First up, what does a balanced plant-based diet look like?
“I converted to a plant-based diet a few months in from joining Future Farm. The facts and figures of what the meat industry does to our planet were hard to shut out, and the health benefits were too huge to ignore. Plant-based diets have always been up for debate, and over the years, a history of myths have been floating around painting a plant-based diet in a negative light. For example, ‘You can't get enough protein from plants’ – this is a myth. Half a cup of beans has about the same amount of protein as one ounce of meat. For me, following a balanced plant-based diet means eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables each day, I choose healthy vegan alternatives, I opt for wholegrain where I can and choose low sugar options. I make sure to get my intake of nuts, beans and vitamins. If you’re thinking of adopting a plant-based diet, I would seek professional advice and make sure you’re consuming all the vitamins, nutrients and minerals to fully 'feed' your body.” – Pedro Zuim, Future Farm
“I eat a very varied diet full of lots of good-quality carbs, fruits and vegetables. Using more natural wholefoods in recipes actually encourages you to be a bit more creative in the kitchen, which results in getting loads of different nutrients from different healthy, plant-based products such as vegetables and lentils.” – Gaz Oakley, Avant-Garde Vegan
What are the best meat substitutes out there?
“There are so many different substitutes nowadays, you can find an alternative to pretty much every meat or fish product out there. Everything from burgers, steaks, sausages, tuna, ribs – the list goes on. However, it’s important not to solely eat these products. Treat them as you would meat: you wouldn’t live off sausages, so don’t eat vegan sausages every day. I really rate Merchant Gourmet, and I think its pre-cooked and flavoured pouches are great for anyone looking to easily incorporate more wholefoods such as lentils and grains into their diet. Its range offers a good source of protein and fibre, making them great for those looking to eat more plant-based food or cut down on their meat intake in a simple, no-fuss way, without compromising on taste or nutrition.” – Gaz
“Future Farm produces meatless ‘meat’, which is indistinguishable from meat and uses 100% natural ingredients like peas and soya. We’ve recently launched our 2030 range of burgers, meatballs and mince with a new mix of natural extracts to ensure a lighter flavour. We’ve added canola oil and coconut fat for added nutritious benefits. The coconut fat soaks into the burgers to give them a juicier, oozier, meatier taste and it’s the first on the market to perfectly emulate rare, medium, and well-done cooking points.” – Pedro
What’s the best way to work with lentils, chickpeas and other pulses?
“Pulses are high in protein, so a great replacement for meat. Lentils also have a fantastic texture that is similar to meat, which is great for chilli non-carne, plant-based spaghetti bolognese, stews, vegan lasagne and more. Chickpeas are versatile too, and you can stir them together with cooked beans into curries, make hummus, fritters, burgers and so much more. Eating substantial vegan foods, such as pulses and lentils, really help to fill you up. They’re really high in fibre, which is great to keep you full, and also high in protein to ensure you’re not missing out.” – Gaz
What can you tell us about…
“Made from wheat gluten, this plant-based meat substitute has a chicken consistency. A lot of vegan fast-food joints are using this substitute to make juicy and crispy chicken-like burgers and nuggets. It honestly tastes like the real thing. To incorporate seitan simply, buy it prepared from the supermarket and season or marinate with your favourite spices. Fry, roast or bake – it’s as simple as that.” – Pedro
“Seiten is a vegan protein and has been eaten in Asia for centuries by meat-free communities. It can be purchased in flour form called vital wheat gluten; you can then get creative with it. Depending on the type of ‘meat’ I’m trying to create, I add certain flavours to the vital wheat gluten, then I form it into a dough and knead it, which creates a meat like texture after cooking.” – Gaz
“‘Mince’ is made from vegetable protein like soy, pea and chickpea. Personally, I think swapping meat-based mince for plant-based ‘mince’ is the easiest swap to do for your bolognese, lasagnes, shepherd’s pie and so on, as all you need to do is cook it in the same way.” – Pedro
“Jackfruit is a large fruit grown in tropical climates, and like tofu and tempeh it has been used across Asian cuisines for centuries. It has become very popular in the plant-based community because it has quite a meaty texture thanks to its fibres. It’s often used to replicate dishes like pulled pork. In the UK, I buy young jackfruit in tins, then squeeze the liquid out and use it to make vegan chicken pieces or simply stir it into curries and stews with lots of beans, pulses and lentils. I love jackfruit. It’s high in iron, calcium and potassium too.” – Gaz
“Tempeh is made by pressing the whole cooked soybean together, it’s then left to ferment. This results in a high protein content, compared to tofu, as the whole bean is used. It has a nutty taste and again absorbs flavour really well. I love to marinade it and then grill it.” – Gaz
“Tofu is just soya bean curd, simply made by adding a coagulant to hot fresh soy milk. You then press the curds together to form a block: depending on how long and how much pressure you apply when pressing depends on how firm the tofu will be. These days, it’s really easy to find at all supermarkets and comes in different styles such as silken (very silky soft tofu, not meaty at all), medium (great for making fried tofu and scrambled tofu) and firm (has a much more of a meaty texture, when cooked right can have a similar texture to chicken). I really like making a lentil dal with tofu ‘chicken’ – it creates such a nice texture and is perfect with naan, salad, chutney and lime.” – Gaz
Finally, it’s BBQ season. Any ideas for a plant-based gathering?
“Prepare marinades in advance. You can use any flavours you like. I personally love either a curried plant-based yoghurt marinade or a pepper piri-piri style marinade – they both enhance the flavour of whatever you’re grilling. Season your plant-based burgers before they reach the BBQ. I play around with all my dried herbs and spices for added flavour. Finally, prepare tasty garnishes ahead of time, such as coleslaw, salads, dips and fried onions. These can all be made ahead of time, saving you time during the BBQ itself.” – Gaz