At home with… Leigh Drew

Leigh Drew is an Inner West foodie flying the flag for vegans everywhere! She’s just released her new cookbook, Veganissimo, filled with heaps of great recipes and tasty ideas free of animal products. Here she chats to Ciao about the essential ingredients in a vegan kitchen…

What’s the philosophy behind your book?
To provide a range of whole food recipes, techniques and inspiration for everyone from the novice cook and vegan newbie to experienced cooks, long-term vegans, and of course, curious non-vegans!

What do you think are the most common misconceptions about veganism?
That we only eat twigs and berries! And that being vegan is difficult, a “sacrifice” or that it’s just a phase.

Are you a chef by trade? What are you doing when you’re not writing cook books?
I am not currently a chef by trade – I did study hospitality, though I didn’t complete my apprenticeship and I have cooked in and managed vegan cafes over the years. My day job is in IT, where I’m a business/systems/process analyst.

Which ingredients are essential in your kitchen?
Nutritional yeast – it took me a long time to appreciate the cheesy umami awesome of nooch (the nickname for nutritional yeast) and now I can’t imagine life without it!
Pasta/rice noodles – add some steamed broccoli and toss with lemon juice, olive oil and nooch, and it’s my go-to dinner.
Cashews – you can use them in stir fries, or to make vegan cheese, or creamy sauces.
Baby spinach – an easy way to add greens to every meal, in hummus or green smoothies or stirred through noodles.
Tofu – scrambled tofu for breakfast, baked tofu over salad for lunch, crumbled into mac and cheese for dinner.

If you could invite anyone over for dinner, whom would you invite and why?
Joss Whedon because the Whedonverse is the shiniest of all the ‘verses. Hypatia of Alexandria because female mathematicians are the coolest. And RuPaul because every dinner party requires that much fabulousness.



Refried bean-style dip

(Page 29, Veganissimo)


2 cups red kidney beans
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons peanut or other nut butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon smoked chipotle chilli powder or smoked paprika
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Water as required
Salt to taste


Place all ingredients bar the water and salt into a food processor.

Blend the ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, and adding water a tablespoon at a time as required, until the dip is smooth.

Add salt to taste. Serve the dip with crudités or corn chips, or heat it for use on nachos or tacos.

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