During lockdown, I’ve been making lots of comfort food. Easy and hearty one-pot dishes like soups, stews and curries have been my go-to. We all need a bit of comfort right now and a big bowl of something warming always does it for me.
My motivation for cooking has ranged from wanting to create elaborate meals to only wanting to eat beans on toast. Both are fine. Something I always make on a weekly basis is a big bowl of smokey lentil soup, usually eaten with sourdough dolloped with hummus.
Right now, my favourite ingredients to cook with are winter vegetables. Squash, parsnip and potatoes are some of the best staples you can have. I tend to roast everything as a base for multiple meals. Also, in my cupboard, you’ll always find cooked pulses and beans – ones of the easiest ways to create a meal in minutes.
There are a few basics that always go on my shopping list. Fresh fruit and vegetables, plant-based yogurts, cold coffee, fresh sourdough bread, and a good selection of beans and chickpeas are weekly staples. I also have to have oat milk and a selection of nut-based milk, too.
If there’s one thing I can’t live without in the kitchen, it’s my trusty Kenwood food processor. I use it multiple times a day and it has helped me create two of my cookbooks. For me, it’s a total saviour.
Vegan dishes shouldn't be any more complicated to make than non-vegan food. But if you don’t have much experience cooking plant-based meals, you can’t go wrong with a one-pot dahl, curry, or stew. Unlike baking, you don’t need to be as precise so it’s pretty failsafe, and most of these types of dishes are naturally vegan so are bound to taste amazing. All of the recipes in Be More Vegan are specifically designed to be easy and accessible – my black bean and lentil bake with cheesy sweet potato mash is a good option for first timers.
Some of my most memorable meals have been during my travels. Nothing beats the months I spent travelling around India. Every day brought an exciting opportunity to try new and delicious flavours and textures. Eating masala dosa in southern India is one of my most vivid memories and my all-time favourite breakfast. Indian flavours and spices have influenced my recipes hugely. I have two delicious Indian dishes in Be More Vegan – a pea curry and crispy chickpea bowl, and a quick chickpea and sweet potato curry. Also, Barcelona has some of the best vegan restaurants and cafés in the world. My go-to places are Green Spot and Flax and Kale.
After lockdown, I can’t wait to eat out again. The hospitality sector is really suffering so I think it’s important to support them when you can.
Inspired? Here are two of Niki’s recipes to try at home…