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Cookbook ‘Smith & Deli-cious’ helps you prepare the perfect vegan meal even meat-lovers will enjoy

Cookbook ‘Smith & Deli-cious’ helps you prepare the perfect vegan meal even meat-lovers will enjoy

Cookbook ‘Smith & Deli-cious’ helps you prepare the perfect vegan meal even meat-lovers will enjoy

When you visit Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse’s plant-based neighbourhood shop, Smith & Deli, you’re likely to find a line out the door – and with good reason. Hearty, comforting and packed with flavour, their vegan offerings would have even the most dedicated carnivore’s mouthwatering.

We chat to Shannon and Mo about their new book, Smith & Deli-cious, their plans for the future, and their top tips for anyone considering a vegan diet.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background?

Mo [M]: While I’ve been in the hospitality industry my whole life, my background is in journalism, PR and production. From the US originally, I worked in restaurants in the FOH [front of house] and it was only natural to combine my love of the service industry with my love of production coordinating and food. When Shannon and I met in 2012, we just had to do something together. Our skills were perfectly paired and we were thrilled to open our first restaurant, Smith & Daughters, together – something that was planned for about a year while we were working other jobs. When we opened in 2014, we instantly knew we had to do more. And thus the mini vegan empire began.

Shannon [S]: I’ve been cooking in kitchens in Melbourne for the past 22 years, and cooking at home for as long as I can remember. Being a meat-eater gives me a unique perspective on vegan food, challenging me to make different tastes and textures unlike anything on the market today – dishes that truly replicate meats, cheeses, and good old family recipes. I started cooking vegan food out of necessity and also for creativity and change. I got asked for vegan options all the time while cooking at the East Brunswick Club. Soon my vegan parma outsold the chicken one, and from there I ran 50/50 vegan and meat menus in a couple of restaurants to follow, where the vegan stuff was always more popular.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

M: This was a graduation from the first book (Smith & Daughters, published 2016). We were offered the deal straight away and we had to take it. We were so keen to continue sharing what we had started. People are such a massive part of our community and our world, and making books is the best way to continue to share what we do beyond our Fitzroy bubble. While we can’t set up delis everywhere, we sure can give them a taste in their own kitchens.

S: We wanted to create a book with the everyday basics – the building blocks, really – to help people.

Q: How would you describe your food philosophy?

M: I am the vegan of the two. So my philosophy on food is ethical, environmental, health-driven – but let’s not be mistaken, taste is a massive component. It was the whole point in opening the restaurant. Why did vegan food have to be boring, bland, or something not worth going out for and paying someone else to cook?! Let’s prove the world wrong.

S: Life’s too short to eat boring food. Make it delicious every time.

Q: What are your favourite recipes from the cookbook?

M: Shannon and I always say the soup chapter, anything in the soup chapter. We’re big soup fans, so that was only natural. But I love the Larb Salad, the Scrolls, the Coconut Jam Slice and Jewish Honey Cake. Shannon can do no wrong, and choosing the recipes is a terrible task. They’re all good! These are the recipes people want! The accessible, at-home ones. There’s literally something in this book for everyone.

S: Congee. It’s such a good base recipe, alter it to use up what’s in fridge. Make it for what you’re feeling, add mushrooms, veg, spices – it’s really a choose your own adventure.

Q: What’s the perfect vegan meal to serve a dedicated carnivore?

M: The ones we see our carnivore clientele going nuts for are our meaty, convincing substitutes. Not the faux meat of the foam days. Shannon is making a beef ragu at the restaurant that is actually legitimately fooling carnivores, similar to the Beef Bourguignon in the book. The best meal to serve a carnivore is one that is big, filling, and makes them feel completely sated. The main issue with people trying to make vegan food is taking things out and not replacing them with anything.

S: The lasagne. This is the one to feed to a meat eater and not tell them it’s vegan and then give them the good news afterwards.

Q: Do you have any tips for people considering a vegan diet?

M: Don’t cut out your favourites straight away. Do it gradually or you’ll resent it. Look up the things you love or think you’ll miss and try to make vegan versions of them. Really, I’m biased, but our book is a great place to start. Try and ease into the mindset that you’re simply making adjustments with simple replacements rather than just feeling like you can’t eat food anymore. That isn’t the case. Plus, I’d say it’s the best time in the world to go vegan. And it’s about to get even more exciting.

S: Go slow. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do what you can. When you mess up, it’s okay. And it’s not as hard as you think.

Q: What are some easy substitutions for anyone wanting to eat fewer animal products?

M: Swap your milks and butters, those are super simple. Research your favourite recipes and find the subs at your local shops, be it mock, tofu or veg. Think of your meal planning in a different way, most of what you eat is probably already vegetarian at least.

S: Your mainstream supermarkets are full of vegan products, unlike even five years ago. There’s a substitute for anything you want now. Start with simple things like veveggieince and plant-based milks as your base.

Q: From the deli to cookbooks: what’s next? Is there another food project on the horizon?

 M: We always have projects on the horizon, including and especially that Shannon is upturning the food world by being involved in some of the nation and world’s biggest food events. She’s putting veganism and our name on the map. There’s a serious legitimacy being created with her innovation being introduced to the world. Television for Shannon has to be in the works, and as far as projects, we need to expand the deli into a bigger space. We want to do our own products – catering, delivery services, events, interstate, everything – but we can’t reveal our cards just yet.

S: Deli expansion. Bigger space for more food. In order to make more food, we need a bigger kitchen.

Smith & Deli-cious by Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse (Hardie Grant, RRP AU$50) is on sale now.

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