Chef of world’s first vegan football club says it’s hard convincing people food is tasty

ASMR: Competitive eater Leah Shutkever feasts on vegan food

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Jade Crawford has been creating vegan dishes, such as spaghetti bolognese and black bean quesadillas, for players and fans of Forest Green Rovers since 2018. She told how the athletes “seem to be happy with everything I cook for them” but non-vegan people are harder to convince. Head chef Jade, who follows a vegan diet herself, said: “The most challenging part about being a vegan chef is convincing non-vegans that plant-based food is just as tasty and a lot of the time more nutritious than meals with animal products. 

“Once these people try the food, they are always amazed.”

The club’s players are served vegan food only, with many reporting increased energy levels and quicker recovery times as a result.

Jade said: “We do have some [players] who are vegan and some who aren’t. We can’t tell them what to do in their own time. We try and educate them as much as we can but we can’t force a lifestyle or beliefs onto people.”

The chef, who has worked in kitchens since she was 14, told how she does not find cooking vegan cuisine a challenge because of the substitutes available.

She said: “One of my favourite things about vegan cooking is re-creating hearty dishes that are traditionally cooked with animal products and showing how delicious they can be without those traditional products.

“If you’re a big meat eater, try some alternatives to start with and see how you get on. It’s about eating healthier and doing what’s better for you, your health and the health of the planet environment.”

She “finds it fun” to experiment with the versatile varieties of vegetables “the earth has gifted us.”

Jade, who often makes the team’s favorites fajitas, lasagne, wellington and pies, told how she keeps up with trends in vegan food and works with brands to ensure meals are constantly varied.

She said: “We are lucky to have amazing partners at the club such as Quorn, Oatly and Sheese, who all have delicious products that I can expand and adapt. 

“When menu writing, I like to stick to themed buffets such as Mexican, Indian, Italian and roast dinners. I think this is an awesome way to show fans how versatile vegan food is.”

Jade ensures players receive carbohydrate-rich meals before games and protein-dense ones afterwards to aid their recovery.

She busted the myth she most commonly hears – that “vegans lack protein” – adding it “couldn’t be further from the truth”.

She said: “There are countless plant-based protein sources out there.

“Plant-based proteins such as beans, legumes, nuts, tofu etc are all cleaner sources of protein than animal-based proteins as animal proteins contain antibiotics, sulphurs, fatty tissues and hormones.

“Like any diet, you need to watch what you eat to ensure you are getting all of the necessary macro and micronutrients your body needs to survive.”

She said she has “always had a passion for cooking” since she was a little girl helping her family prepare meals.

A stint in a health food cafe in Australia in 2017 “naturally steered” her towards a healthier way of cooking.

Away from the kitchen, Jade enjoys watching documentaries about plant-based diets, animal welfare and the environment – and urged others to do the same.

She said: “If you don’t know much about [veganism], documentaries are amazing. They open your mind to the animal and agriculture side of things, and what it’s doing to the planet. There are new documentaries coming out constantly.

“As a vegan, I still feel like I’m not doing enough. It hits home. If everyone cut down their consumption, it would make such a difference.”

RECIPE BREAKOUTS

All from Jade Crawford

Spaghetti bolognese 

2 servings

Ingredients

1 76g pack sunflower mince

Approx. 100g wholewheat spaghetti

500g passata

100g veg stock

1 red or brown onion

3 garlic cloves

Handful cherry tomatoes

Fresh Basil to taste

1 tsp oregano

2 tsp paprika

Method

1. Boil a salted saucepan full of water and cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions

2. Finely dice the onion and garlic, add to a frying pan with rapeseed oil, fry for five minutes until the onion is transparent

3. Add the cherry tomatoes, paprika and oregano, and fry for another two to three minutes, then reduce the heat to low

4. Simmer the passata and vegetable stock

5. Add the sunflower mince, stir well, as the mince absorbs the liquid it will expand and get softer, simmer for a further 10 minutes

6. Season to taste

7. Pour the drained spaghetti into a bowl and place the mince mix on top. Garnish with some fresh basil. 

Quorn ‘Makes Amazing’ Salad with Flatbread & Creamy Cashew Dressing

Ingredients

1 pack Quorn Makes Amazing Piri Piri Strips

1 large carrot

½ head iceberg lettuce (shredded)

3 pre-cooked beetroots

50g cherry tomatoes

30g handful kale

30g rocket

5 radish (sliced)

1 red pepper

70g cashew nuts (toasted)

4 x vegan flatbread

Dressing

Yield: 2 cups

1 cup-soaked cashews

2/3 cup vegan mayo

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp dijon mustard

4 garlic cloves (minced)

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup water

1/4 tsp pepper

Pinch of salt

Method

 To make the dressing:

  1. Soak the cashews for a minimum of two hours, once soaked, place all of the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until a smooth consistency

  2. Place the Quorn in a frying pan with 1 tbsp of oil, fry for five minutes and set aside whilst making the rest of the salad

  3. Shred the iceberg lettuce, wash with the rocket and kale, rinse and place in a large salad bowl

  4. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, slice the radishes into thin disks, cut the beetroot into chunks, with a peeler, peel the carrot into strips using the whole carrot and julienne the red pepper add them all to the salad bowl with the leaves

  5. In a dry frying pan, toast the cashews on a medium heat until slightly browned, do not take your eyes off of them as they will burn quickly, continuously flip the pan, set aside until cooled

  6. Add the Quorn and Cashews to the salad bowl, mix well with two spoons then drizzle the dressing on top

  7. Serve with the flatbreads on the side

Oreo brownie

Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup plain flour

2 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp linseed powder

8 tbsp filtered water

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 pack oreos

Method

1. Line a small but deep baking tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 170C.

2. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, place the coconut oil into a heat proof bowl, place the bowl on top of the boiling water until the coconut oil melts

3. Whist the coconut oil is melting, sieve the flour in a large mixing bowl along with the baking powder, cocoa powder and salt, mix well and set aside

4. In a medium mixing bowl, add the weighed sugar, coconut oil and vanilla extract, mix well

5. In a small bowl or a jug, spoon in the linseed powder, then the filtered water, stir until the mixture starts to thicken and it becomes a paste

6. Straight away add this to the sugar mix and whisk until you have a creamy consistency

7. Now add the sugar and linseed mix to the dry mix, you will need to mix this until all of the dry mix is incorporated into the wet and you’re left with a chocolate ball. This gets a bit tough towards the end so you may want to use your hands rather than a spoon

8. Spread the brownie evenly onto the lined baking tray with a spatula then break up the oreos and push them into the brownie.

9. Cook in the oven for 170C.

10. Brownie can be eaten straight away but will break up until its cooled, so if you want to cut it into squares, leave it to cool for at least half an hour.

Pesto, Sheese & ‘Bacon’ Swirls – Yield 12

Ingredients:

1 sheet shop bought puff pasty

250g vegan bacon bits

1 bag vegan cheese

50g plant-based milk

Pesto:

200g fresh basil

50g spinach

1/4 cup pine nuts – toasted

2 garlic cloves

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt & Pepper to taste

3-4 tbsp water – plus more if needed

Method:

For the Pesto: 

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan for five to seven minutes until light brown and fragrant, then let it cool.

  2. Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until you are left with a smooth consistency.  

  3. Decant into an airtight container (there will be plenty left over for you to make another dish – the pesto will stay fresh in the fridge for three to four days)

For the Swirls: 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C

  2. Roll out your sheet of puff pastry and place it landscape on your work surface

  3. Spread a thick layer of pesto onto the pastry sheet

  4. Sprinkle half of the bag of vegan cheese on top of the pesto layer

  5. Now layer the bacon bits on top of the cheese (I use half a box of bacon bits as I feel that is enough – but feel free to add as many as you like)

  6. The last layer is the rest of the vegan cheese

  7. Now for rolling; start from the bottom end (the one closest to you) slowly roll the pastry, like you would a swiss roll, ensuring all of the filling is staying intact

  8. Once you get to the edge, brush some plant-based milk to help the pastry stick together

  9. Now you should have a nice thick log, brush the plant-based milk all over to glaze (it is easier and quicker to do it now than once you have cut it)

  10. Slice your log into 12 even slices, place them on their side on a lined baking tray

  11. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the vegan cheese has melted. 

Black Bean Quesadilla’s

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 tortilla wraps

1 bag vegan cheese

1 red onion

1/2 red pepper

4 garlic cloves

5 cherry tomatoes

Handful spinach

1 can black beans

1-2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 lime

Guacamole

1 avocado

1 tsp lime juice

Coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Finely dice the onions and garlic, heat a large frying pan and drizzle a 1tbsp of rapeseed oil, fry the onions and garlic together for two to three minutes

  2. Drain and rinse the black beans and add them to the frying pan with the onions and garlic, add the paprika, ginger and cumin and mix well, leave to cook for three minutes

  3. Now add the sliced peppers and cherry tomatoes, mix again

  4. Add the juice of one lime, excluding 1tsp for the guac

  5. Season the mix with salt and pepper

  6. Add a handful of spinach, mix then add the tomato puree

  7. Stir and simmer for three minutes

  8. Scrape the black bean mix into a separate bowl and set aside, chop some coriander and add to the black bean mix

  9. Clean and dry the frying pan or use another one, ready for the wraps

  10. Place the clean frying pan back on the heat, do not add oil to the pan, place one tortilla wrap onto the frying pan

  11. Grate some vegan cheese on one side of the wrap, followed by the black bean mix then some more grated vegan cheese

  12. Now close the wrap so that it is folded in half, let the wrap cook on the bottom for 5 minutes, then flip the wrap over and cook the other side until all the cheese is melted and the wrap is golden brown and crispy

  13. Keep the first Quesadilla hot whilst making the second one

  14. Repeat steps 10-12 for the second Quesadilla

  15. Now to make the guac, spoon the avo into a bowl with the lime juice, salt and pepper, mix well until the avo has a smooth, thick liquid like consistency

  16. Serve both quesadillas by cutting them in half and serving with creme fraiche and guac

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