‘Keepin’ It Kind’ blogger and author of ‘But I Could Never Go Vegan’ Kristy Turner shares her thoughts on food and discusses her latest book.
Congratulations on your newest book. Again you’ve created a really vibrant, exciting, and tempting book, stuffed with delicious recipes and really enticing photography. Is this something that takes a lot of work?
The look of it is a very important part of it. My husband is a photographer, so I make the food, and he takes the pictures – we very much work as a team. I do the recipe development and the writing, then he takes pictures. It was a steep learning curve putting together food that looks really good in pictures. For example, if you make spinach, you get a really small pile of wilted greens. If I am cooking just to eat, that’s fine, I don’t mind, but when you’re photographing your food you have to approach it a little bit differently.
What cuisines influence you?
I was raised in a very ‘meat and potatoes’ type of family. We ate a lot of casseroles and comfort food, a lot of traditional American food. I am drawn to that type of food, but I like to try and give it a little twist.
Who inspires your cooking style in terms of chefs?
When I first went vegan, there were a few people who really inspired me, I read a lot, and tried lots of different recipes. Angela Liddon (author of Oh She Glows) is really phenomenal. Her recipes are foolproof, she’s wonderful. Then there’s Kathy Patalsky, who has a great blog called Healthy Happy Life – again, her recipes are fantastic, and her recipes were a huge help for me. Jackie Sobon has created a brilliant resource in her Vegan Yak Attack blog – it’s well worth checking out.
How do you approach creating a new dish? If you are trying to ‘veganise’ and old classic, do you adopt quite a scientific process?
Sometimes I will add bolder flavours. One of the dishes that required that most is the Portobello roast, that needed a lot more flavour. It’s not like a omnivore’s roast, when you take a block of meat and simply add gravy. The mushroom required a lot more tweaking and adding of different herbs and spices to get the right strength of flavour.
Other times it is simply a time of replacing things like dairy milk and butter with vegan versions. I have evolved with how I veganise dishes as I have been doing this – it’s taken a lot of practice.
When you were compiling the book, how did you decide what recipes went in there?
For this book, the way I did it was to come up with a list of about 150 recipes, with around 125 eventually making it into the book. I would make them, test them, taste test them. If the recipes aren’t good, they got thrown out. From there I got loads of recipe testers – I think we had around 30 – to try them as well. The recipe testers are really carefully selected, they are vegans, as well as vegan chefs who wanted to cook for family.
What are your favourite recipes from the book?
There are actually quite a few! I like to make quite a lot of them again and again.
One that I make again and again is the spinach and artichoke pasta – it is so easy to make, and is so good. It’s always a surefire winner. I also really like the Portobello tacos. The simple peanut butter pancakes are great too.
I also use different types of recipes depending on who I am cooking for – it I’m cooking for omnivores I will make classic dishes made vegan, for example potato salad. I will be slightly more creative with vegans.
If someone starting out as a vegan thinks it’s too complicated to make vegan food – or bland, what general piece of cooking advice would you give them?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. For some reason, I was really scared of nutritional yeast – I bought some and it was waiting, untouched, in my kitchen for months. Maybe I thought it was too much of a ‘hippy’ ingredient. Now, I can’t get enough of it – I even feed it to my dogs as they love it too. It’s about embracing new flavours, which is actually really exciting, and opens up your food world.
When I first went vegan I must have lived off tofu scramble for two months. It took a while for me to start new things.
I have always been interested in food. Before I was vegan, I was a fromagier – I have always been very interested in working with different flavours.
Is there anything you’d like to add to that?
Yes. I think new vegans should focus on compassion – not just for the animals, but for yourself as well. You have to be patient with yourself. Chances are you will make mistakes, and that’s ok, I still make mistakes myself. It’s not about perfection, it’s about doing all you can to make things better for the animals.
It can be difficult dealing with people’s reactions when you go vegan – friends and family may ridicule your choices, but it’s important not to get too disheartened or take it to heart. It’s important to always keep compassion in mind.
Visit Kristy’s blog at keepinitkind.com