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Food & Drink / 13 June, 2011

Clapton caterer Vegan Peasant brings glamour and style to veggie cuisine

A unique meat- and dairy-free catering service is converting some of Hackney’s most bloodthirsty carnivores to the subtle and exotic delights of vegan high dining

vegan peasant chatsworth road market

Adrian Smith and Diana Pickett at their stall on Chatsworth Road Market. Photograph: Marta Wlusek

Down at Chatsworth Road street market, the Citizen caught up with Diana Pinkett and Adrian Smith to find out what’s cooking at Vegan Peasant.

The word ‘vegan’ conjures up in many minds visions of hemp sandals and endless mounds of tofu. But Vegan Peasant offers a more modern take on this pure form of vegetarianism, serving tantalising vegan cuisine that is both innovative and delicious.

Ruby red gazpacho shots; asparagus and dill mousse with charred red pepper on crostini; mini corn cobs with smoked sea salt and olive oil; sticky rice cakes with umboshi and toasted sesame seed on a lotus root crisp; saffron risotto, wine-glazed shallot and mangetout finished with shredded radicchio and snipped chive; sautéd wild mushroom and spinach with oregano and cherry tomato concasse over gnocchi, finished with curly endive and basil oil. If your mouth is not all a-water now, then there must be something wrong with you!

Diana and Adrian met at a ski camp in Switzerland in 2004, and bonded through their love of food. The idea for Vegan Peasant developed out of this connection.

With a stand in the new Sunday market on Chatsworth Road, cookery lessons, wine tasting parties, a personal chef service and more, Vegan Peasant is fast becoming a Clapton institution.

When I spoke to Diana and Adrian, they had and just hosted two successful supper clubs – one Caribbean, the other Iranian. The clubs, which run monthly, are a great way to try vegan cuisine.

As a professional chef, Adrian likes the constraint imposed by the lack of meat and dairy in vegan food: “it forces you to be a lot more creative”, he says.

Diana explains that it is not just vegans who find their food appealing, but also those who simply want to cut down on the amount of meat they eat.

Asked about the common complaint that being vegan is expensive, Diana says: “It does not have to be, but you do have to plan your meals more”. She recommends buying in bulk, possibly with a group of friends or neighbours.

Diana and Adrian will even go shopping with you to teach you how to select the best foods at the best price.

Those who think immediately of mock meats when vegan food is mentioned will be pleasantly surprised to hear that meat substitutes rarely feature in Diana and Adrian’s creations. “We try to stay away from them, and we try not to do too much tofu and soy,” says Diana.

Indeed, Vegan Peasant food exists on a different plane from bland grey slabs of bean curd; this is food for those with sophisticated taste and a highly-developed sense of gourmandise.

More information on Vegan Peasant or visit their stall at Chatsworth Road Market, now open every Sunday.

/ 13 June, 2011

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