The joy of vegan cooking

I discovered my love of cooking whilst I was doing my Masters. Living with a new group of people, most of whom also loved to cook, I realised for the first time that cooking could be an exciting and sociable pastime. When I then began to make first vegetarian and then vegan food a few years later, I enjoyed it even more. I've been cooking and eating vegan food for around two years now, and I absolutely love everything about it. It really is a joy for me to cook this way. So what makes vegan cooking so great?

You have to get creative

One of the things I love the most about vegan cooking is that you have to think outside the box. Whether you're a new vegan, an established one, or you just enjoy eating the odd plant-based meal, you will at some point in your cooking adventures need to get a bit creative with your recipes. You want to create a creamy, cheesy tasting sauce? You'll need to work out, either through research or experimentation, how you can achieve this without resorting to cheese or other dairy products. Before becoming vegan, I would never have imagined that cashews go so creamy when blended, nor would I have thought to use nutritional yeast flakes to create a salty, cheesy flavour. Whether you're a 'let's give it a go' or a 'let's look it up' kind of chef, you'll need to try out things you are sceptical of and play around with ingredients – and that can be a lot of fun!

Who knew that nutritional yeast flakes would make all the difference in a vegan pesto?!

Who knew that nutritional yeast flakes would make all the difference in a vegan pesto?!

You cook with new ingredients

The fact that there are certain foods you can't use means that you have to find things to replace them with – which often results in you not only getting creative, but may also see you buying and cooking new and unknown ingredients. I'd never bought cashew butter, never even heard of agar agar and would certainly never have known what you might need chia or flax seeds for. Whilst the need to replace meat and dairy items can seem daunting at first, for me at least it didn't take long until I began to really love this aspect of vegan cooking, as the recipes seemed so new and exciting.

You feel good after eating

In my pre-vegan days, I remember sometimes being super hungry and really excited to sit down to eat – and then ten minutes after clearing my plate I'd feel bloated and sluggish. The food I was cooking back then wasn't that unhealthy, but it was quite dairy heavy. And it didn't sit so well with me. I would often regret what I'd eaten, or wish I'd eaten less. That feeling stopped pretty much as soon as I started cooking well-balanced, plant-based dishes. Sure, I still sometimes eat a little more than I should and feel a bit too full, but I fundamentally feel good and well and healthy and happy after scraping up the last morsels of a vegan dish. The fact that I love the food both before and after eating is something I really like about this way of cooking.

You know it's healthy

This point ties in with the previous one – it's a great feeling to know that what you're eating is healthy and full of vitamins and minerals. Of course, not all vegan food is healthy – but what I'm talking about here is the feeling you get when you've just enjoyed a well-balanced, homecooked meal. You don't feel guilty for having seconds, and you know you're doing something good for your body – and that makes the food even more enjoyable!

Healthy ingredients for my favourite dal recipe

Healthy ingredients for my favourite dal recipe

Your plate looks really inviting

Nothing looks more inviting than a plate of brightly coloured fruit and veg. From the deep purple of an aubergine to the vibrant green of an avocado, there's so much colour variation in the world of plant-based food. This means that, more often than not, the results of your vegan cooking session look beautiful and really appealing. Once you've served it up, you can't wait to tuck in! There's a phrase in German that is really fitting here: 'das Auge isst mit'. It literally means 'the eye eats along' and refers to the fact that how food looks affects how it tastes. And it's so true – beautiful, rainbow-coloured food really does taste better!

For me, vegan cooking really is a joy. It's exciting, creative, healthy and it makes me feel great. I'm so happy I discovered this way of cooking and eating. Does any of this ring true for anyone else?