I’m so excited to be featured in the March edition of Simply Vegan Magazine. It it, I offer up some advice to new vegans, chat about my favourite cruelty-free beauty brands and how I try to live more sustainably, and of course, talk about my new book YES VE-GAN! Check out the feature below – and pick up your copy of YES VE-GAN! here.
“The irresistible worldwide rise of veganism has attracted much criticism and abuse, which can be difficult and uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of. Packed with facts, figures, argument and ethics, Yes Ve-gan! is an invaluable primer for all vegans wanting to effectively counter aggressive argument and ill-informed claims.”
The rise of veganism is impossible to ignore, and whether you’re already vegan and want to convince your friends and family to make the change, are doing Veganuary or giving plant-based eating a go, or just want to experiment with a more planet-friendly lifestyle, this book will be your guide. In YES VE-GAN! I break down the burning questions surrounding veganism from choice, ethics, ecology to fitness, health & beauty, as well as providing informed opinions on just how to rebuff the haters.
Available online and from all good bookstores NOW. Thank you all for your support. Peace + Plants!
Last week I finally launched the recipe section of my site, kicking off with my easy vegan pho, one of my favourite noodle soups. It doesn’t seem very prudent to feature another noodle soup for my second ever recipe, but this miserable “summer” weather is just calling out for warming comfort food. And dammit, I just love noodle soups! So at the risk of seeming like a one trick pony, here’s another healthy, plant-based recipe to tuck into: vegan laksa.
Laksa is an Asian noodle soup from Malaysia (though I first tried it in Cambodia) and has an entirely different flavour from pho. Where the pho broth is clear and fresh, laksa broth is a vivid orange, thick and creamy with coconut milk, yet packed with piquant punches from chilli, garlic and ginger. It might be the ultimate comfort food: warm, nourishing, packed with flavour… and pretty healthy too.
Laksa itself is quick to make… it’s the laksa paste that’s more time-consuming. What I do – and what I strongly advise anyone here to do – is make three times the amount of paste you need and freeze the rest. Then, the next time you’re craving a bowl of hot, spicy laksa, the paste is ready and waiting.
As well as veganising this dish I’ve simplified it as much as possible too. Some ingredients, to me at least, just don’t seem to make that much difference, while other are irreplaceable. And I’m a firm believer of adapting recipes as you see fit; if you want to add mushrooms or pak choi, do. If you want to omit courgette or swap tofu for seitan, go for it. I deliberately haven’t added specific quantities of some the vegetables – just use as much as you like, and if you have too much for the soup, well, then you just have extra for tomorrow.
Cooking should be about tweaking and changing things to suit your own tastebuds – that’s why I’m not a big fan of baking: it’s too methodical and scientific!
So without further ado, here’s my recipe for easy vegan (and gluten-free!) laksa – and remember, multiply everything by two or three if you want to have leftover spice paste to freeze.
One onion, roughly chopped (either red or white is fine)
5 cloves of garlic
5 large fresh chillies (less if you don’t like heat)
2 lemongrass stalks, white part finely chopped
1 whole big thumb of ginger, sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil or rapeseed oil
SPICES TO ADD
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1.5 litres veggie stock (add boullion to taste if you want greater depth of flavour)
400 ml can of coconut milk
Lime juice, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 courgette, sliced into matchsticks
1 red pepper, sliced
Green beans, halved
Cherry tomatoes, halved
200 g flat rice noodles
250 g of tofu puffs (if you can’t find these, just chop some firm tofu into squares, then bake til crisp)
Big bunch fresh coriander, chopped
Lime, sliced into quarters
1 red chilli, chopped into rings
3 spring onions, chopped
Throw the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chillies into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Add extra oil or stock if you need more liquid.
In a big pot, heat the laksa spice paste in oil on a low heat for about ten mins.
Add the turmeric, paprika, coriander, cumin, and stir, continuing to cook gently – then, after a few minutes, add the stock. Cook for a while, then add lime and salt to taste. Put a lid on and cook slowly.
Place your veggies in a big frying pan and cook, gently, with a little water until they’ve softened a bit (you want them to still have some bite). Stir the coconut milk into the laksa broth.
Cook the rice noodles as per pack instructions. While they’re cooking, fry the tofu puffs in a dry frying pan on a high heat, until they’re slightly brown and crispy.
Rinse the rice noodles in cold water once they’re cooked to refresh them; then, rinse again with hot water. Lay a portion of noodles in a deep bowl, top with the vegetables and tofu, and ladle over the hot laksa broth. Top with sliced red chillies, fresh coriander and lime quarters. Enjoy!
Of all the countries I visited on my travels, Vietnam is right near the top. While the country is beautiful, the cities are mad (in a good way!) and the people are friendly, the food played a huge part in sealing my love for it, particularly the street food. There’s a lot of meat on offer, it’s true, but there are also lots of veggies. I was vegetarian when I visited Vietnam and I dined like a queen (check out my vegetarian food guide for Food Republic!) but, thanks to the general absence of dairy here, being vegan isn’t much harder.
Since coming back to the UK, I’ve spent huge amounts of time trying to recreate and veganise my favourite dishes from around the world, like Vietnam’s pho and banh mi. We’ll get onto nailing the perfect banh mi soon, but for now let’s focus on pho (pronounced “fuh”). I love all kinds of noodle soups, but to me, pho reigns king… though I’ll feature my vegan laksa and ramen recipes soon, too.
In Vietnam, my favourite memories are of walking into local restaurants and having that deep, warming, aromatic aroma of the pho broth hit; then the bowl is placed in front of you and you dig in: slurping noodles (you can’t eat this dish gracefully), chewing succulent tofu and crisp vegetables, and having the intense, diverse flavours offset by fresh coriander (“cilantro” to my US friends!), zingy lime and mint, and slices of hot chilli. Heaven.
There are hundreds of veggie pho recipes online. I’ve made about half of them, so this recipe cuts to the chase. If you want to make truly authentic vegan pho, it’s going to take a long time. You’ll need lots of ingredients that aren’t always easy to find, unless you have an awesome Asian supermarket round the corner. If you do, and you have the time for this, check out this excellent vegan pho recipe by Vietnamese cook Helen.
As delicious as Helen’s pho is, many of us don’t have time for it… but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a delicious vegan pho in under an hour. That includes the time it takes for the broth to cook… and the broth is the key ingredient to authentic tasting pho. I say “authentic” but there are a few caveats; aside from omitting a few ingredients that were hard to find, or ones I just don’t really like (mushrooms, cardamon etc…), there are also some ingredients I added in because I prefer it that way – e.g. garlic, five spice, stock.
There are some ingredients that will always be indispensable: e.g. if you’re not using star anise and cinnamon sticks in your broth, it’s just not pho; it’s a tasty noodle soup, but not pho. But in spite of my tweaks, my pho tasted totally authentic… and when I walked into my flat after popping out while the broth was cooking, it smelled just like the pho restaurants I ate at in Saigon. After so many attempts, I was giddy with joy.
So, here it is. After many trial and errors, multiple recipe tasting and tweaking, here’s how to do easy vegan (and gluten-free) pho in under an hour.
For the broth
2 carrots, chopped
1 apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered (red or white is fine)
5 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 big leek / 2 small leeks, green parts chopped (save the white parts!)
4 gloves garlic, roughly bashed
1 big knob of ginger, sliced into strips
4 litres of water
2 stock cubes (unorthodox, tastes good!)
Salt, to taste
For the tofu & noodles
Pack of tofu (I bulk-buy and then freeze tofu puffs from Asian supermarkets, like the ones above by Tofuking. If you can’t get hold of these, use firm tofu: squeeze the water out of it, cut into chunks and fry in sesame oil on a low heat until the edges are browned and crispy)
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Chilli flakes (optional)
Salt, to taste
The white stems of the leeks, minced finely
4 pak choi, washed and leaves separated
6-8 spring onions, chopped diagonally
Big bunch coriander
1 red chilli (Thai chilli if you like heat, jalapeno if you don’t)
Fill a big pot with 4 litres of boiled water, the stock cubes, and the chopped carrots, leeks and apple and garlic. Turn up the heat and stir.
Cut the ginger into half inch strips, lengthwise, and cut the onion into four slices, also lengthwise. Put onto a griddle pan, along with the cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Cook for a few minutes until nicely charred (just use a frying pan if you don’t have a griddle – but fry dry, no oil!), then place into the big stock pot.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer. Add salt, five spice and a little extra stock/bouillon to taste.
Slice the tofu puffs in half diagonally, fry lightly in a dry frying pan with the minced leek stems, and add a dusting of five spice and salt. Remove from heat and set aside.
In the same frying pan, add the pak choi, beansprouts and spring onions. Use a little water to cook them for a few minutes, just until slightly wilted. Don’t overcook: you want them to have bite. Add garlic powder, salt and chilli flakes to taste (optional).
Cook the rice noodles as per the pack instructions. When they’re cooked, rinse under cold water to stop them clumping, stirring with a chopstick or spoon, then rinse again under hot water.
In a large, deep bowl, place the noodles at the bottom, top with the veggies, then add the fresh mint and coriander (NB: I liked to chop them up and stir them in – that way they spread evenly through the soup. Save some coriander for the top, though!) Finally, add the tofu and minced leeks.
Ladle over the hot broth – I use three ladles per bowl – and top with the remaining fresh coriander, sliced chilli and lime. Eat and enjoy!
The rise of veganism is impossible to ignore. This year’s ‘Veganuary’ – a campaign that encourages people to go plant-based for a month – had more participants than the previous four years combined, with over 250,000 sign-ups and millions more taking part unofficially. Highlights of Veganuary 2019 included new plant-based ranges being unrolled by Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Aldi, and – lest we forget – Piers Morgan having a meltdown over a vegan sausage roll.
So what’s behind the rise of veganism – and what does its escalating popularity mean for our planet and our politics?
The rise of veganism, a fringe movement
Let’s start at the beginning. The word “veganism” first entered the lexicon in 1944, when teacher Donald Watson founded The Vegan Society in Leicester. 75 years later, the definition of veganism remains the same: it’s a “philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
While veganism remained a fringe movement for decades, in the past few years it’s soared into the public consciousness. There are three powerful, yet wholly separate, reasons for its rapid rise in popularity: health, the environment, and animal rights.
Eating less meat is better for the planet – that’s no longer disputed – yet the urgency of the situation perhaps isn’t so known. Last year the UN warned that we have just 12 years to limit climate change before our world is lost forever. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of environmental destruction, species extinction, ocean dead zones and water pollution, yet we do little to counter it. While campaigns to ban plastic straws have been widely embraced, in truth stunts like these are futile: plastic straws amount for 0.3% of the 8 million metric tons of plastic that annually enters our oceans.
It wasn’t too long ago that vegans were seen as thin and malnourished, but the health benefits of a plant-based diet have never been clearer. Tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, F1’s Lewis Hamilton, boxer David Haye and many other elite athletes have all cited their vegan diet as reasons for their success, claiming they feel stronger and faster and their recovery is quicker. The old protein-deficient vegan trope has (almost) been retired.
So, now, most of us agree that one can be healthy on a vegan diet. We can also agree that animal agriculture is harming the planet. What we can’t seem to agree on is how we should treat animals.
Undoubtedly, this is the most divisive aspect of veganism – and indeed, for vegans this is the crux of the debate. Vegans oppose the unnecessary slaughter of living beings – but if we know that humans don’t need animal products to stay healthy, can this ever really constitute as “necessary”?
My opinion is no, but then again, as a vegan I’m often told my beliefs are “extreme”; vegetarianism is acceptable, but veganism is going “too far”. The only reason people view one as tolerable and the other as excessive is because the cruelty – or the simple fact that an animal lost their life – is overt in meat. Conversely, the insidious nature of the dairy and egg industries means the general public is mostly unaware of standard procedures – and to explore this issue properly we need to lift the veil.
The animal issue
What we forget, when we pick up products from the supermarket shelves, is that the meat, dairy and egg industries are some of the most powerful in the world. Their marketing reflects this. People see labels like ‘humane milk’ and ‘humane meat’ and they believe them – yet these are myths, marketing ploys that exist only to make us feel better. The word humane means compassionate and kind – and because it means this, neither meat nor dairy can ever be considered it.
Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated to produce milk. Their calves are taken at birth: if he’s male, he’s often shot because he won’t produce milk, or he may be dumped, still alive, in ditches like garbage. Alternatively he’ll be locked in a pen, unable to move, touch grass, or even lie down – and when his muscles are soft enough, he’ll be killed and sold as veal. If the calf is female, she’ll lead the same life as her mother: repeatedly impregnated, her calves taken, and when she’s too spent to produce enough milk (around six years old) she’ll be sent to the slaughterhouse. Cows naturally live to 25 years old.
The fact that all dairy cows end up as cheap beef isn’t widely know. Neither is the abhorrent treatment of newborn calves. But public ignorance is what the industry wants, and so the truths are kept hidden and the myths perpetuated. There’s no disputing how well it’s worked; for example, very few people see problems with “happy eggs” from “free-range, happy hens”. Yet beneath its cheerful veneer the egg industry is just as dark.
“If I want to eat meat, that’s my choice.” I hear this a lot. Vegans are frequently accused of being militant, forcing their beliefs on people while refusing to respect others’ personal choices. But the minute someone else is harmed by your “personal choice”, it stops being “personal”. A living being has been victimised by your choice – in the case of meat, a living being has lost their life. It can never be a “personal choice” when there’s a victim involved.
Unfortunately, animals have been victimised to the point where they’re not even considered victims anymore. In the UK, we’re appalled by the Yulin dog meat festival, dismayed by the Faroe Island pilot whale hunt, but cows, pigs, chickens? They don’t count. The animals themselves disappear; they’re no longer living, breathing, feeling individuals – they’re commodities, walking hunks of flesh waiting to be killed. This isn’t even about meat anymore: it’s about the industrialisation of living creatures.
When I speak to people about the realities of farming, I’m often asked if animals are self-aware. But this question misses the point. The question we should be asking isn’t “Are they self-aware?” but “Do they suffer?”. Do these animals feel fear, as they’re lead into the slaughterhouse over ground coated in blood? Do they feel pain, as they’re hung upside down and a knife is thrust into their throat? We know, from the abattoir footage no-one wants to watch, that the answers to these questions is yes. So let’s consider another question.
If we could live in a world where we could not only survive but thrive without eating animal products… if there was an abundance of plant-based food at our disposal… if eating this way was infinitely less harmful to the environment… should we still choose to kill animals? If these three hypotheses are true, can there ever be a moral justification for doing what we do to animals?
Vegans are called “extremists”, but what really is more extreme? Gratuitously exploiting and killing living beings for their milk, eggs and meat – or trying to encourage people not to kill unnecessarily? The reality is that in 2019 there is no meaningful argument against veganism. And now, as the clock ticks and our awareness heightens, we have a choice: we can continue our mindless slaughter, our wilful destruction of our planet – or we can move forward compassionately. We can grow, as a species. We can evolve.
No mince pies, no creamy liqueurs, No cheeseboard. Admittedly, that does sound sad. Yet it is far from the reality of a vegan Christmas. This has been the year that veganism went mainstream. From dedicated vegan aisles in supermarkets to veggie burgers that look and taste eerily like the real thing, the plant-based movement has never been more prevalent — and as a vegan, I couldn’t be happier. Gone are the days when people thought we only ate lentils and salad; almost gone are the days where we’re continually asked: “But what about protein?”
Even for the most ardent meat-eaters, the recent growth of the vegan movement has been hard to ignore. The US has seen a 600% rise in veganism since 2014, while in the UK it’s a little lower – a ‘humble’ 360% increase. But for many people, no matter how much they respect the principles of a plant-based diet, the idea of giving up a big, juicy burger remains inconceivable. Enter the Impossible Burger – a patty that looks, smells, tastes, feels and even ‘bleeds’ like a classic beef burger… with one major difference. It’s made entirely out of plants.
When you think of Spanish cuisine, chances are that most of the dishes involve animal products. Known worldwide for their love of ham, fish and cheese, the Spanish didn’t seem particularly welcome to meat-free consumers. For years, vegans had to rely on plates of Padrón peppers, grilled vegetables and patatas bravas (hold the mayo!) to get by in Spain — but things are changing. Like most cosmopolitan cities around the world, Barcelona is experiencing the same transitions, and here the plant-based movement is not only growing but exploding. Here are my picks for the best plant-based restaurants in Barcelona.
The popularity of plant-based food is soaring across the world, and things are no different in Vancouver, Canada. Notoriously a health-orientated city, in the past few years Vancouver has seen numerous vegan eateries pop up, and while the long-established restaurants remain popular, I found that it was the newer restaurants that served up the most enticingly innovative dishes. From the best cruelty-free comfort food to fresh mezze plates and brand-new plant-based pop-ups, here’s where to eat vegan in Vancouver.
For backpackers, tourists, or anyone who travels for work, trying exotic new cuisines is one of the best things about travelling. Who wouldn’t be excited to try authentic empanadas in Mexico, steaming-hot street food in Vietnam, or a plate of fresh gnocchi in Italy? But if you don’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs, things can be more difficult. Though the vegan movement is growing quickly, in many countries meals still centre around animal products, and the very concept of veganism can be met with bewilderment.
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic place than Bali. With ornate Hindu temples, verdant green rice fields and white sand beaches, this beautiful Indonesian island encapsulates the idea of paradise. As one of the world’s top destinations for holistic retreats and a mecca for yoga enthusiasts, the concept of health and wellness permeates many aspects of tourism here. As a result, it’s also a dream for vegetarians and vegans — more so than any other country I’ve visited so far on this year-long trip.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.