How to better serve the new wave of vegans coming soon to your table.
This year you may find more vegans among your dinner guests. Last summer the United Nations advised that diets heavy in meat and dairy products are not sustainable, and animal-based agriculture harms ecosystems even more than the use of fossil fuels.
Yikes! A lacto-ovo vegetarian all my adult life, even I find the prospect of cutting eggs and dairy as well as meat from my menu daunting. Although some recipes in the cookbooks I use regularly are vegan, most call for some kind of eggs or dairy: cheese, egg noodles, yogurt, cream.
I visited a couple of bookstores searching for a good vegan cookbook, finally settling on Easy Vegan: Simple Recipes for Healthy Eating (Ryland Peters & Small, 2010). The recipes are straightforward yet sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party, plus each one is accompanied by a full-page colour photograph.
Many of the soups and salads are hearty enough to combine for a complete meal (butternut squash soup with allspice and pine nuts; green bean and chickpea salad with sesame dressing), but first I tried a couple of main dishes (quick potato and vegetable curry; spiced eggplant couscous). They were simple to make and delicious—my husband, a meat eater, had multiple helpings. This is not unusual, mind you. When we serve both meat and vegetarian dishes to guests, the meat eaters dig into the vegetarian food with gusto.
Easy Vegan may not become my only cookbook but will definitely be one I turn to regularly. The recipe for spiced eggplant couscous is below so you can try before you buy. Oh, and it’s as easy to make as a salad.
For this dish, rich with Moroccan spices, you will need one large eggplant/aubergine, so look for one that is firm, full and heavy with shiny deep-purple skin. The couscous recipe alone is a treat and can be enjoyed on its own (serves 4).
1/4 cup/65 ml vegetable oil
1 large eggplant/aubergine, cubed
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 1/3 cups/280 grams couscous
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups/375 ml vegetable stock
1 small bunch of cilantro/fresh coriander, leaves and stems, roughly chopped
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
lemon wedges, to serve
Heat the vegetable oil in skillet frying pan over high heat and cook the cubed eggplant/aubergine for 3-4 minutes, turning often so it is an even, bolden brown all over. Place on paper towels to drain off the excess oil.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the couscous, paprika and chili powder and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. dd the stock and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and let stand for 10 minutes.
Fluff the couscous with a fork, then cover and leave for a further 5 minutes. Place the couscous in a large bowl and add the eggplant-aubergine, cilantro/coriander and spinach and toss to combine. Spoon onto serving plates and serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.
Photos: Richard Jung, courtesy Ryland Peters & Small