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Catering For Vegans

Following a slew of magazine and lifestyle features, a huge swathe of the millennial generation are now going vegan for the sheer hell of it. A lifestyle choice that has nothing to do with animal cruelty, and everything to do with the way it makes them feel.
In recent history, the vegan diner was often a complete afterthought and when a dairy and meat-free request came through from front of house, it could compound the kitchen in a number of different, debilitating ways. The thing is, a limp bowl of salad just doesn’t cut it these days, but with a wider consumer interest, diners are becoming more accepting, and inquisitive of vegan dishes even if they don’t adhere to any dietary restrictions.
Whether you’re using alternative grains in a dish, or utilising syrups made from various fruits, the vegan food market is posing a whole heap of opportunities. Even rotating just a few interesting vegan dishes could generate and nurture a new revenue stream.
Of course, the whole middle class obsession with Ottolenghi is still going strong and across his London sites, and his weekly Guardian column, consumers are enamoured with a whole cocktail of Middle Eastern dishes sprawling from Jerusalem through to Turkey.
Avocado toast, one of the most popular breakfast and brunch dishes of the past five years is arguably the diamond in the vegan crown and perhaps one of the dishes responsible for the wider interest in vegan food items. Traditionally, vegan dishes would not sell well on a menu, but with this new enthusiasm for ‘plant-based’ eating, it’s no longer such a danger to switch out a meaty menu item for one based around vegetables and grains. You’ll no doubt be aware of how vegetables are often being treated as the main event, with meat playing second fiddle to dishes like whole roast heads of cauliflower, or casseroles of root veg.
Ingredients like tofu are no longer being shunned as a poor meat substitute, but being celebrated in its own right. Popular Asian dishes that largely circle around rice and noodle bowls are being adorned with chunky cubes of tofu fried in sesame oil. It seems hitting tofu up with an abundance of chilli is also a way to get the mainstream crowd in on the tofu action. Danny Bowien’s Mapo tofu is perhaps the signature dish at his NYC and San Francisco based Mission Chinese and has been written about in the magazines and broadsheets both sides of the pond.
One of the main hurdles when creating vegan dishes, is overcoming the loss of ingredients like egg, milk and cheese, which can be much more of a problem for your pastry chefs. However, you’ll find a whole hoard of advocates for substituting egg for avocado in some desserts, pepped up with additional baking powder and/or bicarb. Another vegan pastry chef favourite is the water from a can of chickpeas. Chickpea water can be used to effectively make meringues in place of eggs.
So wherever you stand on the whole issue of veganism, 2017 is the time explore this medium of cooking. Creating exciting and creative vegan menu items is being embraced by everyone from the hipster cafe to the established gastro pub.