Have you ever heard about Veganuary, the international initiative that promotes vegan values? Would you try turning vegan for a month? Or maybe you are one all year round? Either way, we hope that our presentation of five European Vegan Dishes of our choice will inspire you to cook some plant-based wonders before the end of this special month. You will keep coming back to them, without a doubt!
Veganuary is an annual event launched by a non-profit organization from the UK. Since 2014, it makes people from all around the world come together in order to practice and promote compassionate food and lifestyle choices. More than one million people from 192 countries have already tried the animal-product-free diet inspired by the team behind Veganuary.
The cuisines of Europe are rich and versatile, but finding vegan-friendly options is sometimes a challenge as the majority of dishes are based on meat, fish, or dairy products. Nevertheless, all of our national cuisines hide vegan secrets. All the dishes we have chosen for today are simple classics that you can easily make at home even if you are not a culinary expert.
1. Italian Minestrone
This hearty vegetable soup, often thickened with pasta or rice and served with fresh bread, is a must-try for vegans, especially soul soothing during autumn and winter. As it happens with many Italian dishes, the recipe varies between regions, seasons and chefs, so when the cold days end, lighter versions are prepared. The history of minestrone goes back to the Roman Empire. The name with the augmentative suffix –one literally means ‘big soup’. Basic, easily accessible ingredients make this dish a perfect example of cucina povera – the traditional Italian style of simple cooking. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and leeks are usually among the main ingredients of a minestrone. The soup is often topped with grated parmesan cheese. To keep the meal free of animal products, use a vegan substitute of your choice.
2. Spanish Patatas Bravas
Bite-sized potatoes fried and served with aromatic tomato sauce are definitely among Spain’s most beloved tapas. The name patatas bravas, literally meaning ‘fierce potatoes’, probably refers to the spiciness of the dressing. It is believed that the recipe for this comforting snack originated from Madrid. Vinegar, cayenne, chili, paprika, garlic and olive oil are often added to the tomatoes in different versions of patatas bravas. The famous tapa is sometimes served with aioli sauce instead.
3. Greek Spanakorizo
This simple pilaf dish is a healthy and delicious vegan option of Greek origin. The core ingredients of the recipe are fresh spinach leaves, long grain rice and spices. Also in this case, the cooking method varies from region to region. To achieve the rich taste and aroma of spanakorizo, chefs often use lemon or red wine vinegar, fresh dill, onions, tomato concentrate and various herbs. The Greek spinach rice can be served hot or cold, enriched with feta crumbles, and accompanied by local wine. Leave it as it is or add you favourite vegan cheese to enjoy a super-food-based meal that will enrich your special January diet.
4. German Sauerkraut
Who has not heard of Sauerkraut, the traditional fermented vegetable side dish made of finely cut raw cabbage? It is one of the symbols of German cuisine. Some sources say that its history actually started in the times of the building of the Great Wall – the Chinese first fermented cabbage with rice wine. The Tartars probably brought this culinary tradition to Europe. Today, Sauerkraut, fermented in its own juice and sprinkled with salt, is served on the side of the most popular German dishes, and often mixed with mashed potatoes. This low-calorie food packed with probiotics and vitamins is exceptionally nutritious and healthy.
5. Romanian Mămăliga
The thick porridge made of yellow maize flour called mămăliga is one of the most popular side dishes in Romania and Moldova. Different versions of this famous recipe have probably been present in the region for more than a thousand years. Mămăliga is often compared to Italian polenta but these two examples of hearty regional cuisine are not the same. The Romanian porridge is prepared with boiling water, corn and salt in an iron pot called ceaun or tuci. Different versions vary in consistency. You can serve a soft mush as a side dish or use thick slices as an alternative for bread. Mămăliga, mixed with a broad range of animal-product-free foods, can become the perfect base of your Veganuary diet.
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Written by Magdalena Sikorska, Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit