Meet Robin Robertson, a creative genius in the vegan cooking world who’s written 19 cookbooks and counting. She’s an inventive and tireless vegan cook who has inspired so many with her taste for the exciting and exotic as well as the quick-and-easy. Along with her many books, she also writes a column for VegNews and blogs about her amazing recipe creations, too. If you missed out or didn’t win in this week’s cookbook giveaway from Jo Stepaniak, you have another chance right now! Robin is allowing us to give away a copy of her book Quick-Fix Vegan to one of our lucky readers (read to the bottom for all the details).
Allison Rivers Samson: You are a prolific author, writing 19 cookbooks thus far! How do you decide it’s time to write another and how do you choose the theme? How long does your process take, generally, from start to finish?
Robin Robertson: The process is different with each book, really. Often my books are extensions of my own interests, such as my love of spicy food with Vegan Fire & Spice, or my years as a professional caterer with Party Vegan, and my two slow cooker books, because I love using a slow cooker. Other times, I see a real need for a book, which is what happened with Vegan on the Cheap and Quick-Fix Vegan – everyone wants to cook cheaper and faster! Other times, a publisher approaches me with a book idea, as was the case with 1,000 Vegan Recipes and a few others. Depending on the length of the book and the number of recipes, the process takes around a year. One exception was the 1,000 Vegan Recipes book – that one took most of three years from start to finish.
ARS: You are also one of my sister columnists for VegNews Magazine, writing the “Global Vegan” column. How do you come up with recipes for your columns compared with those you create for a cookbook? Is it any different? Another way of asking that: how do you decide which recipes you’ll use for your column and which to publish in a book?
RR: Deciding on recipes for my “Global Vegan” column is much different than working on a book. The column is extremely finite: only a certain number of columns per year, and a certain number of words. Also, I need to focus on a particular recipe from a particular part of the world. For each column, I pick cultures that interest me or that I already know about from experience. I want readers to come away feeling like they were enriched with new information – and great new recipes to try as well. A cookbook doesn’t have those same specific limitations, although it has its own set of guidelines. I love to discover new cuisines that I can get excited about.
ARS: How has your classical cooking training supported you as a vegan chef?
RR: My classical cooking training totally influenced my vegan cooking in the beginning. Going vegan (macrobiotic, at the time, actually) right off a stint as a French restaurant chef was like night and day. My main focus at the time was figuring out ways to make plant-based ingredients taste as rich and delicious as what I cooked in the restaurants I worked in. At the time, there were very few cookbooks or other guidance for the kinds of recipes I wanted to create, so I started writing the recipes – and then the cookbooks – myself.
ARS: How did veganism become a lifestyle for you?
RR: I feel there was always a vegan inside me trying to get out. As a child, I adored animals and thought of them as my friends. I never liked eating meat. When I was eighteen, I tried to go vegetarian, but at that time where I lived there were no stores, no cookbooks, no guidance of any kind (and of course no Internet). I couldn’t make it work, and then I got sidetracked with my cooking profession. So it was several years later when I finally quit restaurant work, that I went vegan literally overnight. For me it was effortless, because it was an act of love for the animals. I felt a sense of peace within myself for the first time in my life.
ARS: What easy meal ideas or tips would you make for new vegans starting to cook?
RR: This is my best advice for beginners:
• Tweak familiar favorites: List your favorite dishes and make notes about what ingredient(s) need to be swapped out to make them vegan (sometimes it’s just one ingredient), use the web or a vegan cookbook to look up appropriate substitutions if you don’t know them, then rotate these dishes regularly.
• Try something new: Depending on your schedule, plan to try a few new ingredients or recipes each week. Use recipes that are simple and approachable, whether you find them online or in cookbooks.
• Plan ahead: Prepare meals in advance and serve make-ahead one-dish meals on especially busy nights. Keep prepared foods for busy days; plan on quick-and-easy meals.
• Write up menus: No need for a complete formal menu plan – just write brief notes such as: “Monday: black bean chili; Tuesday: tofu stir-fry; Wednesday: pasta and salad; and so on. If you have a weekly menu, it can help with your grocery shopping
• Stock your pantry: Organize your pantry so you know where everything is at a glance. Keep lots of beans, tomato products, grains, and pasta as well as a variety of condiments such as soy sauce, sriracha sauce, chutney, and salsa, to add flavor.
• Get support: If your local area has a vegan group, join it, or get together with other vegans in your area for potlucks. Join an online vegan community. It’s important to have someone you can share your journey with and also ask questions as you go.
• Be joyful: Remember why you’re vegan and remind yourself about how much you’re helping yourself, the animals, and the environment. Old habits may be difficult to break, but it’s easy (and rewarding) to get some new habits in place, too.
ARS: Do you have a favorite seasonal fruit or vegetable you’re eating a lot of right now? Any favorite ways to prepare it?
RR: I’m kind of obsessed with cauliflower and kale right now. My favorite way to prepare kale is to make crispy kale bacon to use on BLTs. It’s so good. As for cauliflower, my favorite way to cook it is to cut it into 1/4-inch slices and roast it until tender. I also like to top roasted cauliflower with a little pasta and a creamy picatta sauce (see photo above). You can find the recipe on my blog.
ARS: I make KLTs too! So yummy. Do you have a favorite AG product?
RR: Well, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever had, but I have to say the Chocolate Orange Brownies we had over the holidays were absolutely outstanding. I’ve always been a fan of a chocolate and fruit combination, and they had just the perfect balance. Not surprisingly, I’m also crazy about your Cherry Chocolate Brownies – they’re fabulous. Of course, now I’m craving them…
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Robin, and for letting us give away your book Quick-Fix Vegan! To win this lovely cookbook of quick-and-easy vegan recipes, leave a comment with your suggestion for what the theme of Robin’s next cookbook should be. You must be a resident of the US or Canada to win. We’ll pick a winner on Thursday, March 22nd. Have fun!
Thanks for all your responses, this Giveaway is now closed. Click here to see the winner!