Chef Matt Jacobs reveals his top kitchen staples that every vegan should have.
Almost most of my adult life I have been a chef. A vegan? Regrettably only since July 2017. Like many others, my journey to a cruelty-free lifestyle was one of discovery and my first year was very interesting in the kitchen to say the least! Cruelty-free cooking is so exciting and is fast becoming something everyone wants to try. “oh no Matt, what do I need in my cupboards to ensure I have ingredients to make these exciting meals?” Lucky you should ask me that because I really wanted to tell you about – a few staple condiments and ingredients that you need to add to your shopping list!
I’ve never been one for stocking up on whole foods. But, I should, and I know I should because everybody else does right? Regardless of my bad stocking habits I do have lentils and quinoa, even if it’s just half a packet in my kitchen. Quinoa is a whole protein so knowing just that much should be enough for anyone to have a bag kicking around somewhere behind the canned peaches!
Lentils are so versatile and good for you too. They can be used to replicate just about any mince recipe; lasagne, shepherd-less pie, burgers, kofte’s, and these are just to name a few. Leading on from these types of meals, it goes without saying that a lot of people want to replicate flavours found in meat, so If you are looking for that umami flavour in your food then you are going to want soy sauce, yeast extract, miso paste and liquid smoke, especially if you are going to be making some seitan.
This can be made by yet another key essential, drum roll please… vital wheat gluten! And yes it is vital you have this (unless you are gluten-free) as this is the ingredient that can give you a very meat-like texture once made using a reputable recipe…cough cough…watch this space!
Tomato paste is next on the list. It is a very underrated addition to the kitchen, it’s like the Nicolas Cage of ingredients, not your go to or main ingredient but a necessary addition in meals to create balance and add body. It can thicken sauces, adding a unique flavour especially in stews and any recipe that has smoky notes. Another similar ingredient is onion powder as it lends its hand adding sweetness to dishes and giving depth to sauces and gravy.
All hail the chickpea. If you don’t have at least one tin of chickpeas in your cupboard then you need to take a minute to assess things! You may or may not know that chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus, falafel and are great baked with spices in the oven. However, what around 60% of people I meet don’t realise is that the chickpea water (aka aquafaba, aka liquid gold) is arguably the best egg replacer when it comes to baking. And yes you can make meringues with it, just makes sure you have some cream of tartar at hand!
While we are on the subject of baking I feel obliged to let you know that agar agar should be another on the list of regal ingredients! This powdery thing of beauty is a setting agent and works fantastically making jelly, lemon curd and mirror glazes (if you want to get really adventurous. Agar agar may not be something you use daily but it’s like having icing sugar in the cupboard, that night when you decide you want to bake something it’s there when you open the door, giving you a wink and letting you know the bake is on!).
It’s a fact that everyone’s taste buds are different but having some, or like me all, of these ingredients in your cupboards will change the dynamic of your cooking without a shadow of a doubt. You might have to source some of them online, if you aren’t lucky enough to live near any shops that stock them, but you will open the door to so many more recipes and taste experiences.
Ready to get your vegan cook on? Sign up to our email series and let us help you every step of the way.