I have always found it hypocritical that most Indian vegetarians, with their proud garb of being ‘animal lovers’, happily use every other animal product apart from just the meat. Be it leather shoes or silk sarees, honey or commercial cosmetics – they use it all. And let’s not even go into dairy products. The logic about loving animals but forcefully taking away their milk, meant for its off-springs, baffles me beyond words.
Even though I am myself a pure non-vegetarian, I have always felt that veganism makes much more sense than vegetarianism, from the prism of love for animals at least. So when I got an invitation from KFB to attend a Vegan Workshop at the Mayaa Bar, Swissotel by celebrity Vegan Chef Alejandro Cancino from Australia, I was really eager to attend it. It’s no mean taskto rustle up tasty food without any animal product, but Chef Alejandro along with the feisty Nivi, did just that.
Alenjandro is originally from Argentina but has travelled the world and has lived in France, UK, Japan and a host of other places, before settling down in Brisbane. Nivi is a Bengali accountant living in Brisbane for a good many years, who decided to invest all her time and energy into something she truly believes in, after a personal loss. And as fate may have it, the two happened to be neighbours.
It didn’t take them long to turn the kitchen into a laboratory and to relentlessly experiment with non-orthodox alternatives to all sorts of animal products. They call ‘Aquafava’ their magic ingredient, which is basically the leftover water from boiling fava beans. This aquafava, once reduced, can be a very good egg-white dupe, and is the mystery behind vegan meringues.
The recipes demonstrated in the workshop were:
- Quinoa Soup
- Beetroot Cutlets
- Sevai Payesh
The quinoa soup was like a minestrone of sorts, and an expected item in a vegan lineup, with the regular chopped veggies. The beetroot cutlets were the ones that I was most interested in. The little flattened, shallow-fried balls, with a pseudo feta filling and a crispy, poppy outside, tasted truly delicious. It had a very earthy flavour to it, and was almost like a shammi kebab of sorts. he payesh tasted not exactly like the payesh we know, but like an equally loveable cousin of its.
Talking of vegan- friendly alternatives available at the Indian markets, as was rightly pointed out by Nivi, veganism in India doesn’t necessarily have to be elite. Like a perfect breakfast of luchi-chholar dal or puri-sabzi is in fact, as vegan as it can possibly get. Same goes for idlis, dosas, upmas and uttapams too.
It was good to know that neither Alejandro, nor Nivi are ‘Vegan Nazis’ but would want to create more options for vegans. It was hilarious to know how Alejandro’s in-laws tried to pass off chicken as being vegetarian, and how Nivi had to tell her family that she has become lactose intolerant to politely duck out of dairy treats offered to her.
The two cooks, along with Chef Pranay Singh of Swissotel, kept the session light, fun, informative and very interactive. The workshop ended with a the mandatory group photo and a wonderful lunch. It was truly an intriguing session and I came back with much more than just a few recipes.