It’s not the first time you read it here, but I will keep saying: you gotta love the internet and social networks when the subject is veganism and vegan food. There are so many people talking about it, sharing recipes, photos, experiences, tips, reviews. You will find information about anything you want, I am sure! And the best thing for me about it is to discover websites I’ve never heard about before. This is probably the only reason I am still on Facebook, I will admit. So many times I see people or pages I “Like” sharing interesting stuff from pages I didn’t know! It was in one of these shared posts that I’ve got to know about The Gourmet Vegan website. I saw pictures of its recipes and I was very impressed about them, not just the pictures but also the recipes.
And I was really happy to know that the person behind the website is a man. Why? Because most of the websites I follow are written by women. Maybe it’s just me, but I have the impression that not just the internet, but also the real world have more vegan women than men. And I’ve read a lot about this fact while writing my Master thesis too (researches focus on vegetarianism but I’m pretty sure it could be the same with veganism, right?). Anyway, I was happy about it and also about the fact that it is a website from the UK. I read a lot of content from the US and sometimes it’s quite different from our reality in Europe – from ingredients to dishes – so I’m always happy to read about “closer” people and recipes.
I’ve contacted Danny Waters and he got back to me very quickly and we’ve done this great interview. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with The Gourmet Vegan too!
When the website The Gourmet Vegan was born and how did you have the idea of starting it?
The Gourmet Vegan started October/November of last year. Although I was mainly vegan at that time, I was still eating the occasional dairy product and when I became totally vegan I wanted to be sure that my meals were varied and exciting. Starting the blog encouraged me to make a large variety of meals because I would be sharing them with others. The interest in the site has been amazing and it has really helped the site grow. On most weeks you will find at least 2 or 3 new recipes have been added.
When did you become vegan and what have inspired you? Are you involved with the other aspects of veganism, such as animal rights?
As I said earlier, I have only been fully vegan since late last year. Before this I was vegetarian and have been since I was a teenager. There were many things that pushed me to vegetarianism and then veganism. From a very early age I was never comfortable with the fact that animals were there to eat. Whilst still at school I saw a leaflet produced by a company called the BUAV, and this led me to being very active in campaigning for animal welfare. I went on to work as a volunteer for the BUAV and am still active in campaigning against animal experimentation and animal welfare. For me, being vegan is the most natural way to live. I would also add that I have never felt healthier since becoming vegan. My energy peeked and I have a much clearer outlook on life both physically and spiritually.
Which are the most popular recipes in The Gourmet Vegan?
There are 2 or 3 recipes that have been really well received. The Tofu and Spinach Plait is one that I receive many comments about. I have to admit, it is a delicious recipe and perfect for the whole family. Great for picnics too! One thing I really missed as a vegan was quiche, and so I spent time researching how I could make the best eggless quiche. The result was my “Can’t tell the difference” Quiche. This is another recipe that gets a huge thumbs up by my followers. You truly can’t tell the difference. It’s wonderful. I think curries are another favourite at the site. I love spicy food and curry is up there with my most favourite foods. Anything Indian or Asian and I am in heaven. They always go down well on the blog. I think what people love most about the recipes is that there are quick and easy to prepare and do not compromise on taste and texture.
There are a way more vegan recipe websites run by women than by men? Do you know many other vegan men who enjoy cooking as much as you do?
I have a few male vegan friends that love to cook. I think the issue these days is that many people don’t get the chance to keep a website active. I am lucky in that my work enables me to work from home and so running The Gourmet Vegan is not that difficult, as I am home all day. Perhaps the reason for more websites being run by women is that they are at home looking after the family, children, etc and so, like me, have a little more time to put in. Saying this, there are some great sites out there run by male cooks. I think, male or female, if food is a passion, as it is for me, you will find the time to cook and enjoy the food you eat.
Your website has also a Forum. What are the most popular topics there?
The forum is something I added to the site so that people could interact with each other on any subjects surrounding veganism. Topics vary, but nutrition and recipes seem to be the most popular. There are some big changes and updates soon to happen at the site, and I am in the process of making the forum much more user friendly which I am hoping will encourage more people to use it.
How’s the daily life of Danny, the person behind The Gourmet Vegan?
Well, as I say, I am a home worker. I have a job that enables me to work from my desk at home which also means I have a lot more free time because I do not have to travel for work, etc. My job takes up most of my morning and early afternoon, but the rest of the day is mine. The day always starts with a coffee and a walk with my beautiful dog, Charlie. I usually start to prepare what I will have for lunch before heading upstairs to my office and starting work. Work over, it’s then my free time and time I love to spend in my kitchen. I also love to socialise and on most days me and my partner will meet up with some friends for a chat and gossip over a coffee or glass of wine. In the evenings I can usually be found watching a good film or something on TV. I also love going to the theatre and cinema. My passion being food and cooking, preparing the evening meal is actually something I look forward to. I boot up Spotify and for an hour or so I am lost. I just love it. The evening usually finishes with a final dog walk, shower and then it’s time for bed to be ready for another day.
Many of us, specially those living in Europe, have this idea of the UK being a vegan heaven. Do you agree? How is to be a vegan there?
I lived in Spain and Tenerife for many years and I found being vegetarian, as I was at the time, to be extremely easy. However, being vegan in Spain is not easy at all. I still have family in Spain and whenever I visit I find it quite difficult. Eating in doesn’t present a problem, but it is not easy to eat out in restaurants. I suppose we are lucky in the UK that we do have some dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurants, but saying this, most are in the big cities only. The best thing about the UK is that there is a huge selection of vegan products in the supermarkets and so it is not hard to get hold of ingredients needed for cooking at home.
Do you eat out often? Would you be able to list your top 5 places to eat in the UK?
To be very honest, I don’t eat out that often. A list of my top 5 places would not be easy as they would be just local eateries. When I do eat out it’s usually with friends or family to celebrate events such as a birthday. This being the case, I rarely eat out in exclusively vegan/vegetarian restaurants. If I do eat out, it is usually local to where I live. I live in a relatively small town and I have a couple of restaurants that cater for me being vegan. Therefore I always have something I can eat on the menu. One of my best friends happens to be the chef at one of my local pub/restaurants and cook meals from my website so that they can cater for myself and other vegans.
Despite the number of websites offering vegan recipes, people doing the transition to veganism still feel lost many times. What tips would you give to those people?
My biggest tip to anyone making the transition from vegetarian to vegan is to not feel that they will be missing out. Many of those new to the transition use commercial products to replace the things they miss and these are in abundance now. There are some great dairy free milks and cheeses available and for those that like to use meat alternatives in their dishes, these too have improved so much and are readily available in most supermarkets or online. I find that after a few months on their new vegan diet, many people start to experiment with food and the use of commercial products becomes less. It’s all about having a plant based diet that is free from animal cruelty and suffering and when you make the transition with this in mind, you start to wonder what took you so long. Not a tip, but an observation, is that once you go plant based, you will have increased energy and feel better than you have in years.
Do you travel for vegan food? In your opinion, what are the most vegan-friendly cities you have been?
As I mentioned before, I rarely eat out and when I do it’s local. Saying this, I have family in London where it is very easy to find vegan food on the menu. I also have friends in Brighton where there are some great vegan restaurants. Most major cities now have restaurants catering for vegans which is great to see.
Do you have a special recipe to share with AAVF readers?
One of my favourite recipes is on my site and is my “Can’t Tell The Difference” Quiche. Quiche is one of the things I miss being vegan, but no longer do I have to go without. This recipe gets incredible feedback because you really can’t tell the difference. It’s the most wonderful vegan quiche ever. Another one of my favourites and another that receives many positive comments has to be my Quinoa and Kale Cakes. These are absolutely delicious. They are so simple to prepare but have tastes and textures that are out of this world.
Quinoa and Kale Cakes
(recipe reproduction authorized by The Gourmet Vegan)
Makes 6 cakes
1 medium onion ( 160 g ), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large potato ( 230 g ), steamed and mashed
100 g kale, steamed and chopped
170 g ( 1 cup ) quinoa
500 ml ( 1 pint ) vegetable stock – I used kallo organic stock cubes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground
A little flour for dusting
2 tablespoons oil for frying, per batch of 3
Prepare the quinoa by putting into a pan with the stock and bringing to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off of the heat and cover with a lid allowing for the quinoa to soak up the rest of the liquid and become fluffy. If there is still a little liquid left, place on a low heat and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Leave to one side.
Fry the onions and garlic, with a pinch of salt, over a medium heat until the onions have softened and caramelised.
Put the onions into a bowl with the quinoa and all other ingredients and using your hands mash everything together well.
Form into 6 equal size cakes and press the cakes into the flour, shaking off any excess.
Fry in 2 batches of 3 cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. The cakes will soak up the oil so be sure not to use more than 2 tablespoons of oil per batch.