We’re big of fans of cooking for yourself at Coach because it can be an easy way to improve your diet quickly. It’s also easy to whip up something tasty, especially when you cook with meat because it naturally has big, bold flavours.
If you’ve decided to adopt a vegan diet, however, you don’t have that crutch and might struggle to create satisfying tastebud-tingling meals. Well, we’ve found another crutch for you in the shape of Gaz Oakley, who shares his recipes and cooking videos under the moniker Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube and Instagram and in his recipe book Vegan 100.
We had the chance to chat with Oakley when he was at the launch of AdeZ, a plant-based smoothie from Coca-Cola, so we quizzed him on what vegans should fill their cupboards with and what tricks they need to know to create delicious vegan dishes.
Meet Your Meat Replacement
Oakley described Vegan 100 as the product of the period when he first became a vegan and was experimenting with this new cuisine. “I always say it’s the book I wish I had when I first went vegan because it would have made the transition so much easier,” Oakley says. And the one thing that would have made that transition easier?
“One of the main ingredients that I’d never cooked with before was wheat gluten, often called seitan. It’s basically flour washed of all its starch. You can buy it predone so it just looks like flour in a bag. You need to add lots of flavour to it, knead it and cook it, but you can make an amazing meat replacement with it. I make things like streaky bacon, sausages, steak, burgers, beef Wellington. It’s so good for someone like myself who’s used to bold meaty flavours having not been vegan for 20-plus years of my life.”
Know How To Coax Out Flavour
This is actually a tip for cooks of all stripes. It’s something Oakley learned when he was training as a chef, a long time before he went vegan and found fame on social media. “I’m lucky I put the graft in in a professional kitchen,” he says, “because I know the fundamentals, like having to season at every stage. That is so important when cooking vegan food because it’s quite easy to get strong bold flavours when cooking with meat and fish, but to to get similar ones when cooking vegan you have to season with herbs and spices, and bring out flavour with salt, pepper and lemon juice.”
Get On The Griddle
That’s a griddle pan, the one with the raised ridges. “I like charring stuff in griddle pans because that brings in new complex flavours which adds excitement to dishes,” says Oakley.
To Cook Veg Properly, Undercook It
“Most of the time people tend to overcook veg and that’s terrible – you’re losing all the nutrients,” Oakley says. “My advice is to undercook it because you’ll probably end up with perfectly cooked veg.”
Keep Your Cupboard Stocked With Nuts And Seeds…
“They’re just so key for a vegan diet,” Oakley says. “You need to make sure you get lots of omega 3, protein and calcium, and you can get all those things from nuts and seeds. Just sprinkle them over the top of your meal – it’s a great add-on for a burst of nourishment.”
“Always have plenty of tinned or jarred chickpeas in your cupboard,” says Oakley, “because you can make so many go-to vegan dishes like falafel and hummus.”