Gaz Oakley is the 25-year-old, avant-garde vegan chef and author of Vegan 100. But he wasn’t always vegan. He started studying cooking or “catering,” the latter as it is referred to in Wales, UK, at the age of 14. Soon thereafter, at the age of 15, he landed his first restaurant job. After finding himself burnt out at the ripe old age of 17, his career took a detour into sales. He worked his way up, selling civil engineering materials, and became salesperson of the year at 22 years of age.
But Gaz still wasn’t fulfilled. Rather, he now found himself stuck in a job that didn’t allow him to express his creativity. This frustration led him to spend countless hours in the gym and eating massive amounts of animal protein in order to bulk up. He soon realized that meat and dairy didn’t sit well with him and literally went vegan overnight in October of 2015. Friends subsequently encouraged him to post photos of his vegan creations on Instagram, where he began to amass a following. This led to a popular YouTube cooking channel, a book deal, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While I’m not vegan, I often gravitate towards plant-based dishes. As far as Gaz’s book is concerned, the first thing that pops out is the visually stunning, vibrant, and inviting photography. The mouthwatering photos make me want to dive right in and start testing out his recipes.
One of Gaz’s gifts is his ability to transform dishes that you might associate with meat into ones that are vegan. For instance, take his chorizo-style chili dogs, which was the first recipe I made from the book. In place of pork or beef, which one would typically associate with a chili dog, he utilizes a combination of canned chickpeas, chickpea flour, porcini mushrooms, tomato paste, and seitan as its base. For those of you not familiar with seitan, it’s a vegan meat substitute made from wheat gluten — aka ‘wheat meat’ due to its surprisingly meaty texture. The smoked paprika, and there’s a good amount of it, lends the sausage that quintessential flavor one would associate with Spanish chorizo. The addition of dried fennel, a standard component of Italian sausage, gives further authenticity in terms of flavors you would enjoy in pork-based sausage. The chorizo also possesses a pleasant kick of heat from the cayenne powder, which I appreciate.
The vegan sausage is served on a bun and topped with a bean and mixed vegetable chili, avocado slices, vegan cashew nut-based crème Fraiche, and fresh cilantro — a harmonious medley. Hotdogs with chili is not something that you would normally associate with light and healthy, but Gaz’s take on it is just that. This dish is packed with layers of flavor and umami and is a recipe that will surely appeal to vegans and non-vegans alike.
I’m eager to test out more of Gaz’s inventive dishes and plan to do sooner rather than later.
Chorizo-Style Chili Dogs
Makes 8 Sausages
Here is another seitan treat packed full of those classic chorizo flavors, such as smoked paprika and fennel seeds. I like to top my sausages with a spicy chili (which is just as nice with a bowl of rice and salad).
Ingredients for the Sausages – Wet:
1 1/4 cups hot Vegetable Stock
3 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
a little coconut oil, for sautéing
1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tbsp tomato puree
2 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt and pepper
1 tbsp miso paste
Ingredients for the Sausages – Dry:
2 1/3 cups seitan (vital wheat gluten)
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Ingredients for the Chili:
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 fresh jalapeño chili
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 red (bell) pepper, cubed a little coconut oil, for sautéing
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch sea salt and pepper
14-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sweet corn, cooked
a handful of chopped coriander (cilantro)
hot dog rolls
“Crème Fraîche” (see recipe)
fresh coriander (cilantro)
First up, make the seitan “chorizo” sausages. Pour the hot vegetable stock onto the porcini in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes for the porcini to rehydrate.
Heat a non-stick saucepan and add a touch of coconut oil. When the pan is hot, add the onions and garlic. Reduce the heat and allow them to soften and lightly caramelize for around 2 minutes, stirring often.
Remove the pan from the heat and tip the onions and garlic into a blender with the remaining wet ingredients, plus mushrooms and stock. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly before you blitz, while you put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
Blitz the wet mixture until smooth, then scrape the blended mixture into the dry ingredients and stir quickly with a spatula until everything is well combined.
You will now need to use your hands to knead the dough. Knead for around 10 minutes either in the bowl or on a clean work surface. Your dough will be quite wet so sprinkle a little chickpea flour onto the surface (or in the bowl). The tougher you are when kneading, the more of a bite/meat-like texture your sausages will have when cooked, so be firm! Once kneaded, divide the dough 110 into approximately 8 pieces. I weigh each piece to make sure all my sausages are a similar size – aim for around 110g (4oz).
Heat a large, lidded saucepan half full of water until boiling, then reduce the heat so that the water is at a rolling simmer.
Prepare 8 pieces of foil, shiny side up, approximately 25cm (10 inches) long. (If you don’t like using foil, use greaseproof baking paper instead.) Dot a little oil onto the foil.
Roll a piece of dough into a sausage shape with your hands before rolling up in a piece of foil. Twist each end and set aside. Do this for the rest of the dough pieces, then wrap each sausage tightly in cling film (plastic wrap).
Lower the wrapped sausages into the saucepan, pop the lid on and simmer for 50 minutes. Don’t let it boil – keep a constant slow simmer – and give them a little stir every now and then.
After the 50 minutes, the sausages should be firm to the touch. Lift one out and check – be careful because they will be very hot! If it is still soft pop it
back in the water to cook for a further 10 minutes. Once cooked, lift the sausages out of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool a little. Once the sausages are cool enough to handle, remove the wrapping and leave to cool completely before refrigerating until use (or freezing).
To make the chili, sauté the onion, garlic, chili, squash and pepper in a little coconut oil in a large saucepan for 2–3 minutes whilst stirring. Add all of the spices and sauté for a further 2 minutes.
Add some seasoning, then the chopped tomatoes. Stir to combine, then pop the lid on and turn the heat down low. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, add the chickpeas, beans, sweetcorn and coriander and stir together. Taste it to check if it needs more seasoning or spice. If you like your chili slightly spicier, add another teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
Simmer for 6–8 more minutes or until the squash is cooked through.
When you are ready to eat… fry, grill, bake or BBQ the sausages for about 12 minutes until golden.
Serve inside hot dog rolls topped with a spoonful of the beautiful chili, some avocado, crème fraîche and fresh coriander.
MAKES ABOUT 5 SERVINGS
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt and white pepper
1/2 cup filtered water
“Quick soak” the nuts: simply pop them in a heatproof container and pour over boiling water. Leave for around 20 minutes to soften while you measure out the other ingredients.
Once the nuts have softened, drain and add them to a highspeed blender with the rest of the ingredients. Simply blitz everything until smooth, then serve or store in the fridge for 3–4 days.
Recipe from Vegan 100 by Gaz Oakley ©Gaz Oakley, 2018. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Quadrille Publishing Ltd., an imprint of Hardie-Grant Publishing.