Celebrating Veganuary: Heart-and planet-healthy eating
Setting the momentum for the months to come, it’s essential to talk about healthy eating right at the very beginning of the year. And a portmanteau of January and vegan, Veganuary, a global pledge to adopt a plant-based lifestyle for 31 days, does the same. This global movement is an initiative of the UK-based charity organisation of the same name to promote vegan diets for a better planet. Officially launched in India in December 2019, the movement garnered massive interest from people across the country. A recent survey by YouGov, a market research and data analytics firm, showed that 65% of Indians are keen to replace meat with plant-based options in 2022.
Several brands have launched vegan-based menus to meet the demands. “There is no denying that the pandemic has led to people becoming aware of the consequences of their lifestyle choices on their immunity, health, mental and physical well-being. Veganism is a long-term lifestyle and cannot be confined to just one just January. To cater to this new trend, we have launched a plant-based chicken biryani,” says Mohammed Bhol, chef and co-founder of Charcoal Eats. Created from ingredients such as vegetable protein, soy or wheat, vegan meats have the taste and texture of real meat. “Plant-based keema is made with soy. We make kofta balls from the keema. And these mock meat balls are used in the biryani,” adds Bhol.
Considered to be the cleanest of diets, there is no dearth of flavour or variety in vegan food. Uday Malhotra, chef and co-founder of Kneed, a bakery that operates on a cloud kitchen-based model, says, “We make artisanal bread, buns, granolas, nut butter, dips, hummus and energy bars with 100% plant-based products. Veganism is one of the ruling trends of 2022.” However, vegan baking is time-consuming and technical in terms of temperature and the ingredients used. “Since vegan products don’t use dairy or eggs, the recipes formulated are sensitive to time and temperature,” adds Malhotra, who suggests using dark Belgian chocolate for chocolate bread and banneton baskets to shape gluten-free breads.
Cakes are another category of food that are much in demand for vegan variants. To make vegan cakes, one can replace eggs with flax seeds, ripe bananas or aquafaba. Instead of milk, use almond milk, coconut milk or oat milk. “I suggest using just one substitute, as too many of them will ruin the final product,” says Atifa Nazir Ahanger from The Boho Baker that offers vegan cakes, cupcakes, breads and cookies. For those trying their hand at vegan diets for the first time, starting with substitutes such as plant-based milk, nut butters like peanut butter, cashew butter and cheese substitutes are easier options.
This movement has also led to a rise in the popularity of vegan restaurants. “As a trend, Veganuary helps us help people switch to a vegan diet. The right taste is the first step. Vegan food can be made equally flavourful by appropriate swaps. For our cream-based recipes, we use coconut cream. For Japanese soba noodles, we use gluten-free soba noodles, home-made peanut butter sauce, button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, spring onions, zucchini, galangal, soy sauce and coconut milk,” says Rajender Chabotra, chef from Getafix Café. The restaurant also offers buckwheat pancakes, barley and bok choy bowl meal among other vegan variants.
Cauliflower Moilee Recipe
Coconut oil: 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Curry leaves: 10-14
Ginger: 1 inch
Garlic: 12-15 pieces
Green chillies: 3 to 4
Chilli power, turmeric powder and cumin powder: 1 tsp each
Tamarind pulp, coconut cream: ¼ cup
Coconut milk: 1 cup
Heat coconut oil, add mustard seeds, curry leaf and let it splutter.
Grind onions, ginger and garlic in a mixer and add the paste to the oil. Saute this for five to seven minutes.
Once the onion paste is light golden, add puree tomatoes which is grinded in a mixer, add whole green chillies, dry spices turmeric powder, red chilli powder and cumin powder and salt to taste.
Cook this mixture till you see the oil being separated.
Add tamarind pulp, coconut milk and coconut cream and stir.
Blanch the carrot, cauliflower and beans to add in the gravy.
Cook till it reaches a boil and serve hot with some steam rice or millets.
Recipe by chef Natasha Gandhi