Unless you have been living in a cave or hole in the ground there can hardly be a soul alive who hasn’t been aware of Veganuary in some shape or form this year. Founded in January 2014 by husband and wife team Matthew Glover and Jane Land, Veganuary was set up as a registered charity to encourage people to go vegan for January. As well as veganism being one of the fastest growing lifestyle choices for a number of different reasons, this year in particular Veganuary has literally exploded into the collective consciousness.
All of the major supermarkets now have a dedicated fresh “Veganuary section and many well-known chain restaurants have introduced a wide variety of vegan dishes into their menus; GBK, Wagamama and Las Iguanas to name but a few. Hence we’re also becoming much more conversant with previously hard to find ingredients such as tempeh and jackfruit.
It seems that we’ve got the savoury dishes pretty much nailed and even hardened meat eaters appear to have cottoned on to the fact that the massive advances in vegan cookery and ingredients are producing incredible dishes that can be universally enjoyed. If you don’t believe me, check out the queues outside Temple of Seitan in Camden just before the doors open.
As a chef teaching students to cook delicious vegan food, the most exciting discovery recently has been aquafaba, which coincidentally also occurred in 2014. Essentially the liquid from tins of cooked chickpeas, aquafaba mimics the properties of egg whites in cooking and can be utilised to make a whole host of sweet treats including meringues, mousses, marshmallows, ice cream and brownies- the list is almost endless. This has liberated anyone following a vegan diet from the ubiquitous fruit salad and paved the way for an amazing variety of truly delicious desserts and baked goods. On a personal note I’m almost beside myself with excitement now that I have finally succeeded in cracking the conundrum which is the vegan macaron. After two failed attempts I have managed to produce a pretty close facsimile to the real thing.
The real message underlying this piece however is that recent research suggests that enormous reductions in meat eating are going to be required to avoid dangerous climate change. Realistically our population isn’t going to go vegan overnight but right now has never been a better or easier time to make some changes to our diets, and this can be very easily achieved either when dining out or cooking at home. For those of you who don’t already I would like to gently encourage you to introduce at least a couple of meat free days into your weekly diet and to show willing I am sharing my recipe for a simply stunning vegan chocolate cake to satisfy those sweet cravings. Rich Vegan Chocolate Cake
You will need 2 x 23cm loose bottomed cake tins for this recipe Ingredients
275g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
450ml soya milk or unsweetened soya milk
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
320g caster sugar
320ml sunﬂower oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract For the chocolate frosting
600g pitted dates
60g raw cacao powder
½ tsp fine sea salt
Grated zest of 2 oranges
250ml rice milk
- Heat the oven to 160°c. Grease the sides and base and line the base of 2 x 23cm loose bottomed round cake tins with baking parchment.
- Put the ﬂour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sift twice. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soya milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Pour into the ﬂour mixture and stir until well combined.
- Spoon/pour the mixture evenly into the prepared cake tins, place on a large baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven (middle shelf) for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out with no crumbs attached, the middle of the cake, when pressed, should spring back slightly instead of sinking in.
- Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Slide a table knife carefully around the inside edge of the tin to release the cake, then remove. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for an hour.
- To make the frosting soften the dates in warm water for an hour and then drain before using. Combine the dates, cacao powder, salt and the orange zest in a food processor and pulse to break up the dates. Then slowly add the milk with the processor running until you have a thick, silky and spreadable frosting. Sandwich the two halves of the cake with generous lashings of the frosting and spread the frosting over the top of the cake. Any leftover frosting can be kept in the fridge, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
For more information on Veganuary CLICK HERE!
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