Essentials of a vegan storecupboard

Kerstin Rodgers
02 November, 2015

Whether you're looking to cut down on meat and dairy products or already following a vegan diet, Kerstin Rodgers, aka Ms Marmitelover, tells us the storecupboard must-haves to cook dishes that pack a punch.

Vegan cooking means one thing only: you don’t use any animal derived products in it. After that it’s your choice what kind of vegan diet you follow. 

You can be vegan and eat only junk food: crisps are vegan. Or fast food: chips are vegan. It’s perfectly possible to be unhealthy and vegan, fat and vegan. Although I guess you will never be quite as unhealthy as a meat eater who eats badly.

I think the reputation of vegans is that they eat lots of pulses, but I don’t eat many. 

What I love is vegetables, preferably with carbs. Spaghetti with tomato sauce is vegan! You’d be surprised how many vegan foods you eat already.

I do think that a vegan cook has to work a little harder on flavour.

You have to be courageous with seasoning, you have to be adventurous with ingredients. In my book V is for Vegan I mention ‘flavour bombs’: using many ingredients from around the world. In the UK we are lucky; because of our colonial history, you can more or less buy any ingredient from your local corner shop in the big cities. And increasingly people are shopping online. Some of the rarer ingredients in my book can be ordered online. I’ve also found that cookbook writers seem to influence supermarket buyers; they start looking at new ingredients that are used in recipes and in the future they stock them. So what might seem a bit odd now will be fairly commonplace in a few years.

Vegan food is quite cutting edge technically; it’s miles away from brown food, all lentils and wholemeal bread, the hippy fare of yore. 

My book V is for Vegan came about after I did a vegan supper club with vegan cookbook writer Terry Hope Romero, who was over from the states. I’ve worked as a vegan chef and have always been interested in a plant based diet anyway, but the demand was crazy and tickets for the supper club sold out in 24 hours.

We eat so much more meat than we ever used to. It shouldn’t be Meat-Free Monday but eating meat once a week. 

Poor people rarely had meat, it was a treat. Whether you agree or disagree with eating animals ethically, it’s not good for your health or the environment to eat so much, in my opinion.

What’s the most common misconception about vegan food? That it’s bland. 

The recipes in my book are brilliantly colourful and zinging with flavour. Just try the tofu shakshouka or black and green cheesecake for further proof. 

There are eight ingredients that you'll always find in my cupboard. 

Tofu: you can buy it in different grades (soft to firm) and different flavours (basil or smoked or plain). Tofu is a great flavour sponge.

Nutritional yeast: not only tons of B vitamins but it’s also very tasty, almost like Parmesan cheese.

Nuts: to make nut milk or cheese. Nuts are so versatile and of course, great for your health with lots of protein.

Citrus: there are so many different kinds of citrus from lemon to orange and lime, preserved lemons, kaffir limes, meyer lemons. Citrus instantly invigorates a dish.

Seaweed: instant umami, iodine, minerals. Great for growing your hair and eyelashes. There are a variety of seaweeds from Japanese dried nori to bright green sea lettuce and purple dulce. The last two are great crumbled over food, even pasta dishes.

Great bread: bread is vegan! Being vegan isn’t the same as being low carb or gluten free. Spend money on good bread. We eat a lot less bread than we used to. Experiment: buy sourdough or seeded bread, or make your own. Making flatbreads is so easy, anyone can do it and it’s a satisfying process seeing them puff up in the oven.

Chillis: I love mild chills like jalapeños, chipotles (which are smoked jalapeños) and home-grown ancho peppers. I make salsas with them. I’m not so much into macho arse burning heat; I’m looking for flavour.

Good sea salt: is less salty than ordinary table salt and tastes great.

Want to put Kerstin’s good advice into practice? Discover more about her here.

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