If you’ve dipped a toe in the water (or a fork in the tofu) for Veganuary, you’ll have discovered that eating vegan and kosher can entail a daunting amount of scratch cooking.
Supermarket shelves and chiller cabinets are stacked high with vegan-friendly ready meals and foods — from burgers to sausage substitutes and plant-based yoghurt to nut milks. Although for those following a strictly kosher diet, choices will be more limited, there are still plenty of options.
A vegan Shabbat may look a bit different — no chicken soup and kneidlach, meaty main nor shiny egg-glazed challah — but you can still eat well, and even find vegan versions of some of your staples.
Helen Goldrein, who writes kosher food blog Family-friends-food eats a mostly vegetarian diet and, has been eating vegan for January. She has created a vegan challah (see: facing page) which has the extra advantage of being baked in under an hour.
She replaces Jewish penicillin with vegetable-based soups but has yet to perfect plant-based matzah balls. “The original recipe is just too ‘eggy’. Vegan versions use mashed potatoes or quinoa which don’t hold together as well, so I decided it would be better to eat them very occasionally or not at all.”
If you’re keen to try for yourself, vegan blogger jewishfoodhero has a recipe which features in spin-off book, Beyond Chopped Liver. They are baked before being added to the soup. You can find the recipe for her vegan chicken soup and a tip for vegan kneidlach on the JC website here.
When it comes to veganising the main course, Goldrein’s advice is to first reframe your meal mentality. “The greatest shift is in changing your mindset of what a meal is. If you expect a lump of protein with potatoes and vegetables, it’s hard to make a nice vegan meal. Tofu is delicious, but doesn’t really work served in a big lump. So the first thing is to be open to something different like curries, stews, pasta bakes and salads .”
If you’re making a special meal, she suggests coming up with a theme. “We have vegan friends coming for Friday night dinner this week and I’ve chosen a Scottish theme as it ‘s Burns’ Night earlier in the week. I’ll be making vegan haggis with potatoes and vegetables and a whisky sauce. Or she suggests picking a cuisine theme. “Maybe a North African menu, with a tagine and couscous with salads which is really lovely and colourful.”
Goldrein also recommends vegan puff pastry: “It always makes a beautiful centrepiece no matter what you put in it, I’ve made a giant spinach boureka which you serve sliced up. Or make a puff pastry pie crust lid to serve on top of vegetables in a really nice sauce.”
Other Shabbat-special ideas come from Sharon Feldman-Vazan of the KLBD (a vegan of several years) who also often plumps for a pie for Shabbat “I make an aduki bean pie or shepherd’s pie made with soya meat and topped with mashed potatoes.” Vegan cookery teacher Ines Romanelli makes a centrepiece special lasagne for Shabbat, using vegan mince and bechamel sauce, or vegan cholent.
Dessert can seem the most difficult course. For those used to baking parev puds, it’s not such a stretch, but baking without eggs can make it more of a challenge. Goldrein doesn’t bother with egg substitutes. “Although you can make a perfectly good-looking pavlova with aquafaba — the liquid drained off from chickpeas — the minute it touches liquid (ie: when you top it with fruit and coconut cream) the meringue dissolves. I also don’t bother replacing eggs in baking as there are other ways to replicate the liquid and fat from the eggs.”
As well as her challah, she has developed a vegan babka, and is working on a Victoria sponge. “Baking powder helps the cake rise and oil replaces the fat. I sometimes use apple or banana puree or vegan yoghurt to put moisture into a cake. They all work well.”
Romanelli goes for the more traditionally healthy vegan approach, suggesting chocolate mousse made with dark chocolate, avocado and nut milk or a raw tart. “I make a banana, tahini, chocolate tart that is super easy and delicious.”
For everyday eating there are plenty of hechshered staples:
Meatless Farm makes sausages; burgers and mince from pea protein. Great for chilli, Bolognese sauce, meatballs and lasagne.
For a fast weeknight supper — Israeli food is the vegan dream. Falafel balls, hummus and salads with pita and pickles makes an easy meal. Try the Ramona’s Kitchen brand (a favourite of mine) in a variety of flavours. Gosh! also make a range of falafel-style bites made from various veggies. Sesame Kingdom’s tahina — available online — is another storecupboard staple.
There are plenty of kosher vegan cheeses. Many supermarket brands are licensed, and several are available as a block, grated, sliced or spreadable cream cheese. Vitalite, Sheeze and Vbites are all kosher. Do check the isitkosher.uk website as not all varieties are kosher certified and some of them do not carry a hechsher on their packaging.
Other core products include plant-based milk of which there are plenty out there. Most people will have seen the Rude Health brand, which has a huge range, but also look out for Nutty Bruce’s range of nut milks, all of which are made from activated nuts (soaked) which means they are literally bursting with nutrients; and Glebe Farm oat milk — from oats grown and processed on their Cambridge farm that also go into granola, muesli and flours.
Find Pesach-friendly vegan recipes here; and Rosh Hashanah dishes here.