Introduction

Introduction

By
Jessica Prescott
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
978-1-78488-047-7
Photographer
Jessica Prescott

About me

My earliest memories are in the kitchen with my mum, watching her bake, back when one of life’s biggest joys was the moment she allowed me to lick the bowl. I was raised on home-cooked meals and my mum was revered amongst friends and family for her food – she was the one who always put on the best spread, who made everyone’s birthday cakes, who discovered dukkah before it was trendy, and who embraced my decision to stop eating meat when I was 14 because she loved the inspiration my new diet brought into her kitchen. Needless to say, it is through my mum that I inherited my love for cooking. I’ve never had any professional training; I’ve simply been cooking for as long as I can remember. Little things my mum taught me have stuck – the rest I have picked up along the way, teaching myself as I go.

Growing up in a small town filled me with a wanderlust that has propelled me across the continents. I left Napier, New Zealand, when I was 17, and in every new city I’ve visited or lived in, I’ve gathered inspiration for what I can do with the humble vegetable. I now live in Berlin with my Australian husband, Andy, and my son Louie, who was growing inside me while I created this book.

My tiny Berlin kitchen is my happy place. I find cooking meditative and I relish the ritual of cooking for others because food has always been my way of connecting with people. My food is hearty and rustic as opposed to fancy and polished, with flavour being of utmost importance. For me, the best way to spend an evening is sharing food and wine out of mismatched plates and glasses with loved ones.

I am terrible at following recipes, but I love sharing my kitchen experiments with friends, which is what led me to start my blog Wholy Goodness. Initially, I wanted it to be a blog without photos, until a dear friend convinced me that these days, people need a photo to accompany a recipe. Little did I know, there was an amateur food stylist hiding inside me. When I was a child, I used to say that I would love to write a cookbook one day, but I never thought it would actually happen. Yet here I am. Writing the introduction for my first book, praying that I have managed to accurately record what I do in the kitchen and that between these pages anyone, from any part of the world, will find something that inspires them to occasionally make vegan choices.

Why vegan

I am vegan because to me, it is the lifestyle that makes the most sense for the wellbeing of this planet and every creature who inhabits it.

Not only is factory farming cruel, it is polluting the planet and using up its resources. The water and land that are being used to grow food for animals could instead be used to grow food for humans. This would reduce world hunger significantly.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. But I am not writing a book to convince people to become vegan, I am writing a cookbook to show people how yummy vegan food can be. If you are wondering why more and more people are adopting this seemingly radical lifestyle, then I implore you to do your own research about factory farming and animal agriculture.

When your diet contains plentiful amounts of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains, you are giving your body pure, clean energy that it knows exactly how to process, rather than filtering those nutrients through another being’s body first.

I have a list of books, documentaries and websites that I have found helpful and informative on my blog, www.wholygoodness.com

FURTHER READING

Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer (Little, Brown, 2009) – JSF had been swinging between vegetarian, vegan and omnivore diets for years and when his wife got pregnant, he decided to embark on a research project so that he could make sure that he raised his son on the best diet possible. What he found out was so compelling that he decided to publish it in a book. Be prepared to get mad.

DOCUMENTARIES

For your health – Forks Over Knives, Lee Fulkerson, 2011 For the planet – Cowspiracy, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, 2014 For the animals – Earthlings, Shaun Monson, 2005

My veganism

My own personal journey with veganism began when someone pointed out the moral dissonance of a vegetarian diet. At the time, I had no idea of the cruelty involved with dairy and egg farming. Every time a new documentary about veganism comes out I feel even more convinced that this is the right decision, but despite everything I know, the transition was not an overnight one for me.

A vegan diet makes the most sense for the health of humans, the wellbeing of animals and the future of our planet. But that doesn’t mean the change is always easy. It requires preparation and a high level of dedication. I am lucky because I love to cook and I live in a vegan-friendly city, but there have certainly been times where I have found myself hangry and stranded in the middle of a city or village, with no vegan options in sight. From the beef fat in some potato fries to the milk powder in some types of breads, to the egg in noodles and the chicken stock used in soup, it can sometimes feel like there are animal products lurking in everything. These days I always carry nuts and dried fruit with me as a backup and I make sure to do my homework when travelling to new places, but it took me almost three years to reach this level of dedication.

A lot of people turn vegan overnight and never go back and I admire their commitment. But I feel that it is important to be transparent about my own journey so that people don’t feel like they are failing if all their morals align with a vegan lifestyle but they ‘slip up’ every now and again. I eased myself into veganism by cooking only vegan food at home and making vegan choices when eating out, but making exceptions when travelling or when cheese was served with wine at a friend’s house. When I decided to cook only vegan food, the realisation that I can make anything I want using plants and plant-based ingredients changed the way I cook. By removing animal products from my kitchen, I have discovered a whole new world of culinary possibilities using fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains and spices. Instead of doing what has always been done, I was forced to think outside the box. This is where my true creativity really set in and I found my niche as a vegan cook.

To me, every vegan meal that is eaten or cake that is baked is a victory. What I have shared in this book are dishes that I hope can be enjoyed by anyone – food that is so delicious, no one even notices the absence of meat. I want to dispel the myth about vegans and their food. Because no matter our dietary preferences, plants unite us all.

MY MANTRA

Sometimes, in low moments, when I realise that some people truly just don’t care, my efforts can seem futile and I wonder if I am really even making a difference. But then I remember that I am doing this because I need to be the change I want to see. That’s my mantra these days. And we all need a mantra or two...

... I hope that, even if you are the most carnivorous of omnivores, I have shown you how simple and delicious food can be, even without the meat, eggs and dairy, and that this inspires you to incorporate more plant-based meals into your day-to-day diet.

Shopping list

If you get into the habit of always having a few of your favourite vegetables on hand and a pantry full of beans, nuts, seeds, spices, condiments and your favourite grains or pastas, you will pretty much always be able to whip up something to eat. Your grocery haul will vary depending on where you live and your taste preferences, so let this list serve as a guide to be customised to your liking.

If you are new to cooking, don’t be overwhelmed – especially not by the herbs and spices section. It took me two years of living in Berlin to build up my spice collection. It’s best to start out slow and buy things as you need them, restocking the ones that you love so you don’t waste money on ingredients that never get used.

FRESH

A few salady things, such as avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and carrots

Bananas – if you love smoothies, get into the habit of buying bananas every time you shop so that you always have some on hand

Bananas – if you love smoothies, get into the habit of buying bananas every time you shop so that you always have some on hand

Leafy greens that you can eat raw, such as baby spinach or rocket (arugula)

Other veggies that you can cook in a pan for a quick meal such as aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zucchini) and mushrooms

Other seasonal greens, such as broccoli, kale, beans or brussels sprouts

Seasonal fruits – choose pomegranates, berries, figs, pears and stone fruits

Starchy rooty things, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin (squash)

LEGUMES

I like to have my favourites on hand, both dried and tinned, so I can whip up something in a pinch.

Black beans – nothing beats unsoaked black beans cooked from scratch with a bit of salt. Nothing. Use in anything Mexican-inspired, in burger patties or on their own with rice, or even in brownies!

Black beans – nothing beats unsoaked black beans cooked from scratch with a bit of salt. Nothing. Use in anything Mexican-inspired, in burger patties or on their own with rice, or even in brownies!

Split peas – lend a sweet and slightly smoky flavour to soups. Combined with celery and carrot, you have the base for a veggie soup that is guaranteed to be delicious

White beans – great in soups, stews, salads, dips, and mashed with garlic, lemon and herbs on toast as an alternative to eggs

STAPLES AND CONDIMENTS

Balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar

Coconut milk and your other favourite plant-based milks – I use rice milk quite a lot

Curry paste – green or red

Mustard – wholegrain or smooth

Olives – preferably with their stones in. They take longer to prepare, but their flavour is incomparable to pre-sliced olives

Peanut butter or any other nut butters you love

Pickled gherkins

Sea salt – including flakes

Sun-dried or semi-dried tomatoes – NOT the ones in oil

Syrup – something sweet such as maple syrup or date syrup

Tahini – a runny one and a thick one

Tamari or soy sauce

Tomato paste or concentrated tomato purée (the really thick stuff you find in tubes)

OILS

Avocado oil for high-heat cooking Coconut oil for baking

Olive oil for salad dressings and pasta sauces

Sesame oil for Asian foods

NUTS, SEEDS AND DRIED FRUIT

Dried fruit – dates (both Medjool and Deglet Noor), figs and apricots, goji berries, cacao nibs

Nuts – almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts

Seeds – sesame, sunflower, hemp, pumpkin, chia, flaxseeds

DRIED HERBS AND SPICES

Bay leaves Black peppercorns Cardamom* Cinnamon* Coriander* Cumin* Curry powder Dried chilli Garam masala Ground ginger Lovage Mustard seeds Nigella seeds Nutmeg Paprika (smoked if possible) Sumac Turmeric* Vegetable stock

*I have whole and ground for each of these.

PASTA AND GRAINS

Your favourite pasta noodles – buy wholewheat. They are sooo much better for you and once you get used to them you will feel like they are giving you a hug from the inside when you eat them. If you find them a bit tough, just cook them for a little longer

Your favourite grains – wholegrain rice, quinoa, wholewheat couscous, freekeh, barley

BAKING

Baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Brown Sugar such as raw demerara (turbinado) and muscavado. You can also use coconut sugar – just NOT white sugar!

Chocolate chips – preferably vegan Cocoa

Coconut – both desiccated and flaked

Flour – preferably wholewheat but you can use plain (all-purpose) and buckwheat

Oats – quick and rolled

Weird ingredients

These are some things that you may not have heard of if you are new to vegan cooking. Once you get to know them they will become some of your favourite pantry essentials.

PSYLLIUM HUSK

The outer layer of the psyllium seed. Traditionally used to help with stomach trouble, it turns into a thick goo when mixed with water, making it a perfect substitute for eggs in vegan baking. You should be able to find it at your organic health food store or chemist – if not in the baking section, then in the ‘medicine foods’ section. Make psyllium husk your friend. Your insides will thank you for it.

HING

Also known as asafoetida, this STINKS! Walking around India you get whiffs of hing, but I never realised exactly what it was that I was smelling until the first time I bought my own little pot of this potent wonder herb. Its odour is so strong that I have to store it inside another jar to prevent it from stinking out my entire kitchen. But, once heated in oil, it provides a depth that my Indian cooking was always missing.

LIQUID SMOKE

Made by burning wood and collecting the smoke, which becomes a liquid as it cools. It is super strong and, when mixed with something sweet and something salty, lends a smoky flavour to cooking.

NUTRITIONAL YEAST

Nutritional yeast (also known as nooch) is a deactivated yeast. It is really good for you and a source of vitamin B12, which is the only vitamin that you can’t obtain from plants. It is a little bit cheesy and I love to sprinkle it on top of pasta or avocado on toast, but you can also use it when blending nuts to make vegan cheese.

Kitchen equipment i can’t live without

Kitchen tools and utensils do not have to be expensive to be functional. When I started my food blog I wanted to name it ‘Ghetto Gourmet’ because everything in my kitchen was second-hand, mismatched and ugly and I wanted to show people that you can make delicious food no matter how ghetto your kitchen setup is. All of this equipment can be found at a flea market, junk store or lurking in the back of your parents’ kitchen cupboards. I repeat, fancy does not equal tasty.

GOOD KNIFE

I swear the reason some people hate cooking is because their kitchen knife is so uncomfortable. As well as a strong, sharp blade, it needs to have a comfortable handle and enough depth in the blade so that you don’t bang your knuckles on the chopping board every time you chop! When I moved to Berlin I inherited an Ikea knife that had a crack in the blade but, goddamn, it was comfortable to use. It served me for almost three years before I got a fancy one for my 30th birthday.

WOODEN CHOPPING BOARD

One or a few. Wood is best because it won’t blunt your knife blades like plastic and glass, but it will absorb flavours, so either keep separate ones for fruit and veg or wash immediately after chopping onions and garlic.

SILICONE SPATULA

These things are a dream!!! I use mine for everything – you’ll be amazed by how much hummus or pesto is hiding in plain sight on the sides of the food processor or how much extra smoothie you can get by scraping the walls of your blender.

TABLESPOON WITH A COMFY HANDLE

Possibly the most underrated tool in the kitchen, but if your spoon has a sharp square handle instead of a comfortable rounded one, it is going to make scraping out the seeds from a pumpkin, smoothing the top of brownie batter or nut roast, smearing hummus onto a wrap, stirring porridge, spooning chia pudding, and all the other tasks that you will use it for, a whole lot less comfortable.

COOKING EQUIPMENT

Blender or immersion blender – for soups, smoothies, burger patties etc.

Cake tins – long tin: 28 cm round springform tins:18 cm and 23 cm

Colander/sieve

Food processor – so damn awesome when you make as much hummus as I do. I bought a new one after I killed my second-hand food processor trying to chop nuts for a nut roast. I’ve never looked back

Frying pan (skillet)

Grater – a box grater with a microplane to get the rind off your citrus fruits

Lasagne dish – also good for baking brownies in

Lemon juicer

Measuring cups – and spoons if you prefer your kitchen undertakings to be precise

Serrated bread knife – use this to cut tomatoes too

Slotted spoon

Soup ladle

Small, medium and large saucepans Spiralizer (zoodle maker) – to make courgette (zucchini) and carrot noodles. Totally not essential, but worth the money if you are gluten-free or love pasta but want to cut down on the carbs

Stainless steel spatula

Tin (can) opener

Various baking trays

Vegetable brush

Vegetable peeler

Whisk

Wooden spoon

Tips and tricks

SLOW DOWN

Whether you’re an accomplished cook or a beginner, sloooow down. Take a minute. Read the recipe. Get all your ingredients in one place. Put on some music or a podcast. Pour yourself a big glass of water. Drink it and then pour yourself another (or a wine). Do the dishes or at least clear enough space to cook in and make sure all the equipment you need is clean. It feels like more effort in the beginning, especially when you’re hungry and you just wanna make your damn meal, but slowing down for a minute and getting your space and mind organised will make the whole process much smoother and more efficient in the long run. And remember to breathe. I have to remember this too sometimes. When I’m hungry and rushing I find myself taking shallow breaths instead of deep belly ones. The kitchen should not be stressful. It should be your happy place.

AN ODE TO CHICKPEAS

How do I love chickpeas? Let me count the ways…

— In curries instead of chicken — In sandwiches instead of eggs — As falafels, hummus, croutons — In salads, sprouted, ground into flour and turned into savoury pancakes…

Seriously, there are so many possibilities with these little legumes of goodness I could write a book full of chickpea recipes. Plus, they are really, really good for you.

Get into the habit of cooking a bag of them every Sunday. You can then store them in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze them if you don’t think you will get through them all.

GRINDING FLAXSEEDS

It really is best to buy whole flaxseeds, especially when baking, as pre-ground flaxseeds can go rancid and ruin the taste of an entire cake. If you use your food processor to grind your seeds and find that they fly everywhere, put a little water in the blending vessel with the seeds, then grind. Or use a coffee grinder (much easier!), if you have one.

WASH YOUR VEGGIES AS SOON AS YOU GET THEM HOME

This way, everything is ready to rock and roll as soon as you feel like cooking. This is especially important for herbs, as nothing is worse than chopping soggy wet herbs (except biting into a piece of sand that is stuck to an unwashed herb). I haven’t started every recipe with this because I’m gonna assume you are doing it. For herbs and leafy greens, I like to fill the sink and then submerge the greens for at least five minutes to make sure all the sandy, silty dirt comes away. Then dry in a colander.

Cooking without a recipe

All recipes aside, my favourite thing to do is chuck some mushrooms in a pan with a handful of cooked beans or lentils, sometimes some aubergine (eggplant) or courgette (zucchini), let it all cook until it’s mushy, then serve it with some salady things in a bowl or in a wrap. In fact, I eat a variation of exactly that at least once a day. I also love to roast a whole lotta veggies and smother them in tahini and pomegranate seeds, storing leftovers in the fridge for salads and sandwiches over the days that follow. Roasted vegetables and avocado are a match made in heaven, as are baked potatoes with hummus and coleslaw.

Another way to make a yummy meal without following a recipe is to cook a grain of your choice, top it with lots of fresh veggies, some herbs, nuts or chickpeas, and eat!

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