Old chestnuts are less an ingredient more a verbal crutch but I can forgive Fergus Henderson for dredging up his riposte to the smugness of plant-based proselytisers: “How do you tell someone is a vegan? Answer: They tell you.”
Nigella Lawson shares the great man’s charm and forthrightness. She has just ruffled a few feathers – if feathers are allowed in the equation – by admitting to a newspaper she “doesn’t see the point” in being vegan after she essayed the lifestyle choice for two weeks.
While loving vegetables and respecting the views of those who eat a plant-based diet, she won’t be giving up meat again any time soon.
In her opinion humans should eat meat as the “have the teeth for meat”, while conceding we all should cut down excessive intake. It was the eggs she missed the most during her trial run. With me it would be the cheese. Have you ever sampled vegan cheese? As unpleasant as many of the meat and fish substitutes flooding the market.
The 61-year old telly icon, whose latest book Cook Eat Repeat is her best since her debut How To Eat, said she is unsure how such a diet can be better for you due to “intensive factory-making”, preferring to eat ‘proper food’.
Proper food? If I were to pay a belated individual visit to Escape to Freight Island, self-styled “axis of incredible food, drink, music and immersive entertainment, hidden in plain sight at Manchester’s Depot Mayfield” the dining option I’d arrow in on would be Baratxuri’s wood-fired oven for a Galician Xuleton steak, grilled by the maestro Joe Botham.
No one’s going to ask him to provide the scran to celebrate World Vegan Day at Freight Island on Tuesday, November 2. That honour goes to their Depot neighbours, Mi & Pho, who will be collaborating with Pomona Island, easily the best beer choice across the venue. This fully vegan food and beer pairing will take place at the Urban Market on Tuesday, November 2 (6.30pm-10pm) and feature six fresh and healthy Vietnamese dishes paired carefully with six beers.
Expect Spring Rolls, Hot & Sour Soup, Steam Bao Bun, Pad Thai Tofu, Vietnamese Curry Tofu, and a surprise dessert to be announced on the day. Drink pairings from Pomona Island include Factotum, a pale ale; Discotheque a Go-Go, a double dry-hopped pale ale with Zappa, Mosaic, Simcoe, Vic Secret; Pomona lager; Stacks of Green Paper, a strawberry and raspberry sour with grains of paradise; and Boogie Chillen’, a double dry-hopped IPA with Citra, Idaho 7, Sorachi Ace and Galaxy. Book here.
Forget Seitan, Quorn and industrial ready meals, this is the kind of food (and beer) that rocks my plant-based boat. Mi & Pho, both here and at their original South Manchester restaurant, offer fish and meat dishes but vegan is an essential component of Vietnamese cuisine… and across the rest of South East Asia.
It’s no surprise that the latest food and drink residency at the evolving residential ‘neighbourhood’ KAMPUS, just a 10 minute walk from Freight Island, has gone to Altrincham Market favourite, Bánh Vì. Until the end of November, Thursday to Sunday, co-founders Harry Yarwood and Jess King will be serving a vegan version of Vietnam’s benchmark sandwich, the bánh mì, along with other non-meat treats from that country.
Harry? Jess? Am I hearing cries of ‘cultural appropriation’? Rubbish. The baguette that’s the basis of a bánh mì springs from French colonial heritage – further proof that food is a cultural melting pot.
Remember recently when the hateful Mail and Express drummed up a storm in a rice bowl over Manchester-born Pippa Middlehurst, winner of Britain’s Best Home Cook’, daring to write about dumplings and noodles? More sneaky woke bashing on their part. Check out my appreciation of her essential new book.
Which brings us to arguably Britain’s most influential cookery book writer, Jackie Kearney, aka the Hungry Gecko (as Pippa is Pippy Eats). The Masterchef star’s seminal first book, Vegan Street Food (Ryland Peters, £16.99), is one of the most thumbed through on my shelves. Its recipes stem from culinary adventures with her young family across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. The initial plan wasn’t for a vegan-centric account. It just evolved that way thanks sheer weight of approachable meat/fish/dairy free recipes.
Only last weekend, buoyed by the presence of two South East Asian grocery stores in Hebden Bridge down the road, I recreated her Hungry Gecko Jackfruit Jungle Curry – a riot of lemongrass, galangal, turmeric root, tamarind, kaffir lime leaves and much more, served with a coconut milk-infused yellow rice. After a spring roll starter
A less complicated dish is Jackie’s Laos-style Roasted Pumpkin, Coconut and Chilli Soup, a picture of which she has just posted on Facebook. Once of Chorlton, she is now based in Liguria. I told you the world is a melting pot. If you are fancying a switch to a plant-based diet, or even becoming more flexitarian, start with this. Vegan doesn’t have to mean bland.
Jackie Kearney’s Laos-style Roasted Pumpkin, Coconut & Chilli Soup
2tbsp vegetable oil; one small pumpkin nor squash, deseeded and cubed; 2-4 large red chillies, trimmed; 1 litre veg stock; 800ml coconut milk; 2tsp salt; 2-3 almond or any vegan cream.
Preheat the oven to 220C (Gas 7). Drizzle the oil onto a baking sheet. Put the pumpkin on the sheet and toss to coat in the oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes until it begins to brown and soften. Put the chillies on the baking sheet for the last 8-10 minutes and roast until they begin to blacken.
Put the stock in a large pan and add one litre of water and the roasted vegetables. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the coconut milk. Return to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Using a food processor or stick blender, blend the soup until smooth and creamy. Season with salt to taste. Divide the soup into serving bowls and finish each with a swirl of almond cream.