By Louisa Moss, PRO, Vegetarian Society of Ireland

In February, the VSI held a vegan cook-off event to raise money for Focus Ireland. The turnout on the night was great, with some fantastic entries, and in total we raised €700 for Focus Ireland! Louisa caught up with the winners to talk about their vegan lifestyle (and to find out the tasty winning recipes for us!)

Deirdre Blake was born in Rush Co. Dublin and became a vegetarian at the age of 18. She married her husband Pat, who was also a vegetarian, at the age of 23. They have two sons, Kirsh and Nimai, who have both been raised as vegetarians from birth.

Louisa: How long have you been a vegan?

Deirdre: I’ve been a vegetarian for 33 years and the whole family became vegan two years ago. I regret not making that decision earlier!

Louisa: So, what kind of food do you include in your diet?

Deirdre: Our diet is very influenced by Indian cooking. We eat rice and dahl (lentil soup) and chapatis (Indian flatbread). I’ve recently converted to falafel and become a big fan! I also juice fruit and vegetables every day.

Louisa: Do you like to experiment with food and recipes or do you tend to stick to a few family favourites?

Deirdre: I tend to stick to my favourites, but every so often I try to change things up with a new recipe!

Louisa: Who is you favourite vegetarian or vegan cook?

Deirdre: I don’t really have a favourite vegan cook that I follow; I like to just take recipes from everywhere.

Louisa: What is your top tip for aspiring veggie cooks?

Deirdre: Being vegan doesn’t have to be restrictive; most recipes can be adapted. Also, being vegan doesn’t mean sacrificing taste, just the opposite in fact!

Louisa: I know I would love to recreate your winning dish and I’m sure our members would too!  Any chance we could have the recipe?

Deirdre: Of course! Here’s the recipe for the spinach, chickpea and soya curd prep.

1 bag of spinach
1 can of chickpeas
2 cans of tomatoes (blended)
“paneer” made from 2 litres of soya milk
1.5 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp Aesofetida (hing) available in Asian supermarkets
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon of veg oil

Heat oil in saucepan and add the cumin seed.
When the seeds have browned, add hing, tomatoes, salt, black pepper and cook on low heat to slightly thicken.
Drain and add chickpeas.
Cook and add spinach.
Lightly fry soya paneer and add to the sauce
Serve with rice.

Method for making Soya paneer

Bring 2 litres of soya milk to the boil.
Add 1 tsp of citric acid to curdle the milk.
Pour contents through a muslin cloth – this will catch the curd and allow the liquid to pass on through.
Squeeze the curd from excess liquid, then cut the soya curd into cubes and fry.