Editor’s note: Becoming vegan has gone from being trendy to being a trend. Quoting an article in Chef’s Pencil in September 2020 “Data from Google Trends show that the popularity of veganism is at an all-time high, surpassing the prior all-time high registered in 2019. To put things into perspective, veganism is now twice as popular as it was just five years ago, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.”
Whether your curiousity about switching totally, or partially, to a plant-based diet is driven by a desire for better health, or to reduce your environmental impact, or both, you’ll enjoy Steven’s 3-part series this week. He will tell you what his vegan pantry looks like as well as touch on a few basics about how to make vegan meals that are delish and nutrish! And no, it’s not about how many things you can do with tofu.
The What: My Vegan Pantry
I have been cooking my entire life, so I thought I had developed a pretty good pantry of staple ingredients – that is until I went plant-based! After five years of entirely plant-based eating my pantry has grown substantially. I now use items on a regular basis that I had never previously used, and some I had never even heard of before.
But now, I have garnered a pantry of ingredients that would give the local bulk food store a run for its money. I thought I would give you a look at my vegan pantry and run through some of the essentials I use regularly. I will even give you a recipe for something I make almost daily from my pantry of ingredients.
My culinary passion grew out of cookbooks while I was young, and it was from there I taught myself the basics. Then, I challenged myself to create nightly menus for my family, including an appetizer, main dish and dessert. This was before the dawn of the internet and we certainly didn’t have a TV in the kitchen to cook along with Martha Stewart and Julia Childs.
When I started eating entirely plant-based, I returned to my grand collection of cookbooks, but also explored YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, where I garnered inspiration and knowledge to learn this new way around my kitchen.
I started following leading voices in the Toronto vegan scene, like Doug McNish’s Vegan Everyday, Lauren Toyota’s Hot for Food, Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows. Then it was authors from the USA, such as Richa Hingle (aka Vegan Richa), and Miyoko Schinner. Last were the BOSH! guys from the UK – Henry Firth and Ian Theasby. I personally hold each of these people responsible for what my pantry has become.
The How: How to Store Ingredients
When I used to entertain and cook for family and friends (before the pandemic), they were often surprised by the sheer volume of ingredients I have “in stock,” and how they are organized. My pantry boasts about 40 cubic feet of space, and as it started to multiply and grow, I decided that a strategy comprised of mason jar in various sizes and a label maker were paramount for its success and my personal sanity.
Mason jars are great because you can see how much of any ingredient is available and they can be stored in a drawer or on a shelf with a custom labelled lid. Many bulk stores also have a program where you can refill a clean reusable container. This is a terrific way to use less single-use plastic and also buy the precise amount you need to fill your jar. I use 4 sizes of mason jars: (1) 64-oz for items which I use a large quantity of often, including rice, flours, sugars, nuts and legumes; (2) 32-oz for baking ingredients, ancient grains, nuts and seeds; (3) 16-oz jars for spices I use a lot, and other ingredients I use less often or have less quantity for recipes; and finally (4) 4-oz jars for my remaining spice collection.
Speaking of spices, there are over a whopping 75 spice jars in my spice drawer! I have learned my spice drawer is the most powerful tool to make my plant-based food absolutely delicious, so don’t be afraid to explore more flavour profiles and use your spices. That said, some ingredients are harder to find at the local grocery store, but it’s generally worth the effort to seek these gems out to bring your food to the next level.
My top 10 most used spices include: Himalayan pink salt (I used to have four or five salts and I have given them all up for this one), black peppercorns, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, garam masala, coriander, curry powder and paprika. Black salt is one of the harder spices to find in my drawer, however, this ingredient is essential to give any dish an “eggy” flavour. It’s amazing in tofu scramble, chickpea quiche and deviled tofu eggs. I have found this item at independent health food stores. If they have international foods, and you find black salt, then grab some. You don’t need a lot as it packs a punch which you can tell just by giving it a quick sniff!
I have approximately 20 64-oz mason jars filled with ingredients for which I use large quantities, and you may know the standards like coconut palm sugar and organic cane sugar, four different flours, lots of legumes and varieties of rice, panko, and four more I’d like to highlight.
In part 2 (on April 28th) of this 3-part series Steven will discuss his fav four ingredients, alternatives for dairy products like milk and eggs, and nuts and seeds.