If you’re looking for veg-spiration, look no further than Niki from Rebel Recipes. The freelance food consultant, recipe creator, food stylist, photographer and qualified Holistic Health Coach has just released her debut cookbook ‘Rebel Recipes’ so we decided to talk to her about all things vegetables.
Niki shares her easy and accessible plant based recipes packed with fresh seasonal organic veg on her award winning food blog Rebel Recipes, with a social media following of over 270,000. She also works with a range of household brands including Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Kenwood, and is co-host of Feast supper club. She regularly teaches workshops and appears on panels, as she’s done so at our own previous events.
Niki, we know you as Rebel Recipes – can you tell us how that name came about?
The name Rebel Recipes came about as I was sitting in a hotel room in Barcelona – Andy [my Husband] and I were working on ideas for my blog and coming up with all sorts of weird and different names. I wanted to include ‘rebel’ in there somewhere as I thought it encapsulated what I was doing with my plant-based recipes at the time (this was way before vegan food is where it is today) and Rebel Recipes just seemed to stick.
How long have you been vegan for?
For me, plant-based eating feels like a completely natural way to eat. I developed an intolerance to dairy when I was around 7, so I was eating quite a limited diet already and then I pretty much refused to eat meat – much to my Mum’s dismay. As soon as I was old enough to be allowed in the kitchen I started to experiment to try and create the vegetarian food I wanted to eat – back then, however, it was pretty much adding curry paste to veggies, but I loved it.
Through lots of trial and error with wonderfully grown local produce I was soon making the food I loved – I’ve continued to experiment ever since and never looked back.
How do you feel about the label “vegan”?
I don’t tend to use it that much; I still prefer plant based. All my recipes are vegan, of course, but I feel like plant based is still a bit less scary for some people. I’d love everyone from vegans to people wanting to eat less meat to enjoy my recipes so I tend to keep them as inclusive as I can.
Where do you find inspiration from for your recipes? Are these people, places, lived experiences… ?
I get inspiration from everywhere, but places I’ve travelled have been the most inspiring. I’ve spent lots of time in India and Asia and that has definitely shaped the way I cook and the flavours I love.
I’m never short of inspiration in the UK as there’s always a million recipe ideas buzzing around my head.
I’m currently in Thailand at the moment and obsessed with their fresh and zingy salads, which I’ll definitely be bringing home with me.
We know you host lots of workshops, do people come with misconceptions about vegan food? What has been the best myth to bust, as it were?
I think people’s expectations of vegan food has changed dramatically over the last few years; people have a much greater understanding of ingredients/flavours /where to buy ingredients which is fantastic. The main gripe for most people is vegan cheese – which is understandable, as it’s hard to exactly replicate the taste and texture of the dairy products – I prefer nut cheeses which are more natural and can taste delicious. Plus you can make them at home!
Your first cookbook has just been released… What does it take to land such an amazing book deal?
Well it’s a long process and I felt like giving up on many occasions, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t! My best advice would be: get to a stage where you have a loyal following who regularly make your recipes and are always hungry for more, come up with an idea/ideas for you book which will catch a publishers attention, and don’t give up if you don’t get an offer straight away!! – maybe the timings are wrong, the concept isn’t quite right or you’re not ready. That’s what happened to me and now I have a wonderful publisher and my book is nearly on the shelves, which is a dream come true.
How has the response been to a purely vegan cookbook? Who are your main competitors?
The response has been great! My recipes have always been vegan so that’s what people expect anyway. I don’t see anyone as a competitor, we are all trying to create delicious recipes that help and inspire people. It’s such a great industry to be in.
My favourite recipes from the book have to be: Roast aubergine Sabih; Roast cauliflower steaks with creamy polenta and green lentil Ragu and the Choc peanut butter fridge bars.
How do you see your book impacting the way we eat and shop?
Well I’d love to think that it can inspire people to eat more wholesome vegan meals, my recipes are all about celebrating vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. Turning some humble vegetables into something really delicious – in a simple and easy way.
I think the scale and pace of change is incredibly exciting. I’m certainly excited to see what happens next!
What are your predictions for Veganism in 2020?
I’d love to see more healthy and natural vegan products and restaurants appearing. At the moment there are lots of vegan options but many are in the junk food category and trying to imitate an already made product in the space, it would be great to see some innovative new vegan products appearing, without just copying an animal based product.