ASHRA’S LIFE AS A VEGAN

pic of ashra in suitIt’s So Easy To Be Dairy Free

I have been a Vegan for the past 20 years. Being a Vegan, according to the Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation (VVF) is “ choosing not to eat animal products, fish and other water creatures, eggs, dairy and insect products such as honey and cochineal.”

As I enjoy cooking I find that I can conjure up some delicious dishes using spices and herbs; local and international vegetables. Instead of milk, I use Rice Milk, Oat Milk and Soya Milk. I make my own Almond Milk and Cashew Nut Cream. I have Coconut Milk in puddings and on my Millet porridge. I also make my own raw dairy free dark chocolate! I love to sprout lots of various pulses, and sprout sunflower and alfalfa seeds as well as growing wheatgrass, which is so easy and great fun to watch the wonderful greens blossoming on my window sill.

A good vegan diet provides all the nutrients we need, although we may need to take a reliable source of B12, as this is only found in meat and dairy products. You can take a B12 supplement, or make sure you eat fortified foods with B12 in them. People ask me why I am a vegan, and the main reason is that I do not believe in killing animals and I don’t like the idea of us taking anything from animals. For example, we take the milk from cows which they would normally give to their young – but due to the demand for cow’s milk, and cheeses, unfortunately cows have to endure a relentless cycle of milk production which wears them out and these dairy cows are taken from their mothers within days of birth, causing immense distress to both. Hence, this is the main reason I stay away from all dairy products, eggs, fish and honey. Dairy foods can also have a very high fat content.Vegetable juice

People also say, so where do you get your calcium from? I reply from Sesame seeds and Tahini which I use on my toast instead of butter or margarine, and there is lots of calcium in green vegetables, green juices, alfalfa sprouts as well as other sprouted seeds. Eating in restaurants is getting easier, as chefs often like a challenge – recently my husband who is a vegetarian but mostly eats vegan food – and I were invited to a three course birthday meal. We looked at the menu and thought, nope we can’t eat anything on here, so we created our own vegan menu and the chef obliged. In case you are wondering what we had. For starters we had melon, followed by stuffed red peppers with cumin rice, with a side of mixed fresh vegetables, and red onion sauce, and our dessert was poached pear with dark chocolate sauce – yummy.

Now that I am 62 years of age, I am mentally and physically active; have lots of energy; sleep well and embrace a positive approach to life itself. I sincerely put it down to enjoying a vegan diet, eating organically, and to lots of fresh air, and sunlight. Being an Asian woman I know that I may be prone to getting Diabetes, so I try to stick to natural sugars, eg. Date syrup, Agave and Maple syrup and my favourite at the moment is Coconut blossom sugar, which has a low glycaemic count and keeps me relatively slim. I walk regularly and occasionally swim. I fortunately do not take any medication or smoke, although I do take a multi vitamin supplement if I know I am going to have a busy week, and occasionally sip some expensive Red Organic Vegan wine!

Cheers… Ashra Kumari Burman Author of Indian Vegetarian Cookery (in fact all the recipes in my book are Vegan too!)

Recipes from Easy Indian Vegetarian Cookery by Ashra Kumari Burman

Oils, flour and equipment Ashra book cover

Oils

“Ghee” is the traditional cooking medium of India. I tend to use either sunflower or olive oil when cooking. I prefer using sea salt, as it’s so rich in minerals and brings out the flavour of the spices.

Flour and equipment

The flour I use for making Indian breads is known as “atta” or chapati flour. It comes in various grades and is wholegrain flour which can be bought in Indian stores and some supermarkets.

Tava

This is an Indian flat pan/griddle. It is slightly concave in the centre which is what helps to cook the breads evenly. It’s not very expensive to buy from Indian stores or on-line. A real must if you want to make lots of Indian breads.

Karahiside view of flatter-bottomed wok pan

This is similar to a Chinese wok, but much heavier. It is ideal for deep frying things such as poori, samosa and pakora. The best alternative to a karahi is a deep fat frying pan.

Recipe: Roti/Chapati

This is a wholewheat, light griddle bread. It is the best known Indian bread and is a thin, unleavened cooked dough that puffs up during the last stage of cooking. I tend to use the word roti.

Ingredientsplain paratha, multi layered indian flat bread

450grams/16oz of atta flour

237ml/8oz of warm water

Small bowl of dry atta flour for dusting and rolling out the roti

Tava or a shallow frying pan

Makes about 5 roti

Method

1 Put the flour into a large bowl, make a well and add the water a little at a time to form a dough        and firmly knead it.

2 Cover and leave to rest for 15-30 minutes- in the fridge is best if you really want good results.

3 When ready to cook, gently heat the tava.

4 Break off a small piece of dough, around 6.5cm/2 1/2 inches and shape it into a round ball. Do this by putting the dough onto the palm of one hand and using the fingers of the other hand fold the edges tightly into the centre of the ball, then smooth it in the palm of your hand into a ball. Best to roll out five balls now, so that you know you have divided the dough up equally.

5 Dip and dust this ball into a little dry flour to prevent it from sticking to the rolling surface and then roll it out into a thin round no more than 3mm thick and 16.5cm/6 ½ inches in diameter. Use more dry flour if you find the dough keeps sticking to the surface. Remember though before placing the roti onto the tava, to flick off any surplus flour. This is very important; otherwise it will not cook evenly. This can be done by quickly passing the roti from one palm of the hand to the other.

6 To test whether the tava is hot enough, place a tiny bit of dough onto it and if it burns too quickly, reduce the heat. With a little practice you will be able to assess the right temperature.

7 Carefully place the rolled-out roti onto the hot tava. As soon as the top side becomes transparent, which should only take about five seconds, turn the roti over until small bubbles appear. Then turn it over again onto its original side and with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel or your fingers carefully press the roti all over, this will make it magically rise and puff up. You may need to turn and cook both sides once more for just a couple of seconds, and as soon as the roti has light golden brown patches on both sides it is cooked. Another method to make the roti rise is to place the original cooked side underneath a hot grill.

8 Remove the roti from the tava and smear with a little sunflower oil or ghee (this is optional). Best served at once.

Recipe: Stuffed aubergine with chunky red onions  aubergine with leaves isolated on white

This is a very simple and quick appetizing dish to make. I tend to make this with baby aubergines which you can buy in Indian stores, although you can also make this dish with a very large aubergine – just takes a little longer to cook.

Ingredients

  • 1 really large aubergine or use 6 baby aubergines
  • 3 medium red onions (though white onions will do
  • 6 stems of coriander leaves (keep the leaves- discard the stems

Spicy aubergine paste – for this you will need:

  • 2 heaped teaspoons of garam masala
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of turmeric
  • 1 level teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 level teaspoon of salt
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of chat masala powder (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons of oil (I prefer to use olive oil for the paste)
  • Sunflower oil to fry

Serves 4 people

Method

Mix all the spicy aubergine paste into 4 tablespoons of oil.

Keep the stem of the aubergine on and the same when using baby aubergines as this helps to keep the aubergine/s intact for stuffing and frying.

If using a large aubergine it is important to slice it downwards from the tip end to the stem, into four long quarters making sure you stop cutting just before the stem. It should open up like a flower if you hold the stem at the bottom. Now put the aubergine under a hot grill for five minutes, turning it over to just soften the skin, not to cook it. Do the same if using baby aubergines, cutting them into four long slices down towards the stem and bake under the grill until slightly soft.

Take the spicy aubergine paste and smear this liberally with a spoon on all sides of the slices, covering as much of the white flesh of the aubergine/s.

Put some oil into a large frying pan and add the aubergine/s and fry on a gentle heat making sure that all the sides have been cooked. This can take up to 15 minutes and a little longer if it’s a big aubergine.

Note: Halfway through the cooking of the aubergine/s add the roughly chopped onions to one side of the pan, and add a little more oil – and you’ll find that the juices from the aubergine will seep into the onions which will make them taste quite sensational.

I think this dish makes you look like a real professional cook –yet it is so easy to make, hence the title of this book!

I usually serve the aubergine/s on a plate of plain cooked basmati rice and decorate it with some freshly chopped coriander leaves, as well as a sprinkling of the irresistible chat masala.

To learn more, or to purchase Ashra’s Cookery Book:  ashrakumari@gmail.com