Chances are, your favourite meals – the ones you cook most often – are probably meaty or cheesy. At some point you’ll want to make them plant-based.
Maybe it’s that perfect steak casserole, or that incredible cake. We’re going to show you how to BOSH! it. That means removing the meat or dairy but saving the flavour, using a bit of culinary flair and some clever ingredient swaps.
Humans have been eating meat and animal products for thousands of years, so we’ve had incredible amounts of time to develop techniques based around milk, cheese, eggs, meats and fish. When you avoid these ingredients in your diet it forces you to innovate, to think of new ways to cook things, many of which have never been done before.
Butter and margarine
Swap for dairy-free versions, which are available in all good supermarkets. And use in exactly the same quantities. If you’re shallow-frying, you can use your favourite oil, like blended olive oil or rapeseed oil.
We know this is the big one! So many people find it hard to abstain or reduce their dairy consumption due to cheese. We found it quite easy really. But if it makes sense in a recipe – such as in a béchamel – we will use a plant-based cheese, which are available everywhere now. Check out shop-bought brands and test different options: shredded, melty and spreadable.
Try the cheese before you add it to your dish – don’t ruin a dish using a bad-tasting brand! Also check out nutritional yeast (see page 141) which is an easy way to add a cheesy flavour to plant-based cooking. Get experimenting to find what’s best for you.
There are many dairy-free versions. Grab yourself a tub of soy, almond or oat cream. You can also blitz up your own cashew cream with a high-powered blender (see page 139). And if you’re looking for whipped cream, there are a few brands available (look in health food shops) or improvise by using the thick layer from the top of a tin of chilled coconut milk.
Eggs for baking
There are so many alternatives now that you can use to perform the job of an egg. Binding when baking can be achieved using swap-ins: flaxseeds, banana, apple sauce, fruit purée, dairy-free yoghurt, oil or peanut butter. There are also some convincing egg replacers available in most supermarkets now. The incredible discovery of aquafaba (literally, bean juice from a tin of chickpeas, which whips up exactly like egg whites) has made plant-based egg-free meringues and mousses very easy to create.
Eggs for eating
No plant-based or vegan egg is going to give a convincing fried or boiled egg, but you can make a delicious and nutritious scramble with tofu and turmeric, and create quiches, pancakes, omelettes and frittatas with ingredients like tofu or gram flour.
Shop-bought fish replacements are fairly easy to find – from plant-based fish fillets to fish burgers, prawns and tinned tuna. You can also make your own versions: tofu is frequently used as a replacement for fish, as it replicates the texture of cod very well – just add a little lemon, vinegar, caper brine and nori for a fishy flavour. We‘ve also found that wrapping tofu in nori is a great way to mimic fish skin while adding a really fishy flavour, and shredded nori sheets sprinkled over dishes are marvellous for adding extra fishiness. If you’re after a fish pie, you can try mixed mushrooms (along with those fishy flavours) to create realistic fishy chunks. Also 2-cm rounds of king oyster mushrooms make very realistic-looking scallops!
This animal product is what makes things set and is used in most gummy sweets. It’s made by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones. Luckily, it’s another easy swap – simply use agar powder, fruit pectin or xanthan gum instead.
To replace honey in recipes, use the same quantity of maple syrup or other sugary syrups like agave nectar, or golden, rice or date syrup.
Much work has been done by food producers and supermarkets to replicate the distinctive, rich meaty flavour so many people miss. You can find replacement mince, sausages and burgers widely available. If you want to make a DIY mince for a shepherd’s pie, lasagne or bolognese, blend (or finely chop) hearty veggie sausages or veggie burgers. Or you can use finely minced mushrooms or cooked lentils to create your own veggie mince.
Ian loves chef Derek Sarno’s technique of using king oyster mushrooms with BBQ sauce to make the most incredible BBQ pulled pork. Check out our YouTube videos with Derek! Or chop them, press them under heat then roast them to make amazing ‘ribs’. You can also use tinned young green jackfruit in spring water as a pulled pork replacement. Henry also likes using jackfruit in hoi sin duck pizza and instead of roast turkey.
If you’re after cuts of meat, that’s a bit harder, but still possible. We make good veggie steaks out of seitan, and you can buy them, too, in some larger supermarkets. You can even get hold of plant-based versions of ribs, duck, chicken, bacon and even faux gras pâté. Tofu and tempeh are other alternatives. (See pages 141–2 for more info on these popular meat replacements.) Experiment with making your own bacon with marinated slices of aubergine, pepper, tofu or even rice paper.
Super easy this one – replace cow’s milk with non-dairy milk and you’re good. Test out a few different plant-based milks until you find the one that’s best for you. We prefer oat milk! Some brands have a barista-friendly version which is great for making cappuccinos. If you want buttermilk, you can add a touch of lemon juice or vinegar to your dairy-free milk to make it slightly acidic. Try out milks made from almonds, oats, cashews, soya and hemp – or have a go at making your own. We think the unsweetened ones are best.
It’s really easy to find plant-based pastry. Ready-to-roll pastry is available in most supermarkets and is often made with oil instead of butter or milk. Check the label to be sure – or make your own!
As with milk, this is an easy swap. Replace with a plant-based yoghurt, which is available in most supermarkets. If you are using coconut yoghurt, then of course there will be a coconut taste, so make sure to take that into account when you’re cooking! Soya has a more neutral flavour.
Now you know how to BOSH! your food, why not put your newfound skills to the test by giving a BOSH! recipe a try? Discover the whole BOSH! library here. This extract comes from the comprehensive guide to sustainable living, BOSH! How to Live Vegan.