Whether you’re starting out as a Vegan or need a jolt of inspiration in the cooking arena, my MUST-HAVE 10 will set you up for some delicious cooking and aid in the conversion of old favorites.
1. Egg replacer. Brilliant for pancakes, muffins, cakes, batter, or custard. Whenever you need a rising agent use your gluten-free, dairy-free substitute by simply following the instructions. Usually, you add a tablespoon of powder and a tablespoon of water. A must-have for the bakers and treat makers among us.
2. A good wooden cutting board. Plastic cutting boards scream amateur. They are ugly in the kitchen, ugly when cut and stained, and made of an ugly oil-derived product. Most provide a slippery surface, that’s dangerous when cutting. Do your eyes and fingers a favor and buy a wooden board.
Hint: store by hanging vertical, as a wet board will contour and bend.
3. A blender. I’ve considered writing poems about my blender. It is truly an essential piece of kitchen attire, and without it you will be missing out on some masterpieces. Hummus, pesto, soups, dips, smoothies (oh my) the list is unending. I suggest a top-loading blender with a variety of attachments, for chopping, pureeing or grinding and sturdy blades for ice-cut smoothies. Think about what you’ll be doing most with it and invest in a decent blender that will last as you’ll never regret it.
4. Spices and Herbs! You knew this was coming. It is truly satisfying to try a new recipe and not need to purchase any spices. Those on the top of my list include; cumin and turmeric for mild curry, chana masala for authentic Indian curry, coriander for spicy Dahl, chili pepper for Mexican, fennel and cayenne pepper for a kick, oregano, thyme and parsley for Bolognese, dill for salad dressings, rosemary for bread, nutmeg and cinnamon for warm soups and basil for everything else. With herbs – fresh is always best.
5. A good knife. Don’t be scared to own a large knife, you’ll soon become comfortable with it, and cutting and splicing vegetables will be a breeze. Store your knife in a wooden block so it will stay sharp, not in the cutlery draw where it will become blunt. Try practicing your slicing skills by watching a youtube clip and attacking some onions.
6. Frozen strawberries are a wonderful at-hand treat. Stock up when strawberries are in season (May-mid August), and store in the freezer for cool smoothies in the summer, for a glass of sangria, or as an after-dinner treat with soy yogurt or ice cream.
7. Good quality oil. You use oil often enough in cooking, for sautéing and as a dressing so make it a good one. Grapeseed has a high smoke point that is good for frying. Olive Oil is brilliant for dressings but not terribly good for frying due to its low smoke point which affects the flavor. Walnut and Hazelnut oil are divine drizzled over steamed vegetables, but good luck finding those in Asia.
8. A skillet is essentially a large, deep frying pan. I use mine for everything as I don’t really have an oven, sigh. A good skillet isn’t cheap, but the deep dish and comfort of flicking food around the pan in confidence are worth it. Check mine out below. And I urge you to avoid Teflon-coated pans.
9. Steamer. They’re cheap, simple to use, produce healthy dishes, and require little monitoring.
10. A meat thermometer to ensure the safety of your meal. Just messing with you. Vegans don’t need to worry about food-borne illnesses like e-coli or BSE.
My final must-have is a great cookbook. There are so many out there to try. They include; Veganomicon by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero, The Low-GI Vegetarian Cookbook by Jennie Brand-Miller, or (anything written by) author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of the Vegan Table.