It’s not all rabbit food and it can be easy: Rita Serano has a few bones to pick with people who dismiss veganism

A VETERAN of vegan cooking who has never had a taste for meat, Rita Serano can rattle off a long list of misconceptions she’s heard about vegan food: “That it’s boring, that it doesn’t taste good, that I only eat salads and that it’s hard to do” - to name just a few.

It’s exactly these ideas that Rita is on a mission to change. Her new book, Vegan In 7, features recipes that require seven ingredients or fewer, and the pages are far less green than you might image; multi-coloured stir-fries, stews and cakes show there’s a lot more to her diet than pure salad.

The Dutch food blogger and recipe developer splits her time between Amsterdam and the French countryside, where she’s cultivated her vegan pedigree for decades. “I know vegan food is fashionable at the moment, but for me, it’s really a lifestyle,” she explains. “Eating this way, for me, is the only way to feel alive and healthy.”

Born into a vegetarian family, Serano insists there was never a single trigger moment that turned her vegan. “It’s something that naturally progressed in my life, and not a decision I made one day to the next,” she remembers. Today, though, she is buzzing with passion about the impact veganism has had on her. “I’m nearly 44 and I have so much energy - I’m not sick and I don’t use medicine at all.”

Prior to vegan cooking was Rita’s professional focus, it was her passion; she worked as a make-up artist in the Netherlands before swapping foundation for food by setting up her blog. She’s always loved cooking: “There isn’t a holiday picture of me where I’m not in the kitchen.”

Now, she has more then 40k Instagram followers relying on her vegan tips, and she’s enjoying being part of a trend that’s become something of a juggernaut.

Pilaf stuffed tomatoes (serves 4)
Cooking for company doesn’t have to be tons of hard work. “These tomatoes are perfect for a shared meal with friends,” says vegan expert Rita Serano. 

50g pine nuts
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2tsp allspice
35g currants, soaked
25g fresh dill, chopped
300g wholegrain basmati rice
8 medium sized tomatoes
Soak the basmati rice for at least 30 minutes, then rinse and drain.
Preheat the oven to 180 C/gas mark 4. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add the pine nuts and toast until golden brown. Set aside.
To make the pilaf, cook the chopped onion with a splash of water in a medium-sized pan over a medium heat until soft, adding a little more water if needed. Add the allspice, currants, toasted pine nuts, half the dill and a pinch of salt and gently mix. Add the basmati rice and stir well, then add 750ml of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook the rice for the time indicated on the packet.
Meanwhile, cut the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and core. Once the pilaf is cooked, fill the tomatoes with this mixture. Place tomatoes on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Scatter dill to serve.