Shropshire Star

It’s food for thought as Niki publishes vegan cookbook

As a teenager Niki Webster loved to experiment in the kitchen with different flavours and spices.

Vegan food blogger and author Niki Webster

Growing up with a dairy intolerance and dislike of meat meant she was mainly eating a vegan diet.

But Niki had struggled to find food that she really enjoyed until she started cooking plant-based dishes for herself.

This ignited a love of food that continued to flourish and travels around India, the Middle East and the Far East further fuelled her creativity as she attempted to replicate the cuisine at home.

After leaving university, she worked in food marketing and social media before launching her own vegan food blog, Rebel Recipes, in 2015.

It would be the start of new career and lead to her becoming the author of five cookbooks; the latest, Around the World Vegan Cookbook: The Young Person’s Guide to Plant-Based Family Feasts, has recently been published by Wellbeck Children’s.

At the time of starting her blog, she says a vegan diet was mostly associated with things you couldn’t eat and considered by many to be rather bland.

Niki was determined to share some of the “incredible and inspirational” flavours she had discovered during her travels to countries that have a long history of eating plant-based foods.

“I always had a desire to be more creative and work for myself with a backdrop of this massive love of vegan and plant-based food,” she tells Weekend.

“I started the blog not necessarily thinking it would enable a change of career but because I wanted a creative outlet for all my recipes.

“When I started, there were no vegan options available. Nut roasts and hummus was the best you could hope for. The reason I called my blog Rebel Recipes was at the time people thought vegan food was really boring, uninspiring and dull.

“I thought there was some amazing plant-based food out there,” explains Niki, who lives in Shrewsbury. Her recipes are packed full of the likes of vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses as well as enticing flavours, textures and colours.

Niki's bruschetta

When it comes to fresh ingredients she likes to use what’s in season and says ordering a veg box or browsing the produce stalls at the market hall provides inspiration. “It helps me to be creative,” she explains.

“I always like using beans and pulses. They are very versatile, cheap and nutritious and I think they taste delicious,” adds Niki.

When it comes to crafting new recipes, a lot of trial and error goes into creating the perfect dish.

If Niki is inspired by something she’s eaten while travelling or in a restaurant, she will start by working out its key ingredients before attempting to recreate it. “My process of developing a recipe is to have it in my head or write it down so I have something to work from,” she explains.

She then heads to the kitchen to test out her ideas, making changes as she goes until she’s happy with the finished recipe. Once it’s been tested a few more times, Niki will post it on her blog and social media channels for people to try at home.

“I once published a recipe for mushroom wraps and within half an hour lots of people had made them – it completely blows me away,” she tells Weekend.

Little did she know, when she started her Rebel Recipes blog, that veganism would become more and more popular.

Supermarkets are stocking ever-increasing numbers and types of products and restaurants and fast food chains offer a far wider choice of meals.

She pitched the idea for her first cookbook, Rebel Recipes, which was published by Bloomsbury in 2019, amid the growing interest in veganism.

Since then she has written four further books, including Be More Vegan, My Vegan Year and Rainbow Bowls.

Her most recent, Around the World Vegan Cookbook: The Young Person’s Guide To Plant-Based Family Feasts, was published just a few weeks ago.

Around the World Vegan Cookbook: The Young Person’s Guide to Plant-Based Family Feasts

It features more than 75 easy-to-make dishes specially created for young adult readers, inspired by her international travels.

“I’ve tried to make sure the instructions are as simple as possible and easy to understand,” explains Niki.

The recipes include spaghetti fritters with sticky tomatoes; sunflower seed muhamara with za’atar flatbread; spring greens spanakopita pie; bunny chow with sweet potato and chickpea curry; and ginger malva pudding.

Niki says the latter is one of her favourite recipes in the book, adding: “It’s like a sticky toffee pudding but less complicated and made with apricot jam. It’s really sticky, gooey and lovely.”

Around the World Vegan Cookbook: The Young Person’s Guide to Plant-Based Family Feasts by Niki Webster (£14.99, Welbeck Children’s) available now.

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