Are you vegan curious?
If you're toying with ditching meat and dairy, try out this vegan recipe for dinner this week – aubergine schnitzel with magic "cheese" by Chalfont St Peter-based Food From Four. Ooh, clever.
Almost everyone I speak to is experimenting with veganism right now – be it a few days per week or a full-on, full-time switch. And so many of the restaurants, hotels and pubs I visit now properly cater for vegans, which is cheering. There are so many benefits – it’s better for our health, our environment and obviously animals. Plus it really annoys Piers Morgan (why did he get so angry about Greggs launching a vegan sausage roll?).
With this in mind, we’ve got a tasty vegan dinner option for you – an aubergine schnitzel, with “ricotta” made from nuts and the liquid in a tin of chickpeas. Yup, really. I’m not going to call it a Speedy Supper because, well, it isn’t. But it’s worth spending a hour to experiment with this one and learn a few new tricks along the way. The recipe is courtesy of from Food From 4, a vegetarian and vegan cookery school in Chalfont St Peter.
Plus, Muddy’s Jo – a committed carnivore (she even loves offal, the weirdo! ) – tries out a Food From 4 vegan cuisine class – will she be a convert? Scroll down to find out.
Aubergine Schnitzel (Serves 2)
Aquafaba (ie the liquid from a 400g tin of chickpeas. You’ll need about half of it.)
For the “ricotta”
50g macadamia nuts – soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon basil
A few black olives (optional)
Top and tail the aubergines then remove the lengths from two sides. Slice the remaining aubergine lengthwise into 4 “steak” like slices. Brush liberally with olive oil then bake in the oven at 200C for 25 minutes until tender and starting to brown. Leave to cool.
Drain the macadamia nuts and add all the ricotta ingredients, except the olives, if using, to a blender. Blend, adding a little water at a time until you have a thick, creamy consistency….. similar to ricotta cheese. If using olives, roughly chop these and fold in now.
Spread the mix onto 2 of the 4 slices of aubergine, then place the other aubergine slice on top to make a sandwich.
Lightly whisk the aquafaba, then place this into a shallow dish, Place some panko breadcrumbs into another dish and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Gently dip the aubergine sandwiches in the aquafaba, wetting both sides. Then coat in the panko and place on the baking tray. Return to the oven for 20-25 minutes until the breadcrumbs have browned.
Food From 4 ’s vegan cookery class, reviewed by Jo Sutherland
As someone whose children beg me not to cook for them and a committed meat-eater, I was clearly the obvious choice for attending and reviewing a vegan cookery course. Ahem. Could I be converted? Let’s see.
I arrived with a certain amount of trepidation – would everyone else be a whizz in the kitchen department and already totally at ease with vegan cooking? However, theFood From 4 courses are held at Ian’s house in Chalfont St Peter, in his light and homely kitchen, and his welcome cuppa and biscuit (both vegan obvs) immediately put me at ease.
Ian’s a keen amateur cook (his day job is in IT) and has been running popular vegetarian and vegan cookery courses, including a vegan street food class, since 2016. He’s no preachy evangelical – he just quietly teaches you some new tricks. The emphasis here is on practical skills not garnering converts.
The courses cost £50 and tend to take place on a Saturday from 10am-1pm, with the last half hour spent scoffing one’s efforts (I was on a course with three other cooks, all varying degrees of competency with me probably on the lowest rung). The weekend time slot makes for a relaxed – you’re not rushing to get there after work. You don’t need to take anything with you as all ingredients are supplied.
This was not a demonstration – we made everything ourselves, working in pairs, which was fun and engaging. We made the dough for what would become spinach and tofu naan bread first and as I’m a baker at home this gave me more confidence. With the recipes in front of us, and coaching from Ian we then prepared aubergine schnitzel (as above), tofu scramble (who knew you could replace eggs?), cauliflower ‘cheese’ and poached pear tart with a crème patisserie all without eggs, dairy and meat.
Along the way I learned about aquafaba – if you whisk the water from a can of chick peas it looks and acts like egg yolk and it inspired me to revisit recipes that are simple, with easy ingredients – like cauliflower cheese – that I’d forgotten about of late.
One of my co-cooks had been to several of Ian’s courses and as a result had overhauled her family’s way of eating. She had four kids and was now able to produce big hearty meals for all her brood without a battery hen’s egg or pound of mince in sight.
To be honest I’m such a carnivore and dairy queen that this was never going to make me change my meaty, milky ways forever. Plus my husband can’t eat nuts and veganism seems heavy reliant on them. That said, it was great to take home the recipe cards and I’ve used them since, but adding in cheese, butter etc. So I may not be jumping on the vegan bandwagon, but I’m about 30 percent more vegetarian than I was! The course is perfect for novices (it’s fun and not intimidating), bored cooks in search of new tricks and tips and anyone looking to introduce more plants into their diet. It’d also work for a group of girlfriends looking for an activity to do together.
Check Food From 4 for forthcoming cookery class dates