Secrets of vegetarian cooking

Suzy Spoon’s new cookbook is a delicious collection of her vegan and vegetarian favourites.

Intrigued by the concept of a vegetarian butcher, we asked longtime vegetarian and vegan devotee Suzy Spoon to share a little more about the unique shop she opened in Sydney’s eclectic inner west Newtown, and how she manages to turn out perfect sausages, burgers, schnitzels and pies – all without an ounce of meat.

Tell us a little about the evolution of Suzy Spoon Vegetarian Butcher.

I’ve had a great time experimenting with vegetarian cooking for over 20 years now. Friends and work colleagues encouraged me to set up a stall at Marrickville farmers’ market selling my vegan sausages to the public. The stall was popular and a few months later we opened a little shop in Enmore, then six months after moved to a larger shop front on King Street, Newtown. We now have a great range of beautifully handmade vegan small goods as well as a sit down café.

What is a vegetarian butcher?

We hand make and sell a range of delicious vegetarian sausages, burger patties, schnitzels, seitan, smoky rashers and other meat-free deli items. All our products are made with natural ingredients, without artificial flavours or the use of preservatives.

What are your favourite ingredients to use to give your dishes a hearty feel?

My number one hearty ingredient would have to be miso paste. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a Japanese fermented salty soybean paste. I use it as a flavour base in lots of my recipes, especially hearty soups, stews and gravy. It comes in different types; my favourites are sweet white or shiro, natto, dark and red. The different types have unique flavour and colour characteristics that you can work with.

Which of your products have been the most challenging to get right?

The hardest thing I’ve ever made was definitely my first sausage. I experimented with different ingredients for about a year perfecting it before I was happy to let my friends and workmates try it. It was a delicate balance getting the cutability right while maintaining a delicious flavour and perfect texture.

What advice do you have for people looking to eat more of a plant-based diet?

Take advantage of local farmers’ markets that are springing up all over the place, and be inspired by the beautiful seasonal produce you find at them. Buy what looks fabulous and plan your meals around the fresh produce.

Also, don’t be afraid to use meat and dairy alternatives to keep life simple and convenient. They are great for reinventing family favourites like spaghetti bolognese or chocolate cake.

How is your book different to other vegetarian and vegan cookbooks?

The recipes in this book are a very personal collection, full of food memories from my childhood and dishes from people I’ve lived with and places I’ve worked. It has been influenced by my family, friends, flatmates, colleagues and customers and is a diary of my personal food experiences. So, combine that with my special interest in faux meats and you get a very unique cook book.

If you were having a dinner party, which recipes from your book would you serve?

There are so many great dinner party options in the book but I think I’d make crumbed seitan fillets stuffed with cream cheese and silverbeet, roasted Brussels sprouts, and hemp seed and kale salad with avocado dressing. And for dessert I’d make the full on chocolate nut cake with almond cream. Oh yum.

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