Vegan Life meets...
Coming from a background in food, Niki Webster has achieved a great deal since 2015 — from marketer to blogger to award-winning plant-based cookbook author. Following the launch of her latest cookbook, My Vegan Year, we catch up with the passionate chef to talk about seasonal eating, growing your own and her plans for 2022.
Hi Niki! When did you first start experimenting in the kitchen and learning more about food?
I first started experimenting as a teenager. My mum gave me a food budget out of desperation as I was so picky. It was a risk but really worked, as I started to create food I liked by getting experimental with flavours and spices. Taking ownership of cooking for myself was quite a life-changing moment for me and it just spurred my love for food even more as I learnt about flavour combinations, pairings, textures and seasonality.
Describe your cooking style in no more than five words.
“Taking ownership of cooking for myself was quite a life-changing moment for me and it just spurred my love for food even more as I learnt about flavour combinations, pairings, textures and seasonality”
How would other people describe your food?
I would say big warm bowls of delicious home-cooked comfort food. Packed with flavour so you never miss meat in any meal.
Do you have a favourite cuisine?
That’s really tough as I love so many, but I always seem to go back to Indian. I’ve been in love with the cuisine and culture since travelling there in my early 20’s. The spices; layered flavour; texture and of course, the bread! Just amazing.
When and why did you become vegan?
It’s hard to say an exact time as I have had a dairy intolerance from a very young age and have never wanted to eat meat. So, there wasn’t a specific day I decided to become vegan. It was just a completely natural way to eat for me that has expanded as I’ve grown.
Why did you start RebelRecipes? Did you ever think that it would grow into the successful platform that it is today?
I started back in 2015 whilst working in food marketing and I honestly had no idea it would enable me to completely change my career.
It started off as a place for me to be a bit more creative and share all the recipes I’d been developing over the years. It moved slowly at first but thankfully lots of people seemed to love my recipes even from the start which spurred me on even more to create delicious plant-based recipes that the whole family could love, regardless of their dietary preferences.
“If you cook with what’s in season, it forces you to make dishes centred around the available produce and to try new things”
Congrats on your newest book, My Vegan Year! Tell us more about it and who it is directed at.
Thank you, I still can’t quite believe it myself! It’s both a cookbook and an easy-to-read and follow guide to seasonal eating. It’s aimed at young people again, like my second, Be More Vegan, but it’s perfect for the whole family to read, cook with and enjoy together. The recipes are accessible, straightforward and super tasty.
The book explores seasonal eating throughout the year. Why is this important?
There are so many reasons but here’s my top four:
It tastes better and it’s fresher. Seasonal produce is usually grown closer to home and has less time in transit, which can cause a loss of flavour and nutrients.
You’re doing something for the planet — buying local and seasonal produce means fewer food miles. Food production and transport releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and can use fossil fuels, which contribute to air pollution and global warming. So, eating seasonally and locally can help cut down on environmental impact, too.
You can support local small businesses and farmers — try and buy from markets or local shops rather than larger chains or online that import.
It’s an opportunity to be creative. If you cook with what’s in season, it forces you to make dishes centred around the available produce and to try new things.
Do you grow any of your own food at home?
I love to grow food at home. It varies every year depending on how much time I have but herbs, tomatoes and salads are always a must.
How does Be More Vegan differ to your previous cookbooks?
This is the first book I’ve created with more of a focus on celebrations and events, and I wanted it to be accessible for those across the globe. So, the focus is much more seasonal, for those to use what’s available to them at any given time — no matter where you live; with lots of lovely content around growing your own, preserving and wellness content, suitable for all.
“I think that food is a universal language”
What is your favourite recipe from the book?
I really love so many recipes from this book but if I have to pick a favourite… it would be the sticky ginger cake. It’s amazing! I had to make it about 10 times when testing for the book as I had so many repeat requests from friends and family who tried it, loved it and wanted more.
Any exciting plans/projects scheduled for 2022?
Yes! I have another book out this month and I’m currently working on another. So, I’m very busy with all of that. I’m also really keen to get out there a bit more and plan pop-ups and workshops again.
Do you think that using food is one of the best ways to advocate for veganism? If so, why?
I think that food is a universal language. People connect through it and when people realise they can also eat really well and not miss out at all, I think that’s a great starting point of conversation and growth.
What are your goals for yourself and veganism, for 2022 and beyond?
My professional goals are to continue to create recipes that people love and help them to be healthy and happy eating vegan food. My personal ones are to gain more of a work-life balance, start my garden project in the spring, and reach and inspire more people.