Cooking with Mark

VEGAN BLACK BEAN BURGERS SERVED WITH MANGO SALSA

Vegans are quite well looked after in the UAE dining scene, but should you struggle to find an option, here’s my take on one popular option

Catching up with a close friend over dinner last week was fun, it had been, ages since we last had met, so we had lots to talk about. We decided on pizza; it’s the default cuisine when we can’t decide on what to eat. After ordering our starters and mains and continued our conversation, very swiftly our food arrived the waiter placed the dishes on a tiny table, I could see my friend reach for her bag, and she pulled out her phone. Unaware I was watching her she snapped our food, rearranging the table, moving the table centrepiece into the shot. It was like was she styling a full-on food shoot; she ordered me to move out of the shot, ‘I only want the food in the shot, not people’, so I obliged. I was now sat back from the table holding all the ugly things that could potentially spoil ‘the shot’, the bottle of water, a menu and her handbag.
‘Are we done’, I asked, ‘yes babes you can start now’. Again following instructions, I tucked in. Now don’t get me wrong, I hold my iPhone up in in the air and admit, I’m a keen foodie and will take snaps of pretty much everything I order or cook, but I’m a click and close kind of person. There seems to have been this evolution of now the ‘four-course meal’, snap it, starters, mains and desserts. I remember the days of blessing the food before we ate not praying for that perfect Instagram shot.

JOKING ASIDE INSTAGRAM IS MY FAVOURITE WAYS TO SHARE FOOD AND RECIPES; I LOVE THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY, I FOLLOW LOADS OF PEOPLE FROM CELEB CHEFS, BLOGGERS TO MY FAVOURITE RESTAURANTS.

You won’t find me adding filters and hashtags for the ‘gram’ at the dining table that I’ll do in the taxi on the way home. Happy with her food shots we continued to enjoy our food. The conversation soon switched back to Instagram and how its changed peoples eating habits, I recently saw a cartoon online where a woman was sat in a restaurant holding a menu, the caption was to the waiter, ‘what can you recommend from the menu that would look great on Instagram?’.
Joking aside Instagram is my favourite ways to share food and recipes; I love the sense of community, I follow loads of people from celeb chefs, bloggers to my favourite restaurants. I am also guilty of being a frequent poster, slightly obsessing about the number of likes I get on a recipe shot that has taken hours to perfect. What has occurred to me is that people like simple things!
A dish that’s quite complicated to create never gets as many likes as say, a chocolate cake, or recently a humble jacket potato was getting a lot of instant-love. I cook all kinds of food, meat, veggie and vegan. As I said Instagram brings people together, I get a lot of DMs where people ask me what knives I use, or what camera I shoot my pics on, to which I will always reply. I recently received a message that was straightforward and to the point, ‘Hey chef, love your feed, but where are the veegs recipes’.
By veegs I assumed she was referring to vegan recipes, always happy to experiment I got researching, what can they eat and what shouldn’t they eat, again by ‘they’ I mean, people who choose a plant-based diet excluding dairy, eggs or any other products of animal origin. With my new found vegan knowledge courtesy of the internet, I’m now well versed in the ingredients I can use and not use. Scouring the supermarket aisles, it became apparent vegans are very well looked after. There is vegan cheese, peanut butter even mayonnaise! So after a few attempts and recipe tweaks, I bring you my vegan burgers, on vegan bread with a dollop of vegan ketchup. One last thing, make sure you get the best shot before posting it on the gram!

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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