A collaboration with the food industry and a vegan charity has given military chefs the inspiration to get creative with entirely plant-based ingredients.
The January workshop held at the Food Services Training Wing (FSTW), Defence College of Logistics Policing and Administration, Worthy Down pushed the Tri-Service chef instructors out of their comfort zone and challenged their ingenuity as they eliminated all animal-derived products to prepare vegan meals.
Diets of choice are becoming more prevalent within British society and therefore the military need to be an attractive employer. Major Johl, Food Services Training Wing
Major Javed Johl, Officer Commanding FSTW, said:
“The genesis of hosting a masterclass for our chef instructors was to get them to make dishes interesting and more palatable so more service personnel would want to choose them."
“The overarching strategic reason to do it was because diets of choice are becoming more prevalent within British society and therefore the military need to be an attractive employer."
“It is not always going to be the case operationally but whilst in the UK or overseas firm bases, why shouldn’t we cater for those diets of choice.”
"Designed to create healthy balanced dishes and to gain new skills to pass on to the trainee chefs, the one-day workshop was mentored by food consultant and writer, Jenny Chandler:
“I’m encouraging them to think that there is much more than putting a vegan burger on to the existing vegetables they were serving anyway but to create dishes that they are proud to serve in the mess.”
I’m trying to get them to think that plant-based food is not a whole new diet, millions of people in the world have been eating plant centric food for millennia. MAJOR JOHL, FOOD SERVICES TRAINING WING
“I’m trying to get them to think that plant-based food is not a whole new diet, millions of people in the world have been eating plant-centric food for millennia."
Plant-based diets have proven health benefits including increased energy levels and for the Army which relies on the fitness of its soldiers’ providing meals may have some advantages.
“There is a preconception about plant-based eaters and a misconception that it is difficult to get your protein but as soon as you are eating your seeds, whole grains, nuts and pulses there is protein in spades.
“The amount of fibre is so much higher and that keeps people energised for miles longer, you can have a more sustained level of energy over a much longer space of time if you have high-fibre food on board.”
There are many reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle, whether for ethical morals, religious beliefs, environmental concerns or health and personal preferences.
A recent YouGov survey shows that veganism is practised by 2% of the British population with the younger members of society less likely to eat meat.
We are encouraging them to cook food that is almost like it is accidentally plant-based … not just to tick the vegan box but create dishes they are proud of. JENNY CHANDLER, FOOD CONSULTANT AND WRITER
“The beauty of this masterclass is the inclusiveness”, said Sergeant John Bagudu.“I’ve been a Royal Logistic Corp chef for 16 years, I’m paid to feed everyone no matter what they choose to eat whether meat or plant-based, and I’m here to get prepared.
“I’ve never cooked or tasted a vegan dish not even a vegan cheese, this is a first for me. I’m looking forward to it and that’s why I’m here today.”
Tempah, tofu, fermented proteins, pickled vegetables, miso, and umami-based foods, as well as vegan versions of mainstream favourites of lasagne and burgers were the culinary delights served up to members of the MOD Vegan and Vegetarian Network.
Staff Sergeant John Lewis, has been a vegan for three years and was one of those invited to taste the dishes, he said:
“Today has been brilliant, the food has been great. It is about training the trainers so everyone who comes through Worthy Down training wing will take it to their units and hopefully when it gets to the end users in cookhouses or field kitchen’s we get better food."
“It’s a win, win for everyone.”