works really well on a pizza either slightly baked or fresh. Another thing which works really well for pizzas is to make a pesto as a base, giving you plenty of fat and flavour. Again there are vegan alternatives, the parmesan, yoghurts, soy creams and cream cheeses are all pretty good, experiment with different brands to find your favourite. For some reason though the soy cheese is the one people try, they eat a block of it and don't like it, but I find it's only really any good when used sparingly. Grate it on pizzas, nachos, or into your bechamel, generally don't use big chunks of it. As mentioned there's also nutrional yeast which are flakes you can throw in anything, a rissotto, a bechamel or your scrambled tofu etc which has a slightly cheesy flavour. Finally my friend Irene suggests using a tofu based feta replacement "Tofeta". To make it, crumble firm tofu with extra virgin olive oil (a fair amount), salt, dried oregano and crushed garlic. You can use it straight away, or it tastes better if it sits a while. Use it in sandwiches, on pizzas, in salads, topping on anything really. A variation is instead of really mashing it into a soft paste (best for sandwiches and pizza), just roughly crumble it into chunks about the size of a kidney bean, then add lots of lemon juice, with all the other stuff mentioned above, and marinate for as long as you can (overnight is best). This makes a greek salad like no other and people have told me they like it better than real fetta in a greek salad. You can add it to any sort of salad and it is particularly good in rice salads.

Milks of course, so many plant based ones to try so its perhaps the easiest thing to substitute, keep going through them until you find one you like. Personally I'm an unsweetened oat milk man, but I'm partial to rice milk, soy milk, hemp seed milk, the new coconut milks which don't taste like coconut milk, and almond milk. (Milks are great for smoothies, for a healthy

Eggs...well you don't really need them in most things. You'll find a million scrambled tofu recipes on the web, and many vegans have their own variation of crumbled tofu, tumeric, soy sauce and onion, often slicing in more vegetables and nutritional yeast, personally I put oregano and a dash of sweet chilli sauce in mine. My favourite cookbook Vegan Planet has a pancake recipe I've been cooking variations of regularly for years and everyone loves them, indeed my partner would get me to make them every morning if I would. Last week I use grated apple and blueberries instead of bananas. Another great addition is a handful of quartered strawberries. Anyway people are always saying "how do you make pancakes without eggs", and I say, "You just do, and it works". Vegan cakes and muffins have won cake making competitions against all comers, and in most towns I've lived in there's a cafe or restaurant where you'll be able to try some great vegan cakes. There is also egg replacer which I virtually never use, but if you really need it, it is there and perhaps will give you peace of mind if making a dish which originally asked for an egg.

Finally I'll give you the tip my friend Lisa gave me when I told her I was trying to give an introduction of how to veganize things "take out the animal things, replace with plant things, done!". That's kind of the essence really, you can usually figure out a way to make versions of all your favourite dishes. You'll spend a little time making the adjustment, but it's not rocket science so experiment and have fun. I guess that's the main thing, take time to enjoy cooking. I love cooking now, and though I wasn't always that way inclined I now treat it as a self indulgence. If I cook something beautiful for myself I feel I've done something useful and creative in my day. Learning to enjoy the washing up is a little harder!

Vegan power and bon appetit to you!