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Seven top tips and recipes for Veganuary from Stem + Glory founder Louise Palmer-Masterton




Louise Palmer-Masterton became vegan 35 years ago and has won over plenty of new fans to vegan cuisine after opening the eatery in 2017. She told the Cambridge Independent what helped her make the switch.

Louise Palmer-Masterton. Picture: Keith Heppell
Louise Palmer-Masterton. Picture: Keith Heppell

My ‘aha’ moment with the vegan movement came to me 35 years ago, when I was a teenager. A chance encounter with a Krishna devotee introduced me to compassionate eating for the first time. I gave up eating meat on the spot, and never looked back.

In the old days vegan food was pretty boring, if I am honest. You could get almost nothing in a restaurant, and you were literally looked at as a mad person trying to order vegan. Vegan just wasn’t in most peoples’ vocabulary, and certainly not on restaurant menus. The best cuisines were – and still are – Italian and Asian, especially Thai and Indian. There are still a few things to look out for in those cuisines such as fish sauce (Thai) and ghee (Indian), but
you can work round those once you are in the know.

Fortunately I love to cook, so my ‘aha’ moment turned into a life-long passion for experimenting with plant-based ingredients. In the mid ’80s I was exploring raw foods and had a few books on the subject. So the plant-based movement was already there, albeit very fledgling. There were two notable health food shops in Cambridge at that time, both of which are still there. This is for me testament to the fact that this movement is not a fad. Both have grown and flourished over the past 35 years.

Stem and Glory - Seven top tips to make your Veganuary a success. Picture: Keith Heppell. (24855300)
Stem and Glory - Seven top tips to make your Veganuary a success. Picture: Keith Heppell. (24855300)

But back in the old days, raw food and vegetarianism generally were very fringe. The products you could buy were very very ‘whole food’ – think Neil from the Young Ones and his pot of lentils cooking for hours on the stove!

It’s what gave vegetarian food a bad name actually. Vegetarian, and in particular vegan, offerings in restaurants and in general were very bland and boring. Dishes were served solely by virtue of the fact that they were vegetarian, without any kind of attention to taste or presentation. Cheese was added liberally to provide flavour – without cheese there was no flavour!

I watched through the ’80s and ’90s as peoples’ consciousness started to shift. Mad cow and other animal-borne diseases played their part in a growing distaste for farming methods. But importantly, as well as a perceived health risks, people started to question the ethics of eating meat. Yoga was also starting to become a lifestyle trend, and as well as its association with vegetarianism, yoga got people looking to living healthier and healthy eating generally.

Throughout this time it was the animal rights movement that was breaking ground with the vegan movement, and once we moved into the new millennium veganism was a word we started to hear more often. There was, however, a mainstream negative association with animal rights activists, which kept it as a fringe movement.

Veganism just didn’t seem attractive to the average person.

Then, from around 2005, the term ‘plant-based’ tip-toed in through the back door. The term had been created as an alternative to the word ‘vegan’, to make it more palatable. And that’s exactly what it did.

Stem and Glory - Seven top tips to make your Veganuary a success. Picture: Keith Heppell. (24855305)
Stem and Glory - Seven top tips to make your Veganuary a success. Picture: Keith Heppell. (24855305)

There were a few notable American vegan chefs, such as Matthew Kenny, who were well ahead of the game both in using the term, and also writing books from 1995. But it was as we moved into the ‘teenies’ that the movement, and the term, suddenly started to gain traction.

Maybe it was Instagram, founded in 2010. Maybe it was Deliciously Ella’s first book in 2012. Maybe it was Beyonce’s announcement in 2015 that she was vegan. Plant-based suddenly became cool.

Although I had my first incarnation of a vegan café in our first yoga studio in 2010, it was in October 2016 that we launched Stem + Glory as a standalone brand following a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign. It was an immediate hit, and following an even more successful crowdfunding campaign in March 2018, we opened our flagship site in central London in January 2019, which we hope will be the blueprint for all future sites.

Veganuary, an initiative founded in 2014 to encourage people to go vegan for the month of January, is a great opportunity to give yourself a month’s trial of a vegan diet. To some people this might seem really daunting, but there has never been a better time to try going vegan. The supermarkets are literally exploding with new vegan ranges, and packaging is increasingly well marked so it’s easy to spot if something is vegan or not (unlike the old days).

The trick with going vegan and staying vegan is to stock up with store cupboard essentials and to make sure what you are eating is delicious.

Velvet : Stem and Glory food photographs . Picture: Keith Heppell. (24601927)
Velvet : Stem and Glory food photographs . Picture: Keith Heppell. (24601927)

Here are my top 7 tips to survive and thrive in Veganuary:

1: Nature has given us a fifth taste - umami - which in a nutshell is ‘deliciousness’ and often it is the umami in food that gives us that yearning and makes a particular food ‘mouth watering’. People often associate umami with non vegan foods such as cured meat, parmesan and anchovy, but there is a long list of vegan umami foods too, and success with vegan cooking depends on being able to cook up deliciousness so you won’t feel you are missing anything. Stock up on: tomato paste, herbs, olives, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, miso, seaweed, soy sauce, pickles, ketchup, toasted nuts and seeds, cumin, smoked paprika, fermented foods, and finally vegetables that are naturally in season have higher natural umami.

2: If you are a snacker and your diet consists of anything on toast, you’ll need some vegan spread. Koko and Pure are well known brands sold in all the major supermarkets, and Flora also now went vegan.

3: Buy some non dairy milk. There are so many to choose from now. The best performing milk for coffee is hands down Barista Oatly. Froth that into your latte and you really won’t notice the difference. It is also great for sauces, and anywhere you need to substitute dairy milk.

4: Get some Engevita flakes. These flakes are high in umami flavour and are fantastic for adding a cheesy taste to vegan food (see our cashew bechamel recipe below). Engevita also contains B12 which is a recommended supplement for vegans. If you like parmesan, try this instead on your tomato pasta. It really does work. I also use it to make vegan mac n cheese, and even vegan egg mayonnaise,

5: Try some Asian condiments - soy sauce, hoisin, rice vinegar, limes, vegan Thai curry paste (check for fish sauce) then you are all set for stir fries and curries. You can even buy vegan ‘fish’ sauce these days and it’s delicious.

6: Do not attempt to be vegan without hummus. Honestly this go to vegan staple is a life-saver that you can buy almost anywhere. It is a complete protein and works as a dip, in sandwiches, wraps or even just with salad.

7: Make a list of your favourite recipes, then google a vegan version, I 100% guarantee you will find many! Instagram too is amazing for simple vegan recipes.

Here are a couple of recipes to get you going. The cashew bechamel sauce is what we use on our legendary lasagne which is our number one best seller in both sites. Just use on your favourite lasagne recipe in place of the non vegan bechamel instead of adding cheese on top.

Cashew Bechamel

This recipe from our original head chef, Michael Pledger, has been with us right form the very start.

This is the first time the secret has been revealed!

Ingredients

1 cup cashew nuts, soaked in hot water for one hour, or cold water for 6 hours or overnight

1 cup water

¼ cup Engervite nutritional yeast flakes

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

Directions

Blend to smooth in a high-powered blender such as a Nutri Ninja. Add more water as required. Build your lasagne as you would normally. Bake 30 mins foil covered (no bechamel yet). Remove foil and add bechamel layer on top. Sprinkle with dried oregano. You can also add thin tomato slices. Cook for a further 10-15 mins. Remove from oven and allow to set for 10 mins before serving.

Allergens: Nuts

Lasagne with Cashew Bechamel

This recipe from our original head chef, Michael Pledger, has been with us right from the very start. This is the first time the secret of our becamel has been revealed!

Makes a 16 x 24 cm (approx) lasagne which serves 4. You can also make 4 mini lasagnes like we do at Stem + Glory.

Ingredients

2 courgettes cut into small cubes

1 aubergine cut into small cubes

Olive oil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 celeriac, peeled and very thinly sliced OR sheets of quick cook lasagne

Salt + pepper

Tomato sauce (this is a no cook sauce, you can of course substitute your own sauce recipe)

1 litre passata

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 clove garlic (optional)

1 tsp dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil OR handful chopped fresh basil

Salt + pepper

Bechamel

1 cup cashew nuts, soaked in hot water for one hour, or cold water for 6 hours or overnight

1 cup water

¼ cup Engervite nutritional yeast flakes

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

This is a bit of a generic recipe, you can substitute courgettes and aubergine for other vegetables, and also of course use your own favourite tomato sauce recipe - the real secret here is the cashew bechamel

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Drizzle the courgette and aubergine cubes in olive oil, add the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking tin.

Toss the celeriac sheets in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Distribute evenly in a large baking tin. You are aiming for them to be evenly cooked and a little brown around the edges. Skip this step if you are using regular lasagne.

Place both tins in the oven and cook for approximately 30 mins until starting to brown.

Take the tomato sauce ingredients - crush the garlic clove and blend with all the other sauce ingredients. Season well to taste.

Build the lasagne with a layer of tomato sauce at the bottom, then a layer of celariac, making sure each celeriac slice overlaps a little to create a whole ‘layer’, then add a thin layer of veg, and cover with tomato sauce. Then just keep repeating - celeriac, veg, tomato sauce. Finish with a celeriac layer on top.

Cover the dish with foil, and place in the oven at 180C. Bake for 30 mins.

Whilst the lasagne is cooking, make the bechamel. Drain the cashews and blend all the bechamel ingredients until smooth in a high powered blender such as a Nutri Ninja. Remove the foil from the lasagne and add a generous bechamel layer on top. Sprinkle with a little dried oregano. You can also add thin tomato slices. Cook for a further 10-15 mins. Remove from oven and allow the bechamel to set for 10 mins before serving.

Allergens: Nuts

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

The lemon and poppy seed is a perennial favourite in Cambridge. Vegan baking is so simple.

Makes 1 x 9 inch tine (12 portions)

Ingredients:

Plain flour 3 cups/435g

Caster sugar 1 cup + 2 tbsp/250g

Baking powder 1.5 tsp/7g

Bicarbonate of soda 1.5 tsp/7g

Lemon (juice & zest) x 1.5 large

Rice milk (or other plant milk) 1.75 cups + 2 tbsp/425ml

Sunflower oil .75 cups/187.5ml

Poppy seeds 2 tbsp/25g

For butter icing:

Vegan margarine 50g

Icing sugar 200g

Lemon (zest & juice) x ½

Method

Grease and line 1 x 9 inch tins

Measure dry ingredients into one bowl and wet into another

Combine together and mix until smooth

Pour into lined tin and bake for 45-60 minutes at 150°C

For butter icing combine margarine, lemon juice and zest and icing sugar, raspberries and mix until smooth (careful not to split!).

Ice cake when cool and finish with lemon zest, poppy seeds and berries. You can also add a few drops of food colouring to the butter icing if you fancy coloured icing

Allergens: Gluten, seeds



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