Our Farmizens are a talented bunch of people :). And recently, we discovered that one of them is a great writer, with an appetite for “healthy food”. We want to talk about Rheea Mukherjee, who is a vegan, a dog-mommy and has an interesting blog called “Messy Cooking, Always Vegan.”
Here is a quick video of one of her recipes, You should definitely check this out 🙂
We were really inspired by what she does, and so we decided to interview her 🙂
The interview begins…
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a writer and entrepreneur. I co-run Write Leela Write, a design and content firm in Bangalore. We do a bunch of branding, visual design, and content creation. I live with my partner, Indrayudh and our two adopted dogs Nimbu and Henna. I am also a vegan cook and spend a lot of my free time inventing recipes and taking inspiration from good old YouTube.
Is eating healthy important to you? Why are you Vegan?
Well, I am definitely a more conscious eater today. I’ve always eaten a somewhat balanced diet but there was also a lot of processed food and dairy in my diet too. After turning 30 ( I am 34 now) it’s become way more important to eat right to ensure my energy levels stay high.
That said, I am not a vegan for health reasons at all. I am vegan for ethical reasons. I believe we are so distanced from our plates today that we have no idea how much cruelty goes into the plethora of mainstream animal products that we consume such as meats, cheese, milk, butter, ghee and paneer.
Urban India is becoming more and more industrialized with animals, which means that these animals are bred solely for our consumption.
Breeding solely for our consumption means maximising produce at the cost of keeping animals in terrible conditions. Many people in India aren’t aware of how cruel the dairy industry is, baby male calves are starved and left for dead. In order to produce enough milk cows are artificially inseminated and injected with hormones leading to very uncomfortable and heavy udders. When they can no longer be used for milk they are sent to the slaughterhouse. Infact, India’s beef industry is heavily reliant on the dairy industry, ironic isn’t it?
Similarly, if you google the cruelty involved in the egg industry, you’ll be quite shocked.
Another thing is the environmental cost of breeding animals: the amount of water that’s wasted in rearing and feeding livestock is huge. If you look up environmental reasons to go vegan you’ll find a lot of relevant information.
Information that will challenge your notions of what we accept because we’ve normalised it.
It’s not that going vegan makes you a person who does no harm. As humans, we’ll always have a harmful impact on the land we live, but it’s the least amount of harm we can do right now.
I do believe that urban farming and getting in touch with your food a little more will become a movement soon. I also believe that veganism is the future. A hundred years from now people will look back and think that we were barbaric, just the way we think of slavery today.
Are we still in denial about what we eat?
Yes. We are. Both ethically and environmentally we are hugely in denial. As a big vegetable consumer, the amount of pesticides used was a concern. Our country runs on agriculture but fair trade and infrastructure are so poor in this country.
Experience with Farmizen
I was really happy to see spaces like Farmizen crop up around the city. They build their business on constant learning and using 100% natural methods of growing and harvesting their crops. What’s more is that they work with farmers in the area and give them a fair deal. These small ecosystems are what we need to encourage and support not just for our health, but for overall sustainability.
I love that I can decide what vegetables I want and am thrilled with the transparency and community it tries to build.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
And plus, let’s face it, as an urbanite, I am too lazy to go and harvest. To get my farm-fresh vegetables home-delivered was a dream-come-true.
The learning curve with Farmizen
One learning curve worth mentioning is my experience with farm fresh vegetables from Farmizen versus urban convenience. We’re so used to just buying whatever we need (even buying pre-sliced/peeled fruits and vegetables) because it’s so easy. But then with Farmizen, I got a large bag of vegetables every week. And these were harvested according to each crop’s life cycle.
So, I ended up getting a big bag of spinach, kale and like 4 tomatoes.
At first, it was like, well what am I going to do with so much kale? Here’s the thing right, our conveniences have eroded our sensibilities and our connection with food.
Our need for convenience has allowed for us to disassociate with food in a real way.
So in a way, Farmizen challenged me: to do better, not to go out and buy pre-sliced broccoli, but to figure out instead, new ways to use up all the kale/spinach. In order for us as humans to change, we need to be made uncomfortable, that’s when we understand we can do better. That’s when one’s imagination opens up.
Can you share a few vegan recipes with us?
I run a cooking blog called Messy Cooking Always Vegan (www.messycookingalwaysvegan.blogspot.in). Although there are a lot of desserts on that blog, my everyday cooking has a lot to do with millets, rice, curries, salads and pastas.
Vegan Ingredients Used
I use plant based ‘mylks’ as we vegans like to call it: coconut mylk, soya mylk, almond mylk, and cashew mylk. To get that cheesy flavour we use something called Nutritional Yeast (Which you can find on Amazon). Adding that to pastas and soups helps with that cheesy taste. I also use coconut mylk or cashew paste with green chillies to add a creamy-spicy kick to my curries.
I ate all kind of meat till I was 25, so meaty textures is something I buy and replicate. Mock meat is made by me in the form of setian. You can make your own seitan at home with vital wheat gluten (try Amazon again). You can even make a vegan ‘meat and vegetable stir fry’. Infact, after I turned vegan, I was much more imaginative with my cooking. Veganism basically knocks out most of the mainstream foods you get in the market. You’re forced to look at your food more closely, and the bonus is, once you waive out all the meat and dairy, you see that actually there is so much to work with! Here’s a couple of wholesome recipes for you to try.
Spicy Kale Soup
8 cups of chopped kale (thank you Farmizen) ,2 carrots chopped, 2 potatoes chopped, 1 onion chopped +½ onion to blend, 3 green chilies, 2 tablespoons chili flakes, 1 cup cashews (pre-soaked), 1 cup coconut mylk, 6 pods of garlic chopped, Italian seasoning to taste, Pepper to taste, Salt to taste, 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast (it’s ok if you don’t have it, just omit), Vegan Sausage chopped ( I get mine from Namdharis) OR ½ cup of pasta , 2 tablespoons of your favorite Chili sauce (Siracha works well), 1 tablespoon jaggery powder
In a big pot, dump all your vegetables in. Submerge them in water. Keep two cups of uncooked kale aside to add later. Add salt, pepper, herbs, and garlic in. Let it boil on low for 45 minutes so that all the vegetables release their flavours.
Meanwhile in a blender, blend half the reserved onion with cashews, green chilli and some salt. If you have nutritional yeast, blend it with the cashew-onion mix. You can also add any extra dried herbs to this mix as well. Blend into a nice paste, add some water if your blender starts to choke.
If you are using vegan sausage, cut them up and fry in olive oil. Set aside. If you can’t get vegan sausage you can also use soya chunks that are easily available at any grocer. Just soak them for 10 minutes and fry it up in olive oil. If the meaty texture is not your thing, simply cook raw pasta of your choice and set aside.
45 minutes later
After 45 min, open your big pot of boiling vegetables. Add the cashew-onion paste and stir. Now add your coconut mylk. Check for seasoning and add salt/seasoning per taste. Now add your fried/cooked vegan sausage/soya chunks/pasta. Finally, top off the soup with the 2 cups of fresh kale you reserved and stir it in. This allows for the zesty-freshness of uncooked kale to mix with all the other vegetables that have cooked together.
Finish off by mixing in the chilli sauce and jaggery into the soup. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Eat it steaming hot with some crusty bread.
Easy Cashew Cheese
1 cup cashews (blended),1 teaspoons pepper,2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 pod garlic, 1 teaspoon brown sugar or jaggery, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
Simply blend all ingredients together (with a splash of water). This vegan cheese is great with vegetable sticks or crackers. You can also add it to homemade pizza!
Chickpea Millet Salad With Sweet Orange Dressing
1 cup foxtail millet, 1 cup cooked chickpeas, 1 red onion chopped, 2 fresh tomatoes, ½ large cucumber chopped, 1 avocado (optional), ½ cup crushed almonds, 1 carrot chopped, ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4th cup orange juice, 1 green chilli, ½ onion, ½ cup coconut mylk (or soya, almond or cashew mylk), Salt and pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon dried herbs of choice
Cook and cool your millets and chickpeas. In a large bowl combine all vegetables and nuts. Mix in cooled chickpeas and millets.
In a blender, combine coconut mylk, ½ onion, chilli, salt, pepper, orange juice and herbs. Your dressing is ready! Pour over the salad and eat chilled.
So, with this, we have come to the end of the recipes and our blog as well 🙂
We think that these recipes are super awesome just like Rheea 🙂
Our excitement has no boundaries and we are literally on cloud nine. BECAUSE, Rheea will be sharing vegan recipes made out of Farmizen veggies with us on a regular basis 🙂
Her recipes will be a part of Blog Series called “Vegan Diaries”.
We extend our heartfelt thank you to Rheea for taking out time to talk to us, and for also sharing these scrumptious recipes with us!