2019 has been hailed as the Year of the Vegan. From the release of Gregg’s controversial vegan sausage roll to Marks and Spencer’s Plant Kitchen range, some of Britain’s favourite names have been busting grass-munching vegan stereotypes on the high street and now the BBC has followed suit by bringing an unusual vegan cookery series to our TV screens.
Dirty Vegan, which premiered on BBC Wales before being made available to the whole nation on BBC iPlayer, follows chef Mathew Pritchard on his mission to demonstrate how healthy, easy, and fulfilling a vegan diet can be, dispelling myths about protein-deficiency and bringing the wonders of seitan and aquafaba to a wider audience.
He rustles up a hearty pre-match meal for a female rugby team whose members had previously dismissed a vegan diet as “rabbit food”
The series features four episodes, each of which sees Pritchard face a new challenge in his attempt to prove the health and normality of a vegan diet to a group of typically non-vegan people. Over the course of the series he rustles up a hearty pre-match meal for a female rugby team whose members had previously dismissed a vegan diet as “rabbit food”, bakes vegan cakes for Cardiff’s very traditional Women’s Institute group who can’t fathom the prospect of egg-less and dairy-free sponges, cooks up a healthy full-English breakfast for a group of GCSE school kids, and makes fruit and nut energy balls for a cave rescue team.
I’m not usually an avid viewer of cookery shows (I didn’t even bother watching Bake-Off’s vegan week despite vegan cake constituting 80% of my diet) but being a vegan, I felt obliged to watch the UK’s first 100% vegan cooking programme, especially one filmed in my hood (i.e. South Wales), and I actually really enjoyed it.
I love the way it breaks vegan stereotypes, mostly thanks to the host. A heavily-tattooed skateboarder and endurance athlete who rose to fame pulling crazy pranks on TV shows such as Dirty Sanchez and Balls of Steel, now-chef Pritchard probably isn’t what springs to mind when people picture a classic vegan. With not a scrap of tie-dye or man-bun in sight, he’s more ‘sk8terboy’ than tree-hugger.
Light-hearted entertainment that’s as enjoyable for the veggie-curious as it is for hardcore vegans
He’s also super-enthusiastic with a boundless energy that makes him as irresistible to watch as his vegan chocolate cupcakes look to eat. And with his undiluted Cardiff accent and tattoos, he seems like the sort of dude who’d blend in at the Benjamin Satchwell, miles away from the middle-class goji berry-munching millennials that are often the focus of TV shows that tackle the topic of veganism.
Thankfully, he also doesn’t live-up to the preachy-vegan stereotype. With no grave statistics or shots of animals set to be slaughtered, Dirty Vegan is light-hearted entertainment that’s as enjoyable for the veggie-curious as it is for hardcore vegans. It never seems that Pritchard is judging anyone for not being vegan, but rather that he’s gently encouraging people to add vegan touches to their diets by showing how positive such a change can be for our health, our conscience, and the planet.
And perhaps the most important ingredient of any cookery show is the cooking, and Dirty Vegan doesn’t disappoint on the food-front. Including facon that sizzles in the frying pan like the real thing, chorizo paella, creamy chocolate porridge, and strawberry and passionfruit pavlovas, the recipes featured on the show are mouth-watering and relatively simple. It’s enough to tempt even chronically lazy vegans like me into the kitchen, and I really hope that it’s enough to tempt omnivores to dabble in vegan cooking.