Veganising a cook book based on a vampire TV show sounds so crazy, I’m in love. Indeed, I adore looking for inspirations for healthy cooking in places where healthy isn’t exactly the main focus…
Please meet: True Blood. Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps!
True Blood – Eats Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps cookbook
Despite its lush photography, great selection of recipes, glossy pages and funny (sometimes over the top) in-universe gags, the book’s so heavily meat-based that even the veggie burger is made with… actual bacon.
True Blood. Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps has following recipes, authentic and/or set in-universe, to offer:
– 23 cocktail and lemonade/ ice tea/ smoothie recipes
– 1 gelato recipe, 1 sundae presentation – not a sundae recipe
– 11 pie and other baked goods recipes (cover picture cake, biskuits, muffins etc.)
– 7 hearty breakfast ideas or warm snacks
– 12 vegetarian recipes containing eggs and dairy (oh hey, look, three are vegan from the start!)
– 1 veggie burger (the fancy one with bacon)
– 9 fish and seafood recipes
– 18 main meat dishes, burgers, sandwiches, chili, gumbo, jambalaya plus meat-based side dishes
The presentation of the recipes by the show’s characters is really funny at times and could’ve been better (or shorter) in some cases. Or maybe I just grew tired of reading stories after a while, I don’t know. It’s probably just a highly enjoyable book for a die-hard True Blood aficionado, even without all the cooking. But hell, I came for the gorgeous Southern food! And I got a truckload of.
Just as the show’s creator Alan Ball admitted in an interview, the recipes are comfort food = involve a lot of butter, and frying, and bacon, and frying in bacon fat…
Of course, healthier local specialties such as grits, and yams casserole, and sweet potatoes, and corn bread, and seafood are all here, too. And this is where it got so interesting for me! Because I’ve been a fan of both the Cajun and the Creole food since I first heard the very word jambalaya about 15 years ago. (Yes, I always fall in love with the idea first… I just know how to pick ’em.)
SOUL FOOD, its ANGELS and DEMONS
In fact, if you cut out the “demons” a.k.a. the “bad fat” (lard, bacon) and the industrial sugar, both traditionally used mostly to mask second grade foods, you’ll be cutting out most of the bad calories and bad cholesterol.
Go easy on the use of salt and you end up with a highly versatile cuisine, with many delicious and healthy vegs to choose from (kale, yams, collard, sweet potatoes). You can substitute most red meat with chicken or poultry or turkey – or even seafood and fish for you pescetarian gourmets out there.
If you go further, like I do, and cut out all things non-plant-based, the cooking time is drastically reduced. This helps preserve all the vitamins from the vegs. Oh, and the spice mix used is also very good for you – chili, cinnamon, thyme, saffron – lovely!
So to sum it up, while the traditional southern cuisine was blamed for causing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks etc. etc., the “veganised” Southern recipes deliver proven anti-diabetes foods (sweet potatoes, cinnamon), lots of vitamins (greens, sweet potatoes), minerals and trace minerals (collard, kale, sesam), healthy plant fibres and other good phytonutrients.
VEGANISING A COOK BOOK: HOW-TO
I’m not going to veganise this cook book’s recipes here.
But I want to show you that it’s not complicated to create vegan menus from most meat-heavy cookbooks, and this one is a fabulous example.
So: How do you veganise an entire recipe collection?
After browsing through most of the recipes and looking more closely at potential favourites, make a list of what you personally would like to substitute.
Then you check the use of those ingredients and if they can be completely omitted – if not, what could be a good replacer.
My list is now made of four groups.
1. DAIRY PRODUCTS.
Personally, I don’t eat any dairy products anymore.
I used to love the taste of milk in a cappuccino, or the taste of butter on a slice of fresh bread. This is history now. Not only because it’s healthier to go sans dairy (are we all up to date here that the Calcium story was a lie and that milk is actually depriving our system of Calcium?), I found much tastier ways to enjoy a beverage or a slice of fresh (wheat-free) bread.
In the True Blood cookbook, following dairy products are used:
Butter (for frying and baking, obviously)
Buttermilk (for onion rings and baking)
Cream and cream cheese (sauces, cakes)
Cheese (for dips and melts)
My go-to plant-based solutions are delish and soy-free:
Coconut oil for frying and baking – it has a butter-y, rich, melting flavour to add to your dishes, absolutely delicious.
Cashew milk is a nice buttermilk and cream substitute – for “buttermilk” flavour just a hint of lemon juice is enough (remember to soak cashews in water overnight, otherwise you won’t obtain a pureed texture, and don’t overdo – the calories!)
Cashew cream cheese
– yes, a soyfree cashew cream cheese (found a lovely recipe here
Fork over Knives’ No-Cheese Sauce for dips and melts. The Forks over Knives cookbook suggests a recipe for “Mac’n’Cheese” and I’ve tried it and changed it to my taste; I blend one roasted red bell paprika with one tablespoon cashew butter, one small onion, a pinch of salt, garlic powder (pure, no additives), and a pinch of xylitol. For yellow colour and an extra boost in anti-inflammatory goodness, I throw in a pinch of powdered turmeric (curcuma). In fact, I’ve seen a lot of other, experimental recipes online but none has stood up in terms of taste for me.
In the True Blood cookbook, eggs are used either as a main product (eggs benedict, ham and eggs etc.) which in fact cannot be veganised, only omitted, and for baking. And baking is where those cool vegan egg alternatives can show what they can do! Plant power!
NB: I don’t ever use store-bought egg substitutes – they’re so over-processed. Just – no.
You’ll be able to pick an egg replacer of your choice and to experiment a little. I’m yet to try the chickpea one; and can confirm: banana and chia work beautifully.
3. FISH & SEAFOOD.
Do we have pescetarians in the audience? Anyone? 😉
Anyway, southern fish and seafood recipes demand the real thing, don’t they: what with could you replace tartar sauce covered catfish fillets, shrimps for the shrimp cocktail or a stuffed snapper?
But if you were after the taste of the spices, and different flavours, and cooking techniques, you could try cauliflower steaks for fish fillets, and blanched cauliflower for “shrimp” cocktail.
Savoury, spicy fillings work great with an eggplant, a zucchini, and even one of those elongated bell paprikas.
Now, I don’t think vegan cooking should be about faking the taste of look of meat (or fish).
We can, however, get a lot of inspiration from techniques and seasonings, and this can turn out just awesome…
I’m thinking blackened eggplant, for example.
4. RED MEAT, CHICKEN, GAME.
True Blood recipes involving meat come in three groups: chunks of meat (steak, grilled meat), processed meat (burgers), and stews.
The latter ist the easiest to veganise: you omit meat, you’re done.
For burgers, there are endless varieties to make vegan patties: oat, bulgur, mushrooms, nuts, corn… Choose to your liking!
Pescetarians could try crabmeat patties, and vegetarians can add some substance with an egg or two.
As for steaks and Co., you could pick a soy product (if I do, I use baked tofu that comes in funny crinkled chunks and is awesome for recipes with lots of gravy), or turn once again to them usual suspects: cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini.
My favourite bacon replacer:
Bacon can be replaced with roasted bell paprika – for a great, savoury flavour. I sprinkle precut stripes of red and yellow (or orange) paprika with coconut oil and salt – they give such a nice, fatty, aromatic yumminess to your recipes! And the colour! I love this to bits, in fact, so much that the smell of roasted bacon makes me actually sick. It smells like old rags soaked in fat. Yikes. (I’m one of those lucky people who hate pork – it’s an enzyme thing really).
Gluten-free vegan panini with grilled paprika and fennel
Vegan sandwich fillings:
My go-to vegs for sandwiches are grilled bell paprika stripes (above), grilled fennel, grilled shiitake or oyster mushrooms. It’s so delicious, you’ll forget about bacon or sausage or cheese. Topped with a nice sauce (hot/ sweet and hot/ fruity and spicy/ mustard/ spicy with rosemary, thyme, oregano) and freshly ground pepper, those vegs are waaaahaaay better than any boneless chicken breast.
MY TRUE-BLOOD INSPIRED + OTHER “SOUTHERN” RECIPES MENU
(Completely innocent) Tru Blood substitute’s substitute’s substitute – my take on True Blood’s “Tru Blood” cocktail
In a large tumbler glass, mix 2 tablespoons of homemade wild berries sirup with a dash of lime juice, fill up with one of those vegan blood orange lemonades: Aranciata Rossa San Pellegrino/ Oransoda/ Abbondio Vintage Blood Orange/ Lemonaid Blood Orange
Abbondio Vintage Soda – makes your fridge look good on the inside!
Red Silk Sandwich
Roast red bell paprika, chopped fennel (sprinke with coconut oil and salt, grill until they start turning dark, don’t overdo), in a bowl, mix a vegan herbal spread with tomato pulp and mustard (or with Worcestershire sauce and tabasco), assemble with sandwich bread or – as above – panini bread.
Easy, fast and delicious: VEGAN Gumbo Z’Herbes with Baby Spinach and Baked Tofu
Vegan Gumbo Z’Herbes with Baby Spinach and Carob
Cook rice. Meanwhile… season bits of baked tofu with garlic, thyme, cayenne pepper, carob and one or two table spoons of soy sauce (adjust depending on the quantities, you want just to slightly marinate the tofu). Heat oil in a large pan, add chopped onion and carrots and cook, stirring. Once the onions start to get golden and the carrots soft, add seasoned baked tofu and vegetable broth (1 cup per 250 grams of tofu) and fry/cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Just before the sauce starts to come to its end, add baby spinach leaves and stir and cook until it wilts. Done! Serve on a bed of rice, with tabasco or other favourite hot sauce. Nom!
(A veganised and Gluten-free and totally LAZY Variation of the) Glazed Strawberry Pie from the True Blood Cookbook
I made one for my birthday in May and I cheated ALL THE WAY really! Oh, and I used raspberries – my favourite berries.
Store-bought spelt baked pastry case, vegan glazing mix and fresh berries. This cake is delicious. And no rocket science.
(Vegan and Gluten-Free) Blood Orange Gelato
Other than the sophisticated True Blood Cookbook recipe, I went for the suggestions that came with the silicone moulds for ice cones, vamping it up (hehe, pun!) with Cointreau and coconut cream. So, per 70ml cone, I used 4 teaspoons coconut cream, 2 teaspoons Cointreau, and 4 table spoons fresh blood orange juice. You can add 1 teaspoon of your favourite, liquid sweetener, I went sans. Simply stir well and fill the silicone cone. It should set in approx. 4 hours.
Now I certainly hope this uberlong post gave you an idea or two about veganising traditional recipes! Now… Questions, suggestions – complains?