An Easter feast may seem a daunting prospect if you’ve just turned vegan. As Lent draws to a close and abstainers from chocolate, meat and alcohol anticipate breaking their fast with a clutch of foil-wrapped eggs and a glass of bright-fruited merlot alongside their roast leg of lamb, those pursuing a plant-based diet might find options at the table wanting. All those butter-rich cakes, and eggs, chocolate or otherwise…
The best approach if you’re hosting an Easter get together, says Aine Carlin, is to steer clear of replacing the starter or centrepiece roast dish for dish. ‘Instead I go for lots of smaller options that people can share and help themselves to,’ she advises. ‘Get some great dips on the table, serve up some substantial grains, throw in dishes to create your own menu.’
It relieves the pressure of having to tick all the traditional boxes, and for the food writer, who decided to turn vegan overnight eight years ago, it’s an approach that forms the basis of her new book, Cook Share Eat Vegan.
Look at the Easter menu with an open mind, she says, and it’s not hard to offer something for all tastes – from earthy spelt given a lick of sweetness by roasted grapes, to rich mushroom parcels made with dairy-free, shop-bought puff pastry. ‘Vegan dishes have so often missed out vital textural contrasts,’ Carlin says. ‘So bring into play toasted nuts, and balance flavours with sweet and savoury notes so that each mouthful delivers something different.’
‘I just reach for the whole food that I have in my kitchen.’ That includes the chickpea water, or aquafaba, that plays a starring role in Carlin’s egg-free pavlova. ‘I’ve tried making the recipe with liquid sugars but they didn’t really work. Instead it’s a bizarre thing that happens with the liquid drained from a tin of chickpeas – and the finished thing really doesn’t taste of them!’ It’s time to serve up a spread that satisfies – and might just surprise you, too.