"It's important that it tastes good": Vegan chefs reveal their tricks

Vegan cooking - just a few years ago, that was a complicated challenge and not always satisfying from a culinary point of view.

"It's important that it tastes good": Vegan chefs reveal their tricks

Vegan cooking - just a few years ago, that was a complicated challenge and not always satisfying from a culinary point of view. Today there are many cookbooks and recipes. Anne-Katrin Weber and Timo Franke are among those who keep developing new dishes. They show tricks that don't just work in Veganuary.

For a long time, vegan food and cooking was only interesting for a few people. But meanwhile, vegan foods are on the way from trend to mainstream. Whether for reasons of animal welfare, health considerations or climate protection, more and more people are eating vegan more often and are giving up meat, eggs and dairy products more often.

This is also reflected in the bookshelves, which have been filling up with new vegan cookbooks for years. From basic recipes, regional focuses, inexpensive recipes to seasonal cuisine, you can now find titles that have prepared the respective approach in a veganized way.

Together with actor and bodybuilder Ralf Moeller, Timo Franke has just presented a new title. "Vegan Gladiators" plays with Moeller's image and tries to dispel the prejudice that people who eat vegan "fall off the meat immediately". Franke turned to vegan cuisine after suffering massive health problems from a lot of stress and an unhealthy diet. But even as a child he didn't like to eat meat, he couldn't tolerate milk. One of the first cookbooks he used himself ten years ago was Rüdiger Dahlke's "Peace Food".

What was good for his health, however, could not satisfy the chef, who had trained and worked in star hotels, in culinary terms. "Everything was very clean and very organic, I just lacked the sophistication," Franke tells ntv.de. "There wasn't a cookbook on the market that tempted me to go vegan." So he developed his own recipes.

"It doesn't take much to conjure up vegan recipes with great taste on the plate," emphasizes the 35-year-old in retrospect. His advice: "I prefer to take one vegetable from each colour, cut into larger cubes, fry in the pan and serve with potatoes and a delicious sauce."

Author Anne-Katrin Weber has been an expert on vegetarian recipes for years and is not a strict vegan. But she just came out with "Heavy vegan - Mediterranean". "I wanted to convince as many people as possible of the sensible, correct and good idea of ​​plant-based nutrition. I wanted to get people excited about this variety and this pleasure," she tells ntv.de. Her cookbooks are not only aimed at vegans, who already cook this way anyway, but at everyone "who is curious about how great, varied and mostly healthy you can eat like this".

According to the expert, many vegetarian recipes can be “veganised” quite easily. There are now plant-based yoghurts that can simply replace the animal-based ones. The same applies to milk and plant milk. Instead of eggs, you can use ground flaxseed or apple sauce, for example, which helps when baking.

The cookbook authors benefit from the fact that many of the ingredients for their dishes are now easy to find in retail outlets. While you used to have to go to an Asian shop for tofu or seitan and to a health food store for other ingredients, these products are now offered by full-line suppliers and even discounters. The same applies to plant milk, nut butter, sweets or vegan ready meals.

Weber always keeps his eyes and ears open for new recipe inspiration. In addition, one of her daughters is vegan, "there is always an exchange". Especially in Mediterranean cuisine, many vegetarian recipes are almost vegan anyway. "It's all about vegetables, legumes, oil and herbs. It's not a meat-heavy cuisine." So she already has the perfect basis for dishes that are healthy and fill you up.

In any case, Franke considers that vegan recipes always have to be complicated to be a prejudice that has long been refuted. His recipes never have more than five main ingredients to keep things unnecessarily complicated. "A good rule of thumb is a handful of veggies and a fist of protein foods, then I'll have filling fiber, protein and vitamins." The preparation is usually not that difficult if you have a few basic cooking skills. "Roasted ingredients are flavors, so you should roast the vegetables nicely, add tomato paste, deglaze with red wine or vegetable broth, a little soy sauce, then I have a very deep umami."

For new vegans, January is a good time to get started. For years, the British organization Veganuary has been campaigning for a month - the whole of January - to completely avoid animal foods. The idea behind it is that people experience that they can get full without meat, milk or eggs and even enjoy cooking and eating. In order to pass on as much knowledge as possible about vegan nutrition, you can subscribe to an e-mail distribution list and receive information and inspiration for vegan meals and the benefits of vegan nutrition for the climate or animal welfare every day.

"I think that's good for people who otherwise rarely eat vegan," says Weber. "Maybe you just convince some that it's better and tasty to eat like this." Maybe some even get involved with the food industry or even discover cooking for themselves. "I always think it's good when people cook at home and don't just buy ready-made products or go out to eat." Even potato dumplings with red cabbage and gravy are now great vegan.

Frank agrees unreservedly. One of his childhood dishes was sauerbraten with broad tagliatelle and endive salad. The roast usually comes from the beef shoulder. Franke still cooks the dish, just without the beef. "I make the roast out of seitan, which I knot so often that fibers form. It's cooked in a sour broth and later simmered in the finished sauce for a long time. That way I can bring back my favorite dish."

Walnuts, stewed onions or tomato paste are among Weber's "secret ingredients" to give vegan dishes rich flavors and depth. Dried mushrooms also add flavor. The best compliment for vegan cooks is when it just tastes good and there is no need to discuss whether something is vegan or not. "The taste should convince," says Weber.

And you can try that here, with a recipe from "Heavy vegan - Mediterranean".

Tuscan cream of beans with fried sage


For the soup the day before, cover the beans in a bowl with plenty of cold water and soak overnight. The next day, drain the beans in a colander, rinse and drain.

Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic cloves. Clean the leek and cut into rings. Peel and finely chop the carrot. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions in it. Add the vegetables and garlic and sauté briefly. Pour in the vegetable stock, add the beans and herbs, bring to the boil and simmer over low heat until the beans are quite tender, 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove the herbs from the soup, take out 1 cup of the broth and 2 tablespoons of the beans and set aside. Finely puree the soup, then pour in enough of the reserved broth until the consistency is creamy. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and lemon zest.

For the topping, rinse off the sage and pat dry very well. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the sage leaves until crispy, about 30 seconds. Remove immediately and drain on kitchen paper. Roughly chop 6 tomatoes, mix with the oil from the tomato jar and the reserved beans. To serve, heat the soup and pour into four bowls or deep plates. Top with the bean and tomato mixture and the crispy sage leaves.