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Eating more vegan and vegetarian foods is not just good for the planet, it is also a good way to add more fruit, vegetables, and high levels of protein to your diet. These are all products and nutrients that are both delicious and healthy.
Merchant Gourmet is an online retailer that sells plant-based products such as lentils and wholegrains, making it easier for Britons to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Gaz has partnered with the brand to encourage more people to take the plunge from a meat-based lifestyle to a plant-based one.
He spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk about the foods you can easily add to your diet to make it more interesting and healthier.
The chef also shared some of his own go-to dishes and recipes which not only taste good, but make you feel good too.
Gaz explained that he became vegan “overnight” after watching a video of cows on a dairy farm.
“I came across a video on YouTube, it made me go vegan overnight,” he said.
“So that’s just how it happened to me, but then there’s people like my parents. It took a little bit more time and they slowly cut things out.
“Firstly, it was replacing the milk and they decided to explore which milk they liked the most. And then it was a couple of days a week eating vegan, and then before they knew it, they were vegan.”
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Gaz added: “So just take your time with it really and experiment in the kitchen.
“And just enjoy it because you will.
“It was so fun for me being a chef, and the first few weeks of being vegan I was able to create so many exciting new dishes with ingredients that I had never really cooked with before.”
The chef recommended buying staple ingredients first to start experimenting with as a beginner vegan.
He said: “The staple ingredients are lots of beans and pulses.
“That’s the place where I get the majority of my protein from, whether that’s pouches from Merchant Gourmet which are convenient, or you can use canned ones.
“And then I stock up on nuts and seeds. I make sure I’ve got lots of those because you can just sprinkle them on all meals really, just because you get that added boost of nutrients.”
Gaz recommended “eating the rainbow” when it comes to healthy eating.
He said: “I always say just eat the rainbow really so have loads of fruit and veg in your fridge, even if you’re freezing leafy greens, so you can just add fruit and spinach to a stew.
“The simplest vegan diet is beans, pulses, rice, pasta, fruit, veg. They’re some of the cheapest foods or ingredients on the planet, so stock up on all things like that,” Gaz added.
After he became vegan at age 23, Gaz said it changed his life because he started to feel lighter and more energetic.
He explained: “Probably within the first month I noticed a huge change in the amount of energy I had day to day.
“I felt like I wasn’t weighed down, and I had a lot more energy in terms of physical activity as I love to work out.
“I noticed that when I went to the gym and lifted weights, or went for long runs, I recovered a lot faster on this diet.”
Gaz added that the protein from a vegan diet helps muscles to recover faster. He said: “I feel it’s a misconception when people say you don’t get enough protein in your diet when you’re vegan.”
It’s also a misconception that you can’t enjoy the foods you used to enjoy, such as chicken or chocolate, when following a vegan diet.
The chef explained that you can make anything vegan, saying: “I think all you have to do is look on my YouTube channel and my recipes to see that anything’s possible. So, I find now that anything I crave or miss I’m able to recreate it and make something that is just as good, if not better.
“I still have my treat nights,” Gaz added.
Gaz’s recipes: Vegan Hotdogs using Merchant Gourmet lentil sausages
1 tbs Olive Oil
1/2 an Onion, Chopped Small
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
2 Portobello Mushrooms, Chopped Small
1 Pouch Merchant Gourmet Puy Lentils
100g Cooked Sweet Potato
1 tbs Chipotle Paste
1/4 tsp Sweet Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tbs Tomato Purée
1 tbs Balsamic Vinegar
5 tbs Heaped Plain Flour
25g Dried Breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Hot Dog Rolls
1/2 an Onion, Finely Chopped
1/2 a Green Pepper, Finely Chopped
First up, sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms over a medium heat in a little olive oil until golden, make sure all the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms. Once sautéed, transfer the mix from the pan to a bowl.
Add the walnuts to your food processor & blitz them to a crumb. Next add the Merchant Gourmet Puy Lentils and sweet potato to the food processor, pulse two to three times to lightly break up the potato and lentils.
Add the walnuts, sweet potato and lentils to the bowl with the mushrooms, onion and garlic, followed by all the remaining sausage ingredients. Mix well with a spatula. The sausage mix should be relatively dry but if your mixture feels too wet, add a little more flour or breadcrumbs.
Lightly flour your hands then form the mixture into around eight to 10 sausages.
The sausages are now ready to be cooked on your BBQ, or alternatively in a non-stick frying pan or oven.
For BBQ cooking, I recommend cooking the sausage over hot coals rather than a naked flame. Make sure your grill is clean and greased well with a little oil. Grill the sausages for seven to eight minutes turning them carefully every now and then.
Alternatively, for cooking them in a pan, pre heat your non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the sausages for eight to 10 minutes, turning them over every now and then.
I serve my hot dogs topped with all my favourite trimmings such as finely chopped onion and pepper, crispy onion, mustard and ketchup.
The sausages can be pre-made and stored in your fridge for up to two to three days before cooking.
Find more of Gaz’s plant-based recipes here and buy products from Merchant Gourmet here.
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