Eating vegan is a lot cheaper than you think

Whether you’re trying Veganuary, going completely vegan, or just want to cut back on your meat intake and be a little healthier in 2022, learning a few new plant-based recipes is a great place to start.

But when it comes to animal-free foods, the cashew milk cheeses, fake meats and egg alternatives that now grace supermarket shelves aren’t exactly synonymous with wallet-friendly food shopping.

Henry Firth, who makes up half of the vegan duo SHELVES!, with friend Ian Theasby, agrees: “Vegan food has exploded and now it’s everywhere in supermarkets, which is great. You’ve got burgers, sausages, fish alternatives, milk alternatives – the problem is, that stuff can be quite expensive to eat, if you buy it all from your weekly store.
So for their sixth cookbook – SHELVES! On A Budget – the couple, both 37, wanted to “show people the basics of vegan cooking” instead. “It’s grains, fruits, nuts and seeds, it’s inherently cheap and it’s inherently healthy,” says Firth. “People don’t understand that.”
But saving money in the kitchen often depends as much on how you cook as what ingredients you use. For example, you can cook a 10-serving vegan stew and then use it in several dishes – from lasagna to Bolognese. Many of their recipes are also designed to be frozen.
But the starting point for animal-free cooking is simple, healthy and inexpensive ingredients — and if you’re new and want to try, Firth says preparation is key.
“Whether it’s buying a cookbook, finding a good source of recipes online, planning a few recipes, opening a store, so that you have what you need to spend three, four or five days.”

SHELVES! vegan cheese and onion tart tatin

(For 8 as a starter or 4 as a main course)
7 mixed red and white onions (about 500-600g)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dairy-free butter
10 sage leaves
1 tablespoon of sugar
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
20 g smoked cheddar without dairy products
1 sheet of 375 g ready-to-use dairy-free puff pastry
Salt and black pepper

To serve:
Green salad

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place a deep ovenproof skillet 24cm in diameter with a lid over medium-low heat. Make sure you have a board or plate that will fit snugly over the pan.
2. Cook the onions: peel and cut the onions in half. Add the oil, dairy-free butter and sage leaves to the hot skillet. After a few minutes, pour some sage butter into a small bowl and set the crispy sage leaves aside on a sheet of paper towel. Add the onion halves to the skillet, cut side down. Season generously with salt and pepper, sprinkle the sugar over the onions and drizzle with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Finely grate the cheddar.
3. Assemble the pie: unroll the dough and cut it in half widthwise to make it easier to place the dough in the mould. Remove the lid from the skillet and spread half the cheese over the onions. Drape the two pieces of dough over the top to cover the onions (they will overlap in the middle)
4. Carefully tuck the dough around the onions, being careful not to burn your fingers on the side of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and brush the top with the reserved sage butter. Transfer the pan to the hot oven to bake for 25 minutes, until golden and puffed.
5. To serve: take the mold out of the oven (the handle will be hot!). Place the board or plate on the mold, then gently turn it over to overturn the pie. Drizzle with remaining balsamic vinegar, reserved cheese and fried sage leaves. Slice and serve with a simple green salad.

SHELVES! jackfruit larb

For 4 people (lunch or starter)
2 cans of 400 g of jackfruit
1 stalk lemongrass
1 clove of garlic
2.5 cm fresh ginger
2-3 red peppers
10g fresh coriander
10g fresh mint
50g salted peanuts
2 small gem lettuces
1 tablespoon peanut oil

For the dressing:
2 limes
1 banana shallot
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon mild hot sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet. Make sure you have a clean tea towel, pestle, mortar and wok.
2. Roast the jackfruit: Drain and rinse the jackfruit, then pat dry with the clean kitchen towel. Spread on the baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Use two forks to separate and grate the jackfruit.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients: cut the lemongrass stalk, strip the rind and cut it finely. Peel and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Thinly slice the peppers. Pick the coriander leaves and finely chop the stems. Pick the mint leaves. Crack the peanuts into the pestle and mortar. Cut the stems of the lettuce, separate the larger leaves and rinse under cold water. Cut the limes in half for the vinaigrette, peel the shallot, cut it in half and thinly slice it lengthwise.
4. Cook the larb: Heat the oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Add the jackfruit and stir for three to four minutes. Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, two of the chiles and the cilantro stems. Stir for two minutes. Reduce the heat to very low to keep warm, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick.
5. Prepare the vinaigrette: squeeze the lime juice into a bowl. Add the minced shallot and crush it lightly to crush it a little. Add soy sauce and sweet pepper and stir to combine.
6. Serve: spoon jackfruit mixture into lettuce leaves, drizzle with dressing, garnish with fresh cilantro, mint leaves, crushed peanuts and a few slices of chili pepper if you like it spicy! Serve immediately.

SHELVES! tempeh vindaloo

(For 4 people)
1 potato
1 large brown onion
3 large tomatoes
6 garlic cloves
3cm fresh ginger
10g fresh coriander
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons of tomato puree
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
500ml Henry’s curry stock (see below)
For the curry broth (for 4 litres):
3 cloves of garlic
3cm fresh ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can of 400 g crushed tomatoes
4 liters of water
6 large onions
4 medium carrots
3 tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2 large bay leaves
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp peppercorns
For the tempeh:
400g tempeh
½ teaspoon of salt
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ teaspoon chilli powder
2 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the spice mix:
4 green cardamom pods
2 large bay leaves
2 to 4 teaspoons hot pepper powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Prepare your curry broth. If using frozen curry stock, thaw it ahead of time. Peel and grate the garlic and ginger. Add the oil and all the spices to the pan along with the grated garlic and ginger. Cook for about five minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes. Pour 500 ml of water and simmer.
2. Prepare your vegetables for the broth: peel and coarsely chop the onions. Cut and coarsely chop the other vegetables. Add all the vegetables to the pan with three and a half liters of water. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. To finish your broth, locate and remove the bay leaves. Use a hand blender to blend the broth in the pot until completely smooth. Use immediately or for additional broth, cool to room temperature, divide fresh broth into containers and store for up to three months in the freezer.
3. Get a pot of salted water with a lid over high heat, a heat-resistant steamer or colander, and a large frying pan.
4. Prepare your potatoes and your tempeh: cut the potato into two centimeter pieces. Cut the tempeh into two to three centimeter pieces. Add the potatoes to the pot of salted boiling water. Place the steamer or colander over it, add the tempeh and cover. Boil the potatoes and steam the tempeh for seven minutes. Remove the tempeh and set aside. Drain the potatoes.
5. Cook the tempeh: measure the salt, turmeric, chili powder and flour in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add the steamed tempeh and toss to coat well. Place a skillet over medium-high heat and pour in the vegetable oil. Add the tempeh to the hot oil and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until lightly browned. Remove and reserve.
6. Prepare the ingredients: peel and grate the onion. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Peel and grate the garlic and ginger. Finely chop the cilantro.
7. Cook the curry: measure the spice mixture in the dry pan. Add the tablespoon of oil and put on medium heat. Cook for two minutes, adding half a cup of water to loosen if it gets too dry. Add the grated onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté for five to seven minutes, stirring frequently, until the flavors are released. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another three minutes. Add the tomato purée and a large glass of water. Cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth, vinegar, chopped tomatoes, tempeh and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
8. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more spice blend, salt or vinegar if needed. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and serve.

SHELVES! On a budget by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby is published by HQ.