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MARGARET PROUSE: Vegan versions of your favourite comfort foods

New cook book offers plant-based recipes that mimic animal-based counterparts. SUBMITTED PHOTO
New cook book offers plant-based recipes that mimic animal-based counterparts. SUBMITTED PHOTO

In “The Edgy Veg”, (Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2017) author and YouTube personality Candice Hutchings opened my mind to the idea that for a person who decides to adopt a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons, it’s reasonable to strive for foods similar to some of the ones they left behind when they said good-bye to animal products.

Frankly, I used to think it was strange to try and make plant-based foods look like foods containing meat and dairy. Why would you not just celebrate the attributes of the vegan foods? After reading Hutchings‘ accounts of how she longed for her favourite comfort foods after she could no longer justify consuming animal products, I had more insight into why people might prepare plant-based foods that mimic the flavours and textures of their counterparts made with animal-based foods.

That desire to create vegan versions of her favourite comfort foods, and her boredom with conventional vegan choices such as hummus and Buddha bowls led to Hutchings’ adventures in recipe development, her YouTube videos, and ultimately to “The Edgy Veg” cookbook.

I like exploring cuisines that I am not familiar with and, although I’m neither as young nor as hip as I believe Hutchings’ target audience to be, I enjoyed learning more about vegan cooking from her. For example, aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas can be whipped and used in the same way as beaten egg whites or whipped cream.  I tried it and it works!

While introducing the book, Hutchings encourages the reader to read the recipe all the way through before beginning to cook. Having tried a number of her recipes, I’ll vouch for the fact that this practice, always advisable when starting to cook, is especially important when making something from “The Edgy Veg”.  Some of the ingredient lists contain foods made with other recipes. Case in point: in order to make Italian Bakery Veal Parmigiana, you need to prepare four other recipes first. The results are good, and this is a tasty meal to serve to a mixed group of vegans and omnivores, but it took me more than five hours to prepare the whole dish. If you’re going to make it, it’s a good idea to do some advance preparation.

In spite of the assertion that vegans, vegetarians and omnivores, will enjoy the recipes I found some that missed the mark. The Neat Balls, Bro, which are, as you might guess, meatball substitutes, were fun to make but not well received by my guests, one of whom had extensive experience with vegan cuisine.

The book has good qualities: it is informative; nicely bound; well illustrated with colour photos; entertaining (depending on your sense of humour) and indexed.

There are recipes I’d make again, including the one that follows.  The bold flavours of these Chile Lime Cashews make them a wonderful snack for people who like their treats hot and spicy:

 

Chile Lime Cashews

 

5 mL (1 tsp) dried lemongrass, finely chopped

5 mL (1 tsp) paprika

5 mL (1 tsp) garlic powder

15 mL (1 tbsp) chopped dried red chiles or red pepper flakes

0.5 mL (⅛ tsp) cayenne pepper

15 mL (1 tbsp) grated lime zest (approx.)

30 mL (2 tbsp) olive oil

37 mL (2½ tbsp) freshly squeezed lime juice

40 mL (2 tbsp + 2 tsp) pure maple syrup

500 mL (2 cups) roasted unsalted cashews

7 mL (1½ tsp) coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a coffee/spice grinder, pulse lemongrass, paprika, garlic powder, dried chillies and cayenne until a fine powder forms. In a large bowl, whisk together lime zest, olive oil, lime juice and maple syrup. Add spice powder mixture and whisk until incorporated. Let stand for at least 2 minutes or up to 10 minutes. Add cashews and toss to coat. Add sea salt and toss again.

Spread cashews on a prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven, stirring every 5 minutes, for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Be careful not to burn the nuts.

Lift parchment paper and transfer nuts to the counter for about 1 hour, until cooled completely.  They should be fully dried, cool, and a bit tacky to the touch.

Makes 500 mL (2 cups)

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at margaret@islandgusto.com.

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