Vegan trailblazer Shannon Martinez (the mastermind behind Melbourne's Smith & Daughters and Smith & Deli) joins the team at Mary's Underground for two events at this year's Sydney Good Food Month (the first sold out so rapidly they have just released a second sitting on October 10 – but be quick!). Shannon's guests will be in for an unforgettable night featuring a classic Southern multi-course menu that is at once refined, delicious and completely vegan.
The fact that Shannon is a meat eater herself enables her to create tastes, textures and flavours that actually replicate those found in meats, cheeses and key elements of popular dishes. This, in conjunction with a lifetime of cooking experience, an instinctual ability to push the boundaries and sky-high standards, is why Shannon has gained a cult following as well as industry respect.
Shannon shares with us her top tips for impressing vegetarian friends when they come for dinner (and how shocking the heck out of the carnivorous ones is just a bonus!)
What made you get into vegan cooking?
It is very much about thinking outside the box. Which is a huge part of why I decided to take on plant-based cooking. Creating a surprising experience, flavour or element in a dish. Making really 'meaty' meals that are 100 per cent plant based is very scientific. I love a challenge! I want my dishes to be flavourful and unique so my guests are surprised and intrigued about what elements I have brought together to create the taste they are experiencing.
What's your go-to dish to impress friends with plant-based dietary requirements (but still impress even the most steadfast meat eater)?
If I really want to impress, I will cook up my huge vegan paella! The flavours always work so well together in paella and I love to showcase my vegan prawns and vegan sausage that is similar to a chorizo in flavour. My 'prawns' are made with konjac, also known as devils tongue, and they take on a similar texture to shellfish. This dish is a great one for a gathering of mates as it's colourful and full of dynamic flavours.
Your go-to dessert for vegan friends coming round?
Definitely my pavlova made with fresh fruit and vegan meringue. It's also a great dessert for re-purposing leftovers. I use aquafaba which is the viscous water of legumes such as chickpeas that have been cooked or tinned. Due to its ability to mimic functional properties of egg whites in cooking, it is perfect for my pav as it whips up to mimic a meringue. I also love it as it uses waste product left over from my cooking to create a more sustainable alternative. It's good for people with anaphylaxis too! I also prefer it in my cocktails instead of egg whites because the flavour is far less intense. It makes a great whisky sour.
Your favourite 'meat' alternative to cook?
That would have to be my vegan blood sausage. It's an original recipe I created to mirror the flavours and textures of blood sausage. I couldn't give you the full recipe and spill all my secrets, but it basically consists of barley and rice materials to create the casing that is similar to a sausage and then a vegan 'blood'. I used a beetroot juice to create the iron like taste. Then I add heaps of spices like paprika and chilli spices and add these into the filling to resemble a sausage. Meat eaters are always shocked by this dish and I have to say I love that it creates a talking point (and that people really enjoy it once they get past the shock value!).
Have you converted any friends to a solely plant-based diet?
My pastry chef who was an avid meat eater has actually gone vegetarian in the past six months, so I guess so! I am not really aiming to turn anyone vegan or vegetarian, what I'm aiming to do is generate awareness around plant-based alternatives to meat. I want people to definitely enjoy my vegan creations but along with that I aim to spark a conversation and an interest in plant-based diets. The impact meat farming and consumption has on the environment needs to be addressed. If every meat eater gets out of that habit of basing meals solely around meat and instead replace meat for quality vegan or vegetarian meals the difference would be global. Just adapting a vegan or vegetarian day once a week with your family would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly three months. It tastes great and it's helping lower the footprint.
Shannon Martinez will be at Mary's Underground, 9.30pm Thursday, 10 October, $150. Tickets include multiple courses with premium wine and beer plus live music.
For more information and bookings for Good Food Month go to goodfoodmonth.com